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The HNT Gordon Dado Plane

I was chatting with Terry Gordon at a recent Perth Wood Show. I’ve known Terry for years now, and own several of his planes. They are consistently excellent, but in recent years his joinery planes in particular are, to my eye, just spectacular. Anyway, Terry was showing me his idea for a dovetail plane, but all I could see were these incredibly clean dados that he was converting into sliding dovetails…

Dados, Grooves and Rebates

A dado is a trench or housing (the term typically used in Europe) across the inside of a board. These may be used to attach a shelf or a partition.

One may use a groove in a drawer to house a panel. A dado differs from a groove in that the dado runs across the grain, while the groove runs with the grain.

A dado also differs from a rebate in that the rebate is created at the edge of a board to attach an adjacent side panel, while the dado runs internally.

These frames ride in dados ..

A groove for a box or drawer bottom ..

A rebate along the side of a panel ..

Several years ago I purchased this vintage ½” dado plane. It looked in pretty decent condition.

I sharpened the iron and the nickers, and planed a board …

The timber used here is quarter sawn Tasmanian Oak, a medium hard Eucalypt with similar properties to White Oak.

But it cut very poorly. Very poorly indeed.

Over the years I tuned and re-tuned this plane. The blade is sharp. The nickers are poorly aligned and need yet more work. Without aligned and sharp nickers, since you are planing across the grain, the wood will tear out and leave a ghastly mess, as above. One day I will get it working. I would not use it as it stands.

The method I have come to rely on for dados is to use a saw, chisel and router plane.

Begin by scribing the outer lines …

Undercut the lines with a chisel to create a fence for a crosscut saw. Then saw to the depth of the dado.

Clean out the waste with a chisel ..

Finally, level the surface with a router plane.

Result – a perfect dado in just a couple of minutes.

This shall remain my preferred method for stopped dados (for example, when you do not want the housing to show from the front).

Panel with stopped dado and rebate …

A method that I rarely use is the powered router. It is easy enough with a simple jig that consists of two L-shaped guides. These are clamped at the desired dado width …

Now run the router along this guide.

Some will argue that this is a preferred method when one has many dados to make. Perhaps. However I do not see it as being any faster when there are only a few dados to make, and even when there are several to make, the reduced physical effort is not enough to ignore its major drawback – having to wear these …

Enter The HNT Gordon Dado Plane ...

The body is 230mm long x 28 mm wide x 75mm high. This is the standard ½” model - brass infilled with Gidgee.

There are three models: ¼”, ½” and ¾”. I purchased the ½” as I considered it the most versatile. It is easy enough to add rebates to a ¾” wide board to fit a ½” dado, or take a couple of extra passes to create a wider dado (you can make it wider but you cannot make it narrower!). Further, I can link this plane with my dovetail plane to create sliding dovetails.

The front knob controls the depth of the nicker, while the rear knob controls the depth stop.

From this side you can see the depth stop and the side of a nicker.

Another view of the depth stop …

The bed is 60 degrees and the blade is skewed at 20 degrees. The blade is 3/16” thick HCS.

Close up of the nicker …

Adjustments are made by loosening the wedge by tapping the brass release.

Drive the blade out or adjust for depth …

Secure the wedge …

Finally, ensure that the outside of the blade, body and nickers are coplanar.

Adjust the depth of the nicker until it just severs the wood fibres (drag the plane backwards to test this).

Now we are ready to rock and roll!

Position the fence. No need to knife any lines.

The plane is comfortable to push, and may be held in either one or both hands.

A few lights cuts ..

Continue planning until the depth stop bottoms out.

The result is a clean dado with vertical sides and smooth floor (there is not a lot to demonstrate as it is that easy!).

Even the ends of the dado do not reveal any spelching. This is a better result than achieved by the power router.

Summing up

The HNT Gordon dado plane is beautifully made, has stunning looks, and makes light work of this joint. It is easier to use than either a chisel and router plane or a power router, and outperforms these options as well. I cannot see why one would want to made through dados any other way.

Regards from Perth


November 2012