Not aligned Dado shelves - does it need correction? (With pictures)

Woodworking Asked by MLEN on May 22, 2021

I was trying to make some dados for a shelf for the first time and unfortunately, they did not come out perfect. The dados on the left and right side are unaligned, about 0.5-1.5mm (~1/32").

The depth of the dado is 9mm (half the material) and not super tight. I have never done this before so I am uncertain. Can I continue gluing up the carcass and inserting the shelves later? If I manage to insert the shelves I understand they will not be leveled, but I am fine with that


One Answer

This is your project, so in the end, it is your call. You have a few options:

  1. Do nothing! Try a test fit and see it if looks ok. If so, move on to the next step! Generally speaking, a 2 mm difference over half a meter/a few feet will not jump out at the viewer (unless there are other errors). Nor will it compromise the structure of a bookcase (a forgiving design).

  2. Do almost nothing. You can insert thin wedges under the shelves (on the side with the larger dado). Again try a test fit - it will work but you may not like the look.

  3. Recut the smaller dado - make sure you pick the correct side of the dado to cut! You want dados at the same height and size to avoid shelves with a slight diagonal across the case.

  4. Use a hand tool to trim the small dado - depending on your hand skills and hand tools this can be quickly cleaned up with chisels or special hand planes. Again, you want to cut the correct side of the dado - the shelf should install with right angles to both sides of the case.

I would advise against trimming the shelf to match the two different dados but you can make that work as well.

Ensure that the shelves are secure when assembled - that is important. :)

Answered by ewm on May 22, 2021

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