Dado Stop Pro – No-Miter Picture Frames With Micro Jig’s Micro Jig

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Matchfit Dado Stop Pro

Just as there are many ways to make a picture frame, there are many ways to cut a dado. Dadoing large parts at the table saw is quick and easy with a specialty dado blade stack. But for smaller items, by the time you actually install said stack, you may have already spent more time and effort than it’s worth. Luckily, the yellow and green-clad folks at Micro Jig were kind enough to send a Matchfit Dado Stop Pro our way. This table saw accessory sets up in no time, letting you cut repeatable, perfectly sized dadoes with no blade changes! So while you’re busy figuring out which chippers and shims to use, I’ll be exploring one of the many things this clever jig can do: make a picture frame.

Micro Jig Matchfit Dado Stop Pro – A 3-Legged Dado Doodad

Joints and inlays with Dado Stop Pro
Some joints made with a Dado Stop Pro. It was also used to cut a groove for the inlay. Photo –

For some reason, many woodworkers (myself included) hate having to change tablesaw blades, especially for small projects. It’s not nearly the hassle we make it out to be, yet we dread and ham it up nonetheless. In our defense, setting up a dado stack does require a little more time and thought than a mere blade change.

Micro Jig Matchfit Dado Stop Pro
Micro Jig Matchfit Dado Stop Pro

The Dado Stop Pro takes pretty much all of the effort (and error) out of the process.

Matchfit Dado Stop Pro
The included Matchfit Dovetail Clamp attaches the jig to your table saw fence (The clamp also has many other cool uses, some of which we’ll cover at another time).

Use the setup gauge – along with your workpiece – to do a super simple adjustment and you’re ready to cut perfectly sized dadoes within seconds. You also get to use the blade that’s already on your saw, which is a huge bonus.

One-Time Calibration

Cutting calibration piece.
Calibration begins with a 4” wide strip of MDF. I’ve used my Micro Jig GRR-RIPPER 3D Pushblocks for years now and have come to swear by them. (Be careful with long, narrow pieces that can twist and become wedged between the fence and blade. They can cause dangerous kickback.)

Before using your Dado Stop Pro for the first time, you have to calibrate the setup gauge. It’s a quick procedure and you only have to do it once. But if you flub during calibration, you will probably need to buy a new setup gauge. So make sure you read and understand the instructions before proceeding.

Setup gauge in position.
Leave the fence where it is and use that piece of MDF to position the setup gauge on your saw’s miter gauge.
Calibrating setup gauge.
With your blade set to the proper height, trim the setup gauge. There’s a notch for the Matchfit dovetail clamp, but the backer on my fence happens to have an unfortunate notch in the same location.

You’ll need an extra setup gauge anyway if you ever want to use the Dado Stop Pro with a different saw/blade combination.

Dado Stop Pro setup gauge
The gauge is now calibrated to this blade, on this saw. From now on, using it is just a matter of clamping the jig to the fence and positioning the legs to match the width of your workpiece.

Even without a Dado Stop Pro, your saw’s blade should be parallel to the miter slots. And your fence should be parallel to both. I went through the initial alignment process years ago, when I first unboxed the saw. But the instructions urge you to verify that your fence is parallel to the blade. I checked and found the fence to be splayed a tad bit at the far end. I realigned my fence then trimmed the setup gauge as instructed.

Quick To Set Up And Easy To Use – Matchfit Dado Stop Pro

Jig setup
Setup is really simple. Put the gauge up against the middle leg (#1) and adjust leg #2 until it meets the part you trimmed during calibration. Leg #2 compensates for the blade kerf to size the dado appropriately.

Use the setup gauge to set the legs on the jig. Then position the rip fence to locate the dadoes where you want them. Leg #2 measures exactly 3”. So if you want a dado, say, 4” from the end of your workpiece, add 3” and set your rip fence 7” from the blade.

Setting dado width.
Next, turn the gauge so that is rests against leg #2 and place your workpiece between the gauge and leg #3. Adjust leg #3 against the workpiece. You are now set up to cut a dado the exact same width as your workpiece.
Alignment of fence indicator.
With leg #2 against the teeth of your blade, you can calibrate your rip fence ruler to the 3” mark. When using the Dado Stop Pro, add 3” to your desired measurement and position the fence accordingly.

It might seem confusing at first, but it’s surprisingly easy to use. Before we get into our project, here’s a quick demo video to help you understand what’s going on:

Picture Perfect For Frames And Other Small Projects

Ripping stock
I began by ripping my stock into square rods. Each frame requires eight pieces: four horizontal and four vertical.

Now that everything is set up, let’s see how well it works. One of the demo videos I watched features a cool “no miter picture frame” that I really liked, so I thought I’d give it a try. And boy did the Dado Stop Pro make it easy! If you need help figuring out dimensions, you can download the plans from the Matchfit page of Micro Jig’s website.

Cutting to length
Cutting the pieces to length with a crosscut sled and stop block. There are two different lengths, four of each.

To determine how long my pieces should be, I just multiplied the width of one piece by 8 then subtracted 1/4”. Then I added that number to the dimensions of the picture I wanted to frame. This gives you a viewing window that’s 1/4” smaller than the photo (hiding a 1/8” border on all four sides for a clean presentation). If you want the window the exact same size as your photo, still multiply by 8 but don’t subtract the 1/4”.

For example: My smaller frame is made of 1/2″ square rods. I multiplied 1/2″ x 8 to get 4″. Subtracting 1/4″ from that leaves 3-3/4″. The photo I’m framing measures 5″ x 7″, so I added 3-3/4″ to both 5″ and 7″ to find that I need four rods measuring 8-3/4 in length; and four at 10-3/4″.

When you actually cut the dadoes – leave the width of one piece at each end, and again between the rod pairs.

A Perfectly Sized Dado Every Time

Ready for the first cut.
Butt the workpiece up against leg #1 to position your first cut.

Reference off of legs #1 and 3 to cut the sides of the dado. Then hog away the middle with a handful of quick passes over the blade. Cut the outer dado on both ends of all eight pieces. Then reset your rip fence for the inner dadoes.

First cut.
The first dado is done. Here, I’m making the first cut on the second dado.
Second cut
Then use leg #3 for the second cut.
Matchfit Dado Stop Pro
From here, you just move the piece over a little each time and nibble away the remaining wood.
Just the right size.
A perfectly sized dado!
All parts are cut.
Dado spacing is the same on all eight parts, only the overall lengths vary.

Not A Mistake – A Design Opportunity

Dang it! I cut on the wrong side of the wood. Now how can I make it look like I meant to do that? You may notice that this screw-up prevents me from cutting the dado where it’s supposed to be. I’ll have to deal with this first, then I can come back and cut the last dadoes.

If even expert woodworkers make mistakes, what hope do I have? It only takes a moment of inattention to mess something up. But a mistake can be a blessing in disguise, a surprise opportunity to add a creative touch to your project. Some of my coolest little project details are actually just camouflaged repairs.

To mask the stench of my brain fart, I cut a matching kerf on the other end. And I artistically placed kerfs on some other pieces as well.

The great cover-up.
We might need some wading boots up in here; it’s getting awfully deep! But if I’m running with this “I meant to do that” charade I might need to lay it on thick!
Test fit
A dry test fit ensures everything will go together as expected.
Contrasting highlights
I dug up some scraps that happened to be the right thickness and glued short segments of contrasting colors into the kerfs.

Rods – Trimmed And Smoothed

Trimming the fat.
I first cut the sides so that the rod could rest flat on the band saw table, then laid the piece on its side to trim the top.

After the glue dried, I trimmed the fat at the band saw. I wanted to keep the saw teeth from gouging the frame parts. So I gently contacted the back of the blade, then pivoted the workpiece towards the teeth enough to make my cuts without actually touching the rod.

Everything was sanded flush. Maybe a little too flush.

Unfortunately, I failed to consider the fact that the dadoes were already perfectly sized and sanded some of the rods bit aggressively. For those keeping score at home, that’s two blunders; both my fault. I looked around sheepishly to make sure no one saw the egg on my face, tucked my tail between my legs, then proceeded more carefully with the smaller frame. No sugar coating. No design opportunity. Just a few loosened dadoes, which I’ve made peace with.

Chamfering the ends.
I lightly chamfered the ends of each rod, easing the hard edges and corners.
Ready for assembly.
Ready for assembly.

Glue Up – Easy Assembly

A drop of wood glue in each face-up dado is all you need to hold the frame securely. Any more than that will likely squeeze out and interfere with the finish.

If you’ve ever played with Lincoln Logs, you already know how this frame goes together. One set of parts (either the horizontal or the vertical) is laid out, dado up. Then the remaining pieces are fitted in place with their dadoes facing downward. Seat all the joints with a few gentle mallet taps and leave the frame overnight to dry; no clamps needed.

Routing Rascally Rabbets – Matchfit Dado Stop Pro

Rabbeting bit with guide bearing.
I set up my rabbeting bit with a bearing that will give me a 1/4” rabbet. Then set the depth to accommodate the thickness of my front glass and backer board.

Before the assembly can be called a picture frame, we need to rout a rabbet (or, a “rebate”, as some parts of the world like to call it) to hold the glass, photo and backer. This is most easily done at the router table.

Routing the no miter picture frame.
Don’t cut the rabbet in one shot. Take several light passes – moving the workpiece against the direction of cutter rotation – until you’ve reached full depth.
Rounded corners
The router bit leaves you with rounded corners. Clean them up with a chisel.
Squaring the corners.
To square the corners, first score the cross grain.
Corner treatment.
Then score the long grain. Finally, come in from the edge to remove the waste material.

Putting the Finishing Touches On Our No-Miter Picture Frames

I finished mine with clear spray lacquer; it’s easy to apply and highlights the woods’ natural colors.

The next step is to finish the frame with your method of choice. Then cut your glass and backer and move on to final assembly. I used clear Lexan for the window and thin wooden paneling for the back.

Lexan polycarbonate
Instead of glass, I went with polycarbonate plastic. Here, I’m marking where to cut.
Cutting to size.
Polycarbonate can be cut at the table saw. But first make sure it cannot slip underneath the fence. If it can, clamp or tape scrap material to the fence to block the gap between it and the table.
Larger frame
Despite my aggressive sanding on this one, I’m quite pleased with the result! The woods are sepele mahogany, poplar and maple.
Smaller frame
This frame is made of poplar, walnut and pine.
Finally, I installed turn buttons in the corners and a saw toothed hanger.

Matchfit Dado Stop pro – Way More Than A Frame Maker, But Not A Panacea

You've been framed.
The perfect frames for two old pictures with renewed relevance. Left: My mom (Glamour Shots, 1992), who passed early this year. Right: Me and an old girlfriend (now wife), circa 1993. We just got married, over 25 years later!

We focused here on making these cool picture frames. But the world of projects that can be built using the Matchfit Dado Stop Pro are limited only by your creativity. Given how easy it is to set up and use (and how well it works), it is a product I’d recommend without hesitation. Plus, both the setup gauge and Matchfit Dovetail Clamps have other great uses, which we’ll explore in a future review.

However, there are a couple limitations worth noting. For one, the maximum dado width is somewhere around 7/8”. That’s actually not bad at all (many dado stacks also max out at 7/8”).

Non-stick writing surface?
I used a high quality (Sharpie) marker. But the writing still rubbed off of the sticker pretty easily. It’s not supposed to.

Also, the longest dado you can cut with the Dado Stop pro is determined by the distance between the jig and the leading edge of your blade. So the Dado Stop Pro is perfect for smaller projects, but it isn’t going to replace your standard dado stack for all applications. Finally, beware of sanding too much after cutting the dadoes.

Purchase the Matchfit Dado Stop Pro for just under $60:

Buy Now - via Home Depot

Get an extra setup gauge for under $13:

Buy Now - via Home Depot

Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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