Dado Set Comparison

I will be comparing three dado sets. The first is a Sears Excaliber adjustable dado(about $50), the second a Chinese set I got from Harbor Freight(#40745 for about $40 but on sale at $20) and the last a Forrest Dado Set(over $200). I will be making cuts in a piece of pine flooring and a piece of scrap red oak.

A comparison between a HF#44566 and the Forrest is further down this page.


(click on picture for larger view)

From left to right, Sears, Harbor Freight, and Forrest. The blue thing is my dado cutting sled made from an old kitchen cabinet door.
Cuts left to right, Forrest, HF and Sears. A pronounced ridge can be seen in the Sears cut(rightmost). The black smudge in the right cut in the oak is from the stuff left from an oxidized nail.
Immediate right picture shows Forrest on the left and HF on the right. Far right picture shows HF on the left and Sears on the right. The camera angle produces some distortion in the pictures..the dado sides ARE vertical.

Update April 4, 2004: Last fall I purchased another Harbor Freight Dado for $40(regular $80)(#44566). Initially, I thought it cut as good as my Forrest Dado King but under scrutiny I found it to be somewhat lacking. In my preliminary examination, I cut a dado with just the cutters and one chipper and made a pretty good cut. Below I show a more extensive study using the two cutter blades plus 3 chipper blades.

The blade set on the left if the HF#44566. Obviously there is a vast difference in the blade and chipper design.
The cut in the birch ply on the left is with the HF. Right is the Forrest. Note the tearout of the HF along with the chipper that makes a little deeper cut than the rest. It seems to me that the dado of the HF is shallower than the Forrest even though I did not change the arbor setting when I changed dado sets.
Material on the left is oak. HF is left cut and Forrest is right. Some tearout is still evident on the left

In my humble opinion, the difference between the Harbor Freight set(s) and the Forrest isn't enough to merit the vast difference in price for most of my work. Without a doubt, the Sears adjustable is a POS. Not only did the Sears produce a poor dado but it was hard to push the wood through the blade and the workpiece tended to raise up....kinda scarey like... I don't use the Sears blade for anything. I use the HF set on much of my stuff because I use salvaged wood, however, I use the Forrest set on all my box joints. The chippers for the Forrest have 4 teeth and the HF just two for the cheaper set and 6 for the above. It is a little more difficult with the HF to get the chippers positioned in the saw blade gullets than the Forrest. Furthermore, the HF set seems to need more shimming ceremony than the Forrest to get standard sized cuts(i.g. 3/8", 1/2") because the HF blades and chippers aren't well sized.