When I routed 1⁄2"-wide dadoes in 3⁄4" melamine, the result was burned steel and carbide bits. Would a dado set in a tablesaw be the better way to go?

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Q:

When I routed 12 "-wide dadoes in 34 " melamine, the result was burned steel and carbide bits. Would a dado set in a tablesaw be the better way to go?
—Bob Underwood, Winter Park, Fla.

A:

We'd go with the tablesaw instead of a router, Bob. When sharp, a dado set cuts clean, chip-free dadoes in melamine-covered particleboard. For the best results, first make a 116 "-deep scoring cut, as shown above, to remove the melamine layer and a small amount of substrate without producing tear-out. Then reset the blade to your finished dado depth and complete the cut.

If you're still more comfortable routing your dadoes, use a down-cut spiral bit instead of a straight bit and make two or more shallow passes instead of one deep cut to avoid burned bits. The spiral cutting action compresses the melamine against the particleboard as it cuts, resulting in less chip-out. A down-cut bit like the one at below doesn't clear chips as effectively as a straight-cut bit, but particleboard chips are usually drier than those from wood.

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