Sometimes it feels like the only joinery I cut is dovetails. A distant second to dovetails are dadoes (a/k/a housing joints). And the mortises and tenons I cut for the ash sitting bench felt like the first I’d done since building my workbench, and the first for furniture in years. I
n my view, dadoes are the easiest (and most satsifying) joint to get right. You can even cut the dado overly-tight and later fix the mating piece to fit. The thunk of a fully-seated housing joint is a beautiful thing. And it can be a very strong joint, in the presence of glue or nails (or both).
Whenever possible, though, I will use a stopped dadoes for the show face of a piece. A through-dado is just fine if it won’t be seen (either on the back of the carcase or covered by a face frame) or the piece isn’t fine furniture. But on the show face, a through-dado looks too much like a mortise haunch to me. No matter how perfect it is, I’d rather have the clean shoulder line.
The trickiest part, I find, is the act of fitting the mating piece into the final joint. Boards can cup between dimensioning and assembly. Driving a cupped board into a straight dado is a recipe for brusingt the surrounding face grain. To combat this, I clamp on a caul to flatten the mating piece. After it’s seated, the dado itself will hold the board flat.
On an unrelated note, I’m deciding on whether to paint the wall cabinet before I glue it together. I wouldn’t normally, but I’m using latex (not milk) paint for this one. So working out the kinks on the underside of the bottom board before assembly is probably a good idea.