I have a project for which I need to cut a groove in 44x44mm wooden plank. The groove is supposed to be 15mm deep and about 3-4mm wide, as well as no less than 150mm long. It is supposed to be positioned in the middle of one of the sides, aligned in the centre of the plank's face. The purpose of this groove is to retain a slide-in plexi piece and hold it in place - I intend to place some cushioning in the groove to prevent rattling. The most important feature for me is straightness - if it's not straight I will not be able to hold the plexi firmly and aesthetically in place.

This is a home project and I do not have a lot of tools. Specifically, I have no power tools apart from a drill/. I can't afford to buy a table saw (other than having a place to keep it) but could possibly buy a cheap angle grinder if need be - but I don't do a lot of DIY so I don't want the tool to be wasted.

What is the best way of creating such a groove, without splurging on single-use equipment?

  • This is one of those projects best suited to someone with larger power equipment, specifically coming to mind would be a router table. You could do this (given enough patience) with a very sharp chisel and a straight edge. That's the cheapest option coming to mind. Are there any workshops or cabinet makers that could be contacted to do something like this? Mar 23, 2016 at 11:53
  • Nope. I'm likely to make 16 grooves total and enlisting a professional is not something I'd like to commit to. I thought of using a drill-mounted milling cutter and some makeshift guide, but I'm not sure if that would work
    – eimyr
    Mar 23, 2016 at 11:57
  • 1
    Unfortunately, drills cannot typically be used in the manner of a router: woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/1168/… - I'd check with the guys at the Woodworking SE on this one. Might be more the route you need to go. Although, a handheld circular saw and a straight edge could get you there for $80US (or cheaper used) Mar 23, 2016 at 12:03
  • Depending on where you live, you might be able to rent the tools you need.
    – Tester101
    Mar 23, 2016 at 12:10
  • I was about to suggest circ saw at each edge of the groove followed by cleaning up with a chisel... Poor man's equivalent of a dado blade.
    – keshlam
    Mar 23, 2016 at 12:10

3 Answers 3


This can be done most easily with power tools as discussed in previous answers.

However, assuming that you can create a good guide using a metal straightedge clamped to the workpiece, and you can clamp the workpiece to a heavy table, and you have a long hand saw, you can do either of the following:

Saw/Drill Approach

  1. Put your fence together to create a rigid straightedge aligned with one side of your groove. Now saw down 15 mm while pressing your saw up against your fence. Mark your saw at 15mm of depth so you can see how deep you've gone.
  2. Move the fence to the other side of the groove, and repeat.
  3. Mark a 3.5 mm drill bit at 15mm of depth. Mark the centerline of of your groove with a pencil.
  4. Drill multiple vertical holes along your groove to a depth of 15 mm. This is much easier with a drill press; you will drill 40-50 holes per plank.
  5. Using a small chisel, break out the remaining pieces, and try to make the bottom reasonably flat.

This will work, but is tedious, and requires your initial 2 cuts to be very accurate. Most people would simply find someone who had the correct tool, and who could do this in 2 minutes with it.

  • I can't use this approach if the groove was to stop at a certain length, can I? It's good advice, but I wonder if I can make a 150mm long groove on a square c-section plank that's 1500mm long.
    – eimyr
    Mar 23, 2016 at 15:31
  • You can start at one end and only saw a certain distance. Hard to start and stop in the middle, though there are some thin kerf rigid japanese cabinetry saws that would be useful. There's no way using a power tool to get a perfectly square groove that stops at a certain point either, btw.
    – gbronner
    Mar 23, 2016 at 17:35

Just to throw in some other options, if you don't need the 44x44. Presuming the Plexiglas fits, buy a tongue & groove plank to handsaw down. You'd first cut the lengths you need & then stack those to cut the widths or depths you need.


Or, use 3 pieces of wood to make a wood sandwich. Screws would just be your clamps if you don't want many or need super strength (put on backside). The "bread" would be equal width & the "meat" would be less wide. This can all be done with thin plywood if you want to saw a lot or ideally with different width planks or aluminum flat bar to just attach to each other. You glue & screw them all together in a singular long stick & then cut the stick apart as you need.



The two ideal tools for this would be a table saw or a router. Since you don't have room to store a table saw, a router would be best.

A close second to a router or a table saw for this purpose would be a circular saw. A table saw or a router will give you a cleaner cut and will be less work, but a circular saw is easier to store than a able saw and probably has more value for a DIY'er than a router (depending on the nature of your projects).

If you get a router or a circular saw, also get a very straight piece of wood or a router/saw guide/

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