Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Using Biscuits Without a Biscuit Joiner

As I was preparing to glue the two boards together for the bottom of the DVD shelf, I got a little nervous about such a wide board with only glue to hold it together in the middle (even though I know the glue joint is usually stronger than the wood itself, bla bla bla), so I decided to reinforce it with some biscuits.  I considered making some biscuits (or would they be splines if I made them myself?), but decided I wanted the expansion properties of commercial biscuits.  I bought a bag at Ace, measured the thickness, and chose a 3/16 slot would be close enough to the standard 4mm of a biscuit cutter.  After jointing up the two mating edges (with the boards clamped together in my vise), I set my plow to cut a groove down the center of the boards, and referenced off of the face edges to make sure everything was consistent.  I made sure to stay a couple inches in from the finished length of the board.

Because I wasn't cutting all the way from end to end of the board, my plane cut an arc-like groove, and couldn't reach the full depth even in the center of the groove.  I took my 3/16 mortise chisel and deepened the groove appropriately, checking to be sure my biscuits would sit approximately halfway in the groove.  

After a test fit, I loosely filled the groove with a handful of biscuits and plenty of glue, and clamped up with the two clamps I have that are long enough.  Hope it's enough!  I'm not really too worried.  Once the glue is set overnight, I'll crosscut, shoot, and start laying out for dovetails.
If I used biscuits more often (and I might, now that I have some), it might be worth investing in a biscuit joiner.  It would make this whole process (which took probably 15 or 20 minutes) a 60 second procedure, after plugging in.  As it is, though, for the occasional use this method works well enough, and it means one less tool to buy, store, and maintain.  Also, I like to avoid the noise and dust of power tools when I can, in my small shop.


  1. Instead of buying a biscuit jointer you can buy a bit for a half inch router (if you have one) they do make jointing boards nice and easy.

  2. I really like to use biscuit joiners and they help.
    Here, I wrote an article on biscuit joiners.

    3 Best Biscuit joiner for all professions