Splines vs Biscuit Joiner #1: What I have learned

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Blog entry by RonPeters posted 08-01-2010 06:56 AM 10909 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Splines vs Biscuit Joiner series Part 2: Progress! »

I’m building cabinets for under my bench. I’m following the ‘plans’ provided and they call for splines and slots.

From the plans:

So, I spent the better part of a day routing out 1/4” deep 1/8” slots in 3/4” birch ply which mates up with some rock maple edging with corresponding slots. I’m thinking ”Hey, this is going to look really cool, birch and maple.” Got the splines cut and started dry assembly only to discover that the router slot wasn’t as ‘clean’ as I’d like. There was a little wandering in the ply and it isn’t going to ‘match up’ and not just a little spot, but more than I care to sand down.

How the heck did that happen? I thought for sure I held that router steady and took my time, yet it turned out lousy!!

After reading here I figured that a biscuit joiner was the way to go. So, off to the local big box to see what they have. I looked at the PC 557 $219! Dang that’s expensive, but you get 2 blades and 7 settings. Ryobi has one for $100, but it has only 3 settings. Huh? Looked at the Freud from Italy $125 – they make great blades, 5 yr warr… Dewalt $199…? Decisions, decisions…

This ‘trip’ took about 3 hours, because HD carries ‘X’ and Lowes carries ‘Y’. Back and forth to 3 stores in total because Lowes #1 was out, so off to #2 only to learn they were too. (Makes me wonder if they are having cash flow issues not having inventory?) Finally fed up with the run around, I returned to HD and got the PC 557. It was only $20 more than the Dewalt.

I haven’t used it yet, but plan to tomorrow. I’m attempting to ‘save’ the material I’ve slotted by gluing splines in and will trim them to size before using the PC 557. Wish me luck! I’ll take some pictures of the progress.

What I’ve learned – if you want a professional job – splines and slots are not the way to go. Also, check the contents of the purchase! I went home and opened my new tool only to discover that someone took the 4” blade. In fact, it looked as if they used the tool (or swapped their old one?) because it was dirty. I returned it for a ‘new’ machine. Look for a black wire tie locking the case from the factory – if it’s broken/missing make sure you check contents. The new box had one.

The gal assured me they check the returns, but seriously, how many folks would actually check for the blade? Apparently, none.

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

6 comments so far

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3989 days

#1 posted 08-01-2010 07:56 AM

I have the same PC for a couple of years, and have used it for a lot more than cutting the bisc’s. Not cheap but seems well worth the bucks.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3272 days

#2 posted 08-01-2010 11:19 AM

Biscuits are a lot easier than splines/slots, good move. Personally I use a slot cutting bit in the router in my router table for this. Not as manoueverable as a biscuit jointer but at about $30 a lot cheaper.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View stefang's profile


16209 posts in 3570 days

#3 posted 08-01-2010 11:50 AM

I don’t think you will regret paying the price for the better quality joiner. With a little jig screwed on to it you can also use it to easily cut spline openings into the corners of mitered boxes. You can find details of the jig on FWW mags. website if you are interested.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3578 days

#4 posted 08-01-2010 01:12 PM

I’ll take biscuits over splines all day long. I am not sure if it really strengthens the joint but it sure makes line up a snap.

-- Marc

View Apex's profile


9 posts in 3097 days

#5 posted 08-01-2010 05:39 PM

I have used the Porter Cable model for years, it has many features that you may not use everyday but they will come in handy. I recently used it to cut slots in deck boards so I could use hidden fasteners on the deck. It is much easier to be accurate with a joiner than splines.

Utah carpenter


View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3721 days

#6 posted 08-02-2010 04:28 AM

Here’s a tip I learned a while back. You can cut a groove on both pieces you what to join using a slot bit on the router table. Then place the biscuits in the groove. No alignment problems. This works great on mitered stock because the groove is covered by the mitered end. BTW I do use the PC 557 alot for cabinets and edge banding, when I actually get around to building cabinets.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

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