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Biscuit Joining Question

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Forum topic by clin posted 11-16-2015 11:53 PM 658 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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clin

514 posts in 463 days


11-16-2015 11:53 PM

I’m looking to start using biscuits and was think about different was to cut the slots for joining corners. For example, the corner of a cabinet bottom and side.

Using this as an example, the bottom slot is in the end of the panel. So I just lay the panel on a flat surface, and reference the joiner on that surface. But for the sides, I would need to stand the side panel vertically to reference off the same flat surface. That would require some way to hold the panel vertically.

I’ve seen some vids where they use an L-bracket with the side panel laying flat hanging over the edge of the work table. They just hold this L-bracket in one hand and the plunge the biscuit cutter vertically with the cutter base referenced to the L-bracket.

But in that case, you have to hold the L-bracket in one hand (though maybe could clamp), and run the joiner in the other.

I’m looking for ideas on making that cut, but still reference to the base of the biscuit joiner.

-- Clin


15 replies so far

View firefighterontheside's profile

firefighterontheside

13522 posts in 1324 days


#1 posted 11-17-2015 12:49 AM

I build bookcases using biscuits to put in the fixed shelves. I do the shelves the way you describe by laying them flat. For the sides I clamp a jig across the side lined up with the bottom of the shelf then use the biscuit cutter upright and plunge down. You can lay your puece down flat and push it,up against something you have clamped to your bench, then put your cutter up against that and plunge down. Hard to describe, but it might make sense to you.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4859 posts in 2281 days


#2 posted 11-17-2015 12:53 AM

I just use a straightedge clamped to large pieces. That will give you a reference edge to guide the biscuit joiner without having to hold the panel on edge.
Biscuit joiners are really easy to use once you start playing around with them. You have the option of referencing off the workbench, off the biscuit joiner fence, or off a straightedge / scrap of lumber clamped to the workpiece. I’m sure you will develop your own techniques.

Even in instances where I am referencing off the workbench, I find it useful to clamp a scrap of lumber to the workbench. That way you have something to push against as you engage the tool, without having to clamp down every single workpiece.

Good luck with it!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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clin

514 posts in 463 days


#3 posted 11-17-2015 12:55 AM

firefighter,

So your saying you use the L-barcket thing to put int he side biscuits at the end (corner) of panels. And as you suggest, I was thinking of making up a right angle jig. Something IO could clamp to the work surface. Them I could either clamp the panel vertically to this, referencing the joiner to the work surface, or, kept he panel flat on the work surface, and but it up to the vierital jig (acting like a fence), then reference off this for a plunge.

Does that make sense?

At this point I’m new to using biscuits, and prefer to try to keep both hands on the tool and the work pieces clamped. I can appreciate, that with experience, people get more comfortable using one hand on the joiner and the other holding things. Obviously it would be much faster.

-- Clin

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3950 posts in 1961 days


#4 posted 11-17-2015 12:30 PM

You have the option of referencing off the workbench, off the biscuit joiner fence, or off a straightedge / scrap of lumber clamped to the workpiece

- pintodeluxe

That’s what I do for the center cuts on a work piece. For the edge cuts clamp your fence to the workbench, push your work piece up against it (I clamp it down as well to keep it from shifting) and make the cuts. Works well, try it on a piece of scrap and see.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2200 posts in 948 days


#5 posted 11-17-2015 12:52 PM

Looks like the question is answered.

I would add (and I’m sure others will disagree) that I would not use biscuits alone to build a cabinet.
If you do elect to use them you should still glue and/or screw, which begs the question why use them at all?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1625 posts in 2100 days


#6 posted 11-17-2015 12:59 PM


Looks like the question is answered.

I would add (and I m sure others will disagree) that I would not use biscuits alone to build a cabinet.
If you do elect to use them you should still glue and/or screw, which begs the question why use them at all?

- rwe2156

I use them mainly to help keep everything lined up during glue-up/assembly. I also believe it adds a (small) bit of additional strength to the joints.

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dhazelton

2326 posts in 1764 days


#7 posted 11-17-2015 01:44 PM

More glue surface as well.

View firefighterontheside's profile

firefighterontheside

13522 posts in 1324 days


#8 posted 11-17-2015 02:48 PM

I think you’ve got it Clin. If I’m using biscuits on the edge of a large panel I will do it without clamps, but anything small is clamped to the surface. I was biscuit cutting a small piece and accidentally plunged before I pulled the trigger so when the blade started spinning it threw the piece and made a nice biscuit cut in my finger.
With cutting slots in the end of shelves registered off the bottom, then clamping a fence across the side piece lined up where the bottom of the shelf will go lines the shelves up perfectly. Then if I can I use screws in between biscuits. I feel the biscuits add shear strength that screws do not. I took this technique from an article in Wood magazine years ago.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

700 posts in 691 days


#9 posted 11-17-2015 03:00 PM

I have used a biscuit jointer in the past but mostly, edge to edge glue ups, I find glue is sufficient.
I find a biscuit can help with a 90 degree butt but one thing I never understood.

How does a biscuit help align a glue up? A biscuit does not fit tight like a dowel, or tenon so that where you cut it, is exactly where the boards will line up. There is enough play, that just scribing a line as a reference gives just as much as having a biscuit. I have had a joint with a biscuit slip and slide around and end up being quite a bit off from where I wanted the joint to be originally, and that is using the correct size biscuits and slot.

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firefighterontheside

13522 posts in 1324 days


#10 posted 11-17-2015 03:13 PM

Occasionally I have come across an undersized biscuit. It goes in the trash. Otherwise my biscuits fit perfectly in the slots. I use porter cable biscuits and a dewalt cutter still with the original blade.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1625 posts in 2100 days


#11 posted 11-17-2015 03:24 PM



I have used a biscuit jointer in the past but mostly, edge to edge glue ups, I find glue is sufficient.
I find a biscuit can help with a 90 degree butt but one thing I never understood.

How does a biscuit help align a glue up? A biscuit does not fit tight like a dowel, or tenon so that where you cut it, is exactly where the boards will line up. There is enough play, that just scribing a line as a reference gives just as much as having a biscuit. I have had a joint with a biscuit slip and slide around and end up being quite a bit off from where I wanted the joint to be originally, and that is using the correct size biscuits and slot.

- AZWoody

I’ve never had ‘loose biscuits’. They typically fit snugly enough, and keep work pieces from shifting while applying clamps. Sorry you ran into trouble.

View clin's profile

clin

514 posts in 463 days


#12 posted 11-17-2015 03:42 PM

Thanks for all the input. I think my question now is what works well for a fence for these cuts. I was thinking of building something using some plywood. Not sure the exact dimensions, but say joining two pieces, each about 6” x 20” at a right angle, throw in some gussets for support.

Any ideas on optimum size. I was thinking to make at least one side wide (tall) enough so the biscuit cutter would still fit under any clamp I might have located above it. Not sure on length of the fence.

Obviously, easy enough to make and see for myself, but might as well start with what seems to work for others. Or what might make it useful for other tasks.

Also, I think I have this right, that I can go either way on using a fence. Either stand the panel up and clamp to the fence while referencing the cutter to the table. Or leave the panel flat on the table, buttied up to the fence, and plunge the cutter, while referencing the cutter base to the fence.

While the question was really meant to be general. I am, in fact, looking to build some shop cabinets out of pre-finished birch plywood. I’m looking to keep it simple, so don’t want to cut dados and rabbets. I’ve decided on pocket screws and biscuits. I know it’s not uncommon to just use pocket screws without glue, but I’m a belt and suspenders type.

Since the pre-finished surface doesn’t hold glue well, if at all, the biscuits will add some glued surface area. I’m also putting in a full 3/4” back. It makes it a bit heavier (by 4 to 5 lbs), but it’s simpler, inherently squares things up, and makes it about as strong as it can be.

I also wondered about the alignment help biscuits are known for. While I’ve literally not done more than make a few test joints with the biscuit cutter, I do see how it can help. It of course doesn’t help with movement along the length. But I can see if the slots are properly referenced, there is essentially no movement across the slot/biscuit. At least with mine. The biscuits fit tight enough that if I push one in dry, I need a pliers to pull it out.

And as long as we’re talking. I did just get a new Dewalt biscuit cutter. Seems fine enough to me so far. Except I immediately noticed some referencing problems. While my lack of experienced was no doubt a contributing factor. I noticed the base plate or sole, was NOT flat.

The plate itself wasn’t the issue, it was the casting it screws to. I removed the plate and did a little filing to the casting and shimmed the plate (where it touched the casting) with aluminum tape. Between the two I improved it quite a bit. Still not completely flat, but it doesn’t rock anymore.

The casting has two pins pressed in it that I couldn’t pull out. If I could have, it would have been trivial to flatten the casting completely. Anyone know what it takes to pull those pins out?

-- Clin

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3950 posts in 1961 days


#13 posted 11-17-2015 03:49 PM

No suggestions for the pins, but for a fence I use a piece of maple I machined to 1 1/2” thick, about 2 1/4” wide, and maybe 3’ long.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View firefighterontheside's profile

firefighterontheside

13522 posts in 1324 days


#14 posted 11-17-2015 04:37 PM

Your fence needs to not be so big that it hides the alignment marks on the base. For a fence I just use a straight piece of plywood clamped down. At least for me, the fence is not for holding the tool square, it’s just for locating it. I count on the squareness of the base and or the front, whichever way I am using it at the time. I never clamp the cutter to the fence, if that’s what you are thinking of doing. The front surface of the tool has little grippy spikes that are meant to keep it from sliding sideways. You just have to apply some pressure while you are plunging. The grips are able to be adjusted and completely retracted if need be. I rarely use the little drop down guide. If you use it, make sure it is set square to the face of the cutter. If it is not square, it can cause you to plunge at an angle.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View clin's profile

clin

514 posts in 463 days


#15 posted 11-17-2015 04:52 PM


I never clamp the cutter to the fence, if that s what you are thinking of doing.
- firefighterontheside

No, not thinking of clamping the cutter. Just if I clamped the panel vertically to a fence, and referenced the cutter to the table, if the fence were higher than the cutter, I could clamp the panel to the fence, but still fit the cutter under the clamp.

But it seems it is much more common to leave the panel on the table, and plunge the cutter with a much shorter fence to reference the position. And then to rely on the face of the cutter for square. Makes sense. I think I’ll approach things that way. I have seen many examples of people plunging for a middle shelf, using nothing more than the shelf panel itself (laid flat) as the reference. Meaning, it is effectively a fence 3/4” tall. So if that works well there, I see no reason it wouldn’t work at the end of the side panel with and appropriately high fence.

Thanks again for all the help. I realize it’s pretty basic stuff, but I still wanted to get a better idea of seems to be the go-to way of doing this.

-- Clin

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