Biscuits and their alternatives

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 04-14-2011 03:15 PM 1743 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3723 days

04-14-2011 03:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: biscuits

Good Morning Everyone,

I have hopes to build a bedroom suite based on some plans from wood magazine that were published about 10 years ago. I’m going to start with the dresser. I subscribe to the magazine, and I’ve got to say I really like the appearance of MANY of the projects they provide. That being said, it seems that there quite a few projects that use biscuits quite heavily. I always thought that biscuits were more of an alignment device than a strong way to join parts.

I’m just wondering a few things:
1) Do you use biscuits in a lot of your projects?
2) A) If so, what do you like about them and what affordable joiner would you recommend
2) B) If NOT, what alternative do you recommend (remember, significant project mods are probably not feasible) and why?

Thanks everyone!

13 replies so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6855 posts in 3974 days

#1 posted 04-14-2011 03:35 PM

Hi HokieMojo;

Nice bedroom suite! That should be a fun project.

We use a lot of biscuits in our construction. They make alignment of parts perfect every time. Since glue tends to makes parts slide around, the biscuit does an effective job of keeping things in place. Also, regarding the strength, I suppose if we relied on them alone, it would be a consideration, but since everything is always glued, I don’t see a problem.

We’ve had a number of brands in the shop, but always end up back with the Porter Cable unit. It’s accurate and easy to use.

We also have a mini biscuit joiner, made by Ryobi, for small parts.

All things considered, I think every shop should have them at their disposal.

I hope this helps.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3643 days

#2 posted 04-14-2011 03:36 PM

I have never used biscuits (except for tea). if I had to work with a plan that called for those I would alternate that to using floating tenons, or hardwood spline (which would be very similar to the biscuits design/size)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#3 posted 04-14-2011 03:36 PM

I would agree they are more for alignment than strength. But I do think there are situations (a mitered frame, for example) when a joint with a biscuit would be a lot stronger than one without.

I have a Dewalt biscuit joiner, and it works quite well. The advantage to biscuit joints is that they are quick and easy. An alternative I use frequently is dowel joints. They are also pretty easy with a doweling jig, and to me, they seem inherently stronger.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#4 posted 04-14-2011 03:36 PM

The popularity of biscuits and opinions about biscuits have changed over the years. Norm on the New Yankee Workshop was, at one time, a big advocate of biscuits. However, he appears to have changed his mind about them over the last 10 – 15 years. I’ve changed my mind also.

I still use them to aid with alignment, especially on a tricky glue-up. I sometimes use them when gluing end grain, but I prefer to use dowels and/or loose tenons because they are stronger.

In my opinion, when gluing up boards, side by side, biscuits add nothing to the strength of the joint and may even make it weaker.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4928 posts in 3955 days

#5 posted 04-14-2011 04:04 PM

Use ‘em all the time. Never had a joint failure, but I don’t use biscuits in a critical joint except to align.


View woodcrafter47's profile


352 posts in 3100 days

#6 posted 04-14-2011 04:25 PM

Now I like biscuits with my coffee. However I do use the quite often, Just glued up 10 red oak boards with them for the aligement as well the strength.Making 2, 22×26 “head and shoulder plaques for my Pastors trophy deer .
It seems to work out well for me. Also use the router table and with biscuit cutter in it .

-- In His service ,Richard

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3307 days

#7 posted 04-14-2011 06:41 PM

I’m pretty much with the other comments. I have the PC 557 and use it for alignment and edge joining. The modern glues seem so strong by themselves that I have never had any kind of failure where I used a biscuit.

Like many others though, and I probably tend to overbuild, I will use mortise & tenon on a stress point.

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3737 days

#8 posted 04-14-2011 07:15 PM

The results may be biased a little, but interesting.
I use biscuits quite a bit. Mostly for alignment, but also to give a little more strength.
I bought my Dewalt before Porter Cable entered the market – I would probably go that route instead now.
I also like pocket screws if no one will see them…
If I had a domino that would probably be my weapon of choice.($$$)
I rarely use dowels – just because I always seem to have issues getting everything aligned. I have seen a dowel drilling gizmo that looks like a biscuit jointer or domino that drills two holes that looked interesting…

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4119 days

#9 posted 04-14-2011 07:19 PM

I use biscuits (a DeWalt joiner that I’ve had on long-term “loan” from a friend for several years, it was really a “I’m not going to use this any more” gift), but I’ve also got a Domino that I use for joints like I’d imagine are used in those pieces you linked to.

Like the other commenters, I use the biscuits for alignment, specifically where I’m doing things like putting an edge on plywood or joining two longer pieces with parallel grain.

For anything where I’ve got one end attaching to the side of another piece I’ll use the Domino. Barring that, as others have mentioned, I’d either use a doweling jig, or build some router jigs to do floating tenons (or go whole hog and do actual tenons, though I probably wouldn’t bother with that unless I was doing through tenons for the look of the thing).

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3642 days

#10 posted 04-14-2011 07:23 PM

They are great for angled joints.

I have an older Freud and the fence stinks. A joiner can be used
without the fence though.

If you want to do angled work, the fence comes in handy and in that
case it’s worth investing in one with a good fence design. The problems
seem to be some of the fences don’t clamp tight (my old Freud) or
don’t clamp parallel.

I have the Porter Cable now. Got a bargain on it used, so the buy was

It seems to me that the Dewalt, the Porter Cable 557, and the Lamello are
the only joiners people consistently mention as being satisfactory.

I think a high-end dowel jig is a nicer tool to have for right angle joinery than
a biscuit joiner. I have the Jessem – the Dowelmax is similar. They are
spendy but resale value on them will be very close to retail if you tire of
the hobby.

The used market is not quite flooded with biscuit joiners, but they are common.
A realistic seller will take $80-120 for the used Dewalt or Porter Cable 557.

Lowes was closing out a newer Freud Avanti joiner with a superior fence for $65
or something like that a few months ago. Maybe just floor models.

View knotscott's profile


8008 posts in 3370 days

#11 posted 04-14-2011 10:26 PM

Over the years I’ve found that most edge joints don’t need any extra strength from biscuits, so I rarely use them anymore. I’ve since sold my DeWalt biscuit joiner, and use a slot router bit for the few occasions that I want to use a biscuit.

Pocket holes are super easy and make a pretty strong joint…they can’t replace everything a biscuit can do, but they can do a lot. True M&T joints are stronger than either, but are also more complicated….thru M&T jointers are pretty attractive IMO though.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4119 days

#12 posted 04-14-2011 10:41 PM

I’d also toss another notion out here: There was a thread I skimmed this morning on LumberJocks that asked about woodworking as a solitary activity. I’ve been thinking about the same thing. If a LumberJock near me dropped me an email and said “hey, I’ve got this piece I’m trying to build, and was wondering if I could come by and use your Domino to cut a couple of loose tenons”, I’d say “let’s set up a time!”.

If you’re not in my neck of the woods, do you know someone else who might have the jigs or tools already set up to do these particular cuts? Sometimes collaborating with our neighbors is the best way to move forward.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3723 days

#13 posted 04-15-2011 02:54 PM

I just wanted to thanks everyone for all the advice. I feel like I got some really great advice here. My understanding is that for the project I’m looking at, the biscuits would attach some structural parts. I don’t think that they actually rely on the biscuits themselves for strength, but I’ll need to take a closer look when I’ve got the final plans in hand (should be any day!).

Again, thanks for the thoughtful and useful advice. I’m going to keep my eyes open for a Porter Cable or DeWalt.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics