The advantages of biscuit joiners
The trick to successful biscuit joinery is
cutting the slots in exactly the right
spot so that the parts will line up correctly
when they’re joined. Biscuit joiners
have an adjustable fence that can be
used to align the slot,
but in this article we’ll
show you a different
technique. Instead of referencing the
slot from the fence, we’ll show you
how to reference the slots from the base
of the tool. This method has a few
advantages. It’s simpler to make an
accurate slot because the tool is steadied
against the workbench rather than
the tool’s fence. Another advantage of
this method is that you don’t have to
readjust the fence for every cut. In this
story we’ll show you how to use the
bench reference method to join cabinet
parts. We’ll show you how to join
cabinet panels, face frames and 1/2-in.
drawer material. You can use the same
technique for any biscuit joint.
Technique 1: Join plywood with the bench reference method
Photos 1 – 5 show the steps for joining 3/4-in. plywood without
using the fence. On most biscuit joiners, the slot will be
pretty close to centered when you use this method. But even
if the slot is a little off-center, it’ll still work fine as long as
you orient the biscuit joiner and pencil marks as we show in
the photos. Here are a few tips to ensure perfect joints:
- Work on a flat surface. The top of a table saw or a solid-core
door is a good choice.
- Clean sawdust off your work surface before each setup.
- Hold the base of the biscuit
joiner and the workpiece
tight to the work surface
as you cut the slots.
Adjustable fence on biscuit joiner
Cutting Slots Without the Fence
All biscuit joiners feature a
fence that can be adjusted
up or down and pivoted at
varying degrees for cutting
slots in beveled edges.
Some woodworkers prefer
not to use the fence when
cutting slots. Instead, they
use various spacers and jigs
to cut accurate, consistent
slots every time with far less
hassle. For most of the tips
we show, the adjustable fence
is simply locked in the upright
Technique 2: Support narrow face frame parts against a block
It’s tricky to cut slots in the ends of narrow parts using the
biscuit joiner fence. The small surface area makes it hard to
hold the biscuit joiner stable. But it’s easy to cut accurate
slots in narrow parts using the bench reference method. The
photos here show how. We also show how to cut the biscuit
slots off-center so the biscuit will protrude on one side only.
This is handy if you want to join narrow parts and the biscuits
are too large.
Technique 3: Make biscuit joints in thin material
You can use the same bench reference
method to cut slots in material
thinner than 3/4 in. by placing spacers
underneath. Subtract the thickness of
the material from 3/4 in. The difference
is the spacer thickness. We
show cutting slots in 1/2-in. plywood
drawer parts. Without the spacer, the
slots would be too close to the edge.
But with the spacer, the slots are
nearly centered. Photos 1 – 4 show how.
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Video: How to Use a Biscuit Joiner
A biscuit joiner will help you make strong, fast and accurate joints. Spike Carlsen, an expert at The Family Handyman, will show you how to use a biscuit joiner to get perfect joints.