Can A Biscuit Joiner Really Change The Way You Build Things?

Can A Biscuit Joiner Really Change The Way You Build Things?

A biscuit joiner guide explains a biscuit joiner. This biscuit joiner tool that you purchase with the hopes of it being able to make your life easier. It is designed to be able to make strong joints quickly and with little effort, which is something woodworkers should have, but they are reluctant to use because they find them challenging to work with.

The most common complaint is that they aren’t able to line the joint up for it to be worth the effort.

This kind of problem isn’t the result of the tool, but it is the problem of the person using the tool—they don’t know the proper way to use the biscuit joiner. The miseducation and lack of understanding is why some woodworkers look at the biscuit joiner with disdain.

Before we can talk more about how to use a biscuit joiner effectively, we first need to learn a little more about the tool itself.

What Is A Biscuit Joiner?

A biscuit joiner is a tool that woodworkers use to join two pieces of wood together. These tools use a small circular saw blade to create a crescent-shaped hole, called a mouth, in opposite sides of two pieces of wood. Then an oval-shaped piece of died, compressed pieces of wood (called biscuits), are slathered in glue and placed inside the slot. The planks are clamped together and the glue dries, connecting the wood pieces and creating a good bond.

BIscuit Joiner

The biscuit joiner was invented by a Swiss man named Hermann Steiner in 1956, Steiner opened a woodworking shop in 1944, and by the mid-50s, he invented a way to join two pieces of wood together. This joining system is called the Lamello joining system. In the following years, the system was improved upon, such as the circular saw and the stationary biscuit joining machine in 1956. In 1968, the first portable biscuit joiner for Lamello grooves was created.

The biscuits used to join the wood is often made from the shavings of beech wood that has been compressed into an elongated oval shape. The biscuit size can range from #0 (the smallest) to #20 (the largest), and they measure between 5/8 inch wide and 1 3/4 inches long (the smallest) to 1 inch wide and 2 3/8 inches long (the largest).

What Is A Plate Joiner?

When you’re looking at joiner tools, you’ll sometimes see a biscuit joiner and sometimes you’ll see it called a plate joiner. There is no difference between these tools because they are the same tool. The term, “biscuit joiner” is most often used in the US, which could be the source of the confusion.

Your Biscuit Joiner Guide of the Types.

For builders who take on a home project or a craft project, perhaps you’d want a joiner for hobbies. These smaller tools are more affordable and better suited for small crafts. Keep in mind that these aren’t going to offer as many benefits as a professional grade tool.

There are three types of joiners:

  • Biscuit Joiner – This is the classic tool that includes a small, 4-inch circular blade with four to six teeth. Also, this small blade will cut channels for biscuits sized #0, #10 and #20. There are joiners available where you can swap out the 4-inch blade with a 2-inch blade, allowing you to cut smaller grooves for mini-biscuits.
  • Detail Joiner – These give you the ability to create those small grooves without changing any blades. The detail joiner is designed specifically for mini-biscuits.
  • Domino Joiner – This is a relatively new tool advancement that will create grooves for a domino shaped biscuit. When you are using a domino biscuit, you’re using it because you need the convenience of your typical joiner, but you want the exactness that a dowel joiner will give you.

There are two ways that biscuit joiners work: corded or cordless. Both tools are capable of getting the job done, but deciding to purchase a corded joiner vs a cordless one really depends on your personal preferences.

Cordless Joiner Review

With a cordless joiner, you have to worry about always having a fully charged battery on hand while you are working. The trade-off to this is that you can go anywhere you need to with your tool. With a corded tool, you are limited to where you can go because you are plugged in, but because you are plugged in, you can work for hours and hours without losing any power.

Features Your Biscuit Joiner Should Have

As you begin looking for joiners, you are going to want to think about the features the tool has and if it will suit your needs. Some of these features that you should look for include:

  • Depth Halts – In your standard joiner, the tool is going to have three sets of plunging depths. This gives you the ability to predetermine the stopping point of your blade. When you’ve set the depth halt, the tool is going to stop cutting once it’s reached that distance. Should your tool have additional depth measurements, they will be labeled with S, D, and M. Also, there are some units that will let you cut holes for other purposes, like for a duplex hinge, for example.
  • Stop Pins – When you’re using the joiner, your tool is going to need stop pins to hold the blade in place when you are starting a new cut. It is recommended that whenever you are using a power tool, you always check to make sure the pins are securely holding the blade in place so that you don’t get cut.
  • Dust Removal – When you begin cutting with your biscuit joiner, you are going to generate some dust, which is a common problem when working with wood. Dust may be an even bigger problem for your joiner because that dust will get stuck inside your freshly cut groove, which will prevent the biscuit from fitting inside the hole.
  • In situations like this, woodworkers would have to pause, clean out the hole, and then resume work. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re in a groove (no pun intended), you’re not going to want to stop every so often to remove dust.
  • Fence Options – As you look for joiners, you should look for a fence that can be set at 45 degrees and 135 degrees. This is range is going to let you register the machine on either the inner facing miter joint or the outer facing miter joint. This is going to let you get more assembling options. If your fence pivots, you are going to have maximum control of the angle you want for your specific project.
Biscuit Joiner

It’s also worth noting that the fence should be able to go up and down easily while staying parallel to the blade. We suggest looking for a rack and pinion mechanism which is used to adjust your fence.

  • Power Source – As we discussed, the tool can be powered either by battery or by an outlet. Which option is entirely up to you and your needs.
  • Handle Style – You’ll notice that when you are looking at joiners, they all don’t have the same the same handle. You can choose a barrel grip which is where you’re actually grabbing onto the body of tool. Or you could use a D-style handle. Whichever you choose, you want to make sure that it fits in your hand and it isn’t too heavy. We recommend that you go to a hardware store and try a few out for yourself. See which feels best in your hand. Many people prefer the barrel grip because they have more control.
  • Blade Options – Depending on what you are working on, you may need something smaller than the typical #0, #10, and #20 biscuits. For these smaller jobs, you’re going to need a smaller blade and smaller biscuit. You may think that you can just replace the blade with any smaller blade, but you can’t. The plunge mechanism on the tool has to be able to work with the new, smaller blade. If you want to be able to do all types of biscuit joints, you’re going to want to check to see if your joiner can be retrofitted.

Popular Biscuit Joiner Manufacturers

Once you’ve decided that you do, in fact, need a biscuit joiner, you’re probably going to wonder what manufacturer makes the best tool on the market. Well, there are five companies that we feel are reputable and offer quality products.

Porter Cable

Porter Cable is a company that has a wide range of power tools. The company focuses on designing tools that are meant to last.

Some of the tools in their line up include impact drivers, drills, saws, metal working tools, and of course, you’ll find the Porter Cable biscuit joiner among other woodworking tools. The tools in this company’s lineup are corded, but there are a few cordless drills too.

DeWalt

When it comes to power tools, everyone who knows anything about tools know that the bright yellow tool is a DeWalt. As you browse through their lineup of power tools, you’re going to find the DeWalt biscuit joiner, but you’ll also find brad nailers, staple guns, drills, saws, and much more.

DeWalt Review

Not only that, but DeWalt also creates great storage solutions for your tools, hand tools, and other accessories, too.

Makita

Makita power tools are probably among the best if you’re on a budget. The tools Makita offers ranges from cordless impact wrenches, fans, lawn mowers, and rotary hammers (and more!). You can find tools for any project, be it working with concrete (like the Makita concrete vibrator), metal (the Makita angle grinder), or wood (Makita biscuit joiner). You can also find a nice assortment of accessories for the tools they manufacture.

Craftsman

Whether you’re looking for lawn mowers and tractors, hand tools, or power tools like the Craftsman biscuit joiner, you can bet that Craftsman is going to be an affordable option without questioning the quality of the tool. We like Craftsman tools because they can be purchased anywhere and they are a household name—which is indicative of the quality of the tools in their lineup.

Craftsman Biscuit Joiner Review

Lamello

Of course we couldn’t talk about biscuit joining without discussing the Lamello company! The founder, Hermann Steiner, created this new way of joining wood together, so it would make sense that there is an official Lamello biscuit joiner! The company doesn’t just focus on this type of work, they make products for other methods of joining wood, and stream lines the edging process.

How To Use A Biscuit Joiner

Learning how to use a biscuit joiner isn’t difficult, but it does take some practice. This Biscuit Joiner guide says how to make close edge-to-edge joints and even perpendicular joints:

Step 1: Line Up The Pieces Of Wood

Take the pieces of wood that you intend on joining and line them up evenly. Make sure the wood grain is facing the same way. Next, make sure that the tree rings on the edge of your wood are shaped like an arch with the open edge is facing downward. By having your wood like this, you are preventing the wood from curving in high humidity.

Step 2: Draw A Triangle

Take a pencil and ruler and draw a triangle across the width of the wood that you are joining together. The triangle is going to be your guide when you are putting the pieces of wood back together.

Step 3: Marking Each Joint

Here, you are going to create pencil marks along each join where you intend on putting a biscuit. The biscuits should be about 6 inches apart. Next, separate the wood and use your joiner to cut a slot at each of the marks you made.

Marking the Joints

Make sure you line the mark up with the center of your joiner. Apply a bit of wood glue inside your new slots, but also along the entire length of the edges being joined.

Step 4: Insert The Biscuits

Place your biscuits inside the slots of one of the pieces of wood. Then you will line the other piece of wood up to the biscuits and insert them into those slots. When all the biscuits have been slotted, clamp the wood together and let dry.

Step 5: Make Pencil Marks For T-Joints and Perpendicular Joints

If you are making a perpendicular (T) joint, hold the pieces of wood that are going to be joined together. Make pencil marks on both boards so you know where the cuts in wood will need to be. Again, space your slots 6 inches apart. Place the two boards on top of one another—the top of the horizontal board should be aligned to the line you just drew. Clamp these two boards together.

Step 6: Cut, Match, Glue, Dry.

Use your joiner to cut slots into the end of your top piece of wood. Then position your joiner vertically and cut matching slots into the bottom wood board. Apply glue to the slots and the board. Insert biscuits and then attach one board to the other. Clamp your project together and allow the glue to dry before sanding or staining.

Cut, Match, Glue, Dry Review

Biscuit Joiner Safety

When you are using a biscuit joiner, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the tool properly. Also, you should always wear some kind of safety eye wear and respiratory protection. Also, remember to check the stop pins to ensure they are in place and that the blade guard is always on place.

Caring For Your Biscuit Joiner

To maximize the longevity of your joiner, you’re going to want to take proper care of the tool, which means you should do regular cleaning and maintenance.

To Clean Your Tool:

  • Unplug your joiner.
  • Remove the dust bag. (wear eye protection and a respirator)
  • ​Turn your joiner upside down on a flat surface.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove the two screws that holds the front base assembly together.
  • ​Pull the fence away from the tool and then remove the front base assembly.
  • Use needle nose pliers to stretch and release the springs from the tabs on the bearing plate.
  • ​Push the adjustment rod away from the bearing plate and remove the rear base assembly.
  • With the tool still upside down, clean any wood particles and resin from your tool.
  • Apply a thin coat of a general purpose grease where the base plate slides.
  • Replace rear base assembly and position the adjustment rod in the proper place.
  • Secure the rear base assembly with the two springs by clipping them on the bearing plate tabs.
  • Reassemble the front base assembly.
  • Replace the screws and tighten them with a screwdriver.
  • Replace the dust bag.

To Replace The Blade:

  • Unplug your joiner.
  • Remove the dust bag.
  • ​Turn your joiner upside down on a flat surface.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove the two screws that holds the front base assembly together.
  • Pull the fence away from the tool and then remove the front base assembly.
  • ​Use needle nose pliers to stretch and release the springs from the tabs on the bearing plate.
  • Push the adjustment rod away from the bearing plate and remove the rear base assembly.
  • Place joiner upside down on a flat surface.
  • Put a #2 Phillips screwdriver in one of the two holes in the bearing plate.
  • Place one of the noncutting teeth Place one of the non-cutting teeth located behind each carbide tipped cutting tooth against the screwdriver or pin and lock blade preventing it from rotating.
  • Use a 3/16 inch wrench to remove the blade screw.
  • Remove outer blade washer and blade.
  • Clean any wood particles or resin from the tool,
  • Place inner blade washer on the gear spindle.
  • Place a new blade onto the shoulder of the blade washer and secure with an outer blade washer and screw.
  • ​Tighten the blade screw tightly.
  • ​Replace the rear assembly and reposition the adjustment rod in its proper place.
  • Reassemble the front base assembly.
  • Replace all the screws and tighten with a screw driver.
  • Replace dust bag.

Biscuit Joiner Wrap Up

Using a biscuit joiner for your woodworking projects can significantly increase your productivity! While some woodworkers may find it difficult to work with these tools, it isn’t that difficult if you have a good joiner and you understand how to use it correctly.

With a bit of practice and some patience, you will understand why these tools can make a world of difference with your craft. As a woodworker, your project is only as good as your joints. It is with one of these tools, you can make those strong joints.

Biscuit Joiner Machine Review

We hope that we’ve shed a little bit of light on biscuit joiners, how to use them, and how to properly care for them. Now that you have a better idea of what these tools can do for you and how much simpler joining wood can be with them, you might be interested in getting one of these tools for your own workshop.

When you start looking for a joiner, you might feel a little overwhelmed by all the options that are available. We have created a buying guide that can help you figure out what features you should look for in a biscuit joiner.

We have also provided you with five mini product reviews where we give you details about the product and a summary of what kind of feedback customers had about the tool.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or concerns! Tell us what wood projects you like to work on and how a joiner can help you!

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