The biscuit joiner is one of the most important single-use tools in the woodworking shop as it is vital for joinery projects. Also called a plate joiner, the biscuit joiner or cutter is an excellent tool for making joints in projects such as cabinetry and edge-to-edge gluing. The machine cuts small slots in the edge of wood stocks where you insert a biscuit to form a biscuit joint
In this article, we look at what the biscuit joiner is and how to use it. This piece also discusses the uses of the tool and how it works. Whether you are a professional woodworker or new DIYer, you will learn everything you need to know about the biscuit joiner and whether you need one in your workshop. But first, let’s look at what is a biscuit joiner.
What Exactly Is a Biscuit Joiner?
A biscuit joiner is the safest and easiest way of cutting biscuit slots. In woodworking and carpentry, there is a wide range of projects that require biscuit joints. Many professionals and DIYers prefer biscuit joints because marking out and cutting them is fast and easy. The biscuit joiner makes the process efficient.
Unlike dowel and mortise joints, biscuits are not suitable for heavy-duty joinery but they are flexible, fast and simple. If you want to reduce alignment and assembly problems in your carpentry and woodworking tasks, biscuit joint is an excellent joinery option, which is why the biscuit joiner is so valuable.
The biscuit joiner can’t do any other task apart from cutting slots in stock to accommodate the biscuit, but it does its job so well the value it delivers overshadows the simplicity of the process. When you cut slots into wood stock with the biscuit joiner, you apply glue to the biscuit and insert it into the slot. Then you lock the other stock in place and you have one solid, perfectly aligned work.
The biscuit joiner is easy to use and even a green user can master it in five minutes. So, what exactly is a biscuit?
What Is a Biscuit?
You might wonder the function of biscuits in cabinet works, but we are not talking about the edible snack you love to munch. A biscuit is a football-shaped slice of wood, usually compressed beechwood. To join two boards, you glue a biscuit into one slot in the edge of a stock and the corresponding slot in the adjoining stock.
Biscuits are often used in cabinetry and other projects where you need to glue up several individual boards to make a piece such as a tabletop or stool. For miter joints, butt joints, edge-gluing and glue-up parts that do not require stand-alone shear strength, biscuit joints are fast and reliable. Whenever you don’t need the strength of mortise and tendon joints, the biscuit is a better and stronger alternative to dowel joints.
Biscuits offer improved alignments of the adjoining parts. This is partly because the oversized slots provide more room for adjustments before the glue sets in and lock the joint into position. Depending on the project requirements and your creativity, biscuit joints can be strong, durable and reliable. Plus, they are simple and versatile thanks to the flexibility of the biscuit joiner.
There are different sizes of biscuits including the 0, 10, and 20 although you can also use smaller biscuits. The goal of a biscuit joiner is to cut slots that can accommodate the various biscuit sizes in adjoining boards. And it excels at the job.
Now, you might wonder if it’s worth it to buy a tool which can only do one thing. But you will be wrong as the biscuit joiner can do more than cut slots into boards. Next, we look at the uses of a biscuit joiner.
Biscuit Joiner Uses
The biscuit joiner is an excellent tool for joinery works. It comes handy in projects such as shelves, cabinets, frames and more.
Here are 5 main uses a biscuit joiner
Whether you are a carpenter or furniture maker, the biscuit joiner delivers endless possibilities when you need to join boards. From tabletops, cabinets, shelves, frames and everything in between, this tool makes attaching wood panels a breeze.
The joiner allows you more alignment when joining boards as the slots it makes have extra space. So after joining the boards, you can still adjust the piece to achieve the desired fit even if you already glued and clamped the boards together.
There is a lot of debate about the suitability of biscuit joints in heavy-duty joinery. Compared to mortise and tendon joints and lap joints, the biscuit joint might not be the best. But you can use it in many other applications as long as the project is not designed to bear heavy loads for prolonged periods.
The more you become familiar with the biscuit joiner, the better you understand the projects where it is the ideal choice.
In cabinetry, you often need to combine boards in a corner. A biscuit joint allows you to achieve more stability and support using single or double biscuit joints depending on the project requirements. So if you are making a drawer or any other cabinet where you need to combine wood corners to get the job done, the biscuit joiner is a dependable tool.
Miter joints can be difficult to create because of alignment and strength issues. A biscuit joiner solves this problem by providing an easy and straightforward method to align and strengthen miter joints. However, not all biscuit joiners have this capability.
If you want to achieve the best results with your miter joints using a biscuit joiner, go for models that have a fence that pivots from 0 to 90-degrees to 0-135-degrees.
When you are gluing a large panel comprising different boards such as an edge-to-edge gluing, a biscuit joiner helps with registration, strength, and alignment. Instead of only gluing the surface, the biscuit joiner helps you cut slots into the adjoining boards so they can key perfectly into one another. This adds more rigidity and firmness to the overall joins.
The biscuit joiner is also used for face frames, case construction, edge banding among others. It is essential to know when to use biscuit joints. This is because the biscuit and glue used in this joint may not be appropriate for every project.
When completing a project that will experience a lot of torture during use, it’s better to go for sturdier joints. However, joints that are not load-bearing are top contenders for the biscuit joiner.
Biscuits are mostly used in joining sheet materials such as particleboard, plywood, and MDF. Also, the biscuit joiner is the perfect tool for joinery operations that involve hardwood such as beech. Remember that biscuits are often made from compressed beech, so the tool is a perfect fit when attaching hardwood boards and plywood.
How Does a Biscuit Joiner Work?
The biscuit joiner makes plunge cuts into the side of boards to allow you glue biscuits into the slot. The working principle of this tool is simple and straightforward. To understand the plate joiner, we need to talk about its features. The main features of the tool include:
- Base Plate
Manufacturers offer corded and cordless biscuit joiners based on job requirements and customer preference. The tool has a motor that drives a small circular saw which retracts into its body when not in use.
To make a cut with the plate joiner, you position the fence or base plate along the edge of the board so that the tool does not move during operation. When the blade is in position, power the tool and the cutter will plunge into the wood to make a slot that can accommodate a biscuit of the appropriate size.
When choosing a biscuit joiner, it’s better to buy a model with an adjustable fence and swiveling base plate. Such designs allow you to adjust the angle and depth of cut so you can work on either side of the board.
This tool also comes with different blade sizes although most have the 4″ circular blade. To get more out of your purchase, get a model that can use smaller blades so you can cut mini-slots.
The best biscuit joiners have rack and pinion fence systems, adjustable base plates and a powerful motor and a solid build. Check out our comprehensive biscuit joiner buying guide for more information on the best brands for the money.
One great feature of the biscuit joiner is its safety. The tool’s blade is shielded by the guard and it remains retracted until you are ready to cut. And even when you are about to make the cut, the blade is not exposed in any way. You only need to follow simple operational guidelines and precautions during use and your projects will come out fine every time.
How to Use a Biscuit Joiner
A biscuit joiner is simple to operate. Follow these steps to ensure your projects come out perfect when using the plate joiner.
- Check that the wood pieces are lined up perfectly
The first step when using the biscuit joiner is to ensure that the wood pieces you want to join are properly lined up. Make sure the pieces have the same thickness and touch each other across the entire length of the joint.
Pass the edges of the wood pieces through the jointer if they don’t match up to straighten them. To prevent the wood from curving during high humidity, ensure that the tree rings on the wood edges are arch-shaped with the trough part downward.
- Mark the Boards
Now that you have two straight boards, apply markings. To mark the boards, place them in their final position on a work table and draw a triangle across the boards’ width. When it’s time to join the boards together, the triangles will guide you to the correct position. Next, mark the position of each biscuit joint with a pencil, allowing enough space for the biscuit and the glue.
- Power the Saw and Cut
Once you have marked the boards, start the tool; position the fence or base plate and plunge cut a slot. Repeat for the other board, making sure the blade is at the center.
- Apply Biscuit and Glue
When you have made the cuts, apply some glue in the slots and insert a biscuit. Apply glue on the adjoining board and slide it onto the biscuits. Next, clamp the joint for more support as the glue dries.
Biscuit Joiner Safety
When using a biscuit joiner, it’s important to take necessary safety precautions, including:
- Read the user manual that came with your unit. While the plate joiner is relatively safe to use, read and follow all safety rules as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Use appropriate safety gear. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from wood chips and use sound mufflers if your unit makes a lot of noise.
- Use only sharp blades with your plate joiner. If the stock blade that came with your tool is dull, buy a sharper and more durable aftermarket alternative, preferably a carbide-tipped blade.
- It’s also important to keep the blade guard on before operating the tool.
- Before plunging the blade into the wood, make sure the motor is at full speed.
- When the blade is spinning, never use side pressure to slow it down.
The biscuit joiner is a go-to tool when you need fast and reliable joints. It’s the ultimate joiner for edge-to-edge gluing, mortise joints, face joints and many other projects in carpentry and woodworking.
This article looked at the plate joiner as a tool, how it works and its functions. We hope you have learned one or two things about this valuable tool so you can use it to improve your productivity and results.