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Thread: dowels or biscuits

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Comox Valley, British Columbia
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    3,220

    dowels or biscuits

    So I need some advice:

    I'm gluing up some boards to make 10" wide book shelves. I tried a few boards without anything for alignment, and it worked okay, but not perfect. I have one of those self-centering doweling jigs that I've never used. Should I use that or should I bite the bullet and invest in a biscuit joiner? Not the lamello--I was thinking of the Porter Cable. I have 72 shelves to make.....or about 30' of built-in bookcases. One of the esteemed woodworkers on this forum once told me to ask myself what my 10-year plan is before buying power tools or machines. I anticipate lots of built-in cabinets in the 10 years to come. All comments welcome.
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Thomasville, GA
    Posts
    5,992
    Technically, gluing boards together to make a wider panel is as strong as you need. Saying that, I've used a ton of biscuits over the years to help keep boards aligned when I glue them up. One of the first tools I added when I started making furniture was a DeWalt plate joiner and it's still a go-to item at times, although I'm tapering off of larger projects. Anytime I have to make up a panel from narrow boards, I grab my DW and a box of biscuits.
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member and Member of Mensa
    My Weather Underground station

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    new york city burbs
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    10,188
    make or buy some cauls.
    glueing up boards to 10 inches wide shouldn't be a problem without biscuits.
    carefully use the cauls and clamps and you should get beautiful glue ups.
    Human Test Dummy

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1,448
    I agree with both Bill and Allen.

    When I was starting to build furniture gluing up panels terrified me; I got the Porter Cable biscuit cutter (the best for the money), and it gave me confidence to do a lot.

    As I gained confidence and experience, I use it less and less - it does not add strength to the joint, but does help with alignment. My current project is a large dining room table - each half roughly 4 x 4 feet, with five leaves each 4 x 2 feet. All from solid lumber, and I haven't use a biscuit yet. (Total 72 square feet)
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Yorktown, Virginia
    Posts
    5,009
    I have both a biscuit joiner and Festool Domino, but for that kind of glue up would probably just use cauls unless you are short on clamps.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
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    5,167
    Buy some cauls first, if you don't want to make them. In the long run, much less expensive and much more forgiving. I have had both the Porter Cable and now the DeWalt tool. Had a hard time getting rid of the Porter Cable. Piece of "I can't say that here." DeWalt tool rarely comes out of the case. A good set of cauls will make you a happy camper for the next ten years and beyond.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Posts
    12,247
    Hi Cynthia good to see you around and still doing wwing. I have just completed some panel glue ups although very short and i have the pc biscuit joiner and did not use it.
    Here is my view of the biscuit issue.

    I have yet to have cut and used a biscuit where the resultant fit has meant i obtain the alignment possible prior to biscuiting.
    So it really depends on what people think of as "alignment".
    I found there are at least two types of actual biscuits one seems to be cut from thin ply and another that seems to have been cut and compressed its surface more " open" pores that allow the wooden biscuit to swell when glue hits it.
    So my findings have been the slot cut by the biscuit cutter left quite a bit of slop meaning alignment was not what can be achieved with cauls pressing a board flat.
    There is no strength gain as boards used in a panel are usually cut with the grain and thus the resultant glue up is normally stronger than the wood itself.
    I still for some unknown logic use biscuits from time to time.

    Sent from my SGH-I337M using Tapatalk
    cheers

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
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    1,103
    Seeing as we are defining the merits of these plate joiners/biscuit cutters, Would you please, Carol, Charlie, Bill, could you expound on your feelings about using these tools, or not liking them for me? What were their faults and what were their good points?

    I can see the points made for using cauls, but I never have had any yet. I would appreciate all your input. Thanks much.

    Aloha, Tony
    "You got to learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself". (Author unknown)

    "Time flies like..... an arrow,,,Fruit flies like..... a banana." Groucho Marx

    Ah,,,to live in Paradise!

    Registered voting member

    Fighting for all I am worth, and praying every day.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
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    1,103
    Thanks, Rob. We must have been typing at the same time. Your input is what I am looking for. I do also want to know what particular faults biscuit cutters have, and or have in common. Thank you all again.
    "You got to learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself". (Author unknown)

    "Time flies like..... an arrow,,,Fruit flies like..... a banana." Groucho Marx

    Ah,,,to live in Paradise!

    Registered voting member

    Fighting for all I am worth, and praying every day.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Yorktown, Virginia
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    If you are exploring joining methods and equipment with a view toward long term versatility, consider also the Domino. It essentially gives you a floating mortise and tennon that can be tight fitting or loose (machine adjustable laterally), as you choose. You don't have the slop and joint strength weakness inherent with biscuits and the range of available domino sizes beats the heck out of dowels. You can also make your own dominoes with a round over bit on the router table, giving you the option of exotic woods and visible joinery. A pricy option, but if you amortize it over your ten year plan, not so bad.

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