Good Method for setting up plate joiner for offset face frames.

Keith Thomas

I mentioned this once before recently that its been about 10 years since I did any wood working. So I am kinda teaching myself how to do everything again. I have face frames that are kinda 3/16" proud of the inside of the cabinet and I was having trouble figuring out how to get all the slots cut so everything meets up properly. My dewalt plate joiner has the same gage on it that all the joiners have ( I have a porter cable also that has the same scale) but when I just try and go by that I remember always screwing things up. So I tried to figure out a way to make it fool proof ( And I can be quite the fool in the shop).
While doing some test cuts I came up with a great idea. I don't know if this is new but Didn't see it when I was looking for videos on biscuit joinery. Lets face it. there isn't much left to be discovered. But this is what I did anyway.
I have three pictures.
The first should be the piece of wood I cut as a gage. I just thinned a 3" wide piece of flat fine with the table saw. Cut it once and then ran it through one more time to shave a tiny bit off and it was perfect. You could fine tune it with a sander but I'm good at micro adjusting the table saw. Its my only true skill other than the ability to take a nap any where any time. So Now I have a gage to use when setting up the joiner.

The second picture is of the joiner. I made a slot into a piece of ply wood the same thickness as my cabinet. In my case 3/4". I have 2 joiners so having one set up the correct depth for the ply wood made it easier. I then put the blade into the slot cut into the plywood and adjusted the height until my gage slipped under the fence nice and snug.

The third picture , because I do not trust anything I do, Is my test cut into any flat scrap piece of wood and then you can put that piece into your test plywood cut and use the gage to make sure it is correct. As you see the gage is flush meaning my cuts will all meet up.
I'm not sure if anyone will find this helpful. I am the type of person who gets depth, height , length AND orientation screwed up on a regular basis. This way I can see what I am actually doing and have something to use to test the cut. It sounds more complicated than it is.


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Charles Lent

Staff member
Central North Carolina
When doing precision biscuit joints, I first mark all of the face sides of everything. I made a jig that I attach to joiner to out of 3/4" cabinet birch ply about 1' X 2' in size and a bunch of spacers of various thicknesses to lift the joiner off the 3/4" cabinet birch base by the desired amount and bolt the base of the joiner to it using long bolts and wing nuts with the joiner base centered on the 1' end of this base and the motor hanging off the end of it. This keeps the joiner always held parallel with the cabinet birch base, so every cut is more precise. For offset joints I cut the pieces that will be stepped back at the base height. Then the ones that will be proud from them by using the spacer of choice under the joiner. All of the cuts are made with the face side of the work pieces facing down against the jig.

I also made a triangle fence piece from 3/4" cabinet birch ply with a 1/4" slot and attached it to the base on the opposite end of the base using one 1/4-20 threaded knob. The slot allows the point of this triangle to just touch the face of the joiner but can slide back away by about 4" so I can position it to use as a stop to hold the work when making mitered biscuit joints. Moving slightly away allows the biscuit slot to be cut centered in the mitered end of the work piece and at a distance from it's face determined by the spacer under the joiner. The fence can be turned 180 deg and act as a backer fence for cutting biscuit slots along the edge of narrow work too. I attached a strip of wood to the back of this jig, so I can clamp it securely in my bench vice when using it.

My biscuit joints fit together much better when using this jig because when using the joiner hand held using the small fence on it I never seem to be able to hold the joiner accurately enough. When the joiner must be hand held, I have attached a 4 X 6" piece of 1/4" Baltic Birch ply to the joiner fence that helps me hold the joiner more correctly and I get better results, but the jig above makes the cuts much more accurately than even using this.

I'm not near my shop now, but will try to take a photo of the jig and attach it later if you need it.