Whether you’re a professional carpenter or a hobbyist, there will come times when you need to join two pieces of wood together. And often the best tool for the job in this case will be a biscuit joiner.
In this post, we’ll be looking at how to go about choosing a biscuit joiner that will keep your pieces firmly bonded together while also being quick and easy to use.
But first, let’s recap on what exactly a biscuit joiner is and what it does…
What is a Biscuit Joiner?
A biscuit joiner is a tool that can be used in woodwork to join two pieces of wood together. This works using a small circular saw blade which is able to then cut a crescent shaped hole in opposite edges of the two pieces. Essentially, this creates lots of small ‘pegs’ on one piece of wood that can slot neatly into the holes of the other, allowing them to slot together.
You will then apply hot glue into the slot and clamp the two parts together. After the process, the glue expands, strengthening the bond between them.
Biscuit joiners can be used to make edge-to-edge joints but owing to the nature of the way the biscuit cutter works they can also create perpendicular joints. This means that biscuit joiners can be used when assembling all kinds of furniture and will provide an easy-yet-firm hold in every case. It is certainly a lot less fussy than using dowels! Note that differently sized ‘biscuits’ can be chosen depending on the type of job. This means that you change the blade in order to change the hole.
How to Choose Your Biscuit Joiner
When it comes to choosing the best biscuit joiner for your needs, giving the different models a test drive is always ideal. At the same time though, it’s very useful to know a little about the tools and what you’re looking for.
Here are some ways that biscuit joiners tend to vary:
Biscuit joiners can have either barrel grips or D-handles. In the former scenario, you will be holding right onto the body of the machine. In the latter, you’ll be using a handle that protrudes from the device similarly to a mug. This comes down to personal preference.
Also good to look for is an anti-slip device that can help to keep you safe. This is a simple pad but it can make all the difference.
The fence on your joiner should pivot, which will give you the ability to adjust it to the precise angle that you need. It should also be able to track up and down very easily, while keeping in line with the blade. Helping with all this should be a rack-and-pinion mechanism which will allow you to manually adjust the fence and a large angle scale and lock nobs. Look for the most versatile tool possible and try to imagine using it in different scenarios.
Look for angle working. Many will work from 0-90 degrees but some of the more impressive can go up to 135 degrees for much more flexibility. Consider the pre-set angles too, there should be six which are 0, 22.5, 45, 67, 90 and 135 degrees.
As mentioned, biscuit joiners can be used for a wide range of different jobs and these range from creating items of furniture to picture frames. Depending on the item you’re trying to make, the size of wood used is of course going to vary and that in turn means you need to make sure that your biscuit joiner is capable of working with multiple sized blades – even tiny ones!
There are a few other things to check with your blades too. One thing to check is that they are held firmly in place. If the blade is loose, this can cause the cuts to be sloppy and thereby damage your precision.
The number of depth settings is also a useful and important consideration. The best models should have 6 settings: 0, 10, 20, S, D and Max.
Power and Motor
While you might not think a biscuit cutter needs the kind of power you’d find in a chainsaw, it still needs to have enough power to cut deeply and quickly into the wood you’re working with – and especially if you’re working with tougher materials. Of course this does depend partly on what use you have in mind: bigger motors will be more important when working with hardwoods or on commercial projects.
The suggested power is 650W but you can go up to 700W if you want to be sure you can cut every type of hardwood out there.
It’s also important to think about the durability of the motor. A double insulated motor will be less likely to burn out early if it overheats and is a good choice where possible.
The plunge action refers to the initial ‘cut’ that your biscuit cutter makes and this is very important. Try to look for a smooth initial cut as if the plunge action is jerky, it can make the whole joint uneven resulting in a less firm hold.
Of course you shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to your tools but unfortunately we are all limited by our available budget and this means you’ll have to pick tools that you can easily afford. They key is to get the best quality for that amount and the best value!
There are a number of different brands out there that all have their own strengths and weaknesses and cover a range of different features. Some of the best biscuit joiner brands are:
Look for a brand with a good reputation and you will likely enjoy better build quality and customer care. And if you have other tools by the same brand, then this can be a great way to get an indication of the quality.
But really it comes down to looking for the joiner that best suits your particular needs, that matches your budget and that feels good to hold!