Biscuit Joiners

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These handy tools make joining boards a snap, but only a select few do the job with maximum accuracy and minimum fuss.

 

 If you're looking for a power tool that quickly and accurately joins two pieces of wood, get a biscuit joiner. Among the many joints these machines help you tackle: edge-to-edge, end-to-edge, and miter-to-miter. Biscuit joiners have been around since the late 1960s and continue to help craftsmen create strong joints held with pressed-wood biscuits and glue. We tested six popular machines, and here's what we found.

Depending on the thickness of the wood and type of joint, you can cut the slots one of two ways. Read on to learn what you need to know to be successful at either method.

 

Referencing from the base. For all the biscuit joiners we tested, this method works perfectly when using 3/4"-thick stock: You just rest both the tool and board on your workbench, and the tool cuts slots centered and parallel to the base. But if you want to position a slot somewhere other than 3/8" from the face--in the center of a 1-1/2"-thick piece, for example--you must either elevate the joiner with shims under the base or use the fence as your reference surface. (By the way, don't reference from the fence and base at the same time; it could cause misalignments.)


Referencing from the fence. Not only is this the preferred method for stock thicker than 3/4", it's also the only option for slotting miter joints. As important as this is, the fences proved to be the breaking point for four of the six tested models.

 

For example, the fences on the DeWalt DW682K and Porter-Cable 557 move up and down on a rack-and-pinion gear that makes adjustments easy and holds the fence parallel to the blade. The other joiners' fences struggled to maintain a parallel plane without further tinkering and fine-tuning, resulting in various degrees of unparallel cuts and misaligned joints.

 

Scales on the sides of the fences help you position them accurately; if you select 1", for example, your slot will be 1" from the top of the board. Only Triton's front-mounted fence scale proved too inaccurate to rely on [photo].