Best way to edge-glue boards for table top? To biscuit or not to biscuit??

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Forum topic by jonmakesthings posted 05-19-2016 09:52 PM 26207 views 2 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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73 posts in 2102 days

05-19-2016 09:52 PM

Hey guys, seeking some advice on the best way to edge glue boards for a dining room table top. The boards will be 1 1/2 thick, 5 to 8” wide. Assembled top will be somewhere around 40”x72”. Most likely going to attach it to the frame with figure 8’s.

My biggest question is whether to use biscuits or not. I don’t have a biscuit cutter, I would just rout out slots with a plunge router if I went that way, and using strips of wood as the biscuits. They would probably provide more stability during the glue up, keeping everything lined up.
What is your experience with biscuit joints?

UPDATE: Another question, would biscuits add much strength to the joint as opposed to just glue?

-- How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

23 replies so far

View Kirk650's profile


741 posts in 2033 days

#1 posted 05-19-2016 10:16 PM

I often use my biscuit joiner to line up boards. It works real well. Using the router and wood strips should work just as well.

View OSU55's profile


2897 posts in 3274 days

#2 posted 05-19-2016 10:53 PM

Best way to do panel glue ups is well jointed edges and clamping cauls to line the boards up. Here's how to make and use them.

View jonmakesthings's profile


73 posts in 2102 days

#3 posted 05-20-2016 12:19 AM

Thanks, I’ve been thinking about trying cauls, they seem easier to make and use than I previously thought.

-- How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4549 posts in 3846 days

#4 posted 05-20-2016 12:34 AM

Most people that I know just edge glue it and put it in clamps. They do take off just about .003 out of the center and can not remember why. I have also seen many people say biscuits and things like that swell in the joint from the glue and lift up the wood.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 2737 days

#5 posted 05-20-2016 12:40 AM

Flip the grain cup on each piece. Its called a splined joint when it runs long. Glue alone is as strong as you can get. The spline looks nice on the end and helps in alignment.
Make sure the edges of your stock are crisp & sharp. Cauls are nothing than cross joint boards. There is nothing to ‘make’.

Glue up in pairs and plane while you can. At least half the sanding is eliminated this way.

-- Madmark - [email protected]

View knotscott's profile


8434 posts in 4660 days

#6 posted 05-20-2016 01:04 AM

If the joints mate properly you really shouldn’t need biscuits. They can help get the boards aligned, but so do splines. There’s no substitute for flat, straight, square, and uniform thickness.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3279 days

#7 posted 05-20-2016 01:04 AM

Flip the grain cup on each piece. Its called a splined joint when it runs long. Glue alone is as strong as you can get. The spline looks nice on the end and helps in alignment.
Make sure the edges of your stock are crisp & sharp. Cauls are nothing than cross joint boards. There is nothing to make .

Glue up in pairs and plane while you can. At least half the sanding is eliminated this way.

- MadMark

Most of the time, especially for wider pieces, people make calls with a slight radius to them. This transmits the clamping force along the whole length of the call, even when applied by clamps to the end. It works well. Math class in action. It is pretty easy to make them. Takes about 10min to make a set. phone refuses to allow the proper spelling of ‘call’


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Aj2's profile


4134 posts in 3082 days

#8 posted 05-20-2016 02:08 AM

I just don’t see the need for biscuits,Cauls,splines.Wood that’s faced flat on a jointer then planed.Edges square to the faces don’t need any help to lay flat.
A flat assembly table with decent clamps is all I ever need.I do use spring clamps on the ends.
Things do get slippy with the glue just a little adjustment with my finger pressure is all that’s needed.

-- Aj

View Tabletop's profile


139 posts in 2032 days

#9 posted 05-20-2016 06:59 AM

I’ve Built literally hundreds of tables and have come to this conclusion, “do what you feel like doing”. It’s that simple. The fact that your using those thick boards will give you plenty of gluing surface and make a strong joint. However, it’s only true if your boards are making contact through the entire depth of the board. Must have square, clean edges. When do I use biscuits, when using reclaimed lumber and for big glue ups(anything more than just half a dozen boards).

Reclaimed lumber may have spots where I can’t get two clean solid edges together. Multiple boards plus all that glue makes for a headache trying to keep them flat/straight when you start clamping and the boards start sliding with all the glue. .

View becikeja's profile (online now)


1181 posts in 4098 days

#10 posted 05-20-2016 11:59 AM

I use biscuits, not sure why, just do.
Hmmm. Maybe I should re-think this.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View endgrainy's profile


251 posts in 3172 days

#11 posted 05-20-2016 12:32 PM

I used dominos to align the boards on my recent dining table top glue up. Typically, I just edge joint the boards (as the joint is plenty strong) but trying to align several 8’ long boards is a pain, even with cauls. The dominos made it pretty exact, and is super easy. Trying to remove even 1/16” of post glue-up discrepancy over 8 feet is a pain.

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View Mikesawdust's profile


330 posts in 4323 days

#12 posted 05-20-2016 12:33 PM

I usually skip biscuits, and just join the edges clamping and aligning as necessary. I’ve run into several issues in the past with biscuits, mostly from not planning better or changing plans. 1. If they are too near the ends and you change the length, you end with a biscuit showing. 2. if you need to re-flatten the surface when the wood moves on you, you can have a biscuit surface on you. 3. Make sure you let the glue dry completely and the wood dry from the moisture added, because the glue is in a pocket the surrounding wood swells for a couple of days and if you flatten it before it settles you end up with low areas at each biscuit after it dries out. 4. Check the biscuit joiner closely and often, I had a pin work it’s way out of the machine part way through the operation and wasn’t aware till I tried to line up the boards. 5. Test the joiner on scrap pieces to confirm its set at the correct thickness and depth, painful when you start to glue up and realize the boards are still 1/32” apart because the depth was set wrong.

-- You never cut a piece to short, you are just prepping that piece for a future project

View MrFid's profile


910 posts in 3189 days

#13 posted 05-20-2016 12:46 PM

This is part 1 of an 8 part blog on edge joints. Rob is a great writer along with being a skilled woodworker. I am not connected with him other than being a fan.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View jimintx's profile


939 posts in 2869 days

#14 posted 05-20-2016 02:59 PM

I use biscuits because they are easy and cheap and I have no reason to not use them. At the very least, they give me a personal sense of a more secure joint, and such peace of mind is valuable to me.

I’ve never experienced a biscuit causing the wood above it to rise due to the biscuit swelling. My guess, if that is happening, is I suspect the biscuit is too close to the surface, and perhaps it is too large.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Dwain's profile


623 posts in 5144 days

#15 posted 05-20-2016 03:04 PM

Knotscott is preaching the word in a short and sweet manner. Biscuits aren’t needed, but the may help with alignment. If the boards are good (straight and flat) then they aren’t necessary. I used biscuits on some of my first tables, but the tops were two inches thick, so swelling really wasn’t much of an issue. I’d say to try it both ways, see what happens. It certainly won’t hurt, it just may not help as much as you think it will.

Good luck. Have fun. Get to the shop!

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

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