Alternative to biscuit jointer if I still want to use bisuits.

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Forum topic by RickR posted 02-25-2008 07:02 AM 14526 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 4294 days

02-25-2008 07:02 AM

Topic tags/keywords: closet organizer biscuit joiner grooves

So I’m a bit short on tools in general – I don’t have a table saw, or a jointer/planer, etc. I’m picking up a router in the next few weeks and I have a project in mind for it already. I’m putting together a set of shelves for my closet. Very basic, will consist of pre-finished 3/4” plywood like Norm Abram is using on the kitchen cabinets he’s building in the latest NYW series in building up a full kitchen. Two sides with a number of fixed and adjustable shelves (about 7 or so.) I’m thinking I can probably get by with my circ saw and router along with some good, long straight edges. I’ve got a Kreg pocket hole kit and was thinking I’d use that with some dados/rabbets for the joinery. It will only have two sides and the shelves – no back. But since it will be plywood, I was thinking of using some poplar (to keep costs down as I already have some) to make some simple face frames. The face frames would be about 1-1/4 or so and the stiles would be flush to the sides on the inside (overhanging the outside edges) and the rails would be flush to the surface of the shelves and hang below the edge of the shelf.

Ok, now that I’ve drawn a fairly complete picture – here’s my idea. So I don’t go nuts with pocket holes for attaching the face frame, I was thinking of what Norm did for his face frames – He cut a properly sized groove on the plywood carcass – all the way around (to avoid having to use the biscuit jointer all around the plywood) and then he cut an appropriately sized slot for the biscuit on the face frame. Here’s my idea – use the router to route a groove on both the plywood AND the face frame. Then just buy some biscuits and avoid buying the biscuit jointer this time around. Any flaws in my logic?

Also – do you think the dados/rabbets and the face frame are enough to keep the unit square? I plan on hanging it on the wall with a french cleat (I think that’s what they are called)

-- - living vicariously through lumberjocks

18 replies so far

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19 posts in 4294 days

#1 posted 02-25-2008 07:04 AM

btw… sorry for the “War and Peace” – it’s late and I really should be sleeping and not posting on the internets.

Darned stream of consciousness.

-- - living vicariously through lumberjocks

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51 posts in 4269 days

#2 posted 02-25-2008 01:49 PM

Or you could use Norm’s FAVORITE TOOL, the brad nailer! I’ve never seen anyone shoot as many brads or nails into the finished product as Norm. Plus I have never seen him apply finish to any project or fill any nail holes.
Personally I’d just drill some pocket holes, screw the face frame on and then plug the holes with those special plugs that they sell for pocket holes of the pocket holes show.

I don’t know if I’m picturing this correctly, but you are going to just make some shelves with no back and hang it on the wall of your closet? What are you going to attach the second piece of the french cleat to with no back to the unit without it all showing? If it was me, I’d put some 1/4 inch ply on the back to hold everything square and hide the french cleat.

-- Jim

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1696 posts in 4393 days

#3 posted 02-25-2008 02:17 PM

i have actually seen norm apply finish , he probably has some flunky like me fillin the holes during commercials LOL i think your idea will work but if your doing the carcass all the way around i dont see a need to do the faceframe all around you could just do it at random places like near the corners and 1 or 2 between depending on the size of your frame ive used the kreg p h plugs but only as a decorative feature if im doing a maple project i might use walnut plugs to me they look pretty cool my 2 scents

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133 posts in 4325 days

#4 posted 02-25-2008 04:52 PM

I record every HGTV DIY show that comes on during the weekends. Has Norm ever finished a project? I see how he shows the major steps in construction, but I never see a finish project or sometimes other key elements of construction. I also don’t really care about his last 10 minutes of his show running off somewhere to show me something useless.

Also, I’m wondering how I can make biscuit joints for a few projects that I’m considering. Including a closet system. I was thinking about using my router with a proper bit (that I might have to purchase), but I don’t think they will penetrate deep enough. How much is a decent biscuit joiner? I like his idea because it means no nails showing on the front.

Note: When you install a closet system, often you already have baseboards in your closet. What would you recommend, removing the baseboard and cleaning up the drywall, or designing your shelving system to go around the baseboards with a cutout?

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19 posts in 4294 days

#5 posted 02-25-2008 05:07 PM

Hmm.. Good point mrtrim – if that’s the case I could just do stopped grooves randomly around the face frame.

I’m not so concerned with the pocket holes showing – I just figure it would be less time consuming to just set in some biscuits, glue and clamp it and call it a day. Otherwise as much as I like pocket screws (I’ll be putting together the face frame with them) it’s just a bit tedious. As for the French cleat showing, that doesn’t bother me much either.. It’s going in my own closet and overall with the pre-finished plywood, it’ll be words better than what my closet looks like now (just a closet rod and a wooden shelf above it.) The inside of the closet is painted the same mustard color as my bedroom walls, so I was just going to paint the cleat to match as well and it will all be covered with folded clothes anyway. But if there’s a structural reason that’s compelling enough, I’ll throw some ply on the back.

cpt_hammer – a decen biscuit joiner is at least $80-100 – another LJ posted recently about a good buy he made of a Freud joiner for $80 and that in reviews it finished middle of the pack – the good ones were $180-200. It’s not so much the cost of the joiner in and of itself – it’s just that I’m already going to be shelling out for the router, probably a router table or at least the materials to build one and a basic router bit set. Didn’t want to shell out another $100 on top of that for the biscuit joiner if I could avoid it this time around. Obviously it’s good for many things and will come in handy when I use it for it’s intended task. I just think I can get by without it.

As for your comment about the closet baseboard – this is exactly why I chose to hang mine off the wall. The bottom shelf on mine actually ends up about 12-15 inches off the closet floor – so I don’t interfere with the baseboard, and it should be easier to keep clean underneath if I can pass the vacuum in the whole floor of the closet.

-- - living vicariously through lumberjocks

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4387 days

#6 posted 02-25-2008 06:37 PM

Ok people… I see where this is going. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I MADE! If you are going to use biscuits, just get a biscuit jointer.

I have tried the continuous slot method. It works on the plywood side, where it goes into the edge of the plywood, because the “side grain” of the biscuit meets the “side grain” of the ply. But it doesn’t work on the face of the other wood because the grain is not oriented properly and it is not strong enough. You need individual slots for that side just like Norm did it. The only advantage to doing a slot on one side, is to save the set-up time of aligning the slots.

As for alternatives to a biscuit jointer, I have tried that too. That Craftsman router/biscuit jointer kit is a joke and you will only be frustrated… and besides, its almost half the price of a biscuit jointer. Believe me, don’t bother. Just get the ”right tool for the right job.

Besides, when I finally got my biscuit jointer, I used it SOOOOOOOOOOO much. I love that thing for quick, easy cabinetry. It is a tool worth investing in.

-- Happy woodworking!

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4501 days

#7 posted 02-25-2008 06:40 PM

I second what Blake said!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View RickR's profile


19 posts in 4294 days

#8 posted 02-25-2008 06:52 PM

Blake (and GaryK)

Good stuff – thanks for the explanation – I figured there had to be a good reason why I hadn’t seen it done this way before. Just what I was looking for..

Now the next question – what biscuit jointer should I get? :-)

-- - living vicariously through lumberjocks

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4501 days

#9 posted 02-25-2008 06:54 PM

I use the Dewalt, but they are all basically the same.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4674 days

#10 posted 02-25-2008 06:57 PM

I agree with Blake and Gary. A biscuit joiner is a one time purchase, and you will get many years of service out of it. It is so quick and handy that you will likely not even notice it as part of your work.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View MartyS's profile


19 posts in 4419 days

#11 posted 02-25-2008 07:59 PM

I’ve got a Porter Cable that I paid (I think) around $200 for about 1 year ago, believing that I really needed it. Now I’m not so sure.

I suppose, like anything, it has a learning curve that I’ve yet to summit but I’ve noticed that there is a slight, but annoying, amount of slop, allowing misalignment between the faces or edges of 2 pieces of wood that were both registered to the fence side if the biscuit jointer. This alignment is exactly what I thought the tool would help provide but it seems not all is well in the real world. Heck, I even read the manual!

I haven’t used it very much because of that, but my last few projects could have been done with it or without it. I went without. I haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet but I haven’t found it indispensable, for sure.

-- The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Albert Einstein

View MrWoody's profile


338 posts in 4287 days

#12 posted 02-25-2008 10:05 PM

I have a Dewalt and like Marty experience the slop. I use it only on long glue ups.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4673 days

#13 posted 02-25-2008 10:08 PM

here are the Reviews (only 1 so far, though)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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5334 posts in 4395 days

#14 posted 02-25-2008 10:08 PM

BJoiners rock. I love mine, it makes things so easy. But…. you could route the grooves/slots and use a spline like in the old days. I built several cabinets before biscuits or Kregs and used this method.

Iron on veneer tape works great also (heck, it’s a closet).

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View RickR's profile


19 posts in 4294 days

#15 posted 02-25-2008 10:50 PM

Thanks Steve..
I’m seriously considering the veneer tape. In my limited experience with them in the past, I can see sweaters and other clothes getting caught on the tape. But after doing a cost benefit analysis – I can see them making sense – particularly if they’re much improved from what I have experienced 15+ years ago.

-- - living vicariously through lumberjocks

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