Question on panel alignment

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Forum topic by juanabee posted 11-27-2011 12:17 AM 2638 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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113 posts in 4294 days

11-27-2011 12:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: panel glue-up alignment biscuit joiner

I have had trouble getting panels to line up properly during glue-up. I tried some homemade cauls. They help, but I still get some pretty serious ridges from board misalignment.

I have a good router table and a slot cutter. Would it work to run a slot along the edge of each board to be joined, then insert a custom-cut strip in the slot between each board at glue up? How much work versus alignment quality improvement do you think this method would produce?

And before I fork over the cash for a biscuit joiner, would this give me better alignment results, or just save me some time, or what?

As always, your thoughtful suggestions are appreciated.

-- "Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation." Wallace Stevens

13 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118296 posts in 4863 days

#1 posted 11-27-2011 12:35 AM

You can get good results without a biscuit joiner. In joining wood for panels there’s a few thing to look out for , make sure you wood is jointed so that you have no gap when dry fitting you panel together,next when you apply glue let it sit for a short time on the edges of your wood after that you might want to glue half of your panel at a time depening how wide it is and how many boards are involved . As you glue your panels alternate your clamps some on the bottom and some on the top,to keep from bowing your wood in one direction . As you glue your boards up apply a little pressure to your clamps and then start from one end and make sure your boards aligned perfectly tightening each clamp as you go,this may involve going back and adjusting boards you have already aligned . This approach should get you so close you should be able to take any unevenness out with a light sanding.
A real basic thing is to make sure your boards are the same thickness. sounds silly but I’ve made that mistake where one board was thicker than the other.
As Columbo said…
one more thing :)) One more thing is when the wood seems to fight me I’ll use some wood wedges between the clamps and the wood to hold the alignment. It’s a very good Idea to put wax on the wedges or use wax paper to make sure the wedges don’t get glued to the panel. That’s another reason I like clamps on both sides you can use wedges to align from the top or bottom .


View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 5030 days

#2 posted 11-27-2011 01:06 AM

+1 what Jim said. I use bar clamps, and they stay flat without having to alternate them. Using the method above, aligning the boards from one end to the other, I use a dead blow mallet to get everything into alignment, then tighten the clamps when aligned. Also, just saying to make sure it gets said, you need to make sure you joint the faces of the boards, then plane, to make sure they’re flat to start with.

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 4255 days

#3 posted 11-27-2011 01:35 AM

You’d have to ask yourself if the amount of work you are going to do justifies the expense of buying a good biscuit jointer. If you only occasionally glue panels together I’d consider buying a biscuit slot cutter for the router which will give very accurate results, and it will have other uses too (for splines, grooves). The bearings are interchangeable on those cutter sets for No.00, No.10, No.20 biscuits.
If a biscuit jointer is something you are going to get years and years of use from, I’d say go for it. If time is money and you can save 15 mins per panel in alignment, it won’t be long paying for itself (you can get a Dewalt on Amazon for $160). You’ll find that big glue ups are a whole lot easier and quicker when using biscuits for alignment. Jim is right, you can joint edge to edge, as long as you’re careful the results will be just as good, but for ease of use and speed of alignment, I don’t think you can beat a biscuit jointer. (Of course, there will come a day when you trim a panel [usually a table top] and cut through a biscuit, but hey, you have to take the rough with the smooth).

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 4354 days

#4 posted 11-27-2011 01:59 AM

Even if your boards are the same thickness, you can get “creep” between boards if the edges aren’t perpendicular to the face. You may not have it when you make the glue up, but they can “creep” a bit under clamping pressure before the glue sets.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View toolguy65's profile


33 posts in 3689 days

#5 posted 11-27-2011 05:48 AM

juanabee, what are you using for clamps? How large are you panels?

-- "What do you mean my birth certificate's expired!

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 4336 days

#6 posted 11-27-2011 11:09 AM

All the above suggestions are spot on. The only things I would add are; 1) if using a jointer to joint your boards, mark the show faces and joint one with the show side facing the fence and the next one facing out. That way, if your fence isn’t perfectly perpendicular, it won’t matter as they will form complimentary angles and match up perfectly. It gets a little more complicated with more boards. You just have to mark them as you lay the panel out so you can joint both edges in the right direction and match them up. If doing it the hard way, joint two edges together in a vise show face to show face. You just have to keep track of what goes where.

The other suggestion is at glue up, do as already suggested, use C-clamps on the ends to keep them aligned, and don’t use too much pressure. Glue acts as a lubricant and too much clamp preasure makes them slide, and could starve the joint.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Paul Mayer's profile

Paul Mayer

1173 posts in 4351 days

#7 posted 11-27-2011 02:55 PM

All good suggestions here. Another thing that you might want to try is to use only moderate panel pressure initially, and wait 5 minutes or so after everything is aligned to apply more to fully tighten your clamps. That way the initial glue tack can hold the boards in alignment as the additional pressure is applied. If you apply full pressure right away, the boards will tend to slide around as they “float” on the wet glue. But once the glue has tacked, go ahead and crank down the clamps.

-- Paul Mayer,

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 4598 days

#8 posted 11-27-2011 03:18 PM

Sometimes it helps me to dry fit and put a straight edge across my panel and pencil an index mark at each end and middle of adjoining boards to aid in glue up alignment. Then when I have the glue on and am tightening my clamps I can lightly tap with my mallet to get the pencil marks to line up.

I do have a biscuit joiner and find it handy for rail and stile work as well as gluing up panels. However, with a good dry fit on properly jointed and planed boards my dry fit index marks work very well for me.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5265 days

#9 posted 11-27-2011 04:01 PM


All very good points. But I do use a biscuit jointer when gluing up a panel. Is it necessary, no, but it does eliminate the need to worry about the boards being flush with each other during a glue up.

I also use the biscuit jointer when adding a wood edge on M.D.F. panel that has been veneered.

I find them to be very useful tools.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View shipwright's profile


8760 posts in 4083 days

#10 posted 11-27-2011 04:43 PM

To answer your first question, Yes it will work.

I used to spline everything when I was building boats. It increases the glue area and adds a mechanical, fitted joint to the panel. I used 1/4 ply oriented across the grain of the panel. One caution: the boards must be flat on the table or router base. If they have any warp you can get the spline off center.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 4354 days

#11 posted 11-27-2011 08:33 PM

I used a biscuit joiner for years, and it usually kept things under control, but for the past couple of years, I’ve glued up my panels before I run them thru my planer. If I’m making a panel more than 13” wide, I glue up two less than 13”, plane them, and glue the two together. That lets me concentrate on one seam instead of 3-4.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View juanabee's profile


113 posts in 4294 days

#12 posted 11-28-2011 07:06 AM

Every time I post a question on this forum I am stunned at the collective knowledge I glean from your responses.

Thank you all for sharing your experience with me. I was leaning toward the biscuit joiner before I posted. Your responses confirmed to me that a biscuit jointer is a sensible solution to my problem. I just wanted to hear from people who have actually used one before I leaped into the expense. [Hmmm….I wonder how loml would like a biscuit joiner for Christmas.]

And Sawkerf, I have wondered myself if I could get away with doing what you suggested. Now I think I’ll give it a try on my next small panel. For now, I think I’ll head out to my shop and fire up my router with a slot cutter and try gluing up some panels with splines and grooves.

-- "Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation." Wallace Stevens

View a1Jim's profile


118296 posts in 4863 days

#13 posted 11-28-2011 07:24 AM

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