After making YouTube videos for 11 years, no video has ruffled as many feathers as last week’s. Well . . . aside from my Halloween videos. But nobody watches those.
Quite a few people were so hurt about my opinion that they chose to leave nasty comments about me personally, but I just deleted those. They’re probably just algorithm surfers who stumbled on the video anyway. Keep in mind—we’re just talking about a power tool here!
But a lot of real viewers voiced genuine, rational counterpoints to my opinion on biscuit joiners, and I took those to heart. I really value the opinion of my regular viewers, and this wouldn’t be the first time I got something wrong!
So I decided to give a biscuit joiner another shot. I just blew $156 on a tool I’ll most likely rarely use, just to see if the choice of brand was where I went wrong. This is the Amazon Choice for biscuit joiners, with a 4.5 rating. And it’s one frequently mentioned by people in the comments. The Yellow Brand tool company makes it.
Many people recommended the Red Brand tool, but there is no way I’m spending more than $1000 on any tool for my shop. But those people also probably found the video in their recommended feed and don’t understand the channel’s woodworking-for-mere-mortals concept.
A lot of people said that I got the whole point of a biscuit joiner wrong, that it’s intended as a job-site finish construction tool, not a woodworking tool. That makes a lot of sense, and I can see where it might be handy for attaching face frames to cabinets without the need for clamps or a pin nailer. I really appreciate that insight from working pros.
But just to be clear, this is a woodworking channel, and I was basing my notion of a biscuit joiner’s use on Norm Arbram’s New Yankee Workshop, a woodworking show. And biscuit joiners seem to be used in some woodworking shops.
So I can only frame my opinion within the context of my show, one focused on teaching beginning woodworking and helping people decide if a particular tool is necessary for getting started as a hobbyist.
By far, the biggest objection to my video was that my biscuit joiner was no good and that the biscuits should fit tight. I’ve had this tool for more than 15 years, and it’s the only biscuit joiner I’ve ever owned. It’s always made fairly loose slots, so I honestly never knew they were supposed to fit any differently!
Still, I wonder. If I hadn’t showed how loosely they fit, and if viewers hadn’t become so fixated on that, would my core argument in saying that biscuits don’t add much strength be challenged?
Interestingly, of all the comments, hardly anybody said they use a biscuit joiner for any kind of joinery other than edge joining. Again, we’re talking about its use in a woodworking shop, not a construction job-site. This was super surprising considering the tool is marketed as a joinery tool for all kinds of woodworking joints.
So first, let’s try out this Yellow Brand tool and see how the biscuits fit.
Additionally, hardly anyone claimed that biscuit joints made their edge joints stronger, just that they help align boards. So let’s give that idea a shot.
Finally, let me test out a butt joint and see how much strength it adds.
So, with these new results, I adjust my opinion. I think if you have boards that aren’t very flat, adding biscuits will help keep them aligned for glue-ups. Biscuits would probably be especially useful for long boards where you might not want to fuss with a bunch of flattening cauls.
Let’s look at the bottom line and how my thoughts have changed since last week:
First, biscuit joiners seem to be very popular among finish carpenters on job-sites, and that’s where the tool really shines, mostly for installing cabinet-face frames, although some people mentioned a few other uses. I also learned that the $1000 Red tool is considered invaluable by a lot of people, especially in Europe.
I found out that the slots made by my old jointer were inadequate, and biscuits should fit tight. Using this new Yellow Brand tool seems to work well.
I can definitely see an improvement when aligning long boards for edge joining.
I am very impressed by the strength the biscuits added to a butt joint and retract what I said about it adding very little strength. I may use this method on personal projects in the future, but probably not ones for Woodworking for Mere Mortals. It’s just too specialized.
Would I recommend a biscuit joiner for beginning woodworkers? Absolutely not. Its expense just doesn’t justify its limited uses. Stick to my core list of tools needed to start woodworking.
Do I recommend the tool for more experienced woodworkers? Maybe, but it comes down to a personal preference. If you make a lot of frames, it would be handy. If you glue up a lot of panels, it will help a little with alignment.
Do I still think a biscuit joiner is completely useless? Definitely not. But for a woodworking shop, I’ll put it in the category of extravagant. If you like to buy tools, give it a shot. You may enjoy it. Or you may wonder why you bought it when you use it only once or twice a year.
Oh, real quick, I wanted to announce the launch date for my next online course, The Weekend Workshop. As you may already know I’ve spent the last 6 months redesigning my entire shop and working in this course. In the course, you will learn how to turn a shop of any size into a woodworking sanctuary, even if it’s being shared with a car, lawn-care supplies, or household junk.
In addition to walking you through the process of structuring your shop to get the most out of it, you’ll get access to 14 different shop projects that are designed specifically with small home shops in mind.
The course opens January 15, 2020, at the price of $97, which will give you lifetime access to all course materials and projects.
I want to give you a “sneak peek” into the course by giving you access to one of the course projects right now: The Dropdown Work Center. Head over to TheWeekendWorkshop.com and download free plans in U.S. or metric measurements and get access to a video walking you through the first steps of building it.
Thanks for watching everybody!