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A good answer from my question on joinery talked about using a biscuit joiner. While this is a great idea a biscuit joiner is not in my top 5 of tools to acquire. I do have a variety of, recently inherited, hand tools that may do the job.

The poster mentions in passing that this can be done by hand. Googling this has either

  1. Led me astray with cooking suggestions.
  2. Showed me how to actually make the biscuits
  3. Use the power tool itself

Does anyone have tips or suggestions on how to make biscuit cuts by hand?

  • 3
    whats the point of using hand tools to make biscuits? just use some real joinery instead and it will be a lot stronger and your effort will be worth something. All the biscuits are doing is helping you align the boards -- and a caul + clamps across the top/bottom can do the exact same thing. – jbord39 Jul 25 '17 at 1:41

10 Answers 10

11

Many router bits manufacturers include bits to cut the slots for biscuits. If you don't have to many to make, this may be an alternative for you.

Here's an example:

biscuit slot cutter bit

(picture via google search from eBay)

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6

If you aren't going to buy a biscuit joiner for making the cuts, an alternate that is easy, is to 'tongue and groove'. Run the board over a table saw or use a router bit to make 1/8" or 1/4" grooves centered along the place you want to join, then cut a strip the same thickness and slightly less than the width of the two cuts added together. Glue it all up and it will be much stronger than biscuits, the biscuits are a faster easier way to do this.

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  • I just updated the question as I realized I wanted the focus more on making the cuts themselves. Making small pieces of wood I cant imagine being too hard. Can you think of a way that does not involve powertools? (dont scold me yet but i dont own a router or table saw. Table saw is next puchase). FYI Have a look at your last sentence. Clue it all up is a trivial edit I cannot fix yet. – Matt Mar 25 '15 at 13:04
  • @Matt very small chisels? Otherwise I'm running out of ideas. – bowlturner Mar 25 '15 at 13:06
  • Thats fine. I was only asking this since the poster in my other question suggested it. – Matt Mar 25 '15 at 13:13
  • Maybe something like this then: leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=52609&cat=1,41182,48945 – Matt Mar 25 '15 at 15:35
  • @Matt ooh, that's cool! I Like it! – bowlturner Mar 25 '15 at 15:37
6

One hand tool that I found that could do this is a router plane. A good looking example comes from Lee Valley

Lee valley

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  • 1
    Honestly if you don't have access to power tools, this is probably your what you'd want. Additionally, from your other questions it seems like you're going to be doing a lot of small things like birdhouses: A bandsaw might solve a number of your problems, including some of your milling issues, and it could make a slot mortise like this by making repeated cuts. It would also take up much less space than a table saw, I might add it to your list of "important tools to have." if it's not on it. – Daniel B. Mar 26 '15 at 5:18
3

Biscuit joint is a plunge-cut mortise in both sides of the joint with a "biscuit" inserted to align and provide glue surface area.

A purpose built biscuit joiner uses a small circular saw blade plunged into the wood. You can instead use a router with a groove cutting bit and a template to push the guide-bearing or base-plate against.

The biscuits themselves can be made on a band-saw from appropriately thin stock.

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  • At least some commercial biscuits, like some of the dowels sold for the same alignment /loose-tenion purpose, are compressed at the factory and are intended to swell as they soak up glue to produce a stronger joint. That's sortta hard to replicate at home unless you happen to have a hydraulic press available. – keshlam Mar 30 '15 at 20:43
  • @keshlam depends on the force you need; if you just need half a ton just put your car on a form. – ratchet freak Mar 30 '15 at 22:34
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How 'by hand' do you want? I suspect you could chisel them out if you are limiting yourself to hand tools. Really though, if you don't have a biscuit joiner, I'm not sure you'd get much advantage by taking the time to make them by hand. While they do provide some added glue area, their primary purpose is to help with aligning for glue ups. That isn't something you really 'need', but more something that is useful in a production environment where you can't afford to spend time futzing over glue ups and dedicate all your clamps and space to them.

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  • i agree. if you're going to spend time making joinery by hand, i'd use something else (T&G as above, mortise & tenon, etc.). – aaron Apr 16 '15 at 16:58
2

Generally what you are asking is I want to make a joint between two pieces of wood where a biscuit cut and a wood biscuit is a modern solution. Search for dowel joinery to get way more detail than you need or want.

Try using a drill and a dowel to make a joint. This is probably one of the simplest ways to attach boards together with the simplest of tools.

You can make or buy dowel alignment pins if you need more accuracy than measuring.

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2

I know this is old post, but I have a real hand tool solution.

I appreciate hand tool solutions as in my previous home the workshop and power tools were only usable in warm weather and indoors most power tools, especially routers made far too much dust and noise, so it was hand tools in the winter. Now I have a heated workshop and do far less hand work.

A biscuit is actually a form of loose or floating tenon. So what you need is a way to make a matching mortice. Lee Valley has morticing chisels in a 1/8th inch size. These can we used to make small mortices if you enjoy doing hand work. The 1/8th size may be small enough to use commercial biscuits. If not you can make the biscuits using a handsaw and plane.

I have a set of their inexpensive Narex morticing chisels and they are quite good.

Another option, as suggested by @praxum is dowels, there are excellent doweling jigs, modern ones available at most woodworking shops, and classic Stanley jigs that you can sometimes get cheap as antiques.

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1

Can you think of a way that does not involve powertools?

Plough Plane?

One hand tool not mentioned in other answers so far is the plough plane (or combination plane), another would be the kerfing plane

enter image description here
Source - Veritas

A plough plane is well suited to making a slot or groove in the narrow edges of a board (router planes are mostly used on the broader surfaces of a board)

Of course the slot is continuous and this might be undesirable.

Or you could go the whole way and dispense with the biscuits. Many plough planes included cutters for making tongue and groove joints.

enter image description here
Source - Veritas

I imagine using these tools on a mitred edge would be challenging.

It is feasible to make a plough plane using a chunk of wood (pine etc) and a chisel - I made one following the Youtube videos of Paul Sellers. This gives you the opportunity to create a tool that matches a specific purpose (e.g. cutting a slot in a mitred edge)


Chisel

Of course if you are not afraid of hard work (i.e. you only have a few to do) you can make what are effectively shallow mortices using a chisel in the traditional way.

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I've found you can do a lot of wood work with a multi-tool. I think you could use one with a 1/2 circle blade to cut a biscuit slot. I'd make a jig with some scrap and a clamp or two to rest your stock on to be able to achieve repetitive accuracy if you're cutting multiple slots. You can buy a quality battery-powered multi-tool for right at $100 if you shop a little and I think you'll find lots of uses down the road. Also get some hearing protectors, cause these tools are loud.

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-1

I just used a sawmax for this purpose, and while it wasn't pretty, it worked great. I simply set the depth to match the slot I needed for the biscuit, and made them a bit oversized so that I had "wiggle" room to align the boards.

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  • 4
    What is a sawmax exactly? Also the question was tagged handtools and this sounds like a powertool – Matt Sep 28 '17 at 3:31
  • 2
    I guess you are referring to the hand-held battery-powered mini circular saw made by Dremel. Other vendors make these too - like Bosch and so on. But The OP is looking for a way to make short slots in mitred edges using hand tools. – RedGrittyBrick Oct 2 '17 at 15:24

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