Cabinets, biscuits, and pocket screws - oh my!

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Cabinets, biscuits, and pocket screws - oh my!

Postby CrocTears » Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:21 pm

Well, I'm working on the built in cabinets for my horse trailer camper project, and decided to buy tools to do the cabinet doors today. I thought I'd need both a joiner and a pocket screw jig. But now reading on here, it seems that people use one or the other - not both. Is that correct? Will I be happier keeping both tools? (Me: Chronic tool horder, so please say yes)

I wasn't sure which joiner to get and I was at the big lumber store further away, so I got both a Ryobi and a Dewalt Heavy Duty - planning to return one of them after I get some advice about it. Is the Dewalt worth a hundred dollars more for the DIY'er? I'd like to finish this project, build either a teardrop or TTT, and some new cabinet faces for my kitchen, etc.

How much do you really end up using your biscuit joiner?

Thanks!
CT
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I use both pocket screws and a joiner and biscuits

Postby Esteban » Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:38 pm

CT, I'm using both pocket screws and biscuits. I haven't started cabinet work yet.

Most new name brand joiners were much too much expensive for one tear drop building project. So I bought a Harbor Freight joiner for about $40. It also cost considerably less than used joiners offered for sale on Craig's List. It has worked well for biscuit joining 3/4" boards. It's difficult to accurately adjust for different thicknesses of boards. However that's not a problem as I'm only using it for joining 3/4" material. With a little trial and error I set it up once and will leave it as is.

I first bought a Kreg tool set.

For building the side wall frames I used wooden biscuits in any spot I planned to later cut or shape with a router, so I wouldn't ruin an expensive router bit.

Joining with biscuits requires clamping and glue set up time. More often I used biscuits where "line up" just needs to be "close enough."

Pocket screws, and glue if you want to use it too, on the other hand, hold tight immediately. They're also really good when you need more exacting line up.

Pocket screws would be unsightly for finish work unless they can be used and hidden out of sight.
Steve - SLO, CA
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Postby ssrjim » Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:16 am

I have both and have used both. I almost always use the pocket screws now, easier and faster IMHO.
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Postby Dean_A » Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:49 am

I've done all my joinery with the Ryobi biscuit joiner. It worked great, and actually gets some pretty high marks from some tool review web sites.
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Postby Mini Renegade » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:45 am

pocket screws???? whats that :thinking:
If evvr tha dus owt fr nowt, allus do it fr thissen
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Postby BPFox » Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:33 am

I have both. The reason I have both is because they do two different things. The pocket screw jig is great when you are only going to see one side of the parts being joined, such as face frames of your cabinets. Bisquits, on the other hand, are better when you will see both sides of the joint. I guess it all depends on how "professional" you want your work to look. If you don't mind seeing the screws you don't need either tool.
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Postby Sonetpro » Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:12 am

I use both. depending on what I am doing. I used biscuits for the cabinet frame and the door frames and I used the pocket screws to attatch them to the walls.
As far as the hundred $ difference in the Dewalt that is a hundred that is soon forgotten. When You still are using the tool 10 years from now you will never forget that. I have Milwaukee power tools that I have been using for over 30 years. I even have some old metal case ones that my dad gave me and still work as good as new.
I hate buying disposable tools. I bought a harbor freight grinder for 19.99 and it lasted for a $1 a minute. 20 minutes use until it siezed didn't seem like a very good bargain to me. That was the first and last harbor freight power tool I bought.
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Postby Sonetpro » Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:19 am

Mini Renegade wrote:pocket screws???? whats that :thinking:


http://www.kregtool.com/index.php

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Postby tk » Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:51 am

Pocket screws are much stronger than biscuits and are widely considered to be the second strongest (after mortise and tenon) common method of cabinet face frame construction. I once used biscuits to make a face frame. It did not last because of ignorance on my part. Having said that, I would still never use biscuits for face frames as long as I have pocket joinery available to me. The problem is that glue does not bond well to wood end grain and most of the strength of a biscuit joint come from the glue. While you should use glue with both biscuit and pocket joints, the mechanical assist of the screws provides most of the strength in a pocket joint--the glue keeps everything in line.

Biscuits are really good for help in aligning flush surface glue joints such as table tops though properly glued joints are just as strong without the biscuits. Biscuits have one more application where they excel--joining perpendicular surfaces such cabinet box to face frame when you don't want to penetrate the face with a mechanical fastener such as a nail or staple. Good gluing practices, precise measurements, good box construction and plenty of good clamps are necessary to make this successful. I would still probably be inclined to accomplish this with pocket screws and glue and then cover the pockets with plugs or 1/4" finish plywood.

Best,
Tom
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Postby Mini Renegade » Sun Oct 12, 2008 7:40 am

Sonetpro wrote:
Mini Renegade wrote:pocket screws???? whats that :thinking:


http://www.kregtool.com/index.php

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Thankyou, I learned something new today :D
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Postby CrocTears » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:28 am

Another BIG thank you for helping me better understand the tools & thanks for all the helpful tips from everyone.

I hope the biscuit joiner will help me with better lined up miters. That's where they looked most helpful (read in: I am inept at joining miter cuts). Then if I can use pocket screws for strength with it all lined up beautifully, I'll be a happy lady.

:thumbsup: My dad was a carpenter, but didn't do much finish work. Have to learn most of this part the hard way...
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Postby Sawyer » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:12 pm

One other thing to think about before you return anything...

As a finish carpenter, I do a bit of cabinet building. Both of these joinery methods have their place. If you plan on building your face frames and then just butt-joint nailing them to your cabinet carcass, pocket screws work very well. They are simple, strong, and fast. In fact, my entire teardrop is held together by titebond III and pocket screws. However, on most of my cabinetry, I like to dado and groove all my face frames before I attach them to the cabinet carcass, this allows for better alignment, much stronger glue joint, it's more attractive (at least I think), and results in a better all around cabinet. Now if you ran your pocket-screwed face frame through your expensive dado blade, you'd be in a world of hurt, and this is where biscuits (or even better, mortise & tenon) come in handy. You can cut a dado right through the joint because it's just wood and glue.

Now I doubt most people would build their teardrop cabinetry this way, as it can be considered overkill for such a small project, but if you plan on doing more intensive cabinetry projects down the road, I'd consider keeping both... I have both, and use both often, sometimes in the same project.

The other thing to think about with your biscuit joiner situation, is to see which one (if either of them even do) will cut F.F. (face frame) size biscuit slots. F.F. biscuits are the smallest and require a blade change on the joiner, but will allow you to join much smaller stock together. The porter cable biscuit jointer his this feature, but my dewalt doesn't. Something to think about anyway...

My vote is to keep both, If you try both and realize the strong points they each have, you'll be happy you did...
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Postby asianflava » Sun Oct 12, 2008 7:09 pm

I used a lot of pocket screws during my build, but I used biscuits for my side frames. I glued them up and used pocket screws to clamp them together while they dried. I removed the screw after they dried because I didn't want to hit them later on.

I have an El Cheapo Harbor Freight biscuit jointer. It isn't the best but it does the job, OK it's pretty crappy. I'd imagine that a better tool would have more repeatable results. The HF one didn't always cut the slot where I wanted. Could also be operator error, I'd never used one prior to this project.
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Postby dakotamouse » Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:30 pm

The husband loves his pocket hole joiner, Kreg system. Since he got it he hasn't used his bisquit joiner once.
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Where did you get it? We didn't get it, we built it!
Myron and Mary
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Postby BPFox » Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:06 am

asianflava wrote: Could also be operator error, I'd never used one prior to this project.


Don't worry about it. When I make a mistake, I always blame the tool. Why?, because it makes me feel better. Peace... :lol:
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