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Sunhill CTM-16

Biscuit joiners

/n vented only a few dccadcs ago, biscuit joiners provide a quick, efficient way to make joints in solid wood, plywood, and particleboard. To cut ;t biscuit joint, you simply plunge the tool's spinning cutter into the mating workpieces to make a pair of matching, arc-shaped slots. You assemble the joint by gluing flat, football-shaped "biscuits'* into the slots. Made from compressed wood, the biscuits swell from the glue's moisture and create a tight, strong joint.

Biscuit joiners arc great for joining case tops, sides and shelves. They're also useful for making burr, corner, and miter joints in framework and for aligning boards when edge gluing.

Redefining splining. Biscuit joiners cut arced slots that accept flat, football-shaped biscuits of compressed wood which swell when glued to make strong, accurate joints.

The CFW model is made of particleboard and aluminum and resembles a router table. It uses a router to make the biscuit slots, which are cut by pushing the workpiece against the machine's spring-loaded fence. The small cutter and biscuits allow the machine to join face frames with rails as narrow as 1V2 in.—a distinct advantage for cabinetmakers.

Portable models lust about all the biscuit joiners on the market are portable, hand-held models. Their versatility makes them much more popular than stationary biscuit joiners. Unlike a stationary model, a portable biscuit joiner can be placed on the work to cut joints in the middle of panel faces and other large work-pieces.

Stationary models

Delta and CFW both make stationary biscuit joiners. Anchored to a benchtop, these machines allow you to handle the workpiece instead of the machine. This is advantageous when you're dealing with small work-pieces in a production situation. However, feeding large stock onto these machines can be awkward.

To cut the biscuit slots with the cast-iron Delta machine, you register the work-piece against the fence and step on a foot pedal to drive the blade into the piece. The tabletop adjusts for height and tilt and also accommodates an included miter gauge.

FEATURES to consider

Fence-angle adjustment

Fences are either fixed or adjustable to allow for cutting slots in angled joints. (See photos, below.) Fixed fences will work on 90°, 45°, and 135° angles. A biscuit joiner with a continuous protractor scale lets you set the fence to any angle within a given range. With this type of adjustable fence, you can join boards at odd angles. See the "Fence-Angle Adjustment" column in the chart on page 46.

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Getting the angle. Biscuit-joiner fences work in different ways to align cuts in miter joints. At left, a fixed 45° fence registers against the inside face of the workpiece. Center and right, adjustable fences capture the beveled edge of the miter which will align the outside corners of the workpiece when assembled.

Fence-height adjustment

Fence height is most easily adjusted using lock levers like those you'll find on the AMT, Lamello, Ryobi and Virutex models. Mechanisms that rely on Allen screws can be frustrating to use. The DeWalt's double rack-and-pinion mechanism keeps the fence parallel during adjustment— a convenient feature.

Depth-of-cut adjustment

All biscuit joiners have a slot-cutting adjustment to accommodate the three common biscuit sizes: #0, #10 and #20. Some also cut deeper slots for oversized biscuits and special biscuit-shaped hardware and hinges.

Fence construction

Better fences are made of precision-machined steel or aluminum. Plastic fences can flex in use, thwarting accurate slot placement.

Switch placement

The big, bottom-mounted trigger switch on the DeWalt biscuit joiner makes it equally accessible to lefties or right-ies. Switches mounted on the left side may be awkward for southpaws. A trigger lock is useful for production slotting.

Anti-slip devices

Most biscuit joiners use small retractable pins or small rubber pads to prevent the machine from slipping sideways as its blade bites into the wood. The full-width rubber pad on the Ryobi and the Makita works best, especially when gripping small workpieces. (See photo, below.)

Slip clutch

The slip clutch on the Lamello Standard 10 and Top 10 lets the blade stop if the cutter jams, reducing motor wear.

Dust collection

Most of these machines have a dust bag, but these tend to fill up quickly. Some models have a port to which you can connect an optional vacuum fitting—a good feature.

Pads and pins. Full-face rubber pads like the one on the Makita at left work best for gripping a workpiece. The DeWalt, at right; employs four-pronged, spring-loaded pins which press against the work.

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