Biscuits for face frames

A discussion of using biscuits for assembling cabinet face frames. Pros and cons of biscuits on face frames, and equipment used. November 21, 2000

Has anyone out there tried bicuits on face frames? I see that Porter Cable makes a face frame biscuit that is designed for the model #557; will they work with the #556? And what's the difference?

Forum Responses
The difference is that the 557 comes with a special cutter. It is smaller than the regular cutter and needs to be changed out. I have the PC 557 and have not yet used the FF biscuit. I prefer pocket holes--they do away with the necessity of having an arsenal of clamps.

I just tried biscuits on two simple face frames for a computer desk. I will never use them again. The effort lining up the boards and keeping them flush during clamping has convinced me not to use them again, not to mention the extra sanding it took to clean up the joints. I'll stick with dowels.

I agree with the first post. I started out with a portable "Porter Cable", and basically wore it out. I then got their production model and for the money, it has worked very well. We do approximatly 2-3 kitchens a month.

In our shop, which turns out an average of $35-40K of custom cabinets monthly, we have used primarily the biscuit-spline method of faceframe assembly and attachment for about ten years and see no reason to switch to a less time-efficient, weaker or imprecise method of alignment. For the money and the tool's dependability under production stress, we use several DeWalt spliners including the cordless model.

Before setting up dedicated machines to mill my beaded frames together with mortise and tennon joints, I used to use BOTH biscuits and pocket screws. Biscuits are quite strong but a pain to clamp up. Pocket screws are quick but have limited strength. Using both produces a strong joint quickly. Just remember to drill for the pocket screws before you slot for the biscuits or you'll get chips in the slots.

I tried biscuits and found it to be too time consuming. I went back to my old method using senclamps. The joints are strong and the job goes fast.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor B:
Biscuits are faster and align easier than dowels as a general rule. As you’re clamping up the frame with biscuits and you tighten the clamp up, push the rails or stiles into position then clamp tight. I rarely have to take a hammer to them to line things up. With dowels, if the hole is off even a 32nd it can make it very hard to line up a rail even if the clamp is left loose. In either case though the trick is to have enough pressure on the stile or rail with the clamp that when you use a block of wood and hammer to align things, that the clamp pressure will allow the joint to move but stay where you tapped it to.

Biscuit jointers can be used for so many things whereas a hand held boring jig for dowels is a pain in the neck at minimum. For joining to pieces of hardwood or plywood together for a nice tight seam, biscuits work better because they don't go so far in to the material that any hole that is drilled off angle when using dowels will force the two pieces out flush. Again, alignment with biscuits is hard to beat. Yes, pocket holes and screws are fast because there are no clamps and they’re fine for production, but for a long lasting joint biscuits or dowels are far superior.