Biscuits and Butt Joints

Biscuits and Butt Joints

In the last issue, Rob tried to debunk a couple of woodworking myths about butt joints. Some readers agreed that biscuits adding strength to butt joints was a myth – with a caveat. – Editor

“I agree with you. Also, people believe screws are necessary for strength and corner biscuits help strength.  I believe the glue people and my experience.  The glue joint is stronger than the wood.  [When a good glue joint fails], the wood splits, not the joint.” – Phil Zoeller

“One other thing about biscuit joints: if you don’t put enough glue into the biscuit slots, you can, over time, start seeing low spots in your panel where the biscuits are. This is because of the unbalanced absorption of the glue into the wood. I noticed, when I first started using biscuits, that they would show up about 1 to 2 months after you complete your glue-up. Make sure the slots and the biscuits are coated with glue. You’re right that they don’t add strength, but they sure make it easier to line up long boards. If a person can afford a Domino machine, those will add significant strength as well as help with alignment.  Required functionality of the glued-up panel will determine whether I use biscuits or Dominos.  For a tabletop, I will use Dominos. For a panel for a cabinet, I will use biscuits.” – Don Thomson

And some readers responded to the teaser he included about a forthcoming debate battle among Woodworker’s Journal staff on the proper way to drill pilot holes. – Editor

“Thanks to Rob for exploding two common woodworking myths about glued butt joints. I look forward to the discussion of pilot holes. Let me say that I do not use traditional wood screws; I don’t want to drill one size of pilot hole for the shank and another for the threads. I usevproduction type screws or common sheet metal screws, which work perfectly well in wood.” – Moh Clark

“’In an upcoming Woodworker’s Journal print magazine, I instruct my recalcitrant staff in the proper way to make pilot holes.’ Oh, have you stepped in it now. The ‘PROPER’ way? Do you really use gimlets for your pilot holes?” – Riley Grotts

Editor’s Note: The pilot hole smackdown will be included in the September/October issue of Woodworker’s Journal magazine.

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