Pocket holes vs. Biscuits

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  • Pocket holes vs. Biscuits

    Is there any logical reason to own both a pocket hole jig and a biscuit cutter? Don't they do the same thing? Is one better then the other?

  • #2
    I own kreg's pocket jig, and I've borrowed a biscuit joiner a couple of times. I wouldn't say they do the same thing; but I would say (IMHO), a biscuit joiner is not a 'must have' tool.

    As I see it, it does not add much strength to a joint, and is more used for aligning the two parts (and even that is not absolutely exact); on the other hand, pocket screws do add quite some strength, and at times can be used to build whole projects.

    IOW, biscuits are good for (say) face-frames and such, while pockets screws could work there, and for other structural strengths too, say the whole cabinet. Even legs/aprons of tables that are not heavy use (ie, end-table ok, child's study table, maybe not).

    As an aside, I do own a dowel-jig, and I depend on it far more often for both strength and for alignment, for superior results.
    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
    - Aristotle

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    • #3
      I have both a biscuit joiner (an old model made by Skil) and a pocket screw jig from Penn State Industries. I think they are very different joints. Biscuits are useful when edge joining boards (like for a table top) mainly to help with alignment. I also use them sometimes to reinforce miter joints. Pocket screws are, to me, a quick and dirty joint to use where it won't show. Wood magazines tests showed pocket screws to have more strength. I don't think their tests were entirely fair to biscuits (they used narrow boards and small biscuits) but I was surprised at the strength of pocket screws.

      I like having both. Pocket screw jigs are relatively inexpensive.

      Jim

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      • #4
        I use both.

        I prefer assembling face frames w/ biscuits. I just never got the hang of pocket holes for this. I know most have had great success w/ them, but for me, either the pieces shift (the stiles lift), or the joints don't close nicely. Both of my problems are probably due to the angle the screw goes in. I think one of those pocket hole machines that cuts nearly parallel screw pockets would work better...

        But I do use the pocket hole jig to attach assembled face frames to cabinets. And I've used it for all sorts of other things, too. I once used pocket holes when I had to open a bathroom wall to add a support for a pedestal sink. I wanted to be able to fasten the horizontal brace without having to open too much wall and it really did the trick.

        I will add that my first biscuit jointer was a Ryobi where the blade cut too wide a kerf. That thing was useless. I upgraded later to a Makita, which I think worked great. But now I have a PC, which I think works the best of all.

        I also do a lot of biscuiting on my router table.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Eagan View Post
          Is there any logical reason to own both a pocket hole jig and a biscuit cutter? Don't they do the same thing? Is one better then the other?

          A reason to own both is to be able to use both. They don't do the same thing. Whether one is better than the other would depend on the application. I've used both, and prefer not to use them. I prefer traditional joinery.
          .

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          • #6
            they can be used for the same purposes, but each has some special properties.
            Like why do cooks have more than one pot?
            Loring in Katy, TX USA
            If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
            BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

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            • #7
              I sold my biscuit joiner and kept my pocket hole jig. They don't do the same thing, but there is some overlap in their capabilities...I just find the pocket holes easier to do. On the rare occasions I want to use biscuits, I just cut the slot with my router.
              Happiness is sort of like wetting your pants....everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth.

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              • #8
                I own both, and use them for different things. Biscuits are mainly used for alignment, makes my life easier when doing glue ups. I do mortise and loose tenon for my face frames, but when I glue them onto the cabinet boxes, I like to cut biscuit slots so that I don't have to worry about measuring the reveal, the biscuits will make it right.

                I don't use biscuits a lot, honestly, but then again, I don't use pocket screws a lot either. I use pocket screws occasionally, especially for shop furniture. Occasionally on a piece of furniture when it's somewhere that cannot be seen. I really like kreg screws though, I use them far more often than I put them in pockets.
                Keith Z. Leonard
                Go Steelers!

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                • #9
                  Pocket hole jigs

                  Why do all the pocket hole jigs have the holes at 15`? I think they should be made at 9`. You lay it out on graph paper(/or) and see if you agree. Phil

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                  • #10
                    I like the fact that no clamps are needed with pocket screws once the joint is assembled.
                    Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison

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                    • #11
                      I'm in the "depends on the application" camp.

                      Biscuits are fast, easy, hidden, great for alignment, and all wood. Pocket holes are clampless, strong and you don't risk them expanding to form a bump.

                      I also like loose tenons. You can make a stack at a time and keep them on hand, and they have benefits of both biscuits and picket screws.
                      online at http://www.theFrankes.com
                      while ( !( succeed = try() ) ) ;
                      "Life is short, Art long, Occasion sudden and dangerous, Experience deceitful, and Judgment difficult." -Hippocrates

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                      • #12
                        I am always fascinated by the idea of the biscuit bump. I have never seen this happen, and I've used biscuits quite often. My understanding is that it is caused by sanding joints smooth prior to the glue being fully set.
                        Keith Z. Leonard
                        Go Steelers!

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                        • #13
                          While I have used screws for butt joining (book shelves, cases, etc.), it's usually on projects that I presume will be taken apart at some future date. I've never tried "pocket screws" as I don't like the way they look on commercial cabinets that I've seen. (Or I should say "feel" as they're on the inside of the cabinet... but still, you run your hand up the back of the piece and there they are!)

                          I've used dowels quite a bit, as it takes little equipment and I end up with an "all wood" joint.

                          Last winter I built a couple of window seats in my wife's cookbook room and there I used veneer plywood. Okay, but I didn't like the weight and the trouble. So this winter I'm finishing up the main library and for the window seat areas I decided to "join" the stock instead of using the ply and figured I'd go with either dowels or with biscuits.

                          I decided on biscuits and bought the latest Ryobi model and it worked well for me. While not as strong as dowels would have been, I liked how quickly the process was and everything lined up nicely, with the final results being a surprisingly almost invisible joint.

                          So far I've used mortise and tenon, dowels, and biscuits. Biscuits are no doubt the weakest and certainly M & T, though the strongest, takes the most time (cut by hand).

                          I think having several options immediately available is a good thing. I'll probably try "pockets" at sometime, but I don't think I'd get rid of the biscuit joiner either.

                          CWS
                          Think it Through Before You Do!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by drumpriest View Post
                            I am always fascinated by the idea of the biscuit bump. I have never seen this happen, and I've used biscuits quite often. My understanding is that it is caused by sanding joints smooth prior to the glue being fully set.

                            I wouldn't attribute the "bump" to that, but rather the biscuit expanding causing the bump (on the face). I have seen that many times. I don't give much credence to biscuits insuring alignment. IMO, they don't. With the difference in thickness apparent in a quantity of biscuits, if the joinery calls for that type of application, I prefer to use a spline instead.
                            .
                            Last edited by cabinetman; 02-23-2010, 04:36 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by alignment and maybe C'man and I will agree.

                              When I am edge gluing boards I've purchased that were planed when I bought them, they are often not real straight. If I buy the wood rough and plane it myself, I seem to get straighter lumber. But in either case, if I am glueing up something fairly long, say 4 feet or more, then even if the edges are straight enough to mate properly, there will be a vertical difference between the boards with them laying flat. I have successfully dealt with this two ways during glueup. It is possible to carefully align the boards as each clamp is tightened. But that takes time and the longer the boards are the harder it is to get everything aligned before the glue starts to adhere. So I often put a few biscuts in along the edge. Depending on how flat the boards are they might be as close as 6 inches on center or maybe as much as a foot on center. Then after I apply glue and start to tighten clamps, I don't have to mess with pushing the boards up and down. Just starting each biscuit will do enough of that that I don't have much sanding to do on the final joint to get the boards flat.

                              It may depend a little on the fit of the biscuits to the slot but mine fit tight and the alignment I get this way is pretty good, certainly less than 1/16, maybe less than 1/32 inch. It is not quite as good as I get by aligning by hand as I tighten clamps but is a lot less hassle. I am talking about what could be called rough alignment, in other words. They certainly will not make the resulting surface perfectly flat but they will get it close.

                              Jim

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