How to Use a Router as a Biscuit Joiner: the Complete Guide


Do you want to try biscuit joinery to your next project, but you don’t own a biscuit joiner? Don’t worry because it is still possible to do hole slots using a router. Sounds interesting? So, here’s a complete guide to help you how to use a Router as a Biscuit Joiner.

Most biscuit manufacturers have either elongated or circular slots that a router can produce using a 5/32-inch slot cutter and ⅛-inch slot cutter. Using these cutters on a router, you can alter the slot depth to use numbers 0, 10, and 20 biscuits. To cut a slot using a router, you have to make the initial plunge cut and then move the router approximately ½ inch to the left and right of center. Then, push the router bit in at the left-hand slowly going to the right of the tick mark.

A router may be more complicated than using a biscuit joiner when it comes to making joint slots. However, it is better than spending more. Practice makes perfect along with the proper knowledge of doing a thing. So, we have dedicated this article for you to master using a router as a biscuit joiner.

What is the Use of a Router?

Routers in woodworking are an all-around power tool for shaping edges of boards, cutting joints and flattening pieces of massive wood. It has a motor mounted in either on the fixed base or plunge base. There’s a collet attached to the motor’s shaft, which is responsible for holding all router bits.

Routers can be handheld or mounted upside down underneath a router table, and the router bit is projecting over the top’s surface. Handheld routers will give you better control because you can grasp the handles on each side of the router’s body. On the other hand, a router mounted in a table or cabinet will give you more stability.

Who Invented the Wood Router?

Even before the invention of routers, woodworkers already rely on hand planes, saws, and chisels in making moldings, shape edges, and cutting other shapes. Until George L. Kelley of Buffalo, NY invented the very first handheld electric router. He got his patent for his work on January 28, 1908. The first design of a wood router was primarily for routing stair stringers. Eventually, the use of routers evolved with technology.




Router VS Biscuit Joiner

A router in woodworking refers to a high-speed rotary tool that features a collet at the end of its motor shaft to connect various router bits. These bits are responsible for smoothing, cutting, making slots onto the workpiece. They are interchangeable depending on the size that you need.

A biscuit joiner, on the other hand, is another tool used to create slots for biscuits. These biscuits join two pieces of wood to build a new shape or combine two workpieces. A biscuit joiner uses a small circular blade to cut a mouth or crescent-shaped hole. Wood glue will fill in half of the empty slot and place the biscuit immediately. The wet cement will then expand it to improve the bond further.

How Does a Router Perform?

Various router bits make routers capable of cutting such shapes as beveled edges, compound curves, round overs, rabbets, and flush-cutting laminate edges. These bits produce powerful cutting action. That’s why kickback is a common issue when it comes to routers. The best solution is to either clamp the workpiece or use a secured router table. It is a method, which will make the router looks like cutting wood on a table saw.




  • Speed Counts. More often, a router spins approximately 8,000 to 30,000 revolutions per minute. It is higher than a drill’s top speed of 3,000 rpm. Running too slow could dig into the wood excessively, and may potentially cause other dangerous consequences.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Router as a Biscuit Joiner

For every action and decision that we make, they always have advantages and disadvantages. However, regardless of what’s at stake, sometimes you have to swallow the drawbacks because you know that it’s the best solution on the table. The use of a Router as a Biscuit Joiner has its pros and cons. Fortunately, there are no shortcomings that are too significant to stop you from getting your desired results.

PROSCONS
The best alternative for making biscuit slots if you don’t have a biscuit joiner.Using a router is a bit slower than a biscuit joiner.
Routers are accurate for flush aligning two pieces of wood or workpieces.You have to plunge the bit into the workpiece and move the router a distance, instead of making slots directly.
A $40 biscuit joining router bit set is more practical than buying a $200 or so biscuit joiner.It is not always perfect for the shape of a biscuit, which can make it a little less durable.
Using a router is an excellent technique in cutting grooves around those corners where the body of the biscuit interfere sometimes.

What Are the Tools That You Need?

Use a midsize handheld router with a ½ inch collet or chuck, with a 5/32 inch thick slot cutter router bit. Also, get #20 biscuit size because it is the most popular option for most woodworkers. You can also try #10 and #0, depending on your preference. Finally, ring out your markers and clamps for better accuracy.




How Do I Use My Router as a Biscuit Joiner?

So, here comes the main dish. We will explain to you how to use your router as a biscuit joiner in making slots. This technique is easy, but it requires accuracy, precision, and presence of mind. Take note that this method uses a handheld router. It means that the router moves around as you work on an attached workpiece.

  • Step 1: Measure and Mark. Layout the center mark, routing start, and stop score depending on the size of your biscuit. The routing start is where you where plunge in the router bit. Then, the stop score is where you will remove your router as you move along. 
  • Step 2: Preparation. Prepare all necessary tools, especially the biscuit that you’re going to use. Make sure that the router is in good condition, and the router bits are sharp as a razor.
  • Step 3: Mount the Slot-Cutter Bit. Install the appropriate slot-cutter bit with the right bearing size in your router. Then, set the correct height of the bit according to your workpiece. 
  • Step 4. Secure Your Workpiece. Use a wood clamp to stabilize your work over a workbench. It will eliminate all vibrations and any unwanted movements.
  • Step 5: Start the First Cut. Put the router sub-base on the workpiece, and start plunging in the slot-cutter so that the bit shank is at the center of the start mark. Move the router to the right until the bit shank aligns at the end mark. 
  • Step 6: Remove the Router. Once the router reaches the end mark, pull the slot-cutter out of the groove. Then, there’s your first biscuit slot.

How Do I Use My Router as a Biscuit Joiner on a Router Table?

A router table makes you cut slots like how you cut on a table saw. The router is in an upside-down position, so the direction of cutting also changes. Understand the Router Feed Direction and more necessary information about routers, when you read our article about “Why Your Router Burns Wood and How to Fix It for Good?” Anyway, the process remains the same, except that you have to adjust your feed direction.

  • Step 1: Measure Your Center, Start, and End Marks. Layout the center mark, routing start, and stop score depending on the size of your biscuit. The routing start is where you where plunge in the router bit. Then, the stop score is where you will remove your router as you move along. Do it for all the slots that you have to make.
  • Step 2: Preparation of Your Tools and Materials. Prepare all necessary tools, especially the biscuit that you’re going to use. Also, don’t forget the wood glue. Make sure that the router is in a stable upright position, and the router bits are sharp for cutting.
  • Step 3: Insert the Slot-Cutter Bit. Fit the suitable slot-cutter router bit with the right bearing size that would match your biscuit slot. Adjust the height of the router bit depending on how high the slot should be. 
  • Step 4. Secure Your Router, Free Your Workpiece. Since the router is attached to a router table upside down, make sure that it is in place and stable. In this case, you can use a router guide to align your workpiece. It will ensure equal and even cuts. Secure the router bits tightly, to avoid any major accidents.
  • Step 5: Start the First Cut. Put the router sub-base on the workpiece, and start plunging in the slot-cutter so that the bit shank is at the center of the start mark. Move the router to the right until the bit shank aligns at the end mark. Pull the slot-cutter out of the groove. Then, continue doing the same for the next slots.

Cutting Setup For The Different Biscuit Sizes

  • For #20 Biscuit. Use a 1 ⅞ inches diameter slot-cutter with ⅞ inches bearing. Mark the centerline, then place the start and stop mark at 7/16 inch on each side of it. This setup ensures a cut of 2 ½ inches long by ½ inch deep groove.
  • For #10 Biscuit. Using a 1 ⅞ inches diameter slot-cutter with 1 ⅛ inch bearing. Once you have marked your centerline, and place the start and stop mark at 3/8 inch on each side of it. The setup will allow you to cut 2 ¼ inches long by ⅜ inch deep groove.
  • For #0 Biscuit. Install a 1 ⅞ inches diameter slot-cutter with 1 ¼ inch bearing. Mark the start and stop mark at 5/16 inch of the centerline. Then, it will cut 2 inches long by 5/16 inch deep groove.




What Size Biscuit Should I Use?

As a rule of thumb, use the most significant size biscuit as possible. Just make sure that it suits the thickness and size of your material. The bigger workpiece you have requires a more substantial proportion. It will give you an enormous amount of strength to join pieces of wood. Usually, #20 biscuits are the most popular option. However, when you have a narrower workpiece, use smaller options instead.

  • What is a Biscuit? Just like real cookies, Biscuits in woodworking are a thin, oval-shaped piece of compressed wood shavings. More often, they are from Beechwood used to combine workpieces. They expand when glued into slots because of the moisture from the wood glue, and tighten the joint eventually. 
  • What are the Different Biscuit Sizes? Biscuits have known sizes:
    • #FF (½ x 1 ⅜ inches) – These are specifically for very small workpieces. 
    • #0 (⅝ x 1 ¾ inch) – Used for connecting small pieces of wood with no too much stress expected like in picture frames and other narrow applications.
    • #10 (¾ x 2 ⅛ inches) – The standard size that works best for most framing applications. 
    • #20 (1 x 2 ⅜ inches) – The ideal size for almost all projects that can handle stress and bear a lot of weight. They have a long length, which makes them suitable for an edge-gluing stock for tabletops.

How to Make a Biscuit Joint?

Now that you have a better understanding of how to use a router as a biscuit joiner, here’s how to make biscuit joints from start to finish. Doing these steps will help you join boards firmly. This method applies to join tabletops, furniture, and cabinets.

  • Select Your Wood. In selecting your wood, make sure that they have the same equal size, length, quality, and texture. Unless your design requires, you don’t want to have joined workpieces that have uneven parts. 
  • Mark the Location of Your Biscuits. The distance between each biscuit slots will determine how strong the finished result will be. Depending on the length, you can have two or more slots. On the other hand, thinner wood holds better if there’s a minimum spacing maintained.
  • Set the Cutting Depth. We have already mentioned the ideal cutting setup. An additional tip for single-row biscuits, place the joints at the center of the board’s edge. For double rows, cut each row at one-third the thickness of your workpiece.
  • Cut the Biscuit Slots. Following the steps mentioned above in cutting slots using a router will give you the most accurate result. Remember, cutting requires considerable force in pushing the router bit into the workpiece.
  • Clean out the Slots. Once you have created all the slots for your biscuits, make sure to remove all sawdust or debris formed while you were routing. It ensures that there’s enough room for your glue and biscuits.
  • Fill the Slot with Wood Glue. Fill the hole with 1/4 full of good quality wood glue. Then, press the biscuits inside the hole. If the excess adhesive overflows on the edges, wipe it off with a clean cloth. 
  • Glue the Edge of the Board. Spread a small amount of wood glue along the edge of your board evenly. Make sure that it’s on the side of the slots. Then, fill the respective biscuit slots one-fourth full as you go.
  • Combine Your Boards. Fit your workpieces together and make sure to align them properly. Use a clamp while drying the glue. It will make sure that there would be no undesirable movements, which may cause misalignments.
  • Final Look at Your Workpiece. Sand or use a hand plane to smoothen your workpiece whenever required. Just make sure that the glue has completely dried before doing so.

What are the Other Uses of a Router?

A router is a multi-player in woodworking. Aside from playing its primary role of smoothing a surface, it can also perform other tasks. The use of router bits completely changes a router into a versatile tool for a variety of projects. You already know that it can be an alternative to a biscuit joiner, but what are the different operations it can do?

  1. Make Rounded Edge. A router is your best partner. You can round a table with square edges using a router to make it more aesthetically appealing. Children would also benefit from this kind of design because rounded corners are safer. Making a rounded edge is smooth. Choose the appropriate router bit, set the right depth, and run the router along the side of the wood.
  2. Bevel or Angled Frames. You can make picture frames with angle edges using a router, too. It’s all about getting the right angle and consistency along all sides of the frame. 
  3. Create Beautiful Designs. Whether it’s for your house number, business signages, for farm use – a router is all you need. When it comes to router bits, you can use a round nose, v-groove, or square end for routing out the letters on the board. The more intricate the design you have requires a more complicated bit.
  4. Design Your Own Cutting Board. Make a personalized cutting board as easy as 1-2-3. A router will give you a smooth and sturdy chopping board for your kitchen. For this project, you may want to use maple, walnut, cherry, and teak. They all have closed grains that last the longest, even with exposure to wet conditions.
  5. Make Raised Panel Doors. These are excellent to use or add in bookshelves and cabinets. This project is a bit advanced but feasible at the same time.

Other than these special operations, a router can also do the following with high accuracy.

  • Create decorative flutings
  • Profile edges
  • Flush trimming edges or laminate
  • Cut inlays
  • Trim wood
  • Shape wood
  • Drill clean holes
  • Recess hinges
  • Cut screw threads
  • Cut traditional joints
  • Boring holes
  • Cutting circles
  • Dovetails
  • Mortise and tenons
  • Slots
  • Dadoes
  • Grooves
  • Rabbets
  • Box/finger joints
  • Lock miter joints
  • Cope and stick joints

How Far Apart Should Biscuit Joints Be?

When it comes to biscuit spacing, it’s all about your personal preference and feeling where to put them depending on your material. However, according to some basic guidelines, have at least 2 to 3 inches of space between each biscuit. Anything closer than that may cause splitting of the wood. On the other hand, too far distance may compromise the holding strength at the ends.

How to Use a Router? – Four Ways to Rout

You already know what a router can do for your projects. So, the question now is how to use a router properly? Using it for various applications can be confusing because of different techniques. However, once you get familiarized, it slowly becomes natural. To maximize the use of your router, here are the four ways to rout your workpiece. 

  • Straight Groove. When it comes to woodworking, grooves are almost everywhere. For example, a slot is essential to seat a drawer bottom in drawer sides, front, and back.
  • Dovetail Joint. In dovetailing, it requires two things – a dovetail template and the appropriate router bit. The dovetail joint performs two operations. One for cutting the dovetail, while the other you cut the pins.
  • Routered Edge. As mentioned, a router can make decorative edges on any workpiece. You can use a ball-bearing bit as a guide in shaping your wood.
  • Template Cut. It is the quickest way yo make duplicates of a specific cut of an area.

Can You Use Router Bits in a Drill?

It is impossible to use router bits in a drill. First of all, drill bores holes using downward pressure. On the other hand, a router can only make holes because of its rotating router bits. The kind of pit that they produce is different, too. A router is more of shaping edges and cutting grooves. Lastly, drills have less power and speed to match the speed requirements of router bits to function well.

Other Router Accessories that Can Help You

  • Router Table. It will allow you to make precise and accurate complex cuts, which may be a tough job when using a handheld router. Router tables may look like free-standing floor models or benchtop units. It can also be a simple router insert plate installed in a table saw extension table.
  • Router Edge Guides. These consist of a fence against the workpiece edge. Router Guides are beneficial in the continuous routing of grooves, flutes, and mortises.
  • Circle Cutting Jigs. These will help you to cut perfect 360-degree circles or arches with different radius.
  • Guide Bushings. These are attachments at the base plate opening for template routing. Guide Bushings ride against the template to guide the router bit as it hollows out the specific area.
  • Butterfly Key and Other Inlay Templates. These are patches made from wood that resembles the wings of a butterfly or a bowtie. The primary purpose of it is to strengthen workpieces by bridging cracks or gaps in the board.
  • Sign Making Templates and Jigs. Technically, these are for decorative purposes. They are letter-shaped accessories for carving letters on a workpiece. These templates require the use of guide bushings to keep the router on track.
  • Dovetail and Other Joinery Jigs. These accessories are beneficial for routing dovetail, mortise, and tenons. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I Cut Wood with a Router?

A router can cut a plank of wood or plywood, but take note that the result and efficiency may not be the same as using a jigsaw. More often, routers are for other operations mentioned, and it requires the use of a jig or a pattern.

How Deep Does a Biscuit Joiner Cut?

Once you have adjusted correctly, a biscuit joiner can cut a slot of 1/32 inch deeper than half the width of your biscuit. It provides a little extra space for the wood glue. So, setting up plays an essential role in maintaining accuracy throughout the cut.

What Is a Straight Router Bit?

Straight Router Bits are one of the most common types of bits used by most woodworkers. These are specially for making cuts straight down into a material to form a groove. Straight Router Bits can also do dado or to hollow out an area of the wood for a mortise or inlay.

FINAL WORDS

When it comes to woodworking, you can always be creative. Some tools can do the role of other devices – only if you can be practical. It is also the reason why woodworking should not be expensive. You’d be proud to see that you have all the tools and equipment, but you only need the most fundamental tools. When you have them, you can do almost anything and every design that you might have in mind.

Routers are versatile. You can use it for many applications and operations for as long as you use the appropriate router bit. Make sure that you fully understand how your router works, its mechanics, the right rotating speed, and the feed direction. Only from there, you’ll understand how to avoid mistakes like kickbacks, splintering, and other relevant accidents.

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