Those who own a biscuit joiner can probably attest to its
worth in woodworking projects. It is a handy tool that is relatively
simple in design and can help align and strengthen particular woodworking
joints. One of the problem with many biscuit joiners on the market however
is that they are somewhat odd-shaped or uncomfortable to use, and the
handles on many models are not really adequately designed for comfortable
plunging of the tool. While this is not really a major problem for the
occasional biscuit slot, if you use your biscuit joiner more than the
average, or on an everyday basis, you might find that comfort and ease of
use factor multiplies.
After wrestling with some recent biscuit slot cutting on
miter joints (in particular) and end grain, we decided to get our hands on the Biscuit
Master product made by WoodHaven in the USA. We have also had several
readers ask us to review this item. It's perhaps not an item you may be
familiar with, or have seen before. In fact, we hadn't seen it before
until a reader alerted us to it. So we thought we would grab one and give
it a test run and review for you all...
The Biscuit Master
Straight off the delivery truck, the Biscuit Master (BM) comes shipped
in your standard
USPS type box unassembled. Assembly time took roughly 20 minutes.
Instructions for assembly are provided and they are relatively easy to
follow. If you lay all your component pieces out first and group similar
items together, the assembly process becomes much simpler.
The BM is made
up of one piece of melamine (MDF core), several hard, milled UHMW plastic guides, and a
bunch of screws and knobs that come together to form a platform on which
your biscuit joiner machine and the workpiece will be arranged and secured
for biscuit cutting purposes.
Once you have
assembled the Biscuit Master, the first thing you should do before using it
is secure it to your workbench. You can use any type of clamp you like
(you must provide these yourself) but a wide-faced clamp that will not damage
the BM device itself is recommended, however, you do not require a lot of
clamping force to secure the device to your workbench. Once the BM is secured to your
bench you can grab your biscuit joining machine and place it on the
board ready to hold it in place with the adjustable 'biscuit fences'. It
is important to note here that your biscuit machine will not be 'clamped'
fully by the BM jig. In fact, you can easily take your tool off the BM
without unscrewing or removing any clamps at all. Rather, the biscuit
fences are designed to snug up to the left and right edges of your biscuit
joiner's base and clamp there to ensure that your biscuit joiner has no
lateral or side-to-side play in use. You can still move it forward and
back freely and lift the machine off the BM base at will (see photo 3).
On this note, it is also important to mention that, out
of the box, the biscuit fences may not snug up to your biscuit joiner's
base right out of the box. It is very much dependant on how your biscuit
joiner is designed. For example, one side of my Ryobi biscuit joiner's
base is nice and straight and presents no problem at all, however, the
other side is not entirely straight as the dust collection shute starts
tapering out about half way back from the front of the unit. As a result,
the biscuit fence of the BM jig cannot fit snugly to the base on that side
without modification. In this case I would need to make a slight taper cut
into the plastic biscuit fence to accomodate this. Not a real problem as
the plastic components machine fine with any woodworking blade, but
just be aware of the fact. My GMC biscuit joiner is slightly better with
nice flat edges on both sides, but the biscuit cutting depth knob sits a
little low, so I needed to make the smallest relief cut into a small
section of the fence. Again no problem. You may find that you need no
modifications at all. The aim is to get both biscuit fences sitting snugly
against your tool's base so that it eliminates any side-to-side play of
your tool in use, and hence, improves safety and, above all, accuracy
during use. You can see in one of the photos to the right (photo 4) that I have
achieved a seamless reference edge at the front of the biscuit joiner with
the biscuit fences sitting snugly against the tool's base.
Surprisingly, once you have your biscuit joiner secured
for no side-to-side play you are pretty much ready to use the Biscuit
Master to make your biscuit slot cutting tasks a little easier, faster and
Ok, let's see how it works. We will start by testing
making perhaps the most common biscuit cut of all... and that is making a
slot in the edge of a workpiece. This is commonly used to join multiple
boards or pieces together to make wider pieces, and sometimes for wrapping
plywood or particleboard edges if you require a wider solid wood lip or
edging. If you look at the very top title picture in this review, you will
see that on one end of the BM there are two sets of overlapping fences.
You can see the bottom fence component can slide forward and back with its
milled slot and thumbscrew clamp - the components riding in channels that
engage pins on the BM base board. The fence component sitting directly on
top of it (called the 'sub-fence') has a groove milled at right angles to
the lower component and provides movement left and right. The adjustments
of these fence components allow a wide range of stock widths and lengths
to be used with the Biscuit Master. Most biscuit joiner machines are
configured for use with 3/4" stock, but you can of course use just about
any thickness stock with the Biscuit Master jig, although you may need to
shim your biscuit joiner for cutting-height off the base, and add fence
riser blocks to retain the side-to-side movement on the biscuit fences to
accommodate the increased height the biscuit joiner would be sitting off
I'll digress... back to the edge slot cutting. Place the
workpiece in the jig and adjust the biscuit and sub-fences to clamp the
piece front to back (see photo 5). The wood is now clamped between the
rear biscuit/sub-fences and the front biscuit fences, and the front face of
the biscuit joiner itself. Note that you can still freely slide the workpiece left and right to make multiple slots if you were working with a
longer piece - this was one of our test pieces. You can now cut the slot as you would normally without
having to worry about holding the workpiece firm against the front of the
biscuit joiner as you plunge the blade. With the depth setting fence
attached to the biscuit joiner (photo 6) it provides little place for the
workpiece to go, ensuring a safe, clean and accurate cut.
Photo 7 shows the setup for cutting biscuit slots in end
grain. You may require such a slot for a rail joint where a load
supporting rail is not required (for dressing up a project as an example)
or for side support rails for a box to make it more rigid. There are many
other possibilities of course. You can see how the biscuit and sub-fences
clamp the workpiece to prevent side-to-side movement, however, in this
case there is no forward/back guide so you must apply pressure toward the
biscuit joiner's front face to make the cut. It is pertinent to note that
because the biscuit joiner and the workpiece itself lay flat on the same
level base board, accuracy remains high as both tool and wood use the same
reference surface for depth adjustment. If you wanted to work with thicker
stock and have the slot centered, you need to shim the biscuit joiner off
the BM base to achieve this. Instructions are provided should you
encounter this task. On even thicker stock, it might
be possible just to flip the workpiece onto the other face and cut the
second slot that way.
Photo 8 demonstrates one of
the better features of the BM jig and that is the cut slots in material
that is standing up on edge. You might make this type of cut for edge
facing cabinet tops or shelves, or workshop benches, as examples. Again, you can see
how the fences hold the stock securely in its upright position to make the
cut. Just be wary of the thickness of your stock. If it is too thin and
you are cutting a slot for a larger #20 biscuit, there is the possibility
of the biscuit blade breaking through the back of the workpiece, so always
set up and check for potential problems before making the cut, and
certainly do not have your fingers down near the path of the blade. With
BM set up in this configuration, cutting the slots in boards standing on
edge is very safe and instills a good amount of confidence in the user.
You may otherwise have to plunge cut with the biscuit joiner standing up
on its front edge to make this kind of cut without the Biscuit Master
Slotting mitered edges can also pose a problem in normal
biscuit joinery. Holding the workpiece at the right angle for the cut can
be very tricky. The cutter wants to push the stock away from the biscuit
joiner's fence as it plunges into the wood, and it is difficult to hand
hold the piece and apply force at exactly the right angle to match the mitered
cut. The BM uses a simple spacer and screw setup. You start by placing the
stock against your biscuit machine's fence at the correct angle and then
slide the spacer and nut/bolt up behind the back edge as shown in photo 9.
Tighten the nut and the spacer behind gives you that added support behind
the workpiece that will help in preventing the biscuit joiner trying to
push the workpiece away from the fence. It gives somewhat of a wedge
effect that inhibits movement. As long as you apply downward
pressure on the workpiece with your spare hand and a little pressure
pushing in to the spacer and fence you will achieve a
desirable result. The bolt and spacer, and the sub-fences for making other
cuts for that matter, act as that 'third hand' that is
often missing in biscuit cutting tasks.
The BM can also handle tricky slot cutting on beveled
edges. Before I picked up the biscuit master, I would cut these slots
handholding the wood against the angled fence on the biscuit joiner. While
it worked in many cases, I occasionally had the odd slip or feeling that
it just wasn't 100% safe. Some biscuit joiners have better-designed fences
for this task, and these machines make the task much easier, however, if
you do not own such a machine then you are faced with a bevel cutting
consistency issue. You can cut slots on beveled edges with the
Biscuit Master quite safely and accurately, however, you must assemble the
bevel support fence first. Using the right angled bracket, a screw, and a
scrap of plywood provided in the package, it takes two minutes to assemble
and fit the support fence. Like the spacer and nut for supporting angled
miter cuts, the bevel support fence rides in the milled slot in the BM's
base and can be securely at any position. The fence basically provides
support for the back edge of the beveled workpiece so the beveled edge can
be held firm and at the right angle against the biscuit joiner's front
face. The rear support of the workpiece helps eliminate the rocking motion
that you can get as a result of the thin edge of the bevel not being
properly supported at its base. The difference is that you have move
reference points of support than that which can be achieved making this
cut hand-held where you only really have one hand free to hold the piece
of wood you are cutting. If you are fairly proficient with cutting
beveled edge biscuit slots handheld, then this feature may not have much
appeal for you. I found it to be a little safer and gave more consistent
results, more often. You may need to make a higher support fence from MDf,
ply or any scrap pieces if working with wider stock, and you may also need
to raise your biscuit master off the base to a slot a little 'higher' up
the bevel if you have a less acute angle to work with.
The Biscuit Master does have some limitations in that is has maximum
widths in which the biscuit and sub-fences can aid in supporting the
workpiece, and this width is roughly 5-3/4". This is not going to pose a
major problem for 95% of your biscuit slot cutting tasks. There may be
times when you want to join two 6" boards edge to edge, but with boards
this size, cutting the slots in the normal handheld manner with the
biscuit joiner's standard fence does not
usually present much of a problem at all. Additionally, as mentioned
before, if you want to work with thicker stock, you may need to make
modifications to the BM to suit your application. Because the components
are all easily machine-able, this also should not present a problem.
The Biscuit Master shows its greatest value when working with smaller
pieces that are difficult to hand hold, although any workpiece of less
than 5-3/4" can be cut a little more painlessly using the Biscuit Master
device. The fences are all adjustable very quickly and easily and will not
mar any part of your work. This product will save you time if you use your
biscuit machine regularly. The time saving may not be immediately obvious,
as I feel it is only a small time saving per cut, but over hundreds,
thousands or even tens of thousands of cuts you might make using the
Biscuit Master, those small margins add up to a significant amount, so the
time saving opportunity becomes somewhat significant in the long run. The
use of fence guides also helps position stock quicker for each cut,
particularly if you are making multiple cuts along the same edge.
In each joint we made, accuracy was right on the money and
we achieved nice fitting joints with flush wood faces. You may need to
think through uncommon joints and use reference marks to align everything
up first, but for your array of standard edge, end-grain and miter slot
cutting tasks, it is almost a no-brainer. Remember to always think safety
though. The BM provides an additional element of safety over what handheld
biscuit slot cutting machines offers, but this is no replacement for lack
of common sense.
Do you need a Biscuit Master?
In the end, the question you will ask yourself is... "Is this a
product I need". While I can't answer that question for you, let me just
say that if you only use your biscuit joiner on the odd or rare occasion
then no, it probably wont be of great 'value' to you (it would still be of
good 'use' though), however, if you
use your biscuit joiner on a regular monthly or daily cycle then yes, the
Biscuit Master has features which will make biscuit slot cutting much
easier to handle. If you are safety conscious then the Biscuit Master can
offer some relief. In the end, the photos I have taken speak a thousand
words. It is a little tricky to describe the process of using this device
in words so be sure to examine the photos. Alone they give you a pretty good idea
of how the Biscuit Master works and display some of the benefits it
offers. If you have used a biscuit joiner in the past, you will probably
immediately see some potential benefits from the photos alone based on
your experience with your biscuit joiner.
The Biscuit Master retails for around US$74.99. If you think in terms
of raw materials, then it seems it is priced a tad high. If you think in
terms of safety, you might think that money is no object when it comes to
preventing accident or injury. If you think in terms of efficiency then
US$74.99 seems just about on par for this particular product, but again,
only if you use your biscuit joiner more than half a dozen times a year,
in my opinion. Essentially, the more you use it, the cheaper it becomes!
WoodHaven make some great products
and accessories for workshop machinery and the Biscuit Master is just one
of their many innovative products. It seems well designed and meets the
needs of most of your biscuit slot cutting needs. If you are a frequent
biscuit joiner user, grab one. I am fairly sure you will soon realize the
value of the product after you try it for yourself.
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1. The Biscuit Master uses a combo of milled UHMW plastic, nuts, bolts
and base to act as the 'third hand' in biscuit cutting procedures.
2. Clamping the Biscuit Master base down to the workbench ensures a
stable platform to work from.
3. Works with most biscuit joiners, although you may need to cut notches
or make small modifications to the Biscuit Master guides depending on the
design of your biscuit joiner's base.
4. Here the GMC BJ110 biscuit joiner is fitted and you can see a nice
straight reference face is created between the biscuit fences and the
front face of the biscuit joiner itself.
5. A piece of wood is held securely and safely in the Biscuit Master
while the cut is made.
6. With the biscuit joiner's depth setting fence added, the wood has
virtually nowhere to go!
7. Cutting slots in end grain safely is one of the more useful features
of this product.
8. Need to cut slots for board edging? No problem. The wood is held
firmly on four points, even when standing on edge.
9. Perhaps the best feature of the Biscuit Master is its ability to
provide support when trying to biscuit slot a mitered workpiece.
10. To biscuit join on beveled cuts, you first need to assemble the
fence support bracket...
11. Examples of many types of biscuit slot cuts that can be made more
easily and safely with the Woodhaven Biscuit Master.