Review By Dean Bielanowski  Woodhaven Website - http://www.woodhaven.com



Woodhaven Biscuit Master

Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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 safer.

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 the base.

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 product.

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.

Limitations 
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.

Advantages
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.

Price
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.
 

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In the USA


NEW MODEL!


Biscuit Master

Biscuit Master Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


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.


Information contained on this page is copyrighted to onlinetoolreviews.com.
Reproduction in any form prohibited with express prior written permission.
International copyright law protects reproduction of this content. Copyright 2003-2012

Visit Rockler.com - Woodworking Superstore!