I will be building an entertainment center made up of a 4’ center unit
and two 2’ flanking units all 8’ high. When I build the cabinets are
biscuits or dados the preferred method of joining the top, middle and
bottom pieces to the sides?
Do biscuits perform well when joining the stiles and rails of the doors?
Thanks for the help
The answer is:
Depends. I used a rabbet on the top, and dadoes for the shelf and
bottom, with a rabbet for the back. Wish I'da gone with sliding
dovetails for the shelf and bottom, just for my personal edification.
I used a frame and panel bit set for the doors, and the rails and
stiles fit in the pre-defined grooves created from the bits. You can
use biscuits for the joints if they are "plain". You can cut matching
profiles, use splines, make some of those cool "butterfly" joints, use
other joinery methods, whatever you want to do.
I have built dozens of library shelves for the local county library system and
built a few sorting shelves for the post office..and a lot of school shelves.
I love biscuits.
I can certainly vouch for their strength and reliabilty, not to mention the ease
That said, I understand why people like rabbets and dadoes, makes it feel more
like woodworking. My cookies are stronger and look the same.
More than one way to skin a cat.
Dados will be strongest; but they are also the most work, especially with a
piece as large as yours, and require the most care to make and assemble. A
nearly correct dado is simply wrong. Biscuits are much easier, and when
nearly correct are just a little wrong.
I recently did a large piece with biscuits for allignment and pocket screws
since I didn't have enough big clamps to claim it properly. They do add
some redundant strength. It is 4' high and 5' wide; I bet you could walk on
it without problems. (I just threw out the first thing I made; a TV stand
made out of scrap plywood. Just to see how sturdy it was, I put 150lb of
chain on top and hit it sideways with a sledgehammer. It took 10 hits
before breaking, and never actually collapsed. Nailed dados.)
You're in Rochester? It is actually supposed to be dry starting tomorrow;
maybe I can get my lawn cut.
What kind of wood? If your cabinet sides are wood/woodpanels, the
traditionally preferred method is dovetails to attach the top and bottom to
If plywood, biscuits will work fine for either, although I usually prefer
dadoes for any fixed shelves/dividers, and will even add screws to resist
racking. Sliding dovetails look nice and do seem to resist racking better
for dividers/fixed shelves, IME.
I much prefer mortise and tenon, stick and cope for doors, or pocket hole
joinery for any rails and stiles.
An alternative method, IMO, for an _easy_ to make door for modern
entertainment centers, uses a good cabinet grade plywood with at least 1"
wide (the wider the better), mitered edging applied to the plywood using
An example of the latter:
for casework, i tend to use dados and rabbets for alignment, then glue
and (if necessary) screws from the outside (assuming it's a hidden
surface). i stopped using pocket screws for case work for two reasons -
cost was starting to add up, and the time it took to drill all of the
holes was adding up. i don't have a pocket hole machine, so the time
started becoming an issue.
the type of screws is important. i buy 1 1/4" screws, self tapping,
self drilling heads - they really don't require predrilling. i buy them
by the 1000s (Custom Service Hardware, FWIW). they do a great job of
snugging up a 90 degree case joint, when driven through rabbet lip into
edge of mating material (attaching a top to a side, side with rabbet).
i rabbet all four parts and tightly fit the back (always use 1/2" backs)
and the case is incredibly strong. all rough edges are hidden by dados
and rabbets. the face frame gets attached with biscuits.
the dado approach works well as it avoids a butt joint and therefore
blends the plywood veneer well.
but, all approaches are fine - choose the one you're comfortable with
and go for it.
fwiw, i use biscuits all over the place, but not for plywood case
construction - just don't see the need. i'm sure it would be a fine
method. i used to think that biscuits don't add any strength - now i
certainly think otherwise. get a good #20 biscuit (lamello) and try to
break it in shear - they are strong. if you have 4 or 5 on a joint,
they are very strong. for casework, a good option... just not my method
Keith Boeheim wrote:
I like dados and rabbets. My favorite way to join fixed plywood
shelves to plywood sides is with dados 1/2 the thickness of the shelf.
The shelf is then rabbetted with the TOP of the shelf being the
longest, which fits in the dado. This makes the visible top face
slide nicely into the side, with any irregularities (chipped or wavy
veneer, etc...) hidden underneath.
For example, if the shelf is 3/4" (nominal - never actually 3/4"! <G>)
hardwood ply, I'll use a 3/8" dado width, and rabbet the shelf so the
part not removed is 3/8" thick. This method also makes differing
plywood thicknesses a non-issue.
I'd hate to see a heavy TV or home theater receiver sitting on
Yes, but I'd rather use either mortise and tenon or cope and stick
corners. Just 'cause I like them. <G> Visible splines can also add
interest to the edges of a door, along with a ton of strength.
I use plenty of biscuits, but not usually where you've asked.
Enjoy your project, however you do it. Don't forget to show us when
I'd hate it more to not seeing it on biscuits some morning. My TV weighs
185 pounds. I'd go for the dado or rabbet. Something to keep in mind when
you design it is weight distribution. On the big screen CRT models, most of
the weight is up front with the screen so consider the balance to avoid
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