I'm building a medicine cabinet and was planning on using small biscuits to
join the corners of the door. However the Cheap-O biscuit joiner I own makes
the hole too big for the smaller biscuit. I've tried to make it work, but it
just won't do what I want.
Is a spline a safe way to join the corners? They're not at 45 degrees but
butted against each other. Any other alternatives? I wanted to stay away
from using L brackets, but that may be the only solution. I have very basic
tools to match my basic skills.
Your might want to consider a lap joint, hand made mortise and tenon,
dowels (although they never seem to work well for me). All can me
made with simple hand tools (saw and chisel). They will provide
plenty of glue surface for a strong joint that will be opened and
closed many times a day.
A spline might be nice. If you have a way to cut a blind groove then
you wouldn't be able to see the edges of the spline in the finished
product. You could also do a lap joint, which is pretty strong and is
nice and square.
Fancier: if you have a router, you could use a frame and stile type of
bit set, which creates matching grooves in the joining sections (one
bit makes the negative of the other, so they'll fit together). It
would rout the groove for the mirror at the same time and leave a nice
detail around the inside face.
I often run into similar joinery decisions when using wide 1/2" hardwoods
and not wanting to cut housing joints, or stopped housing joints, of some
type (dado/groove) for appearance reasons. The below fits your criteria of
already cut parts whose dimensions can't be changed.
I generally solve it by using a router to cut what are very similar to
mortise and "loose tenons". (I use the term because of the image it creates,
not necessarily for its correctness.)
IOW, I cut a "mortise"or stopped groove (some running almost the length of
the part) in both pieces with a router bit in a router table, the edges
referenced much the same way you would do for butt joints with a plate
jointer, then use a "loose tenon"/spline/tongue fashioned from the same
stock, to join the parts.
In a traditional sense, this "loose tenon" is in reality, a "spline", or a
The resulting joint is generally strong enough for the task, with plenty of
long grain glue area and I have not had one fail. Downside is the need for
extra careful alignment when cutting the "mortises" or grooves.
FWIW, in 1/2" stock I generally make the grooves 5/16" deep with a 1/4"
straight cut router bit, and dimension the splines/tongues the thickness of
the groove and 5/8" wide.
That said, making your own "biscuits" to fit the slot of your plate jointer
in the same manner that you would cut the loose tenon/splines/tongues is a
time consuming, but not impossible, task. The only real difference is in the
shape of the spline/tongue/loose tenon above.
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