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Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner

Trusted Contributor

Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner

The boss wants the overflow of tropical fish to be kept in the back shed...


After looking at prebuilt kitchen cabinets and aquarium stands, along with Rack-it and similar products, it was time to bite the bullet and custon diy the carcases using 16mm melamine.


Experiance with commercial cam construction while ok for most things struggles with the fact a liter of water weighs 1 kg and there can be a lot of water, not a fan of pocket holes as  I seem to break a lot of drill bits, I blame the low quality jig naturaly than any lack of skill on my part... dado routing looked fidly and the boss is not allowing cabinet screws for visual reasons. (Boss is planing to sell aquarium and cabinet packages)


That leaves me with the choice between dowel joints and biscuit joints.


Preconcived ideas -


Dowels make a stronger joint as they are tighter fitting.

Buscuits rely too much on glue and the play in the joint can mean you end up with poor alignment.


After some reshearch -


Have to be more accurite with dowels. ( I did know that already, honest I did )

Buscuits allow for some adjustment while your glueing and clamping up and the glue expands the wooden biscuit taking up the slack.


So what to buy-

Dowel Jointer - Mafell is the gold standard while the Triton is affordable.

Triton TRI_DDJ600Triton 600W Dowel Jointer Duo TRI-TDJ600



Will work with the notched Mafell rail.

Nice repeatability of drilling holes that will line up.

Easy end and edge drilling.


Price of Mafell rail if you can find a place willing to ship down under.

T-joins take some setting up.

8mm standard drill size, in 16mm board that is just 4mm meat each side.

But wait there is more, minimum drill hight is 9mm so 2mm one side and 6mm the other  along with needing to be more carefull with alignment.

Fix is shim the top plate so you can get 8mm height.

So while your fixing things why not get a drill that would let you use 6mm dowel and you could drill shelf pins as well... Only Mafel make a 6mm drill and you guessed it they are expensive, in fact Triton have just 8, 10 and 12mm drills available and if you stuff up one your back to importing again.


There has to be an easier way!


Buscuit Joiner - Makita as from what is readily available it has the best reviews.


Makita Joinermakita-701w biscuit plate joiner


Will start with cons this time -

Same problem with setting up t-joins as the Triton.

10mm minimum height of blade.



Included adaptor so you can work with 12mm stock.

Same simple set up for edge joints.

Almost every man and his dog sell them and blades.

More forgiving of senior moments with alignment.

Cuts 3 sizes of biscuits right out of the box.


  Ok so a little reluctantly I now know what to buy, as a long time ago tradesman whenever posiable for repeat jobs use a jig!


Good better Bosch


OK so I would have to import it but it has the 32mm spacing for dowels.

6mm bit shouldn't be hard to find so I can do dowels and shelf pins!

T-joins are easier with the trade off that edges take more set up.

Well need a new bench so I can edge drill the boards.

I could make a jig to clamp corner joints and I could use dowels...

Getting a bit complicated again?




Will make t-joins easier.

Can set up for edge joins using stops, will work with dowels or biscuits.

Can drill shelf pins using drill guides.

Has t-slots both sides.

Plenty of matching bling!

Makes glue ups look easy ( well for an experianced person anyway )

Claims it would clamp a door ( maybe set up I would bring out something stronger after )

Won't make you a coffee though.

Still needs to be imported Carbatec only carry one piece here.

Former Community Member

Re: Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner



As you say, water is 1Kg/Litre, so your structure will need to be very strong & stable. 

What are the dimensions of the tank that you propose to support?

Trusted Contributor

Re: Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner

Main set up will be a row of these.

Aqua One

Betta Trio.


32 Litres.


Aquarium = 25d x 55w x 25h cm.


Comes in at around 45Kg and 8 will fit along the wall so 360kg.

I do have a 4ft x 50cm wide x 50cm high 6mm Glass with 10mm base for the other wall and with breeding tanks it is up to 120kg/lm.

Super Contributor

Re: Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner

The cabinet that is pictured appears to be more like 25mm sides and top, personally I think making them out of 16mm using biscuits only without mechanical fasteners will be very risky. You could use 25mm Aluminium angle strips internally to reinforce the joints. Alternatively, you could purchase a quality Dowel Jig like the JessEm Dowelling Jig
Wood Working with Wayne
Former Community Member

Re: Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner



Yeh, I had the same thought about the 16mm melamine not being up to task.


I agree about using 25mm stock & dowels too, & may have a way to save on a dowel jig.




Have you got a router & a straight edge? If not, you could use a circular saw, & a straight piece of wood/whatever clamped to the surface, to make rebates. It'll be a bit more fiddly using a circular saw, but you'll end up with the same result.


I'd suggest a vertical divider in the middle of the cabinet, & a mid height self too.


Dry fit, & clamp the top panel, the mid height shelf, & base plate in the rebates of the left vertical side panel.


Do the same for the right side of the cabinet.


Mark the centre of each rebate on the front & rear faces of left & right panels, then rule a line between front & back, to locate drill positioning. Then drill through the  left & right panels, to get perfectly aligned holes for through dowelling.


Glue, dowel & clamp the prepared holes, fitting the half shelves to the side panels.


At this stage you should have 2 opposing E shaped, side panels & shelves.


The centre vertical panel can be prepared with shallow rebates on each side, or have right angle supports.


Either way, dry fit & clamp the centre panel to say the left side "E shaped" section that you've glued up, mark the hole centres as previously explained, & drill through holes.


Remove the centre vertical panel, & repeat the dry fit process to drill the through holes for the right side shelving.


Remove the centre vertical panel, cut dowels, then glue up & clamp both sides to the centre vertical panel, & check for squareness.


Dowels will be exposed on the exterior of the left & right side panels, but they can veneered over, or gap filled & painted.


Finally, fit a ply or masonite rear panel for lateral structural rigidity.










Trusted Contributor

Re: Dowel Jointer v Biscuit Joiner

Some good things to think about :smile:


Couple of pics of what is closer to what I am hoping to do.


I would brace the top so I have something to drill into the benchtop as well as using 16mm back rather than 3mm and saving some work cladding.


Black Marquee benchtops for ease of fish breeding.


Was thinking pine for doors, floor and fake ceiling to keep it light and appease the feng shui brigade. Have found a cheap supply of T&G western red cedar and made better by having 5% off with ABN, will have a look tomorrow when I get supplies to fix my wardrobe. May also find something better than 16mm melamine at the flagship bunnies.


Shopping wish list includes a new mobile work bench with pine top made from galv rack-it, a couple of Triton routers so I can mount one in a sliding table, I should replace the table saw as it is a work of art  and my grandfathers circular saw with something lighter.

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