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Nineteen sixty eight was a pretty momentous year. The first Boeing 747-100 rolled out in the USA, Apollo 8 orbited the moon and ‘Hey Jude’ got to the top slot in the charts for a couple of weeks. It was also the year that Herman Steiner’s company produced the first hand-held biscuit joiner in Liestal, Switzerland.

We’re all familiar with the company today under the name Lamello and it was Lamello who first invented the idea of joining two adjacent panels with thin wafers of wood. The idea grew and was adopted by woodworkers around the globe as a quick and effective method of joining together not only panels, but also carcase work. Some years ago, I bought a C2 biscuit jointer, a fairly basic machine and one which has now been superseded by far more sophisticated models. Nonetheless, the accuracy with which Lamello equipment is made means that it’s possible to join two pieces of material together with pinpoint precision.

Lamello's vintage hand-held biscuit jointer made in 1968
Lamello’s vintage hand-held biscuit jointer made in 1968

Roll on a few decades and German company Festool introduced another new jointing machine – the now famous and highly acclaimed Domino which set the woodworking world alight. Although the technology was brand spanking new, the methodology wasn’t as it’s just a very swift way of producing a traditional ‘loose tenon’ joint.

However, it was now no longer necessary to mark out and cut a laborious mortice and tenon. Here was a machine which could do the same thing in the twinkling of a cabinetmaker’s eye. I lusted after one of these little beauties like miser’s gold and eventually managed to buy a really decent second hand one a few years ago, complete with several cutters and a big box of doms. I now use it for most construction work and wouldn’t dream of even thinking about making an ordinary mortice and tenon joint.

The Lamello biscuit jointer and Domino machines are fantastic bits of kit, no question. They can be used for similar purposes and they both complement one another, even though they each work on a different principle.

The million dollar question is…
…which is better, the Domino or biscuit jointer?
If you would like to join in the debate, please leave a comment at the bottom of this Blog entry or, alternatively, join in the fray on our Facebook page.

  • Rob

    The Domino wins hands down, in my humble opinion for several reasons:
    1) the domino can cut with different sized cutters catering for different sized joints.
    2) the domino cutter can mortice narrow pieces of wood as narrow as 12 to 15mm, whereas the biscuit jointer requires a larger width to accommodate even the smallest biscuits.
    3) waste collection, when coupled with a quality vac, there is no waste whatsoever.
    4) customers are impressed when you produce them a morticed table/box with virtually no screws whatsoever – they always ask “how did you do this?”.
    5) to make super strong joints, it is easy to drill through the domino joint (with the domino present) and glue in a dowel.
    6) if you want to replicate a biscuit, you can easily do this by lining up more than one domino, or you could just use a biscuit cutter in your router to do the same job – but trust me, once you have a domino machine, you probably won’t need to!

    • Rob Stoakley

      As I mentioned in the article, I do have both a C2 Lamello biscuit jointer and a Domino, both excellent machines. True, the width of the wood needs to be wider with the C2, even using the smallest size biscuit. The extraction on each is the same…there’s no dust with the C2 either. I fail to see where you would use screws anyway to make a table or box…the only place I could think of is fixing a table top with buttons. Why drill through the domino?…once glued in place the joint will be more than strong enough.
      They’re both terrific machines and can be used, if required, to do very similar tasks, but granted, the strength of the biscuit joint will be far less than a domino.

    • Andrew

      Horses for courses I say. The domino is a bit of a one trick pony – it makes mortice and tenon joints. Biscuit jointers have a wide range of fittings available. Knock down fittings of various sorts (I have used 5 different types) and hinges. On the other hand I would like a Domino – if it was not for the eye watering price. Until the patent runs out and other manufacturers climb on the bandwagon, as they have with biscuits and multi tools, I will carry on chopping my mortices by hand.

      • Rob Stoakley

        Agreed about the other features of the biscuit jointer, which makes it a very versatile system, although I didn’t mention them in the context of this AxBlog and again I concur about the price of the Domino, which is why I bought a decent second hand one. The Domino is, unquestionably a ‘one trick pony’, but it’s a very swift and desirable little steed to own.

  • malcolm

    I do own a biscuit cutter, but I also own both 500 and 700 domino.
    I have not used my biscuit since I bought the dominos as the domino does everything I need, joining planks, making doors, windows, kitchens, furniture. In my opinion the domino wins hands down.
    Of course the purists amongst us wouldn’t use either tools and do everything by hand, the clever buggers.

    • Rob Stoakley

      I guess one of the attractive things about both systems is the very short time it takes to join things together. I find cutting m/t joints by hand slow, time consuming and not particularly accurate, where the tenon usually has to be ‘tweaked’ to get it spot on. Not so with the Dom or Lamello, where it’s the work of seconds to make a joint.
      I’m making a back panel for a chest of drawers at the moment. The joints are dominos which took about 5 minutes to do, once the machine was set up, whereas to do the same by hand would have taken at least half a day. No contest really.

  • Sebastian Greensmith

    Domino!

  • Niall Hammond

    A year ago I would had said mostly Domino with a few uses of biscuits.

    Then my el-cheapo high street DIY store biscuit jointer ground its gear box after many years of service, which was good going as I brought it as an emergency replacement for a expensive one when that blew a motor and I needed the job done that day.

    Anyway I did think hard about not replacing the cheap DIY store one, or maybe just getting another cheap one, but then because I thought it may help solve a few knock down problems better than dowel and cams I opted to go for the Zeta P2. I have not looked back once and even thought about regretting it. This can I believe be fitted with a normal biscuit cutter if you are so inclined, which I have yet to be.

    Not only is the Zeta good for the designed use of knock down jointing, but it also solves some other problems that neither biscuits or Dominos can. want a board across the end of a panel of boards, so having different movement. Zeta it as by filing the flutes of the pegs they allow for a strong joint with movement. There are other uses I have put Zeta too that are not the intended main use.

    For panels and permanent joints I will tend to grab the Domino but I now use the Zeta where I would have used biscuits, knock down dowel/cams and some other uses. Having now reminded myself I am just off to check the Axminster site to check about the conventional biscuit cutter and order one if it does exist.

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