I bet you didn't know this: The biscuit joiner was invented under the influence of drugs! In the 1950s, Swiss cabinetmaker Hermann Steiner had started working with particle board, which was back then a newfangled material, and he was having problems joining it. During the busy Christmas season he caught a bad fever and his wife gave him some painkillers. While he was in bed with the sweats, he had a vision for perfectly opposing slots cut into two edges of particle board, joined by an oval-shaped piece of wood. "My wife thought I had visions due to the fever," Steiner wrote, "but I myself was entirely convinced of my idea."
Steiner developed the concept into a workable machine, and his cabinetmaking shop was transformed into the producer of world-class wood-joining technologies today known as Lamello AG. At the Lamello booth at Holz-Handwerk, the machine on central display, the Zeta P2, still resembles a biscuit joiner…
…but it does something Steiner likely couldn't have imagined, high-powered meds or no. Take a look at the funky cut this thing makes—watch what it does at the end:
That sudden up-down oscillation of the bit at the end produces an undercut, which then means that specially designed, flanged, injection-molded biscuits can be inserted like this:
During glue-ups this joinery method, which Lamello calls the P-System, eliminates the one thing furniture makers are always running out of: Clamps. The time, money and space saved by eliminating the clamping step is of incalculable value for the busy shop. Not to mention the P-System is ideal for on-site work, where pieces may need to be cut to fit the precise environment—yet the fabricator does not need to arrive with a truck full of clamping gear.
The P-System offers a variety of connectors:
The one of most interest to me, particularly since my first ID job was in exhibition design, is the Clamex P-14 that you saw in the video above. These biscuits are detachable; used without glue, this would be the perfect (and nearly idiot-proof) connector to use for exhibition designs as they can easily be assembled and knocked down.
Another variety is the Tenso P-14, which doesn't require the pocket hole step as the connection is meant to be permanent. Instead, a male connector snap-fits into a female connector:
Then there's the Divario P-18, which has been designed for applications where, say, a shelf element needs to be slid into an existing structure between two fixed points. Imagine, for example, that you have an already-assembled carcass and are retroactively fitting in shelves, where your only option is to slide them in from the front:
While Lamello doesn't have strong brand recognition in America, in Europe they're as well-known as Milwaukee or Porter-Cable is over here. They had one of the larger booths on the trade show floor.
You can learn more about the P-System here.
P.S. What drew me to the Lamello both was this: As noisy as the Holz-Handwerk floor was, I could still hear a distinctive clattering coming from the Lamello booth and went over to investigate. A guy was demoing that contactless Invis joinery system based on magnets, and it seems just as crazy in person as it did in the video.
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Really elegant design
this is so clever