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Old October 10th 16, 07:42 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Default Porter Cable 557 biscuit joiner review (long)

On Sunday, 11 June 2000 14:00:00 UTC+7, wrote:
I am sure everyone has read some of the many favorable reviews of the
Porter Cable 557 plate joiner over the years. I wrote a review of this
tool on Amazon that has started a recent thread here and hope that this
more detailed version of such is not seen by the group as cross-posting
or badgering. I am rather uncomfortable being the only person to have
ever disliked this tool and have been told repeatedly that my
expectations of it are unrealistically high. I admit that I am quite a
perfectionist but nonetheless I am quite satisfied with most of my
other Porter Cable, Bosch, DeWalt, Jet, Grizzly, Delta, and even
Craftsman tools and do not hold any brand loyalty to any company.
There's your grain of salt - you'll need it because as much as I try to
be honest and balanced in my review, I am obviously the minority when
it comes to the PC 557.

I initially purchased the DeWalt 682 as I could not justify the $80
price jump to the Porter Cable. The DeWalt is an exceptionally well
designed machine but is lacking in quality and features. I found the
dust spray in the face annoying, the noise disturbing, and the
auxiliary handle location useless. The fence was clever and effective
but cast (not machined) gear tracks and a bottom plate that does not
seat flush left me wondering where my money went. The blade looks as
good as any but I was surprised to see 3 teeth chipped after a minor
encounter with a finish nail. When Porter Cable reduced the price of
the 557 and added the 1000 biscuit assortment to the deal I was
hooked. Wanting "FF" capability, better craftsmanship, and a proper
handle I decided to make the switch. I bought the package 4 months ago
from Grizzly, as they were one of the first companies to offer the 1000
biscuit deal. Grizzly insists that Porter Cable still does not have
the biscuits available, and I am still waiting for them to arrive. The
review that follows is as detailed and unbiased as I can offer but keep
in mind that the passion that inspired me to write such a lengthy
review may also lead me to unfairly describe this tool.

I'll start with the good:

The construction quality is superb. Fit and finish are flawless. The
motor starts smoothly, runs quietly and the gearbox is as smooth as any
angle grinder in it's class. There is a tremendous amount of power and
even fast plunges do not slow the blade considerably. The auxiliary
handle position is ideal (Why did it take mankind so long to figure out
that the handle needs to be on the fence?). The 4" blade is balanced
after manufacture and appears to be very well made. Blade changes are
as easy as they could possibly be: 4 standard Phillips screws are
*loosened* to remove the aluminum bottom plate and expose the locking
arbor. There are no washers to lose and even if the screws were
completely removed (never necessary) and lost, they could easily be
replaced by any hardware store. This may seem trivial, but if you've
ever changed a blade on the DeWalt 682 you've seen what a nightmare can
result from team of stoned engineers. The (exclusive?) trigger lock is
very handy - allowing one to re-position after the jolting start.
Although the motor starts much more smoothly than DeWalt or other angle
grinders, there are few tools that could benefit more from a "soft
start" than biscuit joiners. The 135 degree fence is clever and while
it does not offer adjustments for all 4 of it's stops, it is quite
accurate and rigid. A very wide range of cutting depths are available
and the machine is even designed such that when the "FF" depth is
selected with the 4" blade installed there is just enough clearance and
the blade protrudes so far that one could almost cut a 2X4 in half.
The little plastic stock-centering guide is very useful and well
designed - looks to be a clear version of Lamello's guide. The
centering guide also offsets the fence by exactly one biscuit thickness
making double biscuit joints a snap, and there is even a dedicated
holder in the case for it. Dust collection is good and the PC does not
blow as much dust in my eyes as the DeWalt although I have read the
opposite to be true in other comparisons.

Then the bad:

The sandpaper coated front blade housing is relatively ineffective
(even when it is not clogged with sawdust). It does work much better
than raw aluminum but is terribly inferior to DeWalt's sprung teeth and
is downright cheap. When the fence is lowered all the way, it
protrudes from the bottom corners by about 3/16". This can be easily
overlooked, significantly skewing bench reference cuts. While the
fence can be adjusted with great precision, it is very slow to adjust
and offers little feedback when adjusting to just touch the work. The
clever second track in the fence adjustment that allows for 135 degree
operation tends to catch when the fence is folded from 0-90 and back
and while only a slight nuisance it could easily have been rectified
with a cheap and simple spring. The blade seems to run fast and will
quickly burn wood - it burns even with the DeWalt blade and most
surprisingly with the 2" blade as well! The case, of course, is
horrible - almost twice the size of DeWalt's case (also poor) yet there
is no cord management or biscuit storage, the dust bag must be removed
for storage (messy) and while there are locations for two extra blades,
only gravity holds the pricey and delicate blades in place! I have yet
to see a tool case that was even remotely well designed but Porter
Cable even surpasses Craftsman when it comes to truly awful case
designs.

The arbor does not run true on my sample (.003" run out on the 4"
blade) resulting in a wobble dado effect that yields loose fitting
biscuits. While this was a common problem on the early type 1 models
with the stamped arbor, I have the current type 2 with the machined
arbor that supposedly addresses this very problem. The slots are so
loose that after letting a biscuit drop into a slot, I can lean over
and blow the biscuit right out of the slot. I took the tool to the
local Porter Cable warranty repair center (Precision Tool in Tucson)
and they laughed and said "that's what glue is for!" I explained
that .003" is a tremendous amount of run out for a 4" blade and noted
that a table saw in the same price range as this joiner could be
expected to have far less run out on it's 10" blade but they weren't
impressed. They agreed to check it and spent the next two weeks
looking at a slot they had cut with it before telling me to suck it up
and use more glue. I have since reduced some of the run out by running
the motor with an abrasive stone against the arbor but my biscuits
still fall right out of the slots making test fits frustrating.

Now the ugly:

Please save yourself the frustration and do some minimal research
before buying this tool. A Deja.com search will yield many references
to the dreaded fence redesign but few of the other posters seem to be
as disturbed by it. In my searches I even found an entire websites
devoted to this machine that noted the fence problem and dismissed it
as insignificant. Please read carefully the sick and bizarre procedure
detailed below for making flush cuts and then call Porter Cable at
(800) 321-9443 to verify it. If this all seems reasonable to you then
go ahead and buy this otherwise adequate tool.

Here's the deal: As a result of the million dollar patent infringement
suit from Black & Decker (DeWalt), PC had to move *part* of the fence
forward by 1/16" on all models produced after 3/16/99. See:
a href="http://www.dewalt.com/pressroom/fullstory.asp?Article=10"/a
Black and Decker holds the patent on fences that fold up for flush cuts
and Porter Cable had to redesign their fence to *remove* that
functionality! What this means is that when making flush cuts (with
the fence folded up vertically) the front of the blade housing (lined
with sandpaper) does not contact the wood - only the smooth polished
folded fence makes contact. While the machine glides all over the work
like bar soap in the shower, that is the least of the problems - the
extra clearance causes the fence to be unstable and requires that the
depth setting be increased to make a proper cut.

The proper routine for making flush cuts with the PC557 as described by
PC tech support (call them - it really is this complicated) is to fold
the fence up, then lower the fence all the way to prevent the machine
from rocking on the bi-level surface formed by the recessed blade
housing vs. the protruding fence. Now change to the next deepest
biscuit setting (don't forget or you'll have to re-cut and end up with
a very loose slot!). For example: To make a size "10" flush cut you
must set the stop to "20" to account for the 1/16" air gap between the
blade housing and the work, to cut a "0" set it to "10" and so on
(the "D" setting can be used for size "20" flush cuts). Finally, if
you successfully make the cut (hold on tightly as it will squirm on
that polished aluminum!) you must remember to change the depth setting
back, then re-adjust the fence to wherever it was before (good luck!),
and finally continue edge cutting. I'll remind you that fence
adjustment is slow and lowering the fence all the way as needed for
flush cuts can pose a problem during subsequent bench reference cuts if
overlooked. Just when you though you couldn't take any more
unnecessary hassle you can forget about making flush "FF" cuts - they
are not readily possible as the fence must be raised to clear the motor
yet lowered to provide a flat contact surface and with no setting
deeper than "FF" one would also need to adjust the fine stop to achieve
the extra depth!

I had a lengthy conversation with Fred in PC's tech support (800) 321-
9443 and he confirmed that the procedure of setting the stop at "10"
for size "0" flush cuts, etc. is the proper and only way to use the
tool. He also agreed that the 557 is not well equipped for flush cuts
suggesting that anyone wanting to make frequent flush cuts buy a
different tool because of course with any other brand plate joiner one
can simply flip the fence up, make a flush cut, and flip the fence back
down to continue edge cuts. He also told me that PC is currently
working on a new joiner to replace the 557 which will quite likely be a
fine machine, but they do not currently offer a proper tool to those
looking to buy now nor will they offer any upgrade path to those who
get stuck with this lousy unit.

Porter Cable marks all their tools with a "Type 1", "Type 2" etc. on
the box as well as the UL Label as revisions are made. The machined
arbor and misaligned fence are included with the "Type 2" and a minor
dust bag problem was corrected early on the "Type 1" without a revision
distinction. The ideal solution is to obtain a "Type 1" and have PC
send the free replacement arbor if needed, but as production ceased on
3/99 the older model is very difficult to find.


I understand that Porter Cable was slapped with a law suit and had no
choice but to redesign this tool, but they should have noted the new
limited functionality on their packaging, reduced the price to around
$75 and offered a subsidized upgrade to the future replacement. Even
if they had just put a little effort into the redesign such as moving
the fence back rather than forward allowing the use of the centering
guide as a shim the result would have been much more usable. Comparing
the old and new style fences, it is apparent that PC just tweaked the
milling machine slightly to produce misaligned fences without putting
any thought or effort into it. This approach, along with their refusal
to offer any accommodation to customers who are surprised by this
redesign is what fueled my passion and motivated me to write about this
poorest of power tools. I had often wondered how Lamello convinced
people to spend thousands of dollars for their retrofitted 4" angle
grinder. Now I know that it's simply Porter Cable that does the
convincing for them. Plate joiners have been around for over 20 years
now and with $200 price tags, it's time the mfgs start making an actual
tool from scratch rather than poorly adapting a lousy angle grinder.
Until then, I have a right to expect at least a proper fence and true
arbor.

If anyone is concerned about my owning a tool I dislike, just be
thankful it's me and not you. I intend to investigate the possibility
of re-machining the fence support for proper alignment or at least
shimming the housing face but in the meanwhile, just take my words for
what they are - one person's opinion. And note also that flush cuts
are not often made in the world of biscuit joining and the cumbersome
procedure above will certainly suffice for many users. Honestly, I am
more disturbed by Porter Cable's poor handling of this issue than I am
by the awkward work-around needed for occasional flush cuts.

Lastly, I will point out that the 557's exclusive "FF" setting is not
the only way to biscuit 1.5" stock. "FF" style joints can be made with
any grinder/joiner using the Lamello universal 3" blade designed
specifically for that purpose and the appropriate Lamello biscuits or
with a cheap detail joiner.


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.


I think Porter-Cable 557 is a great biscuit joiner. Other options like Dewalt DW682K, TruePower 01-0102.
I find reviews on this link: http://woodworkingtoolkit.com/biscuit-joiner-reviews/


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Old October 10th 16, 08:16 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Default Porter Cable 557 biscuit joiner review (long)

writes:
On Sunday, 11 June 2000 14:00:00 UTC+7, wrote:
I am sure everyone has read some of the many favorable reviews of the

....

Asshole spammer reposted the entire 16-year old article just to
append a link to a malware site.
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Old December 24th 18, 06:01 AM
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Default

Thanks for sharing the review. A few days ago I purchase DEWALT DW682K 6.5 Amp Plate Joiner from
Drillly. Porter Cable 557 biscuit joiner also great tools. But I love Dewalt.


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