solid joiner for the price

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Review by KDL posted 02-04-2008 11:41 PM 10638 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
solid joiner for the price No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I bought this joiner two years ago after talking to a few woodworkers/salesmen I trust. I have used it on two large cabinets, a small table, and a small sideboard. On the whole, I think it’s a good machine for a very fair price. There are higher-end joiners that are, I’m sure, really slick. But for the money, this is a good tool, and when I bought it, it was definitely the best in its class.

It comes with: The joiner, dust bag, wrenches, regular and face-frame blades, manual, and a carrying case.

The blades: They do the job. The cut is quick and accurate. You’ll get a much better cut if you hold the tool steady. If you wobble, you’ll make a wider slot, which defeats the purpose.

The grips: The handle placement is excellent. As I understand it, many joiners are based on grinders, which have different handles. Happily Porter-Cable went to the trouble of putting a nice handle on the fixed head and a grip on the plunging base. Some other brands have both handles on the plunging part. Control is good.

Dust collection: The tool is small, so it’s easiest to use without a dust bag or vacuum. However, joiners make a lot of chips, and without a bag or vac, you’ll make an airborne mess. The bag works, but it’s small, so it will fill fast.

Which bring us to vacuums: My 1.25” Shop Vac hose is too big for the joiner’s dust port. My regular home vaccum fits TIGHTLY over the dust port—the only problem is that it’s awkward to have such a stiff hose attached to a small tool. What does work really well, is my Bosch sander vacuum hose. The hose is narrow and flexible, however, it doesn’t quite fit the jointer. So I cut a 1” long piece of 1” copper tubing and slid that over the joiner’s dust port, then my Bosch hose slips over that.

Noise: It’s loud; wear your ear protection.

Guides: The fence comes with a face frame accessory and has lots of adjustments over a wide range of depths and angles. Along with the handles, this was a major selling point for me. In addition to the fence, the joiner’s body has a height adjustment and another for different size biscuits. Everything works great. My only complaint is that I can’t use the small face-frame blade with the fence in the vertical position—the joiner’s body hits the fence. So no plunging into the middle of a wide board with the little blade, the cuts have to be near an edge. I guess that’s fair, it’s a face-frame blade, but I was trying to get creative. If I could change one thing, that would be it.

The case: The case is very rigid, but the joiner has to be folded just right to get everything back inside. That’s good for travel, but really annoying for day-to-day use. I leave the joiner out until I’m done for the day.

The manual: It is illustrated and easy to follow. It has directions for several different biscuit joints, as well as information on the tool itself. As with most manuals, it’s not perfect, but I’ve switched blades with no problem.

View KDL's profile


36 posts in 4576 days

12 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4797 days

#1 posted 02-05-2008 01:18 AM

I got a model 556 when they first came out, and I use it for one thing only now. Miters.
That’s because of the fence that came with it. It rests perfectly on the board for perfect

I have seen that one, but haven’t felt the urge yet.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View lynxsg's profile


7 posts in 4588 days

#2 posted 02-11-2008 06:05 PM

I’m trying to decide between the Dewalt and the PC 557. I’d be interested in your experience with either of these joiners.

-- Steve G., Kelowna, BC, Canada

View KDL's profile


36 posts in 4576 days

#3 posted 02-11-2008 06:19 PM

Steve G, to answer your question:

As I said in the review, I quite like the PC 557. I’ve never used the Dewalt and it’s been a while since I held one, so I don’t know exactly how the current ones look and feel. I did look at a picture of the Dewalt on Amazon, and I can’t tell how the handles are arranged. One of the things I like about the PC is that there’s a fixed handle on the head, and a grip on the plunging base. I think this helps me control the tool better than if both handles are on the plunging base. The fences look similar, which was another PC selling point at the time I bought mine. My guess is they are about the same quality.

View capsfan's profile


15 posts in 4555 days

#4 posted 02-23-2008 03:28 PM

I’ve been using the 557 professionally for 3 yrs and it has not let me down yet. I have used the Dewalt plate joiner many times as it is the one supplied by my employer. The 557 has many more features and the fencse stays square to the blade.
The Dewalt model has plastic fence adjustment shaft that twists along it’s length and causes the fence go out of square. It is only a small amount but that small amount gets multiplied when you try to put two pieces together.

-- We can't all be heroes, somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by. (Will Rogers 1879-1935)

View Karson's profile


35224 posts in 5210 days

#5 posted 02-23-2008 04:05 PM

Thanks for the review. I’ve got the Dewalt and a Ryobi plate jointer. I use the Dewalt more because it’s to the front of the shop. The Roybi is at the back and burried.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Sheepman's profile


25 posts in 4310 days

#6 posted 10-25-2008 02:38 AM

I have the 557 Type 2 and would not give any thought to even looking at another brand(maybe Festool if I hit megabucks)

-- Carpenters make some of the finest firewood there is !

View rwyoung's profile


412 posts in 4281 days

#7 posted 11-25-2008 05:44 PM

You can remove the angled fence entirely when using the 2” blade but it is a hassle.

So far I’ve been using mine on a few small projects and it has performed very well.

The chip extraction is a bit hokey unless you use a vacuum. The port seems to clog quite easily. This could in part be due to the wood type as I’ve noticed it more when practicing on pine and poplar and less so on some oak.

I wish I had bought this one first instead of trying out a $50 job and discovering that while it did work, the base on the cheap model would flex as I plunged the joiner. With the PC557 the base is very rigid (as is the whole unit) and so far the only problems I’ve had have been of my own making!

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View RalphB's profile


25 posts in 4174 days

#8 posted 04-11-2009 05:38 PM

Reviews on Amazon have complained about a plastic part – I think it was the pivot – on the fence that did not last long in use. Anyone know if this is still a problem, or has P-C seen the light and gone back to metal??

View KDL's profile


36 posts in 4576 days

#9 posted 04-15-2009 03:41 PM


There is a plastic piece that guides the fence, and if it broke, it would be a problem. However, I have had no problems in a couple years of very light use. I haven’t seen the newer models.

View glassyeyes's profile


137 posts in 4138 days

#10 posted 04-15-2009 03:58 PM

I’ve got an older Porter-Cable model 555. I haven’t used one of the newer ones (OR any other brands), but the 555 is really sturdy and has been very useful. It’s got both the fixed and adjustable fences.

-- Now, where did I put those bandaids?

View michstairguy's profile


21 posts in 4053 days

#11 posted 04-06-2010 10:10 PM

Next to a 700.00 lamello this is the best biscuit jointer on the market. Not even the Dewalt that costs about the same can touch it. I have used both and this is the one I own. The Dewalt has a short lifespan in a commercial setting where this one has lasted in the stair company I used to work at as long as I was there and to my knowledge it is still there.

-- There is no growing in knowing where your going

View 303Woodwork's profile


25 posts in 3323 days

#12 posted 08-26-2011 11:08 AM

Nice review. This site is just a goldmine of info for the newbie wood worker.
I also found this Porter Cable Biscuit Joiner review.

-- Gotta love woodworking!

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