Great for occasional work- But plastic fence is a problem.

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Review by StumpyNubs posted 02-03-2011 02:19 AM 32845 views 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great for occasional work- But plastic fence is a problem. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I almost never use biscuit joinery, but when the Chicago Electric Plate Joiner went on sale at Harbor Freight for $30 I bought one. Since nobody’s reviewed it yet, I thought I should give my observations.

First of all, Harbor Freight is a wonderful store full of a LOT of great tools, some of very high quality and all for very low prices. But as a general rule I never buy their hand power tools. There’s just too much orange plastic! But I took a chance on this one and the result is mixed.

Here’s the good- The heart of the tool is a strong motor and a carbide blade. It is noisey but powerful and cuts slots as well as I could want.

Here’s the bad- The fence is plastic and moves to easily. It makes getting a good, clean cut perpendicular to the surface a challange. And the depth adjustment is chinsey. But it works fine.

Bottom line- If you do a lot of buscuit joints, or want a really accurate tool for glueups, buy a better one. That plastic fence is a deal breaker. But if you want something to mess around with and maybe make your own bench top system, this is a great deal. (I went back and forth between two and three stars- perhaps it’s worth 2.75)

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21 comments so far

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#1 posted 02-03-2011 05:01 AM

I bought one of those a couple of years ago. I agree, if you don’t need one very often this one will be okay. I too dislike the plastic fence and the fact that the scale is hard to read an align.

I will be getting a Porter Cable sometime in the future. I wish I could afford the Woodcraft special….
buy the Porter Cable biscuit jointer and they throw in a router for free! Buy the time I get the money the sale will be long gone. Click the Woodcraft Sale Flyer at the top of the page and see.
Thanks for posting.

-- " 'woodworker''s a good word, an honest word." - Sam Maloof

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#2 posted 02-03-2011 06:22 AM

Good, honest, fair review. Thanks.

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#3 posted 02-03-2011 02:43 PM

Thanks for the review, i have looked at that several times. I have bought a number of things, in my opinion it is good stuff for the money, but you have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit…...sometimes alot.

-- Paul "Riz" Erie, PA "Share your wisdom, it is the way to achieve immortality"

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19 posts in 3827 days

#4 posted 02-03-2011 06:45 PM

Don’t get me wrong, as I am a frequent HF shopper, but this tool was useless in my hands. The flexing of the plastic fence made it impossible to get good alignment, and when you have to go back and recut the slot it ends up being too loose to do any good. I hesitate to even give this tool away for free! I like your suggestion of making a bench mounted joiner out of it, however. Let us know if you make that work…

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1511 posts in 4310 days

#5 posted 02-03-2011 06:51 PM

I have never used a biscuit joiner, let alone this one. I was wondering if you might be able to forget the fence and use the workpiece layed out on a flat surface (like a benchtop, say) with that as the reference surface. It might not work for thick pieces, but if all you’re doing is 3/4” type stuff, maybe?

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#6 posted 02-03-2011 08:43 PM

Aaron- The problem with that idea is the fence is what makes the joiner cut the slot in the correct spot so that it will line up perfectly with the corresponding slot. Now, if you were only joining 3/4” boards edge to edge to make a big panel, you could lay them flat on a bench and lay the joiner flat next to the edge and it would cut the slot in the same spot on eatch edge. The problem comes when you need to join two pieces at a right angle. If the fence doesn’t stay firm, you will rock the joiner up or down during the cut on the face of the board. You need that top fense to tell the joiner how far from the edge on the face to cut the slot, and the bottom fense to keep the tool perpendicular during the cut. It is a sadly fatal flaw in this tool.

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#7 posted 02-04-2011 01:57 AM

I have a problem rating a tool that is not accurate and does not do its job properly every time with three (3) stars. Even when a tool is used only occasionally it still needs to be accurate. It may not need to be that durable but accurate yes. In my opinion, any tool that is not accurate all of the time should be rated one (1) star.

Having said that, I appreciate the through and honest review of the tool.

-- Jack T, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

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#8 posted 02-04-2011 05:12 AM

Jack- I understand what you’re saying, but disagree. This tool is serviceable, if not entirely accurate. I am currently making some cabinets with it and as long as I am very careful, I can make it work. The down side is, ince the fence is not as steady as it should be, there’s a little slop in the slots it cuts. But since the biscuits expand when you glue them, it is manageable as long as you’re careful to hold it as steady as you can to minimise the slop. I don’t have the $200 to drop on a good one, and it is getting me out of a jam. I think that, since it will do the job but needs some extra effort- it’s worth the rating I gave it. But like every review, it’s only an opinion….

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#9 posted 02-04-2011 05:14 AM

Cessna- Sounds like that would work. But if you have a project with a lot of slots to cut on a lot of different pieces, it would be a pain to set up, I think.

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#10 posted 02-04-2011 05:23 AM

Just bought my first biscuit joiner tonight. I went with the Dewalt DW682K. I have seen several mixed reviews on it, but I guess I wanted something to match the rest of my tools, so Dewalt it is. I’ll post back after I use it and give a quick review. Now, how do you turn this thing on??

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#11 posted 07-09-2012 12:51 AM

After reading this review and comments, I bought the Craftsman biscuit joiner instead. Got it on sale for $80 new, thats just a little more than the Harbor Freight one while not jumping to the really expensive brands. The Craftsman is heavy and solid feeling and the fence seems strong. Anyway, worked great on the one project Ive used it for so far. Now Im realizing how many ways I can sneek a biscuit in to strengthen here and there! My Harbor Freight pocket hole jig remains my most used joint though. Indeed, I’m no snob about my joinery, so I can build more stuff!

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54 posts in 2786 days

#12 posted 02-17-2013 12:21 PM

I make a lot of picture frames and have used a biscuit joiner but ive found i much simpler to use a corrugated nailer (you know, those pneumatic nailers that use those little metal strips that look like ruffles potato chips they cost a lot more than a biscuit joiner but they sure are a faster meathod and can be used for a multitude of projects i dont think ive ever seen them mentioned on this site


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7 posts in 2565 days

#13 posted 10-09-2013 11:17 PM

I have been using this jointer now for 5-6 months for several small projects and works just fine, the fence is some sort of metal now, slots might be a bit oversized but no big deal, the price is definetly unbeatable. I have noticed that the blade seems to bog down on maple or oak and tends to leave some burn marks which is not a big deal. I have been entertaining the idea of buying a Freud replacement blade at Any experiences with that blade on this tool?

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906 posts in 3984 days

#14 posted 11-15-2013 03:12 AM

I’ve just bought a biscuit joiner and while I do not get much a HF (I’m a Ridgid guy) a friend has one and loves it. So I went on line to HF to see price and review. This is what I’ve learn.

This model in this review has been replaced. The new model has a metal fence and a working dust collector. It earned 5 out of 5 stars with 50 reviews. I don’t think you can go wrong. I’ve not used mine yet, but will review after I’ve done so.

-- Harold

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#15 posted 12-24-2013 03:01 AM

Glad there are some newer reviews on this. It sounds like HF made some big improvements to the fence and DC that make it a much more worthwhile tool. I am always looking to fill in any holes in my tool collection and I think that a biscuit joiner will be my next upgrade

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

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