Once you get past the jokes and clichés about biscuit joining, you come to understand that it is a sign of excellent craftsmanship. Fine furniture, trim work, bookshelves, cabinets, tables and the lot are all made straighter and stronger using a high quality biscuit joiner.
It’s clearly advantageous to have a biscuit joiner that actually speeds up the process rather than gets in the way and makes the carpenter a servant to his own invention. Some biscuit joiners would make better boat anchors than useful power tools.
So, where do you go for the best biscuit joiners? You’re already there. We’ve got the scoop on biscuit joiners, and we’ve got the winners, the runners-up and the honorable mentions on biscuit joiners. Some go by the name plate joiner, but it’s the same tool as a biscuit joiner. So biscuit joiners or plate joiners, here are the best ones:
Top 8 Best Biscuit Joiners
Best Features: P System, Vertical Mechanical Drive
Here it is – the Coupe de Ville, the Beemer, the Mark VIII and the Crown Vic all rolled into one. If you’re a professional, or if you simply want the best biscuit joiner you can find, this could be the one. It ain’t cheap. But for a biscuit joiner that’s going to last you probably your entire career, this could be a game-changer.
The Lamello Zeta is a Swiss-made biscuit joiner that’s so special it has its own slot-and-biscuit system, the “P System.” But it’s almost comparing apples to oranges, because the Zeta P System connects pieces of wood entirely differently, with different types of biscuits, which they call connectors or fittings. The Lamello is a dual-purpose biscuit joiner, adapting to standard biscuits with an optional cutter assembly.
The P System uses hard, fiberglass-reinforced connectors that have male and female components and a cam that twists into lock position after the wood pieces are fitted together. (You have to drill access holes so you can fit a screwdriver to the cam, but it’s a small price to pay for what you end up with.) The result is an incredibly strong joint that has no clutter on the wood surface.
The P System is widely used in Europe and is making a lot of headway in the U.S. Many carpenters who have relied on biscuits for decades have switched to the P System, and many use the Lamello both ways with the optional cutter add-on for standard biscuits.
The Lamello has dual depth adjusters, one for P System and one for standard #0, #10, #20 and SD Max. The dials are precise and easy to use.
The 1050-watt motor has plenty of power for all types of hard or soft materials, and the integrated vertical mechanical drive sets this model apart from the others in terms of how it creates the groove. The vertical movement is automatic, and takes a lot of stress off the user, who, with standard biscuit cutters, have to apply continuous, even pressure in order to cut a smooth groove. They call it a VMD (Vertical Mechanical Drive) system, which oscillates the cutter up and down.
It handles all the angles, from 0° to 135°, and when you select an angle an lock in the dial, it holds fast – no tweaking it in between cuts. The blade is carbide-tipped and cuts a 5/32-inch slot.
Best Feature: Seven Cutting Positions
Essentially, all a biscuit joiner does is cut matching slots in adjoining pieces of wood. The biscuit, a flat, oval piece of wood, fits in the slot and adds strength a enables better alignment of the wood pieces. It doesn’t have to be wood. Biscuit joinery can be used with a variety of materials, including solid wood, plywood, composites, PVC and plastic.
The Porter-Cable 557 plate joiner has the power to churn through all of those materials with ease, using a 7.0-amp, 10,000 RPM (no load) motor, this biscuit joiner won’t shy away from hard, tight-grained wood, deep cuts or long work shifts.
Of course, 90 percent of your cuts are going to be at 90°, but the Porter-Cable joiner can do more than that. The stainless steel fence tilts from 0° to 135° for a variety of bevel cuts.
Here’s a really nice feature (not that it’s necessarily ahead of the other biscuit joiners in that regard, but poorer quality ones don’t have it): It has a seven position rotating depth stop for FF, #0, #10 and #20 (biscuit sizes) and Simplex, Duplex and Max #6 biscuits.
Much attention has been paid to shop dust for its detrimental health effects, and OHSA now has stringent guidelines in place for dust abatement. This biscuit joiner uses a one-inch (outside diameter) port for dust collection, either into a dust bag or a vacuum. Since you’re just cutting slots in wood, you’re not going to be generating massive clouds of dust, but when the biscuit joiner is running, it does spit out a considerable amount of dust for a brief amount of time.
The bale handle is attached to the fence, not the motor, so the motion is much smoother going through the wood.
The blade on this biscuit joiner is four inches in diameter. The unit ships with a centering plate, dust bag, chip deflector, Allen wrench and a nice carrying case that can take a punch.
Overall, a good high quality biscuit joiner and one of the best biscuit joiners on the market for 2020.
Best Feature: 18-Volt Lithium Battery
Until the advent of lithium battery technology, the idea of a cordless biscuit joiner was a joke needing a punchline. But, oh, how things have changed, Batman. Makita steps forward with a truly useful cordless biscuit joiner that runs on standard 110-volt house current or on the Makita one-battery-fits-all 18-volt lithium battery.
If you have other Makita cordless tools, they take the very same battery, so if you don’t need to use your Makita sander today, “borrow” the battery from it to run your biscuit joiner. (Just remember to put the battery back on the charger where it belongs when you’re done.) Maybe this interchangeability is why Makita chose not to include a battery or charger in this package.
But don’t despair. Just order the biscuit joiner along with a battery and charger and no worries, mate. By the way, you’ll get up to 300 cuts on a single charge, according to promotional literature.
The biscuit tool is worthy of accolades on its own, without even discussing the battery. Adjustments are easy, with the rack and pinion vertical fence system, which allows angles of 0°, 45°, and 90° and easy centering on 3/4-inch stock.
Depth settings cover the three basic biscuit sizes of #0, #10 and #20 plus three additional depths for custom biscuits. Before long, some of these so-called “custom” sizes may become pretty common, so when or if that happens, you’ll be ready for them.
The four-inch blade can be replaced without a tool, and the top-mounted handle is comfortable and steady. One other nice feature is the rubber inserts on the shoe, which help hold the wood in place without creating scratches.
The dust bag on this biscuit joiner is bigger than some of the others. You also have the option of connecting to a vacuum.
Best Feature: Easy adjustment
You see a lot of Ryobi tools on the jobsite, and with good reason. Ryobi has been making excellent drills, saws, sanders, planers and biscuit joiners for years, and the JM83K is a fine example of quality performance and durability.
Like many of the models on our list, this Ryobi biscuit joiner is adjustable, from 0° to 135°, but the big thing here is that it is a quick, accurate adjustment, thanks to rack and pinion design (Sounds like a car, doesn’t it?). You might consider a lesser biscuit joiner that has a more clumsy adjustment system and save a few bucks on the initial investment, but at the end of a long shift, you might be singing a different song. It has positive stops at 0°, 45°, 90° and 135° – fewer than some biscuit joiners on our list, but this covers the most popular angles.
This biscuit joiner has a comfy ergonomic handle that should help with repetitive motions and gripping a tool in the same manner time after time. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a real problem among construction workers, so this should be a factor in your selection of a biscuit joiner tool.
Now for the nuts and bolts part of the review: The power pack on the Ryobi biscuit joiner is a 6.0-amp motor that delivers 11,000 no-load* RPMs. That gives it plenty power for hard woods like oak and mahogany. You don’t want an underpowered tool that’s bouncing through the cut and leaving a jagged, maybe even splintered slot in the wood.
The metal fence and all parts that come in contact with the wood are machined to precise tolerances for more accurate cuts. You want a snug fit with your biscuits, but not so snug you have to hammer the biscuits in, and obviously, you don’t want a sloppy, loose fit either. The Ryobi biscuit joiner has depth settings for the three most popular biscuits – #0, #10 and #20.
*RPMs for power tools are always expressed as RPMs without a load. In other words, RPMs are measured with the tool operating in open air, not touching anything. No power tool manufacturer is going to list its RPM rating with a load, because there are so many variables, such as:
- Hardness of the wood or other material.
- Depth of cut.
- Amount of force applied by the user.
- The power transfer system of the tool (adapting the revolutions of the motor’s armature to the cutting, drilling, sanding, etc., part of the tool).
This applies to any number of power tools or devices with electric motors, so when you see RPMs, know that it is unimpeded RPMs.
Best Feature: Manual Override
For a small investment, this biscuit joiner might be the MVP of your tool cabinet. It does all the things that the more expensive models do, with ease of use and dependability. It cuts with great accuracy at the most popular depths of #0, #10 and #20, but you can also go into manual mode (“M” setting) for depths of your own choosing. This helps with miter joints, T-joints, butt joints and edge-to-edge / corner joints.
The angle is adjustable between 0° and 90° – a bit less of a range than other models, but if it covers the angles you need most often, who cares?
The motor is a kick in the pants, pulling 8.5 amps and generating 10,000 RPMs. The groove width on this bad boy is 5/32 inches, ensuring a good fit with the biscuits. With an ergonomically designed top handle, you’ll have firm steady control of the biscuit joiner all day long.
This biscuit joiner weighs a spritely 7.4 pounds, which is good for the user, but maybe not so good for the durability and unit’s ability to take a little abuse. We’ve mentioned that the VonHaus is budget-friendly and there’s always a trade-off somewhere with tools that cost a little less than their competitor. This might be the trade-off. The materials used in the build are strong, but lightweight, and possibly don’t hold up as well as more hefty tools do.
Still, baby this tool and it might do quite well for you.
Best Feature: Complete Kit
What’s a biscuit joiner without a bag full of biscuits, ay? So, it’s awesome that this Aoben biscuit joiner comes with biscuits. No gravy, though.
Obviously, it’s kind of a gimmick, but it’s still a nice perk that may win the day, in case you were undecided about which biscuit joiner to get. This ships with 30 #0 biscuits, 30 #10 biscuits and 50 #20 biscuits.
This joiner wouldn’t make our list if we didn’t think it had the quality to go along with the freebies. This is a versatile tool with useful features, like the ability to do a variety of joints, like corner joint, miter joint, frame joint, center wall joint and butt joint. To do this range of wood joints, a biscuit joiner has to be able to cut different angles and different depths.
It can do the depths for the most common biscuit sizes (like the ones the biscuit joiner comes with), plus it can do other depths when it is in manual mode. Angles are easily adjusted for with the adjustable tilt fence, which can handle angles between 0° and 90°, and not just the standard angles.
A muscular little 8.5-Amp motor spins at 11,000 RPMs, providing plenty of power for any number of materials – solid hardwood, chipboard, fiberboard, Plexiglas and even artificial marble up to 5/16 inch thick. Doing the cutting is a tough, four-inch hardened steel blade that leaves a slot measuring 5/32 inch.
The dust bag can be snapped on and off with one hand, and the top-mounted handle gives you a sure and steady grip throughout the cut. When you’re finished, pack it all up in heavy duty carrying case.
The folks at Aoben want you to be happy with your purchase, so they’ve included a two-year warranty (most of the other ones are one-year) and a pledge that their customer service department will be glad to answer any questions regarding the unit’s use.
Best Feature: Carbide Tipped Blade
Copycat. Just because the Aoben biscuit joiner threw in over 100 free wood biscuits with their joiner, along comes this Rexbeti biscuit joiner doing the same thing. Well, consider it a toy in a box of cereal, but you have to admit that having a bunch of biscuits ready to use with the new biscuit joiner right out of the box is a real plus.
This biscuit joiner is a solid choice, with no major downers to speak of. There aren’t shiny sparkles either, but having a biscuit joiner tool that does its job dependably and consistently should be sparkly enough for the average Joe. And that’s the main thing about the Rexbeti. It’s not a professional, work eight hours a day and throw it in the back of the pickup kind of tool. It’s consumer grade, without a doubt, but a good consumer grade.
The finely-machined fence is adjustable to the three main positions – 0° 45° and 90°. Adjusting is quick and easy, and it won’t fight back when you turn the knobs. It cuts at the most popular depths, for #0, #10, #20 and 5D Max. The 5/32 inch grooves are smooth and accurate.
The motor on this biscuit joiner is rated by wattage rather than amps. It’s listed at 1010 Watts, and turns the armature at 10,000 RPMs, so it’s got some muscle to it. The motor drives a four-inch carbide-tipped blade that will remain sharp for months of regular use. When it is time for a new blade, the change-out is very easy.
The dust port is one inch in diameter, suitable for use with a shop vacuum, but you can also choose to use the included dust bag, which, if you have normal amount of cuts to do, should be plenty big enough.
Best Feature: Handles the Most Popular Depths
Weekend warriors, hobbyists, woodworking dabblers, lend me your ears! This is a good tool. It’s not for frequent or professional use, but for you regular guys, it’s spot on.
For minimalistic design and technique, this biscuit joiner fits right in. It does most of the things that pricier models do, but might not be quite as versatile if you stray from the basic biscuit sizes and angles of cuts. It cuts slots that accommodate biscuit sizes #0, #10 and #20 and cuts angles up to 45°. You know your work; if 99 percent of your work falls into those categories (and it probably does), that’s all you need.
Running the show is a nifty 6.0-Amp motor that generates 10,000 RPMs. This should supply plenty of power for hardwoods and composite materials, as well as the deeper cuts. The slot width on this biscuit joiner is 5/32 inch, delivered by a four-inch, carbide-tipped blade.
Setting the angles and depths is easy, and the measurements are reliable, thanks to quality machining during production.
Harbor Freight vs. the World
Chicago Electric Power Tool Company is a brand name in the family of Harbor Freight Tools, which has come on strong in recent years. The company specializes in no-nonsense tools that are easy on the budget yet still offer viable service. In some instances, they contract with manufacturers to build tools for which they apply their own labels.
Those tools may have close cousins on the Amazon pages or store shelves, and in some cases, the they are the exact same tool with perhaps a different color or a very slight cosmetic difference. The brands that are owned by Harbor Freight Tools include:
- Chicago Electric
- Drill Master
- Pittsburgh Pro
There are plenty of forums, blogs and videos online debating the quality of Harbor Freight Tools, including opinion posts on which Harbor Freight Tools are worth the money and which are not.
Are You A Biscuit Expert?
Did You Know About These Techniques?
Assuming you’re not a rookie to the world of biscuit joinery, you already know what we’re talking about biscuit sizes, cutting depths angles and basic types of joints. But did you know these tips? They might be game changers for you.
1. Guide With the Base of the Unit, Not the Fence
Whenever possible, reference off the base of the biscuit joiner. The base has more mass and size than the adjustable fence, and when you push the biscuit joiner forward, it is a sturdier guide. While the better biscuit joiners have better fences, they’re still more prone to misdirection and wavering than the base.
2. Use the Biggest Biscuit That Will Fit
Fewer, bigger biscuits do a better job than more, smaller biscuits. Always leave a minimum of 1/4 inch between slots, however.
3. Make an “L Fence” For Larger Boards
Long pieces of wood should ideally be stood up on their ends for ideal pre-cut alignment. But this is unsteady. Make a simple, right angle “L” fence (like a bookend), and place it at the bottom of the boards you intend to cut. Press it firmly against the edges of the work wood to keep the boards aligned as you move the biscuit joiner into cutting position.
4. Technique for Fixed Shelves in a Cabinet
It’s a challenge, cutting slots for both ends of a shelf that ensure that the shelf will be level when installed. Use a good, flat board as a spacer, and make your marks with the spacer in place. Repeat the same technique at the other end of the boards.
5. Using Screws Along With Biscuits for Complicated Joints
Clamps don’t always fit on the work pieces, for one reason or another. To gain extra stability, drill pilot holes between the biscuit slots, counter-sinking the holes on the outside surface. After assembling the boards and gluing the biscuits in place, use self-tapping wood screws to hold the parts together while the glue dries. The screws don’t significantly add to the strength of the finished joint, but holding the wood pieces together while the glue dries on the biscuits is a huge plus.
This also allows you to do biscuits joints one at a time on large projects, rather than try to make it all line up at once.
5. Use a Small Paintbrush to Spread the Glue
Simply squirting some glue in a slot and mashing a biscuit into it seconds later gives you an “OK” bond, but taking the time to spread the glue evenly throughout the slot gives you greater strength, with less chance of glue overruns. Use an art paint brush or even a Q-tip for this.
How to Use a Biscuit Joiner
Finding the Best Biscuit Joiner
When shopping for a biscuit joiner, you’ll notice an incredibly wide range of prices. We have quite a few biscuit joiners on our list under $100, and then there are some models that are 16 times more expensive.
Biscuit joiners that are inaccurate are worthless. If you use the fence to make your marks on the wood, that fence needs to be locked solidly in the same orientation for subsequent cuts, or you’ll end up with misaligned stock pieces. The better, costlier biscuit joiners have stronger, heavier and more precisely manufactured fences.
We’ve already discussed the rating system for electric motors on power tools. Keep in mind that even cheap motors can deliver high RPMs, but the question is, for how long? Motor brushes wear out (they’re not typically replaceable on biscuit joiners) and armatures grind away inside the tool, becoming less responsive each time the tool is switched on.
Cheaper biscuit joiners have fewer options regarding cutting depth and angles, but that might not matter to you. If you never use biscuits beyond the main three, then spending extra for a biscuit joiner that performs custom cuts is a waste of money, all other factors being equal. The same principle applies with angles. Most of your angles are going to be either 90° or 45°, and if you don’t foresee needing to do any other angles, then don’t worry about versatility.
The most dependable standard you can apply when evaluating biscuit joiners is the peer standard – what do people who do the same work as you think of their purchases? You’ll learn a lot of quirks and oversights and unexpected perks with these tools. So check out those user reviews!
The Hazards of Wood Dust
Too many carpenters fail to take shop dust abatement seriously. Wood dust is a bona fide health risk, according to research. Breathing wood dust particles may cause allergic respiratory symptoms, inflammation of the mucosal membrane and even cancer.
OSHA has outlined standards for wood dust in different work environments and 28 state standards have been approved by OSHA.
For the average worker or weekend carpenter, it’s not important to know the numbers, but to simply know how important it is to remove dust WHILE you’re working. Don’t create a big pile of wood dust, even if you intend to sweep it out or vacuum it later.