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Choosing a biscuit joiner: Porter-Cable or Makita?

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Forum topic by slooper posted 1965 days ago 21881 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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slooper

37 posts in 2076 days


1965 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: biscuit joiner plate joiner porter-cable makita review

I am debating between a couple biscuit joiners (Porter-Cable 557 and Makita 3901) and am wondering if anyone who uses either or both of these brands can give me some feedback to tip the scales one way or the other.

I’ve never used a biscuit joiner and do not have access to a store that carries them, therefore I cannot get my hands on them to chose by use or feel. I’ve narrowed my choice largely based on Roland Johnson’s review in Fine Woodworking issue #155. (also online here) The article was published a few years ago, but I don’t know if it is necessarily out of date. How much have these tools changed since then?

Anything much higher than $200 is out of my price range. Even $200 is a stretch, but I don’t like to shortchange myself on quality where I’d have to pay for it later. From what I can tell, Porter-Cable and Makita are comparable in price as well as performance. Makita is a few $ less which makes this decision interesting. PC is currently about $219 and Makita, $189.

So here are the issues I’m pondering in order of my highest priority to least.

  • Porter-Cable seems to have a more convenient switch. Since I can’t get my hands on one, can anyone tell me if the PC switch is more comfortable or not. Keep in mind, I am right handed and therefore not in my right mind. :)
  • Makita also has a smaller motor (5.6 Amps vs. PC’s 7.5 Amps) Does the extra amperage equate to a bulkier tool to handle? And as a hobbiest and not a professional, how can I justify the bigger motor? Is there a tangible benefit?
  • PC has a fence that angles to 135 degrees. Rolland mentions that this makes buscuiting miter joints easier. Is the same task with Makita actually difficult, or just not as easy?
  • Makita scored better on the parallel test, although both are within acceptable range according to Rolland. Does anyone disagree?

Let me know what you guys think.

Regards,
-Slooper


33 replies so far

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

936 posts in 1991 days


#1 posted 1965 days ago

Why not the Domino from Festool?

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View oldskoolmodder's profile

oldskoolmodder

760 posts in 2277 days


#2 posted 1964 days ago

You’ve never used one, but now you want to put down a big amount of money on one? How often will you use it? Do you have a paying job that will cover the cost of the piece of equipment? There’s a lot more questions you need answers to, than reading a review and NOT being able to physically have one in reach to touch, to see possibly use beforehand to see if you even like it.

I have an older Craftsman biscuit cutter and it does just fine, but I rarely use it. I prefer other methods of joining to biscuits, because it takes an awful lot of clamp time and thus you may not have anything to do for that period of time on your projects. Look into other methods such as pocket screw kits, There’s virtually NO down time, ones you glue up and put the screws in. Heck, you don’t even need to glue, the joints are so strong.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3960 posts in 2661 days


#3 posted 1964 days ago

I don’t know enough about the Makita to make an informed comparative assay between the two models, but the PC has good reviews and a great fence. Don’t get the Freud, I cheaped out and got one, and seriously rue that fact every time I turn it on.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View MedicKen's profile

MedicKen

1599 posts in 2059 days


#4 posted 1964 days ago

I bought a DeWalt biscuit joiner about 2 years ago and have been very happy with it. I dont remember which model but it worked well from day one. However, if I had to do it over I would look a little closer at the PC. reason being is PC is the only one has the capability of cutting face frame biscuits. The face frame ones are smaller than the other standard sizes and being that I build a fair amount of cabinets I should have looked harder at the PC. If you are not needing the face frame ability, I would look at the DeWalt. Its cheaper, or at least was, than the PC and Makita. My 2 cents.

http://www.toolauthority.com/product_info.php?products_id=271&filter_id=15&osCsid=qk0unfot5iit0t4j8ic2egnv64

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their therapist....medic20447@gmail.com

View spaids's profile

spaids

699 posts in 2291 days


#5 posted 1964 days ago

A friend of mine has the Makita while I have the Porter Cable. After inspecting both my friend is going to sell his Makita and has already bought a Porter Cable. With a biscuit joiner you are needing it to do one thing well and that is to ACCURATELY place biscuit slots. This is an alignment tool so its accuracy is the most important thing. The Porter Cable has the best fence of all biscuit joiners and thats where you are spending your money on this unit. It adjusts up and down with out racking and it comes with the little cutter for the small biscuits. I played with my friends Makita for 3 minutes and saw the fence rack while adjusting it.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View slooper's profile

slooper

37 posts in 2076 days


#6 posted 1964 days ago

Moai,

A couple of reasons. First, the Domino is more than $500 beyond my budget. Second, a loose tenon is not actually what I’m looking for. My primary motivation for buying the biscuit joiner is to help align face frames on cabinets and the like. The Domino is simply the wrong tool for the job.

It would be nice to have a Domino, though, if the need arises and they bring their price down a bit.

View slooper's profile

slooper

37 posts in 2076 days


#7 posted 1964 days ago

oddskoolmodder,

There have been a half dozen times in the last three months I’ve wished I had a biscuit joiner. That’s my justification for investing money in one at all. As for spending $200, Doug’s comment, which following yours, says it all: if you go cheap, you’ll only pay for it later. This post is all about avoiding that mistake.

As for pocket screws, they won’t do what I want the biscuits to do. See my response above to Moai. But I do have a need for those as well. That may be next on my list.

View slooper's profile

slooper

37 posts in 2076 days


#8 posted 1964 days ago

Spaids,

A racking fence is a bad thing. Do you know if your friend’s Makita was fairly new? I don’t want to assume they haven’t corrected the problem.

Thanks!

View SilsbyWoodworks's profile

SilsbyWoodworks

11 posts in 1970 days


#9 posted 1964 days ago

I have a dewalt and I really find it easy to use. I do a lot of biscuit joints and have found this tool works great.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

936 posts in 1991 days


#10 posted 1964 days ago

I see…..
I do not have a Biscuit Jointer,but I have used my coworkers’ Dewalt, and never an issue with that brand name. I would prefer Malita over Porter Cable.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View pitchnsplinters's profile

pitchnsplinters

262 posts in 2035 days


#11 posted 1964 days ago

Save your money and buy a Harbor Freight.

-- Just 'cause a cat has kittens in the oven, it don't make 'em biscuits.

View oldskoolmodder's profile

oldskoolmodder

760 posts in 2277 days


#12 posted 1964 days ago

I’m by no means unhappy with my choice of Craftsman, I just don’t use it very often. Again, if you aren’t going to use it often, there’s no need to spend a lot of money which is what a few are telling you. Multi piece cutting boards are the only thing I ever built using Biscuits and that’s very time consuming, so I just don’t make them anymore and thus don’t use the biscuits any longer either.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Woodchuck1957's profile

Woodchuck1957

944 posts in 2361 days


#13 posted 1964 days ago

I have had a DeWalt for about 10 years, at the time that was the best, and I have no complaints about it at all.

View RWR's profile

RWR

42 posts in 2198 days


#14 posted 1964 days ago

I have the Porter Cable and have been using it for a year or so, it is accurate and powerful. Very
satisfied with the purchase. Cannot comment on the Makita, but I do like the trigger switch on the PC.

-- Wayne

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

111999 posts in 2174 days


#15 posted 1964 days ago

I have an older porter cable it has worked fine for years as long as the older pcs have an adjustable fence think about buying an older pc joiner from e-bay or go the harbor freight rout either way your around the $ 75 mark including shipping. If you like one of these choices you can upgrade later. Harbor freight will let you return it if you don’t like it. I like quality tools but I sometimes buy a harbor freight tool to see if I like and use a particular type of tool.

Jim

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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