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108 Preliminary review of Delta's Biscuit Joiner


This article is from the Woodworking FAQ Collection 2, by multiple authors.

108 Preliminary review of Delta's Biscuit Joiner

From: bennett@adobe.com(Bennett Leeds)
Sender: usenet@adobe.com (USENET NEWS)
Reply-To: bennett@adobe.com
Distribution: na
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1992 03:49:14 GMT

After much analysis and procrastination I ended up buying Delta's stationary
biscuit joiner. I've now used it on a small project, and thought the net might
be interested in my early impressions:

Basic Description:
In case you haven't seen the thing, it mounts/clamps to a horizontal surface
and has a horizontal table that moves up and down, controlled by a threaded rod
that has a quick release mechanism. The blade and motor ride on a carriage that
slides horizontally, controlled by a foot pedal and cable. There is a miter
gauge that clamps in a groove on the main table for face miters, and an
auxiliary table that swings up and over the main table for edge miters. There
is a hold-down clamp that works in two positions (one on the main table and one
on the vertical table) and has a rubber tip and quick release mechansim. The
motor is a 10 amp universal motor, and the two table surfaces are cast aluminum
- the auxiliary table is sheet metal. The vertical table (which the blade comes
out of) has both center and width of cut markings for all 3 standard size
biscuits. It is made in Taiwan, and has a nonstandard size dust collection
port. I paid $250 for it at Highland Hardware.

Pretty straightforward. The main unit with sliding carriage and motor is
preassembled - you have to bolt on the vertically adjusting table, auxiliary
bevel table, and attach and adjust the cable to the unit and foot pedal.
Apparently the micro-adjuster for the vertically moving table was an
afterthought as you have to remove a screw and replace it with a supplied
longer screw and angle bar to attach it. The screw was on very tightly and I
stripped the head trying to remove it (cheap Taiwanese screws). After much fuss
I got the screw out without damaging the hole, and the rest of the assembly
went fine. Blade depth was set correctly out of the box.

Typical for Delta, the metal (and plastic!) parts were coated in some kind of
gel or oil (cosomoline?). Also typical for Taiwanese Delta in my experience (I
also have their 16.5" drill press), the casting quality isn't that great, but
the machined surfaces seem OK.

For normal edge gluing, you set the height of the main table, place a board on
it, tighten the hold-down clamp, turn the motor on and step on the pedal.
Subsequent cuts require a half-twist of the hold-down clamp, sliding the board,
a half-twist to tighten again, and a step on the pedal. It goes very quickly.

I found that this kind of stuff goes quickly once you have the table height
set. There is a ruler with a pointer on the side to assist you in setting the
table height, but it does not measure from the center of the groove to the
table surface, as I expected it to. I'm not sure just what it measures, but my
guess is from an edge of the groove to the table - not as useful to me. I'll
probably glue an adhesive ruler adjusted for what I want on top. I was able to
set the height very exactly using the micro-adjuster, so that I could even flip
a board's good face and have the slots align up (slot was down the center of
the edge).

Setting the auxiliary table for edge miters was a snap using my 45 degree
square (Shinwa Japanese miter square, if you're interested - $8). But, then I
had to readjust the table height to position the biscuit near the inside corner
- if I hadn't bothered to adjust the height I would have cut a slot through the
auxiliary table! In this mode the holddown clamp could not be used, but with a
firm grasp the boards did not move (there are no pins nor rubber to stop boards
from moving).

I found that I could spring clamp my 4" dust collector hose over the dust
collection port and effectively trap all of the chips and dust ejected by the

Cut quality:
For background, I had had much discussion with Joel Gringorten on the problems
with the Porter-Cable biscuit joiner. I had also borrowed another friend's PC
biscuit joiner and used it with success on a few projects, although I did find
that I had to support the base on a flat surface and not rely on the fence,
which was hard to adjust anyway.

What I found with the Delta is that the slots it cut were narrower than the
ones cut with the PC. The Lamello biscuits I have have much more slop in the PC
cut holes than in the Delta cut holes - they fit snugly in the Delta holes.
Note: this is not slot length, which is the result of the blade depth
adjustment, this is slot width which I believe is supposed to be 5/32"

Now, as to whether the wider slot is caused by the sliding carriage play of the
PC joiner, or just a narrower kerf of the Delta's blade, I don't know - I'd
have to borrow a PC joiner and swap blades to find out. The carriage of the
Delta slides with almost no play at all. I do feel that the snugger slot will
result in a stronger joint, and it was not so snug that I couldn't slide a dry
or newly glue-coated biscuit into it easily.

Good Points:
- Dust Collection is easy and works.
- Micro-adjustable table gives more accuracy for slot placement, and larger
table gives more leverage to steady workpieces than the much smaller fences
on hand-held units.
- Auxiliary table works fine, and also has more leverage than smaller fences.
- 10 amp motor plows into oak with less strain than the lower powered PC. I
haven't tried a Lamello or any others, but I think the Delta motor is more
powerful than any hand held unit out there now.
- Quick adjust hold down clamp doesn't mar wood and holds tightly.

Bad Points:
- It would be more convienent to move a light hand held tool across a large
panel than to move a large panel across the stationary tool.
- You can't do a shelf-type T joint without removing the main table and winging
where the slot will cut (I suppose you could mark the vertical table with a
big cross and measure, but...).
- It costs a bit more than most hand-held units.
- To use the Lamello H-9 face frame blade, you'd have to make some minor
modifications to the unit (PC can't use the blade at all, Ryobi requires
adjustment to the cutting depth, Lamello's use it straight out of the box,
Elu requires the usual threading for cut depth adjustment).

As I get more experience with the tool, I'll post any additional findings,


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