At some point in your woodworking career, you’ll want a tool to assist in hiding joints from sight. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with having joints appear on the corners of your work, but internal joints hiding between connected boards makes it much more beautiful. One of the most reliable tools to do this is a biscuit joiner, also known as a plate joiner.
The 557 Plate Joiner from PORTER-CABLE has been a fan-favorite for quite some time. It’s found its way in both DIY and professional workshops for its accuracy, ease of use, and extreme portability. Let’s see what makes the 557 the must-have tool for dig out biscuit joints.
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The motor plays an important role in determining how well a plate joiner will dig deep grooves for biscuits. The 557 is equipped with a heavy-duty 7-amp motor for creating joints. This motor size carves cleanly through softwood like a hot knife through butter, and it works fairly easily through hardwoods as well. The motor also delivers a spin rate of up to 10,000 RPM, so you know you’re getting the cleanest joint possible.
The fences of typical plate joiners tilt from 0 to 90°, but the 557 takes it further by extending its tilt to up to 135°. The extra tilt increases versatility and comfort when digging out joints for mitered joints. The fence has a positive stop at 90° since most of your boards will be connected perpendicularly to one another. Adjusting the fence is simple thanks to the rack and pinion system. It makes tilting the fence and fence and locking it at the correct angle a breeze, unlike certain models that require tedious tampering with.
The PORTER-CABLE 557 can support almost every type of biscuit. It can do #FF, #0, #6, #10, and #20. This However, it’s not fit for dominos or dowels so you’ll have to look elsewhere to produce these mortises.
Plate joiners are well known for producing a heck of a lot of sawdust. It’s no surprise seeing as how the tool needs to dig out deep mortises, removing a ton of material in the process. The PORTER-CABLE 557 comes with a 1-inch dust port and a dust bag. The included bag fills up rather quickly and needs constant emptying which can be a pain over time. If you have a shop vac, get an adapter for this tool to connect it to the vac’s suction hose.
This tool uses 2- and 4-inch blades. Each blade is used for specific biscuit sizes based on what you need. This means that you’ll need to switch blades if you want to make a mortise for #10 and #20 biscuits.
Unfortunately, swapping out blades is a lot harder than it sounds in this tool. First, you need to detach four Philips head screws using a screwdriver (not included in the kit) from the bottom cover. This will give you access to the blade, but you then need to take an Allen wrench (included) to remove the arbor bolt.
Setting and Making Cuts
Operating this plane joiner is a breeze. The two components that need to be set up are the blade depending on how large/small a biscuit you want to use and the fence. The fence tilts up to 135° and locks into position with a set screw. After both of these are ready, position the tool so that the fence and face of the tool make contact with your workpiece and push the tool forward. The cutting process takes 2 seconds.
This kit includes a wide range of accessories to make use of the 557 straight out of the box.
First, you get a chip deflector that prevents dust and debris from flying at your face while cutting biscuit joints.
Next is a plastic center plate which attaches to the movable plate. The plastic isn’t that transparent and can cause difficulties in aligning the tool to where you want to cut the joint.
You also get a 4-inch blade to get straight to work. Even though this tool needs a 2-inch blade for certain biscuit sizes, the kit doesn’t come with one, so you’ll need to purchase it separately.
This kit also comes with a high-quality, extra-durable plastic carrying case for easy transport and storage. The case is large enough to house the tool even with the plastic plate attached.
Overall, the PORTER-CABLE 557 Plate Joiner is an awesome tool for digging out biscuit mortises. It delivers more than enough power and speed for professional, production-oriented use, but if need to switch between blades, the time it takes to swap blades could be a turn-off. The attachable plastic fence isn’t too great either, but this tool’s performance overshadows any of its shortcomings. If you work calls for making biscuit joints, this is the tool to get.