Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com


GMC BJ110 Biscuit Joiner

Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

Biscuit joinery is perhaps the quickest all-wood joinery method going around today. It can be used to help align joints and add a little strength (which seems to be somewhat debatable in woodworking circles). Regardless, many tool manufacturers now have a biscuit joining tool available in their product ranges. Today we will take a look at the newest model from GMC (Global Machinery Company) which sports a somewhat different look and design to conventional biscuit joining tools. The model is the BJ110, and is a relatively new release from GMC.

Packaging and Accessories
The BJ110 comes shipped in a molded plastic case. Whether or not you keep the case is your choice. I like molded plastic cases because they allow me to stack my tools fairly neatly on standard box-type shelves, plus it helps reduce loss of all the accessories that come with the tool.

Inside the case you will find the following:

  • BJ110 Biscuit Joiner
  • Instruction Manual
  • Dust Bag
  • Dust extraction adapter
  • Pin wrench
  • Hex key

The height setting fence does not come assembled. No problem there, we will look at that later. What I did find convenient is that the tool and accessories all nicely fit into the case. With some tools, you have to wrestle with the power cord and other accessories to get them into an exact position where the case will actually fully close. No such problem here. Just place it in, sit the cord and accessories under the BJ110's handle and it will close almost all the time first go.

Features and Use
Ok the first thing I did after unpacking the contents and before anything else was to remove the base plate on the BJ110 to expose the blade. The base plate is secured with four small screws. With the base plate removed on the underside of the machine, the blade is fully exposed and accessible. Using the pin wrench supplied, and securing the spindle with the spindle lock button on top of the unit I made sure the blade was indeed securely in place. You could imagine what havoc a loose blade could cause when you first power up the tool. It is extremely rare that you will find a tool like this with a loose blade out of the box, but it can happen, so safety first and check everything over before you start using the tool. I found the blade fully secured and ready for use in this case.

The BJ110 features a 6-tooth carbide blade with GMC markings. The teeth felt fairly sharp out of the box, but I am expecting to replace it with a higher quality blade in the near future. Despite this fact, we will see that the included blade does a nice job of cutting clean biscuit slots. Ensure the base plate is replaced and secured following that check.

If we move to the top of the machine, we come to the black plastic top handle. This handle is adjustable forward and back to a number of pre-set positions, so you can adjust it to a position that is comfortable for you to use. I like to keep it fairly upright. Often I don't even use the handle when cutting biscuit slots, but there are certain joints where I will. The handle is adjusted using the supplied hex key and is loosened/tightened via a hex screw on each side of the handle.

If we look at the main motor body of the unit now you can see that is takes on a somewhat unique shape over many common biscuit joiners on the market today. The designed somewhat tapers back to the rear of the machine culminating in a rubber over-mold grip handle which holds the main on/off trigger and trigger lock button. Seeing that many biscuit joiners on the market today are simply angle grinder bodies with a fence attached, the BJ110 handle looks exactly like a heavier industrial angle grinder body so that is perhaps where it has come from. The trigger itself has a rubber over-molded surface on the base adding an additional comfort factor and less finger slip during use. This narrower handle at the back of the unit is indeed well thought out (even if it is indeed from an angle grinder design initially) and a stand out feature of the BJ110. It is far easier to get a solid grip on the unit with your hand and fingers than it is to grasp a wider motor housing. Because I prefer to slide the biscuit joiner into a cut using the body of the tool instead of the handle in other models I have used, this design was a welcome addition to the unit for me. I can cut biscuit slots much more easily now and with greater comfort as a result, and with finer control. Admittedly, this design adds slightly to the overall length of the tool, but I can't think of any general-use situations in which this may cause a major problem.

Further toward the front of the motor housing is another rubber grip section that can be used if you like plunging the motor body from there. Then of course, you have the handle as well, again with a rubber grip surface. GMC has accommodated most user-techniques with the addition and placement of these rubber surfaces. Kudos for that!

Before we go any further, let me list some performance specs of the BJ110:

  • Motor - 1200W, Double Insulated
  • No Load Speed - 10,000 min-1
  • Depth of Cut - 8mm, 10.5mm, 12mm, 13.5mm
  • Biscuit Sizes Accommodated - #0, #10, #20
  • Bore Size - 22mm

The 1200W motor is certainly powerful enough for cutting any type of wood. I also have a Ryobi 800W unit and never had a problem cutting slots into even the most dense hardwoods. The extra 400W in this case may be useful in speeding up the cut on those hardwoods however, but I didn't really see a major difference in cutting during tests between the two. Perhaps the extra power has better application in continuous slot cutting... something which I don't do with this tool, but others may.

One downside of the larger motor seems to be the noise emission. While I don't have the equipment to actually measure noise levels available, there was a noticeable difference between the GMC BJ110 and the Ryobi 800W unit. The GMC is a fair bit noisier (as you would expect with a larger motor), although with earmuffs on, it's still not a major concern, so its only a minor point in my opinion. But you will need those earmuffs on for user comfort I suspect. Better keep those ears functioning well, you only get one pair after all.

You may notice that there are four depth of cut positions listed above, but only three biscuit sizes listed. The 13.5mm cut is a maximum depth of cut on the tool, and larger than that needed by the #20 biscuit. You might use this setting for cutting extended slots for splines, or a variety of other uses. The biscuit joiner can be used for many other purposes other than just cutting single biscuit slots. If interested you might like to check out our review of Anthony Bailey's Woodworking Techniques and Projects book which shows some useful projects and joints that can be made with a biscuit joiner.

Speaking of depth adjustment, the depth control knob is located on the left-hand base of the machine with markings of "0", "10", "20" and "M" (M meaning maximum depth). Naturally, you turn the knob to set the depth required in accordance with the size of biscuit you wish to use. Biscuit sizes are fairly standard and you can buy them from almost any manufacturer and they should fit. I use both Vermont brand and Ryobi brand biscuits as they are readily available locally, but any brand conforming to standard biscuit sizes should work equally well. Just be careful with setting the depth adjustment as the marker is actually at the bottom of the knob rather than at the top, so the 0, 10, 20 or M needs to be pointing down to the base to be the current depth selection. I got caught out on this first time - got to read those manuals religiously!
The knob features 4 detents with smooth switching between them.

What are biscuits? They are oval biscuit-shaped pieces of compressed wood (usually beech) that are designed to fit into the oval slot cut by the biscuit joiner blade. Once glue is applied to the biscuit/slot and the mating pieces are joined together, the biscuit expands in the joint and locks tightly to help prevent the joint pulling apart. Biscuits are a good aid in helping to align joined boards in a variety of configurations.

The main body of the biscuit joiner slides forward and back within the fence assembly to allow you to plunge the blade into the wood. A smooth plunge action makes the task of cutting biscuit slots much easier. It should be firm, not loose, but not so firm that it makes it difficult to plunge the machine. The BJ110 plunge action is relatively smooth. A bit smoother than my Ryobi machine, and similar to other quality units. There is the slightest side-to-side, and up-and-down play between the motor body and fence as it is plunged. This is not really a problem as cutting biscuit slots is somewhat forgiving anyway. It did not exhibit a problem with any of the joints we created using the machine, and a little play is necessary to allow free movement of the motor/base when plunging. You can apply a dry-lubricant to this area to assist the plunge movement, but don't apply any spray lube with ignition sources close by, or when the machine is in operation. I find a teflon based lubricant worked well. You could also use a silicon-based lubricant in this instance, but make sure none of the surfaces that come into contact with your workpieces are covered with the spray, or wipe them clear later. Also make sure the lubricant used does not attract dust.

Let's move onto the fence now...
It is of cast metal construction and looks quite solid. The adjustment and securing knobs are cast as well. Essentially, the fence provides both the angle and depth (top to bottom) of cut from a reference face of the workpiece you wish to cut a slot into. For a typical edge-to-edge joint using biscuits (i.e. joining two boards together on their edges to make a wider board) you line up the boards together in the configuration they should be when finished (match grain, colors as best as possible etc). With the two edges butted together, make a pencil line at 90 degrees to the edges, and across both boards simultaneously, and repeat this at regular intervals down the length of the proposed joint. Because you are marking both boards at each point, the reference point for each will be the same when separated. You then set up your biscuit joiner's additional height adjustment fence. It attaches to the angle-adjustable fence by means of a locking knob and half-dovetail type surface mount on the opposite side. You can then slide this part of the fence up and down to set how far from the top board face the biscuit cutting blade will enter into the edge of the wood. In general, you set this about half way between both faces, but may be closer to one edge if you wanted to rout a profile on the opposite edge, as an example, or if you were cutting multiple rows of biscuit slots. It would also be different for edge to face joinery, like adding solid wood facing to an exposed plywood edge. The depth adjustment scale ranges from 0mm to 35mm in 1mm increments. You do need to make sure both arrow markers on the fence itself line up to the same value on each scale to ensure the fence, and hence the slot cutter remains square to your workpiece.

One thing I noticed was absent on the BJ110 was a marker on the outer edges of the base showing the projected midline of the biscuit blade's cut horizontally. This is a feature of my Ryobi cutter and comes in handy for setting fence depth. While not essential, it is, nonetheless, a small time saver. You can of course mark this yourself with a permanent ink marker or etch it into the base for a more permanent mark. The BJ110 does indeed have a marker for the midline of the biscuit cut when looking down on the unit, i.e. vertically, as you would expect, and this is a vital marker for aligning the biscuit joiner with your marks on the wood.

You can adjust the angle/bevel-angle fence to any angle between 0 and 90 degrees in 1 degree increments. A small triangular marker shows the current setting. You can set the fence fairly accurately using this (perhaps to within 0.25 of a degree), at least as accurate as it needs to be for biscuit joining given its small allowable margins for error. A 45 degree mitre joint using biscuits would require you to set the fence to 45 degrees to cut the biscuit slots, as an example of when you would use a setting other than the 0 degree or 90 degree setting. One thing I did notice was necessary, was to set the bevel angle part of the fence first if you are also going to use the height adjustment fence as well. This is because when the height adjustment fence is added, it restricts the movement of the angle fence clamping knob so that it cannot be tightened up. So always set bevel angle first and secure, then add, adjust and tighten up the height adjustment fence.

On each side of the blade slot on the front part of the fence are anti-slip rubber grips. As their name suggests, they are designed to stop your workpiece slipping during the cut by adding extra friction between the fence and workpiece. They seem to work well in use and are certainly a welcome additional feature.

Dust Collection
On the right lateral side of the tool's base is the dust collection port. GMC include a dust collection bag in the kit and it attaches via a "keyed-friction fit" (no tools needed) The port is about 3/4" in diameter. GMC also include an attachment for use with a dust extraction system, and when connected provides a larger extraction port diameter of around 1 7/16". Naturally, this still reduces down to the 3/4" port on the base but does allow a vacuum with a stepped connector to be attached more easily.

So how effective was the dust collection?
I first used the BJ110 and cut some slots in merbau (a fairly dense hardwood) and Tasmanian oak. The dust bag seemed to catch the majority of the wood dust created. As a guesstimate, I'd say over 85%. This improved when connected to a dust extraction vacuum to well over 90%. There was little evidence of dust escaping from the front of the tool. When I was working with pine however, I came across a problem. Because the pine produced larger chips and shavings than the hardwood, it quickly clogged up the 3/4" diameter collection port at the base when using the tool with the dust bag fitted. As a result, dust collection capability was greatly reduced after about half a dozen slots cut in pine. Thinking it may have been just a rare occurrence I cleared the port and tried again. After about 10 slot cuts it happened again. Larger chips and debris just lodged and blocked the narrow extraction port. When I hooked it up to the dust extraction unit again there was no problems with cutting slots in pine as the vacuum provided the necessary suction to keep the chips and dust on the move. So, basically, if you are going to use your BJ110 on pine projects or perhaps with other types of softwoods that produce similar chip sizes and structure, you will want to hook the tool up to a dust extraction system to ensure the dust path is kept clear and unobstructed. I think it just comes down to the port size here, and perhaps there is not enough airflow to push the larger chips right through the narrow opening to the dust collection bag? Perhaps even just a slightly larger diameter, say 1", might have resolved that issue, but again, we had no problems with hardwoods in general. I wouldn't consider it a major fault as my Ryobi model also suffers from pine blockage on occasion with the dust bag fitted, just something to be weary of.

Conclusion
Overall, given that the price tag for this tool is very reasonable for the features it offers, and is competitive feature-wise with models costing two or three times as much, the BJ110 is certainly worth consideration. It's not the perfect biscuit joiner, but its price tag is not trying to create that illusion either. It comes with a 2 year home use warranty, and a 30-day money back satisfaction guarantee. Just return the tool to the place of purchase if you are not happy with it within 30 days, or if there is a warranty claim within 2 years of purchase. GMC are generally good with warranty and return claims.

I really like the handle design as it suits my technique of cutting biscuit slots and makes overall tool use more comfortable and effective. The tool seemed very stable in operation and I felt safe using it even in some awkward configurations, like cutting into a top face (setting the tool on a board face and plunging straight down), and even hand-holding the tool and workpiece to cut a slot in a mitred joint.

Adjustment features are simple to operate and all clamps seem to hold firm during use. We didn't really experience any problems with our joints that would make us think adjustments were slipping in use in any way. As long as you remember that the setting for slot depth is at the bottom of the selector knob, you shouldn't have any problem.

Pros

  • Powerful motor handles virtually any wood species.
  • Somewhat unique handle design on a biscuit joiner promotes comfort and ease of use.
  • Solid fence construction with no visible flex under strain.
  • Relatively smooth plunge action.
  • Good value for money.

Cons

  • When dust bag is attached to dust collection port, it seems to block up easily when cutting some softwoods. Use dust extraction vacuum wherever possible to alleviate the problem.
  • Motor seems fairly noisy, even given its larger rating. Ear muffs solve that problem however.

The GMC BJ110 would probably be my pick of the budget biscuit joiners currently on the market. For more information on GMC or their products, you can view the official website at www.gmcompany.com


 

GMC BJ110 Photos
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The BJ110 ships in a molded carry case with room for all accessories.


A somewhat unique design is a welcome change to the biscuit
joiner market.


The angle/bevel adjustment fence features a range from 9 to 90 degrees.


Slot depth selection knob.


Note the height adjustment scales on the front fence.


The height adjustment fence attached.


You can adjust the top handle to make things more comfortable.


The handle design seems unique to biscuit joiners, but is found fairly commonly on angle grinders.


The dust bag attached and vacuum attachment next to it. Dust collection is ok, but a little questionable with some softwoods.


The stock blade should be ok for a while but a better quality blade should replace it when it goes dull.


Cutting a biscuit slot.


A couple of #10 biscuits ready to be inserted into the slots.


If you have correctly marked and cut your biscuit slots, they will line up every time.


A biscuit joiner can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

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