Makita PJ7000 Plate Joiner Review
Great almost all the way aroundby Lorenz Prem
Makita's PJ7000 is Japan's entry in our series of plate joiner reviews. Besides being turquoise the PJ7000 looks like the other competitors so far. Let's take a closer look and figure out what the PJ7000 is all about.
The Makita PJ7000 Plate Joiner
The PJ7000 is a traditional plate joiner from Makita. It was designed to cut biscuits slots at an industrial pace in cabinet shops and other high-throughput environments. The PJ7000 follows the traditional design of marrying the motor housing and gearbox of a grinder with a purpose-built fence assembly. The blade emerges from the front face of the fence as the motor housing plunges into the fence assembly.
The PJ7000's 5.6 amp motor powers the blade through all wood species at the full 11,000 rpm specified on the spec sheet. Feed rates only suffer on the hardest of species. A lock-on switch on the left side of the motor housing turns the tool on. There is no variable speed feature. The blade always turns at full speed.
The fence assembly is made almost entirely out of cast aluminum. This gives the plate joiner the industrial durability it needs to perform in a cabinet shop. The plastic levers are the only exception to an otherwise diligently engineered fence assembly. Two small patches of rubber on the front face of the blade housing near the blade opening are meant to stabilize the fence on the work piece. They work well enough when to user is careful, but fail to challenge the metal claws and grit covered faces found on the competition.
A silver turret on the right side of the fence acts as the depth stop. Simply rotate the turret until it shows the biscuit type you want to cut a slot for, and the plunge depth is automatically set. A screw attached to the motor housing can be used to adjust the plunge depth in fine increments. The silver markings embossed on the silver turret are difficult to read in low light.
The PJ7000 is diligently designed plate joiner that keeps up with the pace in a professional cabinet shop.
The motor housing plunges into the fence assembly guided by two thick metal tubes. The guide bushings and tube mounts are all cast from aluminum, ensuring that the plunge mechanism maintains its tight tolerances over the life of the tool.
One strong negative of this tool is the fact that the top handle is attached to the motor housing, and not the fence assembly. With both hands on the motor housing there is no hand free to stabilize the fence assembly on the work piece during a plunge. With care or one hand on the fence itself, this design can still be made to work, but it does not feel as stable during a plunge as Porter Cable's design.
Blade changes take very little time on the PJ7000. Loosening a thumb screw is all it takes to open the blade housing. The bottom plate swings out of the way and gives full access to the blade. A large spindle lock button on the top of the gear housing secures the arbor while the blade is removed with the help of the included blade wrench. The competition is still using screws to secure the bottom plate.
The Horizontal Fence
The adjustable horizontal fence is held in place with a lever. It moves up and down guided by a dovetail track on each side of the fence. A knob connected to a rack and pinion functions as the fine adjustment mechanism. A depth scale built into one side of the fence produces accurate distance measurements from the fence to the top of the blade.
The fence squares itself up when tightened down, but its accuracy gradually decreases with distance as the contact surface between the fence and dovetail guides gets smaller. At depths below 3/4" the fence self-aligns perfectly. Care must be taken not to bump the fence out of alignment when closing the lever at depths up to 1-1/4". With care the fence's range can be extended to almost 2", but the fence needs to be aligned manually with a machinist square. Regardless of the depth, the lock lever secures the fence in all positions without the possibility of the setup changing during use.
The adjustable horizontal fence can be removed and replaced with a plastic, no-mar plate. With the fence tilted all the way forward to the horizontal position, this setup produces biscuits slots at a constant 3/8" below the surface of the work piece. This depth is ideal when working with 3/4" stock. Running the plate joiner in this configuration does away with the variability of the adjustable fence and tightens up tolerances to near perfect levels. Removing the plastic plate moves the biscuit slot to 1/2" below the surface at the price of losing the scratch protection the plate offers.
As a whole the fence system works flawlessly at depths shallower than 1/2". This plate joiner can be depended on to cut perfect slots at these depths without the user having to put any thought into it. When making cuts futher from the edge, the user has to think a little to get the tool ready for the cut.
The Angle Adjustment Mechanism
The fence tilts forward along a sturdy, all-metal hinge just above the front face. A bracket, which is part of the same casting that forms the fence itself, acts as angle adjustment stop. A plastic lever secures the fence at all angles. Once tightened down the fence will not move during use.
The scale printed on the side of the bracket is difficult to read. The tick mark is too wide and positioned too far away form the scale itself. The best you can do is get within +/- 1 degree of where you want the fence to be. Fortunately there is a 45 degree stop, which positions the fence perfectly at this common angle.
Like all plate joiners the PJ7000 collects virtually all dust. The case around the blade funnels the dust directly to the dust port in the rear of the tool. The port rotates a full 360 degrees in its mount. A tight fit ensures the port supports the weight of the dust bug or a hose without shifting.
The included dust bag is an option when you are cutting a few biscuit slots, but becomes tiresome to use on long projects. The bag's cleanout opening is opened and closed using a plastic crimp bar instead of a zipper, which can be hard to open once dust finds its way between the teeth. The bar's lose fit causes it move around and partially open during use.
On long projects connecting the plate joiner to an external dust collector is the way to go. This not only speeds up the pace, but also eliminates clogs in the tool's dust port that tend to happen when dust bag nears its capacity.
The challenge when using the PJ7000 to cut biscuit slots is to hold the fence assembly steady while making a cut. When the piece is secured in a vice, it is very easy to keep the fence assembly plumb and level using only the pressure exerted by the motor housing. Cutting dozens of slots with both hands on the grips without producing errors is very easy to do.
Problems arise when anything is out of the ordinary. In those situations it is vital that the fence does not move during the cut. I find that placing my left hand on the fence and holding it down while plunging with the right hand produces the most consistent results. While there is no handle on the fence for my hand to hold on to, there are still plenty of places to comfortably and safely do so. Working this way all the time does not cause any issues for me.
The cut itself is as uneventful as is it should be. The motor chews through the wood about as fast as the plate joiner can execute its plunge. Dust collection is excellent, especially with a dust collector attached. The lock-on power button makes batch cuts flow very fluidly.
With the adjustable fence removed setup is a snap. Operator error is not going to get you, if you run the PJ7000 in this configuration. Some seldom used cuts can be tricky to set up correctly, but it is obvious when the plate joiner is ready to make the cut.
The kit comes with a vacuum formed, hard plastic case. A tight fit secures the plate joiner inside without the possibility of it shifting during transportation. The thick walls keep the tool safe from even heavy abuse. While technically not water proof, the case will keep out light rain for a while. Just don't leave it exposed to heavy or wind-driven rain.
The accessories compartment is isolated from the rest of the case by a plastic door, a feature not commonly found on tool cases. The compartment is the ideal place to store small things without having to worry about losing them or having them damage other things in the case.
The PJ7000 is a capable plate joiner that will perform in any shop. It can be set up up for common cuts with ease, and produces perfect results with very little care. Deep and angled cuts take more time to set up, but the PJ7000 will still get the job done. The innovative toolless blade cover and useful case add value to what otherwise is a standard, but diligently designed and well built plate joiner.
The fact that the PJ7000 lacks a handle on the fence stands alone as a strong negative. If you do not mind this limitation and like the Makita brand, the PJ7000 is an excellent plate joiner. Only high volume users will notice the difference between the PJ7000 and the best plate joiner on the market.
- cuts precise slots at production speeds
- can be used without the adjustable horizontal fence
- very fast and convenient blade changes
- cast aluminum fence assembly
- large spindle lock button
- accurate, but hard to read depth and angle scale
- 45 degree stop
- plunge depth can be adjusted
- very good dust collection with a shop vac
- lock-on power switch
- motor brushes are easy to access
- long power cord
- sturdy plastic case with a separate compartment for accessories
- forward handle is attached to the motor housing and not the fence assembly
- biscuit type selector hard to read in low light
- horizontal fence goes out of square above 1-1/2", but can still be made to work
- the plastic bar that holds the dust bag closed comes lose easily
- anti-theft device on the power cord