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Ryobi 3.5-Amp Detail Biscuit Joiner ZRDBJ50

Ryobi 3.5-Amp Detail Biscuit Joiner ZRDBJ50

Detail biscuit joiner for precision woodworking and furniture making. The DBJ50 features a revolutionary design that redefines biscuit... Read More
Detail biscuit joiner for precision woodworking and furniture making. The DBJ50 features a revolutionary design that redefines biscuit joining. It uses new, ultra-small, 5/8-inch (R1), 3/4-inch (R2) and 1-inch (R3) Accu-biscuits, which provide strong joints where traditional biscuit joiners cant perform. The Accu-Clear precision fence provides greater accuracy for tight miter joints, while the 120-volt, 3.5-amp motor provides enough power for the most demanding jobs. The 3.12-pound joiner generates 19.000 RPM (no load) and uses a 6-tooth steel blade. An assortment of Accu-biscuits is provided. Limited quantities of this Factory Reconditioned tool with a one-year limited warranty are available. Minimize
Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars
3 Reviews from

By:   AggieBrett
Feb 9, 2002
Ryobi 3.5-Amp Detail Biscuit Joiner ZRDBJ50

SCADS of Words on Modern Man and the Politics of Power Tool Envy

Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars

Pros: SCADS of value and usefulness

Cons: SCADS of trouble finding replacement supplies

The Bottom Line: 
I like it. Read the review if you're genuinely curious as to WHY.

Author's Review

THE BACK STORY: The Author SCADfully confronts his own tool inadequacies

If you're a normal red-blooded American suburban male over the age of 25, then odds are you've seen Norm Abrams, host of the PBS show The New Yankee Workshop[see note #1]. Norm is an affable flannel-clad bear of a New Englander who comes on, points to and chats about some example of antique custom-made furniture, then happily proceeds to duplicate that piece of furniture in his shop over the course of a single 30-minute episode.

Of course, the real fun of any Abrams project is not in watching Norm's skill as a woodworker— which is considerable, to be sure— but in laughing at the obscene assemblage of special-purpose electric woodworking tools that Norm brings to bear on any (actually, "every") project. It doesn't matter a bit if the project is a Shaker-style pine armoire, a rustic harvest table fashioned from vintage chestnut, or a simple paperweight from a fist sized wad of sawdust and chewing gum, Norm seems congenitally unable to build anything without using at least $27,003 dollars of specialized equipment.[2] Watching this behavior stirs up strangely primitive feelings of power tool envy in the hearts of men watching at home. "Yeah, if only I had an industrial grade 18-inch power-planing station with dust collection system, custom-machined ogee detail milling heads, mudflaps, AM/FM/8-track stereo and a Naugahyde™ sleeper, THEN I could make that towel bar The Wife keeps mewling about."[3]

One of the funkier tools that Norm likes to bring out is his handy-dandy plate joiner, more commonly referred to as a "biscuit joiner" in reference to the small wooden "biscuits" integral to this particular wood-joining system.[4] The biscuit joiner allows the woodworker to join planks or plates of wood with strength comparable to traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery while enjoying the simplicity of screw or nail-secured joints. Of course, like so many of Norm's quasi-science fictional tools ("Next we'll drop the mahogany tree into our diesel-powered automatic chair-making device, and then our solid five-dimensional wood recliner will come out the other side, ready to be finished with a couple of coats of durable semi-gloss polyurethane..."), the biscuit joiner is not normally the sort of thing that most "civilians" have laying around their garage or workshop, but after watching Norm make perfect face-frame cabinets and glue up perfectly smooth tabletops from recycled bits of railroad tie, viewers at home likely will find themselves chomping at the suburban bit to rush off to Lowe's or Home Depot to get one of these waycool biscuit thingie doodads. For we are Men, and Men are judged by their Tools.[5]

THE PROCESS: The Author explains how and why to insert SCADS of tab A's into perfectly-matching SCADS of slot B's

In simple terms, a biscuit joiner operates like a small circular saw housed in a spring-loaded retractable housing. The joiner cuts a precisely located narrow slot of carefully determined depth, width, and length into one of the pieces to be joined, then cuts a precisely matching slot into the other piece to be joined, then slathers glue all over a small football-shaped wafer (the "biscuit") of beech wood, slips glue-slathered biscuit into one of the slots, and then joins the two pieces so that the biscuit mates into the matching slot on the other piece. The advantage of the system are obvious to anyone who has built custom cabinets using the traditional face-frame construction technique: biscuit joinery allow for precise alignment between the face (front) of the cabinet and the sides of the carcass, making for a very professional fit and finish coupled with surprising strength.

When I decided in a burst of Norm-induced handyman-itis that I could build my own cabinets for my workbench area in the garage, I immediately understood the usefulness of a biscuit joiner to such a project, so off I skipped gleefully to my local Lowe's home improvement warehouse. [6] There I immediately realized/remembered a few critical bits of information:

(1) those DELTA® and PORTER-CABLE® brands that Norm seems awash in cost more than the semi-disposable brands like Skil® and Black&Decker® tools that usually wind up in my collection, and a true "JLN" biscuit joiner would cost me upwards of two hundreds bucks. [7]

(2) if I spend more than one hundred dollars on something WITHOUT P.S.A. [8], I run the very real risk of being forced to bed down that evening on a park bench somewhere, snuggled under a layer of newspaper classified ads. [9]

It seemed my biscuit-joined reverie of Norm-ality would be SCADdered before the breeze, but then, just when I was almost ready to abandon the dream of biscuit joinery forever, I spotted something nestled on the back row of the display shelf for biscuit joiners: a small blue tool that looked almost like a two-thirds-size scale model of a biscuit joiner, with the RYOBI® name visible on the case and a price of $69.00 smiling at me— winking flirtaciously even, as if to say "Come on, sailor... your wife won't mind. LIVE a little, big boy!"

The next thing I know, I'm at home checking out my shiny new Ryobi® DBJ50 Detail Biscuit Joiner. [10]

THE TOOL: The Author discovers SCADS of value

The Ryobi® Detail Biscuit Joiner Model BDJ50 is a compact easy to manipulate tool roughly comparable is size, weight and maneuverability to s small electric jigsaw. According to Ryobi, the tool weighs only 3.625 pounds [11], making it light enough for easy one-handed manipulation and placement, a useful consideration when you are wrestling with aligning typically awkward face-frame components. Thanks to the compact size and light weight, the DBJ50 is much easier to hold and manipulate in comparison to other full-sized biscuit joiners.

Despite the light weight, the tool boasts 3.5 amps of power with a no load speed of 19,000 RPM, helping turn the cutting head with sufficient force that most typical cabinet construction materials (pine, poplar, MDF, pressboard laminate, etc) offer little resistance. Extra care should be taken when milling hardwoods such as oak or cherry, however, as the "smallness" 3.5 amp motor does become slightly noticeable when milling these and other hardwoods.

Of course, the tool is not intended to cut hard materials such stone or marble or metal, and care should be taken to make sure no nails or staples are in the area to be milled. Given the small size of the cutting blade and the need for smooth precise cuts, hitting a nail would almost surely damage the blade and thereby negatively impact the ability of this tool to perform its one unique and useful function. [12]

As mentioned, this Ryobi tool is markedly smaller— and more affordable— than any other biscuit joiner I saw. Whereas a "standard" joiner uses a small 4-inch cutter blade, the DBJ50 uses an almost toy-like 1.5-inch blade, which, when set to maximum depth and width, cuts a precisely machine 0.100" x 1.00" slot in the work material. This slot is smaller than the similar slots cut by traditional full-sized joiners, and therefore requires special smaller biscuits made expressly for the Ryobi DBJ50. [13]

The usefulness of any biscuit joiner derives from its ability to cut precisely located identically machined slots in pieces to be joined, and in real-world usage, the location and size of the required slots might vary from project to project. When using standard "1-inch" cabinet-grade stock for face frames, for example, I routinely mill the slots along the mid-line of the edge to be joined, but when joining pieces of other thicknesses, it can be necessary to mill the slots at a different "depth" or possibly even at an angle.

For this reason the DBJ50 has an adjustable plastic guide fence that allows the user to adjust the location of the slot being cut. The fence adjusts to allow for heights ranging from 0.00 to 0.75 inches, plus it can be set at a 45° angle to use biscuits as part of fully mitered corner joints (useful in building small boxes and curio frames). This adjustability gives the tool tremendous flexibility and usefulness for a variety of small to medium size projects, but it is worth pointing out that a full-sized joiner would definitely be preferred for any large pieces where the joined planks might be expected to carry any significant weight or load.

The depth of the slot can also be adjusted to suit the size of the stock being joined. Again, for most projects I use the largest of the Ryobi mini-biscuits, but it is handy to know that I could reduce the length and depth of the slots if ever I need to join truly small pieces.

Another thoughtful feature that I truly appreciate are the sight marks molded into the clear plastic guide fence. When aligning the piece to mill a slot, it is critrical that the two slots in the paired pieces to be joined both have their respective slots aligned perfectly. With both a center line and a diamond-shaped gunsight-like cutout window in the guide fence, it's very easy to line up the joiner with the layout lines you mark on project materials.

Yet one more thoughtful feature that I appeciate is the long power cord on the DBJ50. [14] Whereas some low-end power tools offer a cord that is barely long enough to reach from an extension cord on the floor to a workpiece, or, worse yet, just a short "pig tail" cord only a foot or so in length, from plug to cord guard the cord on this Ryobi measures a full ten feet. [15] This extra length is especially useful when you are working on a workbench with the workpieces clamped in a vise-- in most cases you won't need an additional extension cord that would just get in the way and create a stumbling hazard. A small matter, but one that does make the tool even more safe and user-friendly.

THE REPORT FROM THE FIELD: The Author finds The Tool useful in SCADS of projects

So far I've fabricated at least six different sets of custom cabinets using my DBJ50, and I continue to be thrilled with both its performaance and ease of use. The little Rybobi may be small in size but it's proven itself big in value, and I know for a fact that the finished quality of the projects in which I've used my DBJ50 is far beyond what I might have managed if I'd not had this tool. It helps create strong tight perfect edge- and butt-joints with almost no effort and no error. With a biscuit joiner and a palm sander, even the most casual or inexperienced woodworker can easily create perfectly smooth tightly-constructed face frame cabinets that rival the best custom-made work.

THE FINAL TALLY: The Author offers SCADS of "pros," and only a few quibbling "cons"

The Ryobi DBJ50 Detail Biscuit Joiner has pleased me tremendously throughout its career in my tool collection. It's definitely a special-purpose tool, a one trick pony, if you will, but that one trick— biscuit joinery— simply can't be done with any other tool nearly so easily or affordably. The Ryobi DBJ50 is compact yet powerful, makes dependably accurate cuts every time, and the small details like the well-thought out guide fence and extra-long power cord make the tool even more handy and easy to use. The only real complaints I might offer are:

1) Ryobi's decision to make the higher-grade carbide blade an after-purchase upgrade rather than a standard feature [16]
2) the greater difficulty in finding the non-traditional Ryobi Accu-Biscuits™ [17]

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Author announces that bigger isn't always better [18]

In my experience and estimation, the Ryobi DBJ50 does everything that a bigger more expensive biscuit joiner might do, and it does it at one-half the cost. It stores easily, sets up in seconds, and has (so far) worked flawlessly for me everytime I've used it for five years now. Overall, the DBJ50 has proven itself one of the best tool purchases I've made in a long long time. If I were using a biscuit joiner several times a day every day as part of my regular work, I'd probably opt for a sturdier more professional joiner from one of the high-end brand names, but for the weekend warrior DIY crowd or the occasional hobbyist, this little Ryobi has all the punch you are likely ever to need.

Even Norm Abrams would approve.


THE MUSIC: SCADS of assorted sounds enjoyed by The Author

During the preparation of this entry for Jim "29th_candidate" Scileppi's [19] scandalous SCADtastical and superSCADifragilisticexpiSCADidocious "SCADS Write-Off," my CD player entertained and distracted me with a random selection of disks from my collection. In the interest of full disclosure and maximum information, here is a complete listing (in chronological order) of every CD that played during the brainstorming, research, rough draft, first re-write, final draft, spellcheck, and censor-circumventing phases of the writing process:

• Shallow Hal (original motion picture soundtrack), various artists (2001, Island Records)
• West Textures, Robert Earl Keen (1989, Sugar Hill Records)
• Roxy Music: Street Life, Brian Ferry/Roxy Music (1989, Reprise/EG Records)
• BRAK presents: THE BRAK ALBUM (starring BRAK), BRAK (2000, Cartoon Network/Rhino Records)
• Keb' Mo', Keb' Mo' (1994, Sony Music Entertainment)
• Surfer Rosa, Pixies (1988, Elektra Entertainment)


THE INGREDIENTS: Things The Author found packaged with his Tool

When I purchased my Ryobi Detail Biscuit Joiner DBJ50, it included the following items:

• ONE (1) Ryobi Detail Biscuit Joiner DBJ50 (pre-assembled at the factory and ready-to-rock-n-roll straight ought of the box)

• ONE (1) small bag (approx. 100 total) Ryobi Accu-Biscuits™ in R1, R2, and R3 sizes

• ONE (1) copy of "Owner's Operating Manual for Ryobi Detail Biscuit Joiner DBJ50" (printed in English, French, and Spanish (but not Esperanto, Elvish, or Klingo), with 22 pages each per language for a grand total of 66 pages of tri-lingual chewing SCADisfaction

• ONE (1) single-page list of optional DBJ50 accesories, parts, and supplies

• ONE (1) wire-cored plastic-coated tying device, a.k.a. "Twisty Tie" (black, 6 inches in length) for use in bundling the power cord for storage


THE NOTES: The Author offers SCADS of semi-relevant supporting information, inane detail, and pointless asides


[2] Abram's tool-mania probably serves a useful therapuetic function for many American men, since they can compare their own impulse-purchasing addictions to Norm's and always come off looking like disciplined shoppers. "Hey-- i don't have a tool-buying problem. I don't own five routers and six different pneumatic nailers. That Norm guy is nuts!"

[3] with thanks and apologies to Terry Allen's "Truckload of Art," from LUBBOCK: on everything CD [a]
. . . [a] (1979, Fate Records) [i]
. . . . . .[i] reissued in 1995 by Sugar Hill Records

[4] despite the name, biscuit joiners do not actually join biscuits together, nor do they normally require the use actual baked biscuits in any capacity. [a]
. . .[a] though biscuit joiners do not actually use or need biscuits, you can of course enjoy SCADS of biscuits before, during, or after your biscuit joiner-ing. I don't wish to convey any sort of "anti-biscuit" attitude or stance in this info-logged review.

[5] This clichéd male adoration of tools and toys might explain why Batman™ has always struck me as far more manly and innately "Man-like" than the physically more powerful character of Superman™, for while Superman™ combats evil using super human non-Earthly abilities, Batman™ does basically the same duty using only one kick-butt workshop and an awesome set of tools, tapping into that Archimedean dream that, given a big enough lever and a place to stand, the entire world might be moved (or, in this case, saved from evil). Batman™ succeeds through the proper use of tools. Superman™ doesn't need tools, and for most men, any man who doesn't love tools is simply not as much of a man, ability to leap tall buildings nonwithstanding. Ergo, Batman™ es muy macho, grasshopper.

[6] I find it important to point out that, ignoring SCADS of ugly misconceptions for a moment or three, men *can* in fact "skip gleefully" in a manly beer-drinking way that should in no way detract from or cast doubt upon their manliness.

[7] JLN-- "Just Like Norm's"

[8] P.S.C.= "Prior Spousal Approval"

[9] I'm only half-joking. Don't even get me started with describing the horror show that ensued when I came home with an impulse purchased Zip Drive under my arm a few years ago....

[10] Curiously, Epinions lists the tool as the "ZRDBJ50" while Ryobi's own website has no reference to any such model number, listing their mini-biscuit joiner as the "DBJ50," the model I own.

[11] 1.65 kg

[12] the DBJ50 ships with a 6-tooth 1.5-inch steel blade pre-installed, but the documentation that came with my tool lists a harder longer-lasting carbide blade available as a replacement/upgrade via order from Ryobi. If/when I ever need to replace the blade, I'll likely "splurge" on the extra six bucks for the more durable carbide blade, for much the same reason that I always reach for MAXIMUM STRENGTH deodorant and TWO-PLY toilet paper— I'm a man who appreciates STRENGTH.

[13] Biscuits for plate joiners come in various standard sizes. "Traditional" full-sized joiners usually use either #0, #10, or #20 biscuits, with #0 being the largest, but the Ryobi DJ50 is unique in using smaller proprietary "Accu-Biscuits™" available in R1, R2, and R3 sizes. [a] In my experience with the DBJ50, I use the largest mini-biscuits (the 1" R3-sized biscuits) almost exclusively [b], though I'm sure the smaller biscuits DO have their uses [c]
. . .[a]Confounding and confusing the novice user, Ryobi's sizing scheme is inverted compared to standard biscuit-sizing practices, with the R3 being the largest of the mini-biscuits (1" long), and R2 and R1 being smaller (3/4" and 5/8" respectively). All Accu-Biscuits are .100" in thickness, significantly thinner than the "standard" biscuits intended for use with full-sized joiners. While at first blush this might seem to be irrelevant information, it is critical to understand the full implications of these smaller biscuits. In my experience, the Ryobi Accu-Biscuits™ are much more difficult to track down when you need more. Where any decent home-improvement store can be counted on to sell standard joiner biscuits, the smaller Ryobi "mini-biscuits" have been almost impossible for me to find except through mail order. This fact can become especially troublesome when you become involved in a project and realize halfway through that you are running short of biscuits. Instead of a quick run to Home Depot for a bag of biscuits, suddenly you're left to look online for a vendor stocking the Ryobi mini-biscuits, order them via credit card, then wait for delivery. Standard and mini-biscuits are not interchangeable. Word to the wise-- when you find a source of Accu-Biscuits, stock up!
. . . [b] I've seen a few critics of the Ryobi system grouse that the smaller mini-biscuits are not strong enough to get the job done, but this seems a tad disengenuous since even the larger "full-sized" biscuits see, fairly flimsy and inconsequential when you handle them. The simple fact of the matter is that, in biscuit-joinery, the biscuits are called upon more for alignment than for raw structural strength, so the tiny mini-biscuits work just fine for the vast majority of projects.
. . . [c] the smaller R1 and R2 sized biscuits would be useful for applications such as custom picture frames or perhaps dollhouse furniture where these almost-laughably tiny, Tylenol-sized biscuits are simply the only possible option for strong yet delicate joining needs.

[14] The DBJ50 uses a polarized plug, meaning that one of the two prongs on the plus is slightly wider than the other. The upside to this is that you don't have to worry about those annoying three-prong plugs and outlets (getting pretty technical here, huh?) but the downside is that you now have to worry about having an outlet or extension coard that accepts these grotesquely mutated polarized plug things. The Ryobi folks include a good-sized paragraph explaining the intricacies of the care, operation, and maintenance of this polarized plug, one of FORTY "Rules For Safe Operation" included in the slim yet SCADisfyingly complete Operating Manual, proving that the fine folks of Ryobi America Corporation [a] understand and abide by the very same basic info-shovelling principles driving this SCADS Write Off.
. . .[a] 5201 Pearman Dairy Road, Anderson SC 29625-8950

[15] 305 cm, measured from the plug to the 4-inch flexible rubber cord protector that keeps the cord from wearing through as it enters the tool housing

[16] Including the better carbide blade at the outset could not have added more than three or four dollars to the retail price, and when I consider that the Ryobi was lss than HALF the price of the next-lowest priced biscuit joiner available, I can say with certainty that the minimally higher price would have made ZERO difference to my buying decision

[17] during one project, I unexpectedly ran out of Accu-Biscuits™. Rather than put the entire project on hold for weeks as I awaited delivery of web-ordered replacements, I fabricated my own minibiscuits using a table saw and utility knife. These "homemade biscuits" worked well enough-- sort of-- but they were definitely not the recommended way to go. I'll say it one more time: STOCK UP ON SCADS OF THE MINI-BISCUITS WHEN YOU CAN FIND THEM.

[18] except in terms of review size, of course, where a review whose every nook and cranny crammed airtight with SCADS of useful details and relevant/related facts is clearly the MOST HELPFUL to the entire consumer buying-decision-making process

[19] Scileppi wouldn't know a fact if it came up and bit him square on his comma-spewing sub-referencing parenthetical backside, and I say this ONLY because:
a) it's TRUE
b) he mocked me on his newest profile page revision. Bastard.


THE EXPLANATION: The Author attempts to justify and contextualize what the hell just happened

This huffing puffing clanking clunking info-overloaded trainwreck of a review was served up as part of the "SCADS-Providers' Tribute to Consumerly Helpfulness" W/O, hosted by 29th_candidate and (apparently) feared tremendously by some statistically significant portion of the white-collar workforce of Brisbane, California. For those happy folks blissfully unaware of (or uninterested in) the neverending teacup-ensconced tempest that is, the SCADS Write-Off was conceived as a reaction to the increasingly common attitude that all works posted on should be judged not with any eye to artistic merit, but instead based solely upon the quantity of information that can be pumped— forcibly, if necessary— into a review. In such a view, "trivial" concerns such as grammar and spelling and style and passion and originality and adherence to professional and ethical standards all are cast aside and all faith is placed in the great god of Information, as if personal experience— "Life", if you will— might fairly be reduced to a simple recitation of lists. Features, Dimensions. Ingredients. Soulless data.

SCADS participants have attempted to demonstrate the potential absurdity that might possibly follow from such an attitude, penning reviews filled with bulging boxcars of facts and creaking carts of details, all the while adhering fastidiously to the sacred Epinions Terms of Service.

If, after this dip into the data pond, you still feel info-starved and wish to see a full list of SCADS participants/conspirators/perpetrators, then simply point your browser to, sparky, and peruse to your tiny black heart's content.

And have a SCADtastical day!


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