The FAQ started out to be a storage point for information on the Porter Cable 557 Plate Jointer. Various issues have come up on the rec.woodworking news group regarding this tool. This FAQ is a summary of the problems and resolutions that have been found. If you would like to real all of the posts regarding these issues, go to www.deja.com and do a power search for all "rec.woodworking" messages with the subject line containing "557". If you have any information that you think should be added to this FAQ, please drop me a message and I'll be glad to do it.
Even though this page is about problems in the 557, the author wants to stress that in his opinion it is the best value available today for a plate jointer. It has more features per dollar and any of the other unit! The author has a 557 Type 2 and would not trade it for any other brand.
Part of why this FAQ exists is so that people with 557 can find out some of the common answers to some problems with the product.
Slot is too wide
Dust collector bag fits loose
No Know Problems!!!
Note: The FAQ has not been updated since the release of the Type 3. It appears that if your tag says Type 3 then the fence is fixed!
How do I know which model I have?
The Type of your unit is listed on the serial number tag. It should say either Type 1 or Type 2. There are reports of some Type 1 units not listing their type on the serial number tag. The best rule of thumb is if it says Type 2, then it is. If it doesn't then it's a Type 1.
There is another easy way to determine whether the unit is a type 1 or type 2. The Type 1 flange and blade mount is removable with a spanner type wrench. The type 2 blade mount and flange is removable with an allen wrench.
I'm buying a new unit, how do I make sure I get a Type 1 or 2?
The Type is shown on the outside of the box. On the end of the box is a while sticker that has the unit's serial number. It also lists if it's a Type 2 machine. The author has heard of Type 1 units say so on this sticker and also ones that do not, so it should be assumed that if it doesn't say Type 2, then it's probably a Type 1.
What is the problem?
Slots cut with older Type I units are too thick and the biscuits fit too loose in the holes. It has been reported that when cutting into hard wood, the slot height should be between 0.160 and 0.165. If the height is larger then the unit probably has this problem. Be careful in making this measurement. Make sure you are holding the tool securely so that operator error is not induced into the measurement. Hank Metz has put together a good page on measuring jointer slot size. You can reach his page here.
The problem has been identified as a faulty blade retaining flange against the blade. Porter Cable has reported that if you have the problem in a Type I unit then the new
How do I identify the two different flanges?
One user reported that the new flanges measures 0.4315" and the old one 0.4360".
Where do I call to get the fix?
800.487.8665 - Customer Service
Some people have report better service by contact specific people rather than the generic customer service line.
800.368.1487 x9372 - Terry Stockwell.
Who should I not call?
People have reported problems with the Authorized Service Centers. They appear to not know about the problem or to know the difference between good and bad flanges. Multiple people have reported getting replacement flanges that were exactly the same as their original Type I flange. It appears that Porter Cable is not disseminating the information on this problem. The author check his local Factory Service Center in Queens NY and they said they were not aware of a problem and didn't know the difference between a Type I and Type II unit.
People have also reported that personnel in Porter Cables trade show booth and a regional rep have denied there was any problem. It is suspected that they either weren't told or didn't know what they were talking about. At least one group member has volunteered that they have a defective flange that they would like to send to the next PC employee that denies the problem.
What is the Problem?
This problem appears to be only on very early Type 1 units.
Users have reported the dust collection bag is too loose and comes off the unit during operation.
What is the Solution?
Porter Cable has told user that the solution is to use duct tape to build up the diameter of the exhaust tube to create a tighter fit with the bag.
What is the Problem?
A couple of users have reported a problem in Type 2 units with the fence alignment. The problem was described by one user as:
The "problem" is the face of the Fence assembly is proud of the jointer face by about a 1/16 or so . By Jointer face I refer to the area where the "gripping" surface is. In other words, my plate jointer does not contact the work piece on the area intended to by design, it appears.
This becomes a problem when you are cutting slots in the face of a board and the fence is set for 0 degrees.
What is the Solution?
The author has a Type 2 unit that has this problem. His work around solution is to make sure the height adjustment is set at the minimum setting the fence as low as possible. This eliminates any possibility of the unit rocking. This method does change the depth of the cut slightly and that has been a problem for some people.
Tony Allison made this recommendation:
Nice webpage on the PC 557! I got mine for Christmas, really haven't used it. However, I have noticed a couple of posts stating gripes, so I went out and checked mine. Low and behold, the fence does stick out more than the face of the cutter slot. After taking off the fence to see if redrilling and tapping would work, I came to the conclusion that this would not work. Short of getting a fence assembly off the first type 1's, here's my solution.
My solution is to get a piece of 1/16" thick metal and either have it milled to shape or do it myself with a Dremel tool. Remove the sandpaper. Epoxy the newly made spacer to the face. I think welding might warp the castings. Reapply sandpaper. Readjust the fine adjustment so that the depth of cut is correct.
This should bring the face up flush with the fence when it is at 0 degrees (upright position). Since the fence doesn't have anything to do with the depth of cut at any time, the problem should be solved. The only reason the fence is a problem is due to the patent infringement and PC having to leave the 1/16" gap. Otherwise the fence is only for cut support.
I haven't checked the slot cut yet, but I'm heading to do that right now. Hopefully I haven't insulted you in any way. I realize I'm obviously not the first person to notice the problems. I didn't see my solution on your page so I don't know if it has been brought up before. As I said I haven't done this yet, but I haven't had the need to do it at this point. I will find out what the castings are made of and try to find the same metal for the shim, just to keep corrosion at bay. Thanks for the info, it's very helpful.
Ron Rousseau made this recommendation:
You have a great site and I'm glad to see you have taken the time and effort to address this issue. The 557 is a great machine and with a little effort and ingenuity you can make it even better. I have a PC 557 type 1 biscuit jointer that I bought earlier this year. Even though mine says it's a type 1 on the serial tag it has the type 2 fence. This is what I did to fix the problem.
I simply removed the sandpaper surface from the machine and built up the recessed face with some automotive RTV gasket sealant. Make sure you use the type of RTV that does not smell like vinegar as it can react with the aluminum. Spread the RTV on the face of the unit and place the unit face side down on a flat, greased surface. If you want the front to stick out slightly put a shim under the fence ( you can use some cardboard from a cereal box or several sheets of paper ). Let this cure for a day and trim the excess RTV from around the opening and edges with a razor blade and you're done. This solution works great and won't mar the surface like the sandpaper can. Since the RTV has some resiliency it also absorbs the energy when the machine is first turned on. If for some reason it does not come out as intended just peel off the RTV with a razor blade and start again or use one of the other methods to fix the problem.
Owen Lowe has come up with an inexpensive packaged shim solution that is easy to implement. The picture to the right show you what one looks like before you attach it to your machine. You can find it at his web site at http://www.easystreet.com/~onlnlowe/fbncc/fbncc_frame.html.
Larry Rogers offered this solution on rec.woodworking:
Yes there is a solution. I'm not the first to post this but I've lost the name of the original poster. Thanks to him for pioneering this really easy procedure.
I made the modifications and am delighted with the results. You will have to grind on your machine to correct the problem but it is not hard. If you don't feel comfortable with this than I can't think of another solution other than replacing the machine with a DeWalt or Lamello.
1. Measure how far off your fence is, the distance from the face of the fence to the sandpaper. That's how much you'll need to grind.
2. Note from the top that the fence rides on two posts and is lifted up and down these posts by the adjusting knob on top. Note that the posts are held in by 4 screws (2 each) from the back. See where the posts fit in a semi-circular groove in the face-frame (my nomenclature). It is these grooves that will have to be ground deeper by the depth you measured in step 1.
3. Disassemble the fence -- it's easiest to remove the face-frame and fence as a unit from the base and motor. Raise the fence to it's highest and note two screws that attach the fence and frame to the base. Remove them. I also removed the D-handle from the top to give me better access.
4. Remove the 4 post screws and the posts fall out. Remove the clip on the bottom of the fence lifting the screw and remove the knob and screw. The fence and face-frame should now be seperated.
5. Grind out the grooves the proper depth. I used a Dremel tool. The face is cast-aluminum and is easy to grind. Test fit the posts until you are satisfied.
6. Reassemble and enjoy.
A recent post to rec.woodworking told us this:
Here is the information I can pass on to you and the group. I original had a type 1 that cut the slots to big so instead of waiting for Porter Cable to send me a new flange (Which knowing what I know now I should have done) I returned it to the place of purchase for a type 2 now after receiving the type 2 I notice that the fence is set back at least 1/16". I decide to call Porter Cable and explain the problem and low a behold the PC technician say well according to spec that is how it should be so not being happy with that I questioned him further by asking well what is the skid plate there for and he says according to the PATENT the 1/16" gap between the fence is the spec. Well after talking to him further I told him I could get a type 1 and his comment was get it, so after going to store a getting the type 1. I get it home only to fine out the type 1 also has the same fence problem after finding this out I am really pissed now so I call the PC technician back and he explains that only the early type 1 had the fence flush and that according to the PATENT the fence on the new ones is the spec. Well all I can say is that all the problems with the PC557 is the simple fact that Porter Cable has in some way with the original PC557 type 1 violated a PATENT so my fix was to go to the local store where I purchase it and talk the manager into letting me swap the Fence Support (REF# 141) with the display unit see how it was and older type 1 unit so what I have is a type 2 with the correct Fence Support and fixed flange problem. The bottom line with the fence problem is that Porter Cable does not mill the fence support deep enough where the guide rods (REF# 144) mount to it that is why you have a gap on the fence the original type 1 Fence Support was milled deep enough. Hope this helps you all out I personal have really lost respect for Porter Cable tools and the way they do business I think they should just remove the PC557 off the shelf's or work out a way with the PATENT holder to allow the to manufacture the units correctly. If any one has a way to find out who holds the PATENT I would like to know (DeWalt / Lamello)?
The author and others have brought this issue up to PC many times. As a general reaction, they stone wall that their isn't a problem. It is rumored that Fred in PC's tech support, 800.321.9443, has verified that there is an
(The author has since gotten in touch with Fred, who said that there is not any written procedure for flush cutting, beyond the manual with the product. He said that their marketing department has been notified of the problem and have been requested to document the solution. Fred also stated that the Type 1 to Type 2 modifications where made to avoid the patent infringement. This is the first time that the author has heard this directly from a PC employee.)
In a rare moment of candor, Matt Popik, Vice President Engineering, for Porter Cable, agreed with the author that the PC557 Type 2 was a stupid engineering design. He also stated his official position as;
"Your e-mail to Jack Garlock regarding problems with our Model 557 Type 2 Plate Joiner has been sent to me for response. The changes to the Type 2 were made to accommodate certain manufacturing requirements. The changes resulted in a very small step in the front face. A straight cut can still be made with the fence set at 0 degrees with careful technique, but if the tool is not acceptable to you, I would be happy to arrange for a refund. We are sorry that you had a problem with the Plate Joiner."
It would have to be assumed that anyone with this problem, meaning everyone with a Type 2 could take Matt up on his offer. Me personally, I'll live with the problem because I haven't seen an overall package that is better. IMHO the PC557 is still better than the Dewalt, and I don't have the big dollars for a Lamello.
Raoul Laurent offered on rec.woodworking:
I located an online copy of the PC557 patent a while back and due to the recent interest thought I would share it with the group.
To quasi-quote (part numbers omitted) a few pertinent passages: "Front fence includes a planar face, which, at a fence angle of 0deg, is COPLANAR, with contact surface". "...contact surface includes abrasive, which provides stability of the surface against the work piece". "the distance from the top face of the work piece to the cutter remains constant as the front fence angle is adjusted." Exactly how this patent infringed on Dewalt's is a good question. How this was resolved by moving the fence so that is not coplanar with the contact surface is another one.
The patent can be found at the following address. The first page is a summary of the patent. If you select view images, the actual patent, # 5,865,230, dated Feb. 2, 1999 can be viewed. The figures begin on 3/38 and the main text begins on 31/38.
Dewalt's press release announcing the court decision to uphold their patent against Porter Cable can be viewed at http://www.dewalt.com/us/articles/press_release.asp?ID=29.
Ryobi's patent can be viewed at http://www.patents.ibm.com/cgi-bin/viewpat.cmd/US04971122__
Mike Simpson as an interesting review of both the PC 557 and the Lamello C2 Classic on his web site. You can check them out at these links: