Pros: Price, Durable, Quality Cut, Capable
Cons: Unrefined, Noisy, Dust Collection, Ergonomics
I purchased my Freud in '96 because I needed a biscuit jointer for a particular job. At the time it was being discounted, and I just didn't have the cash to buy the top rated DeWalt(Elu) and Makita machines of the time. A Lamello was definately not affordable to me at the time, as I was just starting up my business.
The Freud was $100, while the Makita & Dewalt were $300. The industry standard Lamello was a whopping $800! I'd never owned a biscuit joiner before, but the Freud appeared it could get the job done. I would make-do with the Freud until I could afford a better one.
Even after 10 years, I'm still using it, waiting for it to die. The bearings are clearly good quality, and the blade (still on the original, but has been re-sharpened several times) is doing a fine job.
Every time I use it, I secretly wish it would self-destruct. It gets the job done, but isn't easy or enjoyable to use. It's like watching TV without a remote control.
The Freud was designed to be durable and also satisfy a certain price-point. What a shame that Freud won't make a luxury edition of this unit.
The good stuff:
-Inexpensive to buy. This item will often go on-sale as a door-crasher for considerably less than retail.
-Aluminum parts are accurately machined. They appear CNC milled on an assembly line. I don't think they get much handwork done to them (rounding rough edges or rubbing etc). The amount of milling and finishing work appears to be the bare minimum to get the job done. The play and slop in the sliding mechanism is acceptable. No worse or better than the higher priced machines. My Freud was made in Spain, a country noted for making excellent milling machines.
-Well made carbide blade, with safety kickback fingers. When sharp, this blade won't blow out wood fibres. In resinous wood, it needs to be kept clean to accurately mill the right thickness biscuit slot.
-Enough power for hardwoods & softwoods. No complaints here. The motor is efficient enough to convert those amps into useable power.
-A case, some free biscuits (mine came with about 100!), and a dust bag. Even oil for lubricating the slide mechanism is included.
-Fully adjustable fence, for angle and height. Machined flat enough for the task at hand.
-Easy to set depth stop (although all the units on the market are easy).
What Needs Improvement:
-To be fair to Freud, what can you really expect at this price point? Addressing everything I mention would probably add another $200 to the price tag. So I've learned to live with the Freud, warts & all.
-Noisy gearbox. There's nothing wrong with mine, except that it appears Freud have used straight cut gears versus helical ones (like the Makita, Lamello, Porter Cable). Does this affect quality of cut ? No. Does this affect longevity ? Probably not. It just makes for a clackity noisy gearbox that sounds unrefined. Sorta like driving a manual transmission car that doesn't have syncromesh.
-Fence height adjustment is simple, holds a setting well, but is just plain inconvienent. Every one else has adopted a rack & pinion style height adjustment. The Freud fence is just a clamp attaching to itself. Yes, it works and is accurate enough. But adjustment is tedious and frustrating. Practice helps, but you're always wishing it was easier.
-The dust collection system is an afterthought. If you use the bag, expect chips to get caught in the exit orifice and plug it. The bag also fills up fast. On the jobsite I never use the bag as it also gets in the way (like when joining trim in a corner). Freud just included the bag to make their joiner look competitive. Live with the chips. Allowing the chips to freely escape seems to make a better cut.
-Ergonomics are minimal. The switch does not feel tactile, and the handle is made from that cheap feeling slippery plastic. I haven't had any reliability problems, but they just don't feel as nice as I'd like. I liken it to driving a car with a thin plastic steering wheel versus a thick luxurious leather wrapped one.
The Freud is the ultimate "no-frills" joiner. It can do everything that the competition can, but it seriously lacks refinement.
If you need a biscuit joiner at a rock bottom price, then the Freud is probably the best choice out there. Make sure you don't pay more than $100 though.
The Freud is like that rude & crude roomate, that always pays his rent on time, but you wish would just move on.