Biscuit Joiner:

-- info adapted from foster's manual and other sources -- more to come

Biscuit joinery traces back to 1956. Hermann Steiner, a Swiss cabinetmaker, opened a cabinet shop in 1944. In the middle of the 50’s, after chipboard was introduced to the market, began looking for a simple means of joining the recently introduced chipboard. The upshot: nted almost by accident, Steiner invented the now world-famous Lamello Joining System. Steiner started manufacturing wood-joining plates under the brand name Lamello. (For more history and image of Steiner, click here. Lamello  derives from the German word Lamelle, which translates to "thin plate.") 

biscuit joiner diagram

Primarily used in joining sheet goods such as plywood, particle board and medium-density fibreboard, biscuits are also widely used with solid wood, replacing mortise and tenon joints as they are easier to make and almost as strong. They are also used to align pieces of wood when joined edge-to-edge in making wider panels.

(Recently -- ca 2006 --  the German firm, Festool, manufacturer of upscale, high-quality woodworking tools, introduduce a product it calls Domino. Pricey, the Domino marries the biccuit joiner's adaptation of mortise and tenon joint making to the more traditonal mortise and tenon operation -- used in most cases with horizontal mortisers -- that incorporates the "floating tenon" concept.)

Mode of operating biscuit joiners: (I have some images of my own to add here)

Both of the faces of the machine have reference marks on the center line of the blade for easy alignment to setting out marks on the material being joined.

The body of the machine with the blade is spring loaded -- in the normal position the blade sits in the retracted mode. In operating a biscuit joiner, the tool is aligned with the reference marks and, to make the cut -- using  a firm pressure -- pushes the biscuit joiner against the base plate. 

Because the slots are longer than the biscuits, it is still possible to slide the panels sideways after the joint is assembled.(Before the glue sets). This fact makes the biscuit joiner easy to use, because it does not require extreme accuracy or jigs to achieve perfect joints.

The depth of the cut can be altered by an adjustable stop, the smaller base can be rotated through 90 degrees. and accessories are provided for altering the offset of the base to the blade.

In 1969, the privately-owned company changed to Steiner-Lamello Ltd.

lamello top 1977

The 1970s saw much activity by Steiner-Lamello, including in 1973, a second production plant. Most significant, in 1977, the Lamello Top, image on left.

(Original image copyrighted by American Woodworker, used with permission.)

The Lamello clamping system -- complete  with clamps, tension hooks, and corner profiles -- was added in 1980.

In 1982, the Spanish firm Virutex began fabricating the 0-81 joiner, a high-quality fixed-angle joiner for about half the price of the Lamello Top. In 1983, Steiner responded to the Virutex 0-81 came the following year with the Lamello Junior.

In the latter half of the 1980s, innovations on biscuit joiners included: on the Lamello Junior, a combination right angle/mitre plate replaced the right-angle-only plate; to ease blade-changing, a spindle lock was added to the Lamello Top . Freud introduced a low-cost joiner, the JS-100. In mid-1988, Porter-Cable introduced a joiner driven by a belt rather than by helical gears. 

Sources: Ernie Conover, "The Answer [on "plate" or "biscuit" joinery], American Woodworker 2, no 3 Fall 1986, pages 5+; Hugh Foster, Biscuit Joiner Handbook New York: Sterling Publishing Co, 1989