I’ve owned some form of biscuit joiner for over 30 years. I recall the first job I needed it for, a book-matched teak wall panel for the library of a boating enthusiast. I still remember taking the client to a specialty lumberyard to pick out the panels. With 20 sheets of 4x8 teak lined up against the lumber racks to choose from, my client had the poor yard man moving them around like playing cards as he matched up each panel’s grain patterns.
The assembly on that job required me to install the 4x8 panels vertically and stitch them seamlessly together on the wall. Using a biscuit joiner was the only way to align the panel faces, and both the homeowner and I were very happy with the results.
Fast forward some years to the Domino, Festool’s mortise-and-tenon joiner, which works similarly to a biscuit joiner. This was a great advancement in technology, and I’ve used my Domino to build countless projects.
Then last year, I discovered the Lamello Zeta P2, the great-great-grandchild of the original biscuit joiner, which was invented by a Swiss engineer and amateur cabinetmaker named Herman Steiner in 1956. In 1968, Steiner built the first portable biscuit joiner, called the Lamello, and variants of this design are now manufactured by many tool companies.
The new Lamello—the Zeta P2—is a biscuit joiner on steroids. What makes it so special is its ability to oscillate and cut a kerf at the end of the plunge cut. This kerf allows the user to slide in half of a mechanical “biscuit” made of plastic in one of several configurations. When you join the two mating sides of a P-System biscuit together, you get alignment and a built-in clamp as well.
This tool is a game changer because the P-System connectors allow for the temporary alignment and assembly of joinery, with the ability to disassemble, assemble, and then permanently glue the pieces together when you are ready to finish the project. Or, if desired, you can have a joint that can be disabled and reassembled at any time.
One connector, called the Tenso, is self-clamping, an incredibly useful feature when I’m working with exterior PVC trim. With the Tenso connector, I find it easy to align and clamp butt joints, miter joints, and compound miter joints with incredible precision; not having to nail or screw pieces together results in cleaner looks and almost one-handed assembly in the field. It allows me to field fit a joint and make sure it looks good before committing to the final glue-up.
For example, when fitting 90-degree outside corners with PVC trim, I typically would hand-align the outside miter after applying PVC glue, then pin the joint together. Now, it’s literally a “snap.” Any angle joinery can be quickly conquered by the versatile options for setup.
For cabinetmakers who need a knock-down assembly, the Clamex is a clamped, two-part mechanical joint that’s assembled and disassembled with a small Allen key. It comes in different sizes for different applications.
Another interesting fastener, the Divario, is self-clamping and allows for slide-in fastening for blind applications, such as shelving.
I initially envisioned that this tool would find a home in a cabinetmaker’s shop, where it would be used for joining fine trim and cabinetry. However, once I brought the Zeta P2 to the jobsite, I found all sorts of uses for it, including outside trim. That’s partly because the Zeta P2 offers the ability to change the blade to a standard biscuit blade and use it as a traditional joiner.
The Zeta P2 is well-built, and the versatility of the available attachments, such as positioning pins, spacers, and a stop square, makes for precise placement of joinery. The only negative thing I can say about it is the learning curve. It took me a while to figure out how to set it up for the various applications. The instruction book is a generic, multilanguage, illustrated paperback, but once I discovered the videos on the company’s website (csaw.com/lamello), I buried the manual in the bottom of the Systainer it came in. If you are into high-end trim and cabinetry work, this is a solid investment ($1,550) you won’t regret.
Photos by Mike Sloggatt.