January 21, 2013

Festool DF700 Domino XL - Review

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We've hit rock bottom on our own selfishness. And the thing is that we almost feel bad about it. Almost.

One of the things about reviewing tools is that you get to keep a lot of them. But trust us, the bloom falls off the rose pretty quickly there. What sounds like heaven gets cumbersome mighty fast. One new recip saw is great, but does anyone need five or six of them? A long, long time ago Festool said they would send us one of their Domino XLs to test out, but that we'd have to send it back when we were done. They gave no time limit and said that we should keep it as long as we saw fit. No problems there. A very cool attitude on their part. So we kept it...and kept it...and kept it. Every time we sat down to write the review, we'd think, "oh wait, this means that we'll have to return the tool...maybe it would be best if we ran the review next week....or maybe the week after that." So here we are months and months later (getting close on a year), slightly ashamed and feeling like we took advantage of Festool's kindness, but we're still crouching over the tool, coveting it like some hell mutant from Dante's Inferno.

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The Domino XL is a heavy weight joining tool. It's competitors are the biscuit cutters, but that's like saying Anna Karenina's competitor is a Hello Kitty coloring book. We've used the DeWalt cutter and the Porter-Cable cutter and have really liked them both (the PC review is here) and we need to note that we've never used Lamello's cutter, which is the primo brand on the market, but from everything we can tell, the Domino XL is really in a completely different category.

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If you're unfamiliar with the Domino series of tools (the XL is the second, larger version), they differ from biscuit cutters in a number of ways. First, they don't use biscuits, they use dominos, little pieces of wood that are the shape of dominos or teething biscuits. They are much thicker than biscuits and are available in a variety of lengths, so the sturdiness of them far surpasses the biscuit. Secondly, the Domino cuts with a spiral blade that extends from the front of the tool and waves back and forth while it cuts. These blades, which look like badass drill bits, can be swapped out easily to accommodate for different sized dominoes. Beyond that, the Domino can be adjusted and tweaked every which way until Sunday and a host of other features ensure accuracy and consistency. So all of the manic design functions that we've come to expect of Festool tools are indeed a part of the Domino XL.

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The most telling project that I did with the tool was a bathroom vanity for our powder room. I milled down some of the Chestnut framing that was demoed during the renovation and used that material. The project had to go quickly because the plumber was scheduled. Because of that, I did kind of a half-assed job of milling the lumber, so things were mostly straight and square. I was a little worried when I started assembling because I've been around long enough to understand that if things are a little off in the beginning, then they're going to be a lot off at the end.

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So I used the Domino to fit the pieces together. The one step that I took great care in was placing the domino slots. I made sure to do it at all at the correct angles and in all the correct places and said a prayer that the dominos would do the straightening and alignment work for me. When it came time to actually glue the pieces up, I discovered that the strength of the dominoes kept everything in line and created such a sturdy connection that I didn't have to panic about making sure everything was square because it already was. As long as the domino went in correctly, it all worked out. All of the play that I was used to in a biscuit was gone (although there is a setting that adds play if you want it).

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The Domino took so much pain out of the cabinet making process that I really came to admire the tool for everything that it offered. The tool is large (what do you expect from the XL name), but since that's a symptom of its capabilities, it's not a problem. If you want smaller, the original Domino is available.

We should probably make a small note here at the end that this fella is going to cost you $1200. Gulp. The actual dominoes aren't exactly free either. But if your serious (at at that price, we mean really serious) about your woodworking and you're in it for the long haul, this is a tool that is definitely worth looking at. It's a steep price for sure, but the accuracy is off the charts and it does make it easier to create a better finished product.

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So here we are, about to press "publish" knowing full well that it means we have to head over to the shop and box up the Domino and then call the UPS man.

At FestoolProducts.com. Get dominoes here.

By the way check out the killer sink and fixtures we found on Craigslist. I had to rebuild the faucets because the gaskets we all junk, but other than that, it all worked out great.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at January 21, 2013 9:15 PM

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Recent Comments

Great review. I just found your site and enjoy your style. I'll be following.


Posted by: AZ DIY Guy at January 26, 2013 2:10 PM

I've been a Toolsnob visitor for years now, enjoy the blog.

Great job on the vanity- it looks outstanding.

Would love to see a series of entries recapping your whole house reno- have you thought about it?

J.


Posted by: Jose R. at January 25, 2013 10:39 PM

Kevin, thanks for the compliment. I really like how the floor tile turned out...old fashioned feel, looks like its been there forever. The wainscotting is made up of 17" pine boards oriented horizontally. If you're crazy about old farmhouses (like I am), you've certainly seen it before. The boards were t&g, but they shrunk waaay more than I was expecting (almost close to 1/4" per board), so I'm going to have to redo some to snug them up. Cranking a woodstove all winter sure does funny things to the woodwork.

Joe, I was an English major who never wanted to teach...so I guess it's no surprise I ended up in the trades...


Posted by: ToolSnob at January 25, 2013 8:42 PM

hopefully Festool will give you a full pardon & let you keep it. Really nice looking vanity,and tile floor, what's on the walls, tile?


Posted by: Kevin at January 23, 2013 1:03 AM

The vanity looks great! Really classy job. I've always said that biscuits are really only to aid in alignment during glue ups - domino's are a true floating tenon, giving a huge mechanical gain in the joint strength.

BTW, nice literary chops - Anna Karenina, Dante's Inferno? I'm impressed.


Posted by: Joe "the Pro" Sainz at January 22, 2013 10:28 AM
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