If your woodworking projects are more advanced, something beyond a simple miter cut and corners for a picture frame, you are likely familiar with a mortise and tenon joint. Maybe you made a new dining room table with turned legs and a modesty panel, or perhaps a new solid wood door.
Mortise and tenon joints connect two pieces of wood used mainly when the pieces are connected at right angles. It is one of the strongest and simplest joints in woodworking, and it has been used for thousands of years.
In the old days, before power tools, chisels and hammers were used to cut a mortise, removing a little bit at a time to the desired dimension and depth. The tenon would be cut by saw and perhaps finished to dimension by chisel carefully to the desired width, length, and depth. Glued, inserted, and clamped, these joints hold up exceptionally well over time, providing stability and endurance to the project.
Today, with so many power tools to choose from for so many varied tasks, it was inevitable that a specific tool for this particular project would become available. Sure enough, that tool is the
In This Article
What is The
This specialty power tool first hit the US woodworking market in 2007. Its function is to cut a mortise in a single plunge. What by hand used to take a chisel to dig out the material to create the mortise in many strokes, and hammer blows can be accomplished in a single plunge.
It works like a biscuit joiner (a single plunge), except it has a drill-like rotating cutter with a spinning bit; and, that cutter and spinning bit also move sideways, cutting a full-rounded mortise.
The cutters come in different sizes, depending on the size and depth of the desired mortise for your project. The cuts match the domino dimensions available commercially. Those dominos come in various sizes; also, to fit the mortises, the
The number, size, and depth of the joints needed will depend on your project. The run length of the lumber being joined, the weight of the lumber to be joined and supported, and the project itself will help you calculate how much joinery strength you need. Large or small tabletop size, size of the bed frame, size and weight of the entry door will all require multiple mortise and tenon joints along the length.
Biscuits are a good joinery method when assembling, for instance, several planks to form a small table top or shelf. They help align each plank edge to edge, provide additional gluing surface, and hold tight over time.
Dowels are also a good joinery method for the same purpose. No special tool is required (except for maybe a doweling jig), as your shop certainly has a power drill, and dowel sizes come in a wide variety to choose from.
But, for joining at right angles, nothing is as strong as a mortise and tenon joint. And when it comes to cutting a mortise, the
The tool includes an exhaust for attaching your dust collector hose, and it is surprising how little dust the tool actually generates. And, one of its adjustable attachments measures the distance between mortises when joining long planks with multiple loose tenons.
Want to see one in action? Check this short video.
It will remind you of a biscuit joiner, but a larger size and much more elaborate and talented in its use.
The size of the mortise to be cut is adjustable, as is the depth. Set the attached ruler to establish distance between each mortise; plug it in; attach the dust collection hose, and plunge. The result is a perfectly sized mortise.
What Can You Do With a
As we have discussed, any project requiring or benefitting from mortise and tenon joinery is why your shop would want a
Among those projects and tasks:
- Edgeless frame joints, such as for making a box, or a bed frame.
- Flush panel joints, for assembling a free-standing bookshelf. The cross stop allows for easy measurement of distances for mortises along the span of your shelves.
- Door frames and solid rack joints. Its flat design allows for easy access to numerous wood pieces thick and thin along framing spans and makes convenient work in creating multiple mortises.
- End joining with bevel joints. The
Festoolcan be custom-set for angles on beveled edges to make a strong corner quickly and accurately.
- Mitered frame joints. Again, its flat design allows for mortises in the two pieces being joined in a frame project.
- Batch production of repetitive tasks. The
Festoolcan be preset to accommodate custom wood pieces for batch work; creating a jig to hold the pieces makes production work easy and convenient.
While this is only a partial list of projects you’ll use your
If the project you are about to undertake would benefit from or require a mortise and tenon joint or several, no matter the project, the
What Are the Domino Sizes?
Domino tenons come in five sizes, ranging from 3/16 inch to 3/8 inch, and a maximum length of just under 2 inches. Mortise depths range from ½ inch to 11/8 inch.
Compare these dimensions to biscuits, which are 5/32 inches, and penetrate to a depth of ½ inch at most.
That larger size and deeper penetration help create a much stronger joint, making a mortise and tenon joint the strongest in woodworking.
Festool Domino vs Domino XL
Practical differences for you to consider:
FestoolDomino DF500: cutters are available for 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 mm tenons and a maximum depth of 28 mm. FestoolDomino XL DF700: cutters are available for 8, 10, 12, and 14 mm tenons and a maximum depth of 70 mm.
The same rule applies to the
If you anticipate larger projects like dining room tables for 8 or 12 people, heavy solid wood entry doors to your home, queen or king size bed frames, you would want to consider the XL DF700 for your shop. For smaller projects, you will be well-served by the smaller model, the DF500.
Notice there is an overlap at the 8 mm size – the upper end of the DF500, the lower end of the DF700. Each would be sufficient for a medium size project, and if that is the upper end of the projects you’ll undertake, the DF500 is the better choice.
Price will also be a consideration, and this is especially true for the
FestoolDomino DF500 starting prices are in the range of $1100 FestoolDomino DF700 starting prices are in the range of $1500.
*The prices above are as of January 2022.
Compare these prices with those of a biscuit cutter, which for smaller models can start as low as $50, and a decent model will be in the range of $50 – $100.
Why Is The
Festool Domino So Expensive?
There are several reasons for the high price of
Although not about woodworking, the professional golfer Gary Player was once asked why he always played with Titleist golf balls; he said it was because of their quality control. Every ball was consistently the same, and he had confidence in his shots as a result.
The same can be said for
Add to that the fact that nothing does what the
They are certainly not on the list of must-have tools for the beginner, both because of the price and the projects they are best suited for. As an aside, here is a previous piece on those must-haves for the beginner.
The most likely customers are those professional woodworkers. You’ll likely find a Festool Domino tool in their shops. But for $500 less, you can also find a decent substitute in a doweling jig or biscuit joiner. They just won’t be as fast or easy to use.
Here at Obsessed Woodworking, we think Festool Dominos are very cool tools. We’d love to have one in our shop, to be honest. Someday, we will.