Which Festool Domino To Buy

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We know Festool, and we like Festool very much.  Its line of power tools are well crafted and highly specialized.  Yes, they are expensive, but their quality is undoubted and very well respected in woodworking circles.  

We’ve written about them in the past, including the Festool Track Saw here, and the Festool Domino here.  Recently, we’ve even written about Festool sandpapers here for their various sanders.  Even though we don’t have a Festool power tool in our woodworking shop, we do know a lot about them and their accessories.

The line of power joinery tools offered by Festool includes the Domino DF 500 and the Domino DF 700.  Each has an important part to play in high-end joinery, but which one will suit you best in your shop?  

Festool Domino

Festool 574432 Domino Joiner DF 500 Q Set
  • NOTE: The DF 500 only come with the 5MM cutter which is installed.
  • Unique, patented cutting action that rotates and oscillates to create perfect, clean, and repeatable...
  • Mortise width adjustment with the turn of a dial allows for easier alignment when joining panels.
Festool 574447 XL DF 700 Domino Joiner Set
  • Unique, patented cutting action that rotates and oscillates to create perfect, clean, and repeatable...
  • Mortise width adjustment with the turn of a dial allows for easier alignment when joining panels
  • Indexing pins for quick alignment against the edge of the work piece for accurate placement

We find many occasions to employ a mortise and tenon joint in our furniture making.  It’s used to connect two pieces of wood when they’re connected at right angles.  It is also one of the strongest and simplest joints in woodworking, showing up as many as thousands of years ago.  

In olden times before power tools, hammers and chisels were used to cut the mortise, the slot cut out of one piece into which the tenon would be inserted.  A saw would be used to cut the tenon, and perhaps a hammer and chisel used to finish and size it to fit well into the mortise.  Glue is then applied, the tenon inserted into the mortise, and the pieces clamped to set the joint and allow the glue to dry.

In 2007 the Festool Domino hit the market as the task-specific power tool to create mortise and tenon joints.  Its single function is to cut a mortise in a single plunge.  No more hammers, chisels, and saws would be needed to create mortise and tenon joints.  

Unlike a biscuit joiner (also a single plunge tool), the Domino has a drill-like cutter with a spinning bit that does the work.  It moves sideways once it begins to cut, and creates a full-rounded mortise.  

Mortises are created in both pieces of wood to be joined – no more tenon-cutting is necessary.  This is where the dominos come in – specifically sized pieces of wood that match the size and depth of the mortise cut are glued and fitted into the mortises on each piece of wood, and the joint is created, clamped, and allowed to sit for the glue to dry.

It is a simple concept, quick to execute, and easy to accomplish.  The mortise count, size, and depth needed for a project will depend on the project.  The run length of the workpieces being joined, their weight, and the weight they will be supporting, and the project will determine the strength of the joinery needed.  Large projects like table tops, beds, and doors will require multiple joints along the spans.

Biscuits have their place in joining boards that will constitute a table top;  they help align the boards and join them well to each other along the span.  Dowels can also perform that same function, and no special tool is required for their use as you already are likely to have a power drill in your shop (maybe just a doweling jig, too).

But for joining two pieces of wood at right angles to each other nothing is as strong as a mortise and tenon joint.  The Festool Domino is the perfect tool for creating them.

Festool DF 500

Festool DF 500 Q-Set Domino Joiner 576423

The smaller Festool Domino choice is the DF 500.  It does exactly what has been described above – it cuts and cleans out mortises with a single plunge quickly and cleanly.  The mortise is ready to use immediately. 

This power tool includes an exhaust for attaching your dust collector hose, so there is no cleanup when the cutting is done.  One of its accessories, an adjustable attachment, will measure the distance between mortise cuts along a span if you are joining longer workpieces.

Cutters for the DF 500 come in 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 mm sizes, corresponding to the sizes of the domino tenons available.  The maximum depth of mortise cut for the DF 500 is 1 3/32”, or 28mm, again corresponding to the sizes of the domino tenons available.

The DF 500 was Festool’s first portable mortising machine.  It originally came with 4 mortising widths, now increased to 5 sizes.  It weighs 7 lbs, light enough for you to bring the tool to the wood – unlike other power tools where the workpiece must be brought to them.  It is ergonomically designed to be comfortable to use.

The Festool DF500 has a starting price of around $1,000; domino tenons, made of beech, are available in packs of 300 per size at around $30, and an assorted size pack with cutter and a T-loc systainer at around $350.

Festool DF 700

Festool DF 700 EQ-Set Domino 576431

The larger of the two Festool Domino power tools, the DF 700 performs the same tasks as its smaller version, but with several differences.

Cutters for the DF 700 come in 8, 10, 12, and 14 mm sizes, corresponding to the sizes of the domino tenons available.  The maximum depth of the mortise cut for the DF 700 is 2 ¾”, or 70mm.  Its functionality is as simple as the smaller model, and it performs the task easily, quickly, accurately, and cleanly.  

You can see the overlap of cuts/domino tenons between the two at the high end of the DF 500 and the low end of the DF 700 – at 8mm and 10mm.  Clearly, though, the DF 700 is for larger mortise cuts and larger domino tenons.  It, too, has an exhaust to connect to your dust collector hose and an adjustable attachment for measuring the distance between mortise cuts along long spans.

The DF 700 is heavier, too, at 11.4lbs.  While that, too, is not especially heavy, it is worth considering when deciding between the two, as you will be lugging it around your shop.  It, too, is ergonomically designed for comfortable use, and you bring it to the workpiece just as with the DF 500.

The DF 700 price range begins at $1500, and the domino tenons used with it are the same as with the DF 500, with prices running just a bit more for the larger tenon sizes to match.

DF 500 or DF 700?

Festool 574447 XL DF 700 Domino Joiner Set

First, the prices given for each model are 2022 prices.  

As we have written so often in past articles, the right tool for the right job is applicable to these Festool power tools.  What’s the project?  What is the wood size, weight, and purpose for the joint?  What weight will the project support or carry?  What projects are you likely to take on in your shop?

If you are going to be making table tops for conference tables or large dining room tables, heavy solid wood entry doors for your home, or queen/king size beds, where each of these pieces would require heavier wood to support heavier loads and need multiple joints, the DF 700 is the better choice.  

With larger mortise cut capability to accommodate larger domino tenons, it will serve these projects better.  Yes, it’s heavier and more expensive, but for those larger projects that require both larger and more joints, the DF 700 is the right tool for the job.

Recall the overlap as between these two models, though, too – the higher end of the DF 500 and the lower end of the DF 700, the 8mm and 10mm bit sizes and cut capabilities.  If those are the upper-end sizes for what would be considered medium-size projects you would anticipate undertaking in your shop, the DF 500 would fit your needs.  

It is likely that for the average home shop woodworking enthusiast the DF 500 would be more than adequate for your needs.  You’ll save money on the power tool, you’ll save a little money on the domino tenons, and you’ll have a lighter power tool to carry around the shop.

While it’s a little bit long at 13 minutes, if you are seriously considering purchasing a Festool Domino, this video will give you a complete experience using both models.

Festool Domino Tenons

One word about the tenons, too.  If you look at the picture of a domino tenon, you will see they are ridged and textured.  This is a purposeful design, as even more gluing surface is available with those ridges to enhance the joint and make it even stronger and more long-lasting.

The Festool Domino tools are well thought out, well crafted, easy to operate, and help make clean and strong joinery possible.  Someday we hope to have one of these models in our shop.

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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