Tag Archives: Festool

Pins First Pal

As I slowly work through the projects for my upcoming book Go, Go, Go I’ve been trying to do as many things the same way as Tage Frid did. It has been an interesting experiment.

Most of Tage’s advice has been sound and reproducible. Once in a while a given technique may want to induce fits. Those are often the most interesting to experiment with — especially if it clashes with what I learned in my manual training days. When I learned how to dovetail as a student at NBSS I was taught how to cut them either ‘Pins First’ or ‘Tails First’ and often switch between them depending on the project at hand. For drawers or boxes its nice to gang sides together and cut them tails first to save some time. For one offs and odd angles pins first sometimes makes the most sense.

Tage was a proponent of ‘Pins First’ arguing that:

“The reason pins are made first is that it is easier to follow the tail saw line. If the tails were made first and the pins were scribed onto the end of the wood from the tail, the first saw cut on the end grain would destroy the pin line since end grain fibers become fuzzy so easily. And we all know how difficult it is to follow a line started on end grain. By making the pins first and scribing the tails to them, we can begin sawing on the face side of the wood and we have more strokes to try to saw to the line accurately.” — Tage Frid, Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Vol. 1

With decades of experience cutting all manner of joints his logic can be hard to argue with. To transfer the pins to the tail board Tage would often just hold the piece in place with his hands and mark the tails with a scratch awl. No skew block plane trick here. If the board was warped he’d flatten it with 2 clamps and a block of wood.

You may feel like you need a steady hand or super human strength to keep the pin board exactly where you want it to scribe the pins onto the tail board, but there are ways help make this easier when you are getting started.

When teaching students how to transfer the pins to the tail board I was taught to put a clamp on the setup — holding the pin board to the tail board, allowing you to adjust it a bit under tension and free up your hands to move around as needed to do a good job scribing.  The idea is reasonable but I’ve seen folks do all sorts of fiddling with a clamp to try and make this work, often with headache inducing dings and colorful curse words as a clamp falls over and mars a piece of wood or a pin board goes flying.

In cutting a lot of drawers and trays for a Tage Frid drawing table I figured I’d go for the full experience in cutting them all pins first and given the very thin stock used — 3/8″ thick 1-1/4″ wide strips mating to a 1″ wide front there was not a lot of bearing surface so I went to break out a clamp and after messing with it for a bit (and remembering why I prefer tails first) it hit me that I should try and be more production minded — there’s gotta be a less fiddly way of doing this as I have a lot of drawers to make. I was working at my Festool MFT/3 table and it hit me — if I side clamp a Bessey K-body to the edge of the bench the wide jaws of the clamp would do a great job overhanging a bit of the bench and if I moved the jaw up and down I had a nice consistent way of setting up my pin and tail board and apply a little pressure as I quickly and accurately scribe the pins to the tails as you can se here:

Transferring Pins to a Tail Board by clamping a K-body clamp to the side of your bench
Pins First Pal for Transferring Pins to a Tail Board by clamping a K-body clamp to the side of your bench

There’s no magic to what I show here, but a nice little setup that can be applied to any bench or work surface and save some time and frustration.

Take care,

Festool PRO 5 LTD Sander

Back in early October of 2016 Festool offered a special edition of their new Sander for an amazing $99 which also included a $50 off coupon towards another tool. It seemed too good to be true given how expensive all my other Festools are. Within hours of the announcement I placed my order. I would think I must have been one of their earliest orders. A couple days later there were notes that the demand was so overwhelming that Festool told its network of dealers to stop taking orders. Then the waiting started….and dates kept getting pushed out.

I waited and waited and waited and in very late March of 2017 I *finally* received my new sander — 6 months is a LONG wait. I’m not sure what Festool’s reasoning was for the special package — some said it was supposed to be a thank you to loyal Festool customers, others said it was a good way to get folks hooked on their tools. Either way the demand was overwhelming I am glad that they eventually honored the order.

Here’s what came in the special color Systainer 2:

Contents of the Festool PRO5 LTD Kit
Contents of the Festool PRO5 LTD Kit
I was happy to see that Festool included some extras in there — an adapter for non Festool vacuums and a sampler pack of their Granat Abrasives (Which I think was added by the tool dealer ToolNut.com) rather than the 1 piece of sandpaper that would otherwise come with the unit.

Festool PRO5 LTD Special Color Systainer 2
Festool PRO5 LTD Special Color Systainer 2
The Systainer 2 is a nice dark Festool blue and has space for some optional accessories and some limited abrasive storage.

Left Porter Cable Random Orbit Saner, Right Festool Pro5 LTD Sander.
Left Porter Cable Random Orbit Saner, Right Festool Pro5 LTD Sander.
The new sander is lighter and better balanced than my trusty old Porter Cable 5″ Random Orbit Sander that I’ve had over 10 years now. The power switch is nice and big and the 13′ cord is nice. When paired with my Festool CT36 Dust Extractor the dust collection with the PRO 5 LTD is exceptionally good.  Also the pad break is neat as the unit stops spinning fast. I normally use my trusty old ‘sander sitter‘ as a safe place to let a sander spin down and clean off an abrasive pad that has loaded up. The suction is so strong that the PRO 5 LTD will lift the rubber pad right out of the sitter — something I never saw with any of my other sanders (5″ or 6″ ROS with same CT36 attached)

The machine is well balanced with a tight stroke, powerful motor (Which I believe is brushless) and has noticeably less vibration compared to other sanders I’ve had over the years. The ergonomic handle is nice and rubberized texture provides good grip. Sometimes with 2 hands on the unit I find my second hand wants to cover the motor exhaust port a bit but the heat will quickly remind you to move that hand.

Left Porter Cable Random Orbit Saner, Right Festool Pro5 Sander. (Note the differences in dust collection holes)
Left Porter Cable Random Orbit Saner, Right Festool Pro5 Sander. (Note the differences in dust collection holes)
Too good to be true?

Like most things that seem too good to be true there is usually a catch. If you look at the image above you’ll see this Festool Sander and Festool abrasives have a VERY different pattern for dust extraction holes. That means you are locked into their abrasives. I haven’t seen any 3rd party companies sell pads with the same pattern yet. Like most things Festool they are expensive, but also very good quality. The abrasives have been long lasting and consistent and slow to load up. I

already have a few hundred dollars invested in Mirka Gold 5″ and 6″ and Abranet abrasives (which I keep in old style Systainers with 4 latches designed to hold sanding pads. I got those Systainers on clearance when the new style Systainer came out a couple of years ago). I don’t look forward to having to buy and stock another assortment of Abrasives but probably will as I am otherwise very happy with this new sander.  I wish the advertising was a bit more straightforward in noting the above hole difference.

I hope that Festool, or a 3rd party compatible manufacturer will make a replacement sanding pad that also has the old style dust extraction hole pattern.

The Verdict

If you can look beyond the sanding pad hole location issue it is otherwise a great random orbit sander and I am very happy with it. I wish I ordered more than one unit.

OK time to get back out into the workshop.

Take care,


Curly Cherry Table Top with Domino XL

Beyond basic mortise and tenon joinery/carcass construction the Festool Domino XL also has potential to replace my biscuit joiner.

I’ve been working on a curly cherry shaker console table for our dining room and wanted to see how well the indexing fence would work in gluing up a table top. The first step was milling the wood and laying it out to get the best grain patterns.From there I marked out where I wanted the dominoes — being careful to make sure when the top is cut to final size no domino would be exposed. I also marked the center lines on blue tape to save with later cleanup.

TIP: set the tape back from the edge — otherwise you run the risk of having blue tape forever captured in your joint and ruining the appearance of the top.

I started off working the same way I would with a biscuit joiner — using the center line as my guide. Things moved along well and with the dust collector attached the machine left nice clean holes. On the second joint I used the indexing fence to speed up production. The key to using this fence well is making sure that you have BOTH fences set exactly the same and doing a test cut on scrap wood — this way you can be sure your joints line up the way you want.  The first time using this method I did the same measuring and tape technique to gauge if I was drifting at all. If you are diligent in applying pressure so that your indexing pin is firmly in place you’ll be amazed with the result.If you are worried about the drift, you can set the machine to cut wider mortises and give some wiggle room like you have with biscuits. (I would recommend this technique for very long table tops — the more dominos you use in a row the more chance you have of making an error — but when going this route you have to be mindful of how your wider mortises can affect where the next mortise is set and lead you to drift off from where you expect as the extra room adds up — so use it with caution and/or mark things out as I have done above)

In an upcoming post I will cover using the domino to construct the carcase to support this table top — wherein the skirt boards were all made from a single piece of wood and provides a continuous grain pattern across the piece including the drawer fronts. Stay tuned.





Festool Domino XL Overview

Unpacking and first impressions of the Domino. (I’ve been slow to get online so these pics are a few weeks old and I am working to get caught up on my backlog)

I was chosen to be one of the first 25 North American Test/Demo users of the new Festool Domino XL which is the Domino’s big brother.

Initial Impressions:

  • Like all my other Festools this tool seems to be solidly built and very well designed
  • Fence adjustments and setup are familiar to all who have used the original Domino
  • I like that I has the Festool quick connect power cord that can easily work with Rail Saw and Jigsaw
  • Solves an interesting problem set (loose tenon joinery) in an interesting way that certainly gives my Biscuit joiner a run for its money (It will be interesting to examine the speed comparison to using both systems and cost per domino vs cost per biscuit)
  • Tool feels well balanced given its size and heft
  • New generation Systainers are a definite improvement compared to the 1st generation. Instead of 2 locks its one turn on the front to engage the locking. I also like that old generation units can be attached to the bottom of the new ones, though a little sad its only one way — old units are always relegated to the bottom. I have a few (~4) extra Systainers from McFeelys filled with square drive screw assortments, but I wish the price point would come down on at least the old generation systainer as I’d really stock up on them but they can be prohibitively expensive for other tools.
  • Domino XL Systainer and Domino Tenon Assortment Systainer all have new removable plastic trays instead of the wood dividers in the previous generation. I liked the use of wood in the original generation as it had more feeling of craftsmanship instead of plastic fantastic, but I do like how the new plastic trays can be moved around. I could see if I knew ahead of time what I was working on at a job site just loading up the Domino Systainer’s trays with what I need and traveling a little lighter.

Next post — more of the tool in action and using Domino fences.

Check out the slideshow below (additional comments in the captions):

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Festool CT 36 Dust Extractor

I recently obtained a Festool CT36 Dust Extractor and wanted to share some initial impressions of it. So far I am really impressed with it.

My other dust collectors are a Rigid 5HP wet/dry vac with Hepa filters and a Delta full size dust collector with cannister style filter and cyclone stage.

Each of those tools has a very different dedicated purpose which could potentially overlap in functionality, but the CT36 has earned it’s keep.


  • Collects noticeably more dust compared to a shop vac attached to a domestic tool
  • Adjustable suction control (you can control how intensely the vac sucks up air)
  • Nice solid rubberized fitting secures firmly to tools
  • Tools can be plugged into the dust collector and it turns on and off suction with the tool — I really like this feature since it saves on electricity, noise, etc (albeit this is not a completely new feature as I’ve seen it on older Porter Cable and Fein vacs in years gone by, but they never had enough overall features to warrant the price)
  • True Hepa certified unit (Great for all of us RRPs out there)
  • Anti-static hose (I didn’t have high hopes for that, but compared to my porter cable regular plastic hose, it does make a difference in terms of what sticks to it)
  • On unit storage for the hose and carry handle
  • Kickstand to stop unit from rolling around
  • Ability to lock some systainers to the unit — great for work on the go as you can package up what you need quickly into groups
  • Long 3 prong/grounded power cord
  • Replacable bags are great for when you are dealing with fine materials you don’t want blowing around your shop — fine wood, leaded paint etc


  • Replaceable bags — helps the filters stay cleaner longer, but adds to cost of collecting dust. Looks like for RRP contractors there are some new bags that will allow for easier disposable that seem promising.
  • I don’t see a blower mode (Something my rigid vac has which comes in handy every once in a while — like say when you are filling an office with packing peanuts as part of a morale event)
  • Kickstand is all plastic and could be broken with a hard drop. (Mine arrived broken via shipping but Festool was great about sending a replacement — it was easy to install and works great)
  • Price point is pretty high compared to a domestic shop vac and accessory kit to add on common functionality like the rigid pipes, crevice tool, floor tool etc are a separate option in their own systainer drives it even higher. Though once you get over the price hurdle it really is a well engineered machine and saves you time cleaning up especially at a job site.

Here is a small slide show of the CT36 Dust Extractor:

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