Festool Domino #1: Working with the Festool Domino

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Blog entry by MJCD posted 04-09-2012 10:06 PM 13329 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’m hoping this blog is not ‘another run through’ of the Festool Domino. I’ve started a project that is at the far limits of my skills, and am making it more difficult by using my new Domino, rather than either standard biscuit joinery or Pocket Screws – either one of which would be acceptable for a Router Table. For my part, I’m trying to approach each project as if it will be used to define my skill level at some point in time, regardless of whether it is a workshop-dedicated Router Table or my granddaughter’s blanket chest.

I’ll bypass the Domino introduction, except to say it costs about $1,100 for the hand-held machine, starter Tenons (the Dominos), and several very useful attachments. It competes with both Pocket Screws and Biscuit Joinery at a base level. For the Festool fanatics, YES, I know it does a lot more; for the rest of us, the big question is ‘what can it do to make my wood projects easier, more fun, higher quality’.

As points of difference, the Domino gives you a ‘Floating Tenon’, which is buried in matching mortises – if you align strike marks, use the Domino to rout the holes on center, pound in the Tenon (purchased from Festool), you will have a very strong, flush joint which is far stronger than either the Pocket Hole or the Biscuit.

The tenon goes much deeper into the wood and much more narrow than the biscuit (an definite advantage when working narrow wood), is invisible within the same context, and has some, though minimal, ‘play’ side-to-side – you have to get the holes aligned or you’re out of luck; fortunately, the Domino is a precision tool, and creating matching holes is relatively easy.

The machine looks and feels like a biscuit jointer, though there are important settings for the precision the tool offers, and several small attachments (part of the purchase price), which provide the precise repetition of space holes and precise centering on narrow stock – this is a highly-engineered, deeply integrated solution.

The working end:
Dust Collection is an integral part of the Domino, though it must be provided by a separate Shop Vac or other means – using the Domino without dust collection causes the cutter to ‘chatter’ in the mortise, and will result in less than desirable results. The Domino generates a lot of debris, and wants you to get rid of it quickly. I have mine attached to a Fein Shop Vac.

I’m currently building a Router Table, with a full face-frame – I’ll post pictures later tonight; in all, I have approximately 15 M&T (Mortise & Tenon) connections, some of which are at 90 degrees angles – my point being, you must mentally ‘see’ the glue-up sequence before you open your GlueBot. I completed the first side this afternoon, and the assembly process – my first doing Dominos – was both successful and frantic (I’m not a naturally-skilled woodworker). During the process, I used a hard-rubber mallet to drive the Tenons, and Bessey clamps to ‘draw-in’ some sections – this is a matter of leverage, not forcing something to fit, which doesn’t. Where I was off just a little too-much, I used a hammer & punch to persuade the tenon into a slightly angled position – I’m commenting on my layout skills here, not the Domino.

Where you have consecutive Dominos (spaced without the aid of their attachments) over a fair distance (37” in my case), getting them to perfectly align, and fitted into the adjoining slots can be interesting – you have glue drying inside the mortise, and the perfect-fit of the Domino tenons means you have to be creative in getting the holes to accept the Tenons. As I say this, I was able to get this done.

My experience with the Domino is that it is a precision tool, and demands your efforts to support the precision; whereas both the Biscuit Jointer and Pocket Screw approach allow for tremendous ‘play’. What the Domino system provides in return is joinery which supports squaring your project, virtually ensures flat (on-plane) mating surfaces, and the strength of M&T (as opposed to biscuits and Pocket Screws).

I would appreciate your comments on whether this ‘review’ and blog is worthwhile; as I don’t want to assume this is at-all important nor informative.

Do Take Care.

3 comments so far

View MJCD's profile


624 posts in 3825 days

#1 posted 04-11-2012 01:47 PM

One further update:

Yesterday, I ‘processed’ the 3 remaining face-frames – about 80 M&T, in all. The Domino operation became commonplace, much like my trusted biscuit joiner (which I sold on Craigslist). Having said this, you must be precise in Layout, precise in execution of mortising, and creative in the glue-up until you get precise in your Layout and Mortising.

I’m not the correct person to comment on anyone else’s assessment of whether the Domino is a ‘game changer’ or ‘worth it’ – there are several hundred years of great and mediocre furniture making which predates the Domino. For me, the Domino is one part of upping my game. I can certainly live without it; but then, I prefer having a high-end Table Saw which has provided consistently accurate performance these past 10 years; a higher-end Miter Saw, which cross-cuts a 14” panel in the shop, and can be moved if I’m building something outside; and Routers which consistently and accurately handle tough materials. Quality is expensive once; and over a period of 15 years, you can systematically upgrade tools to support increased skills – the Domino is part of this journey.

I hope this has been informative; and I’ll be happy to address any questions.
Do Take Care.

View OldLarry's profile


18 posts in 3617 days

#2 posted 07-13-2012 06:36 PM

If you go back to the manual that came with the machine you will see that after cutting the first slot of a set (all of them in a project) you are instructed to change the setting on the machine so it increases the width of the slot slightly. This allows some side to side tolerance for adjusting things as they are glued. As you assemble, error on the side that allows you to pull things into alignment with a clamp not a hammer. The dominoes fit pretty snug and once there is glue you will find it hard to move the joint w/o a clamp.

I bought it to do one project (over & over) making frames for table tops. We’ve now made about 200 tops with it, still cutting with the original bit. It is quick to setup and relatively quick to use. I think, for you guys making furniture, it would be a great tool. The Dominoes are sold in bigger boxes for the guys that use them a lot. 760 pc.?? per box for 8×40’s If you carefully read the instructions layout is easy. Use the referencing system they provide. It’s the only Festool I’ve used. Great tool well engineered. They now make a bigger version too.

-- Larry, Nebraska

View MJCD's profile


624 posts in 3825 days

#3 posted 07-13-2012 09:58 PM


Thanks for the comments. I’m about to embark on another stretch project – an outdoor bench (Jatoba wood). The construction is all M&T, and I’ve watched the ‘HalfInchShy’ videos on fine-tuning the Domino adjustments. The Router Table was an excellent first project, with the Outdoor Bench having about 3x the M&T joints.

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