Festool (I just don't get it.)

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Forum topic by Fingersleft posted 09-28-2007 07:08 PM 38997 views 0 times favorited 165 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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71 posts in 4193 days

09-28-2007 07:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: festool

Okay -

This ought to start a frenzy of responses.

The simple fact is that, after studying and demo-ing just about everything that Festool makes, I don’t get it!

Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that cost is not a factor. Although, you’ve got to take a pretty deep breath before you read the price tag, even if you are not subject to a wife-imposed tool buying budget.

Now, given that I may still have a good degree of ignorance regarding Festool, here’s what I do think:

1) It’s made to a high level of tolerance. So is my table saw, and much of my other equipment.

2) It is truly high quality. (It would have to be, given the price tag.) But let me ask you, just how good does a cordless drill have to be? I can buy 3 DeWalts for the same money. And quite frankly, what I’m ultimately looking for is not a drill. I’m looking for a reasonably accurate hole.

3) Domino is interesting, and I’ve used loose tenons for many years. Is this nothing more than a $700.00 loose tenon machine with very limited size capabilities? Or a more robust plate joiner?

4) I can agree that the Festool system replaces a number of powertools with comparable accuracy. I’m I supposed to throw away all of that heavy iron I have come to own and love?

5) I acknowledge that the Festool system enables me to do the majority of everything I want to do, But no one, except Festool, is making attachments, and other stuff for Festool.

I’ve always believed that there are a good number of woodworkers who will buy just about anything that is new and expensive, simply to own it. I quessing that most of you don’t think that way. So maybe there are some of you who can expain Festool to me. I just don’t understand how it’s become so popular so quickly.

Which piece of my brain am I missing?

-- Bob

165 replies so far

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4319 days

#1 posted 09-28-2007 07:22 PM

Like you point out Bob, it’s neat system but I can do most of the tricks with the stuff I have.
There are a number of tools I could really use to increase my productivity but that system doesn’t make the cut.
Don’t get me wrong here Mot and Dave<g>.

When I win the lotto I’ll get the set but right now I should be focusing on a Clearvue Cyclone or a decent 8” planer or new lithiium ion drills or a nice Leigh jig or an Ikeda or a new camera,or a new Mac or…

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View TomFran's profile


2960 posts in 4291 days

#2 posted 09-28-2007 07:32 PM

Sometimes I think there is an idea that if we buy the latest state of the art gadgets, then we’ll be able to do what Norm does on TV without really having all the experience and good teaching. I know that I’ve fallen into that way of thinking before. If I would spend some time developing my skill with what I already have, I probably wouldn’t need to buy more or better tools as often.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4467 days

#3 posted 09-28-2007 08:17 PM

...then I watch these guys who use a few bits and pieces of wood and a table saw and make dovetails as good as a $300 jig.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4503 days

#4 posted 09-28-2007 08:33 PM

Hi Bob;
—-and then there’s the point that you make; “But no one, except Festool, is making attachments, and other stuff for Festool.”

And so once you start using ‘their’ tools, you are now locked into buying all the extra add ons that one needs to continue in this manor of woodworking, which is dictated by what ‘they’ are selling and will yet dream up….which only goes to prove that ‘they’ are smarter then I am, since their bank accounts are growing and I’m working harder to play in their game….

Never wanting to be a ‘junkie’ for no-one, I even make some of my own hand tools….but as for me and my house, I will work the wood in a manner that benefits the economy of my house.

Ah yes, life at working the wood can really be simple and good, and yes, only my two cents worth….
Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4038 posts in 4361 days

#5 posted 09-28-2007 08:41 PM

While I certainly can’t fault those who have a sufficient budget for Festool, they are beyond my means. When time equals money and you have more money than time, then by all means I can see the purchase as justifiable. This does not mean I don’t actually lust after a Domino, and a LN plane and… things too numerous to contemplate. I would have to sell a powerful number of pens and boxes to justify the expense.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View WaywardHoosier's profile


80 posts in 4332 days

#6 posted 09-28-2007 09:25 PM

I can not fault someone to buy a quality tool especially if you have the disposable income. Festool is just too expensive for me to get started with their products. I’m a hobyist and and have a collection of tools from over the years (long before Festool was commonly sold), I have to use them unrtil they are rendered useless.

How do you justify a $600 vacuum cleaner? Feestool products look neat, are quality, but the price are more for those who make a profit from woodworking.

-- WaywardHoosier - Behind schedule and over budget, but who's counting? Well of course she is!

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4210 days

#7 posted 09-28-2007 09:36 PM


I think that your points are reasonable. I guess to me it comes down to a need vs. a want (this is probably akin to your accurate hole theory). What a woodworker may need to get a job done is usually very different from what a woodworker may want to do it. Otherwise, we might all still be boring holes with a brace and bit and chopping mortises with a chisel – of course some do this because they enjoy it better than the alternatives.

With regard to Festool, it may be explained using the analogy of a fine German sports car vs. a more scaled back and simple vehicle that gets you from point A to B. Both will do the job, but if you have never experienced what it is like to drive a German sports car, you may not know what you are missing!

Coincidently, I just blogged about my budget alternative to using the Festool Domino for Loose Tenon joinery. Though I’d like to have the Domino in my shop for its performance and design I would have to havel a justified need before I were to purchase one. It sounds like you may already be doing Loose Tenons without the Domino, if not take a look at the simple method I describe.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4260 days

#8 posted 09-28-2007 09:51 PM

Festool is a well made system. If a person wanted to start from scratch, maybe it would be the way to go. My problem with the system is in the repeatablity. If I am building a set of cabinets, I do one setup on the table saw and cut all similar parts. I’ll cut all the stiles and then all the rails. If I need a rail to be 15 7/8 and it comes 15 29/32 at least they are all that length. Same way on my chop saw and router set ups. I really don’t see the possiblity of doing that with Festool. Now one of the Festoolians can tell me how wrong I am. But that’s ok.I can take it Tom(mot).

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4422 days

#9 posted 09-28-2007 10:08 PM

As we say over on the Festool Owner’s group, “perhaps Festool is not for you, then”.

I started without wanting a big shop, I have no big iron, and I’m a hobbiest. I can give you the reasons I went with Festool from that standpoint. A good number of the folks who use Festool that I’ve talked with are professionals, they justify the price difference with “compared to labor, the difference between a $50 cordless drill and a $400 cordless drill doesn’t matter”. For me, that price difference is pretty big, however:

  • I can get a saw on a rail from a few other vendors, a relatively quiet saw on a rail with excellent dust collection wasn’t so easy to find. Even if the rail isn’t quite as cool as the ones available from other vendors. It’s not the features individually, it’s that they’re all in one package.
  • I’ve been burned by cheap tools too often. I don’t know today what all of the features and things I want in a new tool are. My experience with Festool products so far is that if I buy Festool I won’t ever know, because I won’t notice the lack of those features. Unlike, say, my Skilsaw, or my Craftsman power tools. How many hours researching tool purchases rather than doing projects does it take for me to go with a brand that I’m relatively certain is going to be one of the best in the breed.
  • Yeah, it’s a system. For good or bad. When the pitch was first made to me, I heard “system”, and almost ran screaming from the store. Now I love that my jigsaw, my circular saw and my router all fit the same rail, and any jigs I build with those rails, and the table which has one of those rails on a hinge and a fence and a bunch of good ways to clamp my work stock.
  • My shop is my living room. Really. I do much of my woodworking over an afghan wool carpet, and there are 4 computers, a stereo and a bunch of knick-knacks in that room. Dust collection works that well for me.
  • We had a $80 vacuum cleaner. We also had one of those extremely expensive Kirby vacuum cleaners (inherited). Both of those were replaced by the Festool dust collector: it’s quieter and more effective. My guess is that per-use it’ll end up being cheaper than both.
  • What’s the ratio of your spending on wood to spending on tools? Now remember that tools are the capital portion of that expenditure. For me, that put a lot of the tool price in perspective.

On the Domino, yeah, you can set up a router and a jig to do those things. On my list of things to do is to build a set of dining room chairs. I could make jigs to cut the tenons and mortises for all of those pieces. When I consider the time necessary to do those operations, and the potential for mucking up pieces that I’ve carefully cut, I’m thinking that that’s about the time I get a Domino.

On the C12 drill, I’ve played with various battery powered drills and couldn’t imagine getting a battery powered drill. But they had the 3 tool pack, with the sander and the jigsaw, and I wanted the latter two and my sweety/partner said “it’d be really cool to have a battery powered drill”. I don’t know where the break even point is, I know it’s not the $150 cordless drills I’ve looked at previously, so it’s somewhere between that and the $460 cordless drill I’ve got. Maybe there’s a $250 cordless drill I’d be happy with, maybe it’s $350, but it doesn’t matter: I’ve got a cordless drill that’s actually the first drill I reach for, even for tasks like drum sanding. Tons of tasks around the house have gotten done because I didn’t have to string an extension cord and worry about what I was going to knock over dragging cables around, and could I have saved one or two hundred bucks? Maybe. How long would I have to have researched the topic to figure out what the differences were? That alone is worth a hundred bucks to me.

Like all of woodworking, either you’re doing this professionally, in which case you can do a pretty clear cost/benefit analysis, or you’re doing this as a hobby, in which case the cost/benefit analysis is a little harder to work out. The question I run up against when I look at hobbies is what parts of the hobby do I enjoy doing, and how much is it worth to me to avoid the parts I don’t like doing?

I also have some familial reasons to not want a table saw that’s not a euroslider or a Saw Stop: My dad’s got a few short fingers… So, whether or not my concerns about a table saw are rational fears or not, that enters into my cost equation, and not only does the saw cost a lot more, I’d need a bigger shop in which to put it.

To take another simile, I ride a fairly expensive bicycle, and I ride in a very upscale area (Marin County, California). Most people around here who ride a bicycle in that class take it into the shop very often. I’ve met people who take their bikes into the shop to get a tire change, let alone adjust their derailleurs. I’d rather adjust my own drivetrain and change my own tires because I actually enjoy that tinkering.

Similarly, some people like building jigs and working to fine-tune alignment. That doesn’t appeal to me, but if you enjoy doing that then the time spent on that stuff doesn’t cost you anything. More power to ya! I’m a little less interested in the journey and a little more interested in the destination, and I don’t have the space for a full-sized shop nor do I want to set one up.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Fingersleft's profile


71 posts in 4193 days

#10 posted 09-28-2007 11:53 PM

Thank you all for your comments. Particularly Dan who took a good amount of time to add to my level of understanding. As my original post indicates, there is, no doubt, a valid market for Festool. I just wasn’t quite sure where it was. As Dan says at the end of his post, and I completely agree, its the destination (the result) that counts. How you get there is a personal choice. However, for many of us who have gone a great distance on one path, it is difficult to absorb a completely new technology into our practices and mate it with the equipment we already have.

No doubt Festool is innovative and beautifully built. That’s why I took the time to demo it. And again, in my original post I suggested that we leave cost aside. Lord knows the number of times I’ve spent, what some would consider a startling amount of money, for a special router bit. We all spend our dollars the way we wish. Possibly, if Festool had been around 20 years ago, I might have taken that path.

I also absolutely agree with Dan’s comments about cheap tools. IMHO they are unworkable, dangerous – so much so that in the evaluation of the total price, one should include the cost of the materials which will be wasted and maybe even the first trip to the emergency room. Several years ago I was given a cheap ($29.00) Skill circular saw as a door-prize for a new store opening. After smiling politely, it went into the trash as soon as I got home. If I’m going to loose a finger, its going to be through my own carelessness, not the carelessness of some company trying to sell a cheap, poorly designed tool.

I also can relate to Dan’s comment about “fear.” Fear is instrumental in keeping us connected to our digits no matter which tool we use.

With respect to Mark’s comment equating Festool to a fine German automobile, I would stack up my table saw, my surface planner, and many other powertools I own to Festool’s quality and performance. I think Festool did not intend to complete with conventional high quality tools. They are simply introducing an alternative.

-- Bob

View mski's profile


439 posts in 4277 days

#11 posted 09-29-2007 01:19 AM

My 2 Cents,
Buy what you can afford AND NEED
What you cannot afford MAKE even if you don’t need it
What you cannot make Use what they used a hundred years ago, Sharp planes and chisels, sweat and sore arms
I challange anyone to say they can do better woodworking than a hundred years ago with Festool or Makita or DeWalt ect.
You just can do it faster, BUT not better . And less rewarding.
ME I’m alergect to sweat and sore arms, but still cannot afford $700.00 for mortises!
I did spend $400.00 on Icra LS, it does alot though.
I did spend $18.00 on a brad nailer at Harbor Freight, (it would shoot at will) the third one I got was safe.
Everthing I do not use constantly and does not have to be very accurate I buy at Harbor Freight or Grizz ect. BUT I do make sure it is working properly before I give it my relax blessing.
By Now


View slaphitter's profile


50 posts in 4223 days

#12 posted 09-29-2007 01:30 AM

There’s nothing Domino can do that my trusty Beadlock jig can’t. Been using it for years with plenty of success.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4422 days

#13 posted 09-29-2007 02:40 AM

Fingersleft said:

I think Festool did not intend to complete with conventional high quality tools. They are simply introducing an alternative.

Two things there, the first is that Festool’s been around since, what, the 1920s or so? They’re just a new company in the North American market.

But to your “an alternative” point: exactly. Tom pointed out a couple of places that the “saw on a rail” concept requires different thinking. That’s a big deal. If I pick up a magazine, I can make most if not all of the cuts the magazine suggests, but quite often I can’t make ‘em the way that the magazine suggests. I don’t cut dadoes with a saw, I cut ‘em with a router. For a tablesaw you’ve got to build a jig to do angled cuts, for the Festool saw you’ve got to build a jig to do repeatable cuts (where the MFT and/or the MFS isn’t sufficient, although for most cases it is). Yes, it’s an alternative, and sometimes it requires thinking about things in entirely different ways from the tradition.

For the sake of the portable shop and my safety concerns and the price of real estate where I live, I’m all over Festool. If you’ve got room for a SawStop with a good dust collector, there are times when I envy you…

And as slaphitter points out, yeah, I could cut dovetails with a saw and a chisel. Lots of people do, and I respect them. If money were no object I’d have a WoodRat. Diff’rent strokes.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4038 posts in 4361 days

#14 posted 09-29-2007 10:56 AM

What you can afford to work safely and give yourself pleasure in your craft and end results that stand the test of time. That’s really all that is important.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4458 days

#15 posted 09-29-2007 11:24 AM

I posted this comment in the other “Festool questioning” post—- you can buy a $10,000 car and it will serve you well… but many people buy the $30,000 or $50,000 + cars. Why? the little luxuries and sometimes “just because I can”.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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