Festool Domino Alternative

Festool Domino Alternative? (two years later)

It has actually been four years now!

If you are like me and enjoy innovation no matter what format it takes then the new offerings from Festool should ’tickle your fancy’. Anything that makes our woodworking easier or even better such as the ‘Festool Domino’ system is fine by me. The Festool Domino XL or the DF500 is not new anymore but it still turns heads of curious woodworkers.

In this blog, I talk through my Experiences with the Domino concept and why  I chose the Festool Domino over other jointing systems.

Searching for a fast mortise jointing system?

I know many of you out there who already have a great collection of Festool machines vouch for anything Festool. For me, it was purely a learning experience which needed me to hand over a wedge of cash.

My first mortiser machine

For years I was cutting mortises by hand until I finally got a compound hollow chisel mortiser which made a big difference.  Still, the hollow chisel morticer had its shortcomings which I will elaborate later. But one thing that was obvious was the fact that the hollow chisel is slow, so my search for a faster method of mortise & tenon jointing had begun.

The new mortise machine search criteria

  • Fast mortice cutting
  • Repeatable accuracy
  • Easy setting out
  • Cheap to use!
festool domino xl df 700 top-1200-678

Looking for a Quick Mortise?

As a woodworker, the ability to create perfect mortises is stable blood of modern joinery.

If I told you-you could create a mortice in seconds then I am sure you would be happy to find out how.

If you read on you will learn of a machine that has the ability to change the way you work. The system I speak is capable of fulfilling your jointing methods in a fraction of the time it currently takes you. I can fully joint and glue up a double opening window in under 20 minutes.

Repeatable Accuracy

In my little business, I need to have the accuracy, without it many projects would never reach my clients. So finding a jointing system which provides accurate results without fuss has to be a top priority.

Easy Setting Out

This is in tune with the previous criteria because when I used to cut mortice and tenons by hand I found that human error came into play but also I spent too much time marking out joints.

I Bit the Bullet!

Yep, I did it and that is why I am here now to tell the tale of my experience using the Festool Domino Joiner. It is not difficult to wonder whether or not it is the right decision but after securing a contract of work. I decided that logically this machine could save me some time in production.

I hummed and hared!

I have been using this tool for two years and it has transformed the way I work. I may sound a little too enthusiastic but I am a convert. Festool is a brand which you could consider as cost-prohibitive. For a whole year, I would drool the concept of owning this Festool. Was it as good as the promotional material’s depiction of this machine? Could I justify the cost?

My New DF700 eq XL although now 4 years old. I am no ‘Festool’ addict but I am a ‘Domino’ convert!

Best Place to Buy a Festool Domino

If you want to buy any of the Festool Domino machines and accessories I have put some links together which we get a humble commission for each item bought through the Amazon platform. I have put a list together of Festool Domino Machines:  Festool Domino Product Page

You can also buy a Domino from other reputable dealers such as Bob Marino or Peter at festoolproducts.com or any specialist supplier in your home county

Where did I buy my First Festool?

Deposit for the contract was in the bank and cleared I decided it was time to press the button. So I scarred the internet to find a good price for this machine. I looked on Amazon and other potential suppliers.

I decided to buy from ‘Outillage2000’ in France as this is where we live and is a bit like the well-known supplier of woodworking tools ‘Axminster’.

Within two days my new purchase arrived in good order. I was a bit wary of the machine at first as I did not what I was up against. I had watched many Youtube vids and read numerous blogs that seem to be only interested in selling me the machine. I have put a list together of Festool Domino Machines:  Festool Domino Product Page

Close up pictures of my Festool Domino DF700

My First Festool but Probably the Only Festool I will ever Own!

I cannot deny it, after owning this machine I am totally sold. I use it on a daily basis and it has transformed my workflow. But it was not an easy decision for me to spend the 1200e for one power tool although I do not regret it. It is clear that I like this machine. The engineering is leaps above anything else I have used. But I bought the Domino because it did a common task really quickly and accurately. So for me to buy another Festool might be a long shot!

You can buy a sander, a jigsaw, a chop saw under other brand names but you cannot buy another Domino.

I think we have a really long wait for the Festool Patent to end. Considering the Paslode collated head nail strip patent was applied in 1988 and expires in 2020 32 years later! I think we have a long wait for a Dewalt Domino or Makita Domino!

So Why did I chose the Festool Domino?

After a lot of soul searching and good old research, I came to the conclusion that the Domino DF700 was the machine that could satisfy my search criteria. I did look into a load of other options, some cheap some not so.

Are there alternatives to the Festool Domino Joining Machine?

Personally, I would say NO. That is not me biased but the fact that there is no system available that does the same job or to the same quality. Like I said I was unsure before but now since I own one I don’t see and alternative as yet. Maybe it is clever patenting but this machine is clearly innovative in design. Our list of  Festool Domino DF 700 is the DF500 Machines and Accessories

What Alternatives are there to the Festool Domino Jointing System?

I am sure you are told there is a variety of alternatives to the Festool Domino but I am sorry none of them come close.

So is there an alternative to the Festool Domino?

I have for some time been looking for an alternative jointing system that can realistically compete with the Festool Domino. I have been using the machine for four years and frankly, I have not found a machine that can compare with the Festool Domino on speed and convenience.

Portable joiner options

Is there a ‘Worthy Festool Domino Alternative’  questions

The question I am asked again and again is, “Is there an alternative to the Festool Domino?” I swiftly reply, “Nothing that can compete on speed and accuracy” then again I am confronted by another question “Is there a Chinese clone?”. These random questions are thrown at me again and again so I will list a few here.

Read on to see why I am sold on the Festool Domino Jointing System
  • Is there a Chinese knock-off? NO
  • Does Makita make one? NO!
  • It the Festool domino just another biscuit joiner?NO!
  • I heard Dewalt makes a Domino Dowel machine. NO!
  • When does the Patent for the Festool Domino end?NO!
  • Triton makes a dowel machine! Not exactly!

It’s all just FAKE NEWs !!

Round Dowel Jointers a worthy alternative?

  • Triton Duo Dowel Jointer
  • Mafell Dowel Jointer

Round dowels certainly have their place in today’s workshops as they are cheap and relatively quick when used with a duo dowel machine. Although these machines are useful frankly do not compare with the Festool. If I was to compare a Duo Dowel Jointer with either of the Festool Domino machines. I would put the Festool DF500 with the Mafell Duo Doweller as the closest comparison although they are still miles apart. I have used the Triton Duo Dowel Jointer and found it very inaccurate for repeated jointing of timber components so cannot recommend the Triton. No Duo Dowel Jointing system can be compared with the Festool DF700 Domino XL

Triton Duo Doweller is ok but not very accurate compared with the Festool Domino.

The simple wooden dowel and jig can be a cheap method of jointing.

Festool Domino Patent

The strong patent offered to Festool has ensured the success of the Festool Domino jointing system. More on the Festool Domino Patent

Could I just use a Router a Jig?

You could just break out your trusty router and a suitable straight fluted bit. I have been using routers for the purpose of producing the mortice for loose tenons for years. A collection of homemade wooden jigs and setting out templates have served me well.

Is this a cost-effective solution well you have to decide that for yourself. For me, the transition to the Festool is a no-brainer.

The setting up time of the Router solution is just too long-winded. Compared to the Festool DF series of joiners it is not time efficient. The whole Festool experience certainly outweighs any initial cost saving of a router system even if you already own a suitable router.

What is wrong with using your router for making a mortice

There is a fundamental flaw with using the router in comparison to the Domino XL for producing deep mortices. The Festool domino can produce multiple mortices of 70mm deep which makes door construction possible.

A router rarely has a depth of cut comparable with the Festool Domino 700 XL. Because of the limited plunge depth of the router, you will need to change the bit for a longer one. You need to use a variety of router cutters to cut deep mortises.

Festool mortise jig for use with a router is a great tool but the DF700 is still a better option in my opinion for larger joinery projects.

You can make a simple wooden jig using commonsense or one of the plans online.

You can use a jig or the fence for mortice cutting

If you decide not to use the Festool because of cost or you just can not warrant the investment so decide to cut mortices with the router. A router is difficult to control while making deep cuts. Because of this, you will need to use the fence supplied with your router or make a simple jig.

Me and my Makita router ready for a jig cut

Is the Festool Domino the Same as the Biscuit Joiner?

No, they are like chalk and cheese! The Biscuit joiner is great for board alignment during glue-ups. Whereas the Domino is good for the board alignment during glue-ups but also excellent for frame construction.

Biscuits joiners have little lateral strength, unlike the Domino joiners which are longer and heavier. Especially when using the XL DF 700 as it will cut to 70mm thus giving you 140 mm loose tenons.

Biscuit joiners are still very useful and I do use a Dewalt Biscuit joiner for fast edge glue ups but the method is not as effective as the Domino.

If you glue two board together using Dominos you can pick the assembly up by one edge and it will remain together, unlike the biscuit joiner method.

I have written a blog comparing the Domino to a Biscuit Joiner

Festool Domino VS Biscuit Joiner

The Festool takes its corner and the Match

Domino Vers a Mortiser?

I also own a substantial Morticing machine. This machine was the lifeblood of my morticing needs. These heavy workshop based machines are compact hence a small footprint. But there is a But? For them to be efficient you need several meters to each side of the morticer. Because when morticing the end of a frame section you need to slide the timber from one end to another.

The Morticer Machine

My Old morticer is an Old compound morticer badged as an Axminster but probably built in China! These machines work by having a square hollow chisel with an internal auger drill. This machine is perfectly suitable to produce mortices, after all, it was designed for that sole purpose in mind.

Quick it is not! Setting up can be a bane too as there are so many micro-adjustments to the slides which dictate the accuracy of the mortising machine. Without machine accuracy, the mortice chisel will not run true for every cut. The ‘Hollow Chisel Morticer’ is quicker than a ‘Mallet and Chisel’ but not quicker than the ‘Festool domino’.

Domino Vers a Mortiser Conclusion?

It can be said that the traditional morticer is quite capable but the Festool DF 500 or the big-un the XL DF 700 if far more practical for the majority of my work. The fact that I can take the Domino to, the workplace is a big bonus. The work can be heavy so the later is helpful. With the Stationary Morticer, the workpiece section has to be transported to the machine.

The Domino for me is my preference as it is convenient and always ready.

The Festool Vs The Horizontal Slot Mortiser

Since I have touched on the ‘Hollow Chisel Mortiser’ it is only right to give you the heads up on the ‘Horizontal Slot Mortiser’.

What is a Horizontal Slot Mortiser?

Think of the horizontal slot mortiser as a stationary ‘Festool Domino’ that you won’t want to carry around!  The HSM for short is a machine that can create around ended slot with a flat bottom. The HSM can be used for traditional tenons or loose tenons.

Independent Horizontal Slot Mortiser or Planer Accessory?

The HSM is a great machine if you have the room for long tables! An independent machine for cutting mortises is the best option as these have a better quality carriage system but a good planer accessory such as the SCM is a great option.  Accessories for slot mortising can do a good job but they do make the planer a little less convenient for its original task.

In Conclusion, Festool is not a compromise

Yes, the dedicated slot mortise is a capable mortising solution and for workshop projects, it is a great tool. But when the projects cannot be taken to a stationary machine the ‘Festool Domino’ is a better tool.

Remember Your Festool Needs  Love Too

The Festool Domino is a finely machined tool and as a result, it requires some maintenance. The Festool Domino does not require much maintenance but basic cleaning and lubrication are important. You must be careful when using thin oil lubricant as too much will cause dust build-up.

If using any form of wet lubricant such as a thin oil take care that you clean all the components on a regular basis. The reason why we clean our domino dowelling machine on a regular basis, especially the guide rails is that grit or other abrasives can stick to the oil.

Is The Festool Domino Easy To Maintain?

The domino joining system requires minimal maintenance. Obviously, the routine cleaning of the tool is important. A point to watch out for is the stop guide as this can restrict the full travel of the guides. I also like to use the airline to clean the around the motor and through the vents.

Separate the guide mechanism and wipe the guides removing and wear a dust mask. Apply some lubricant such as a PTFE spray or tool wax and reattach the guide assembly.

A basic strip down is easy, this will give you access to the machine. You can then lubricate and clean the tool making it run smoothly. This strip down will also expose the cutter for replacement or a sharpen.

You can Sharpen your Festool Domino Cutters

After spending a considerable amount on the Festool Domino you may ask why the hell would you want to sharpen the cutters. Just buy another!  well for me I don’t like to waste money and also when a hunk of steel is still serviceable but just needs the edge to be brightened up somewhat.

sharpen festool domino cutter

Frankly, I’ll take out my diamond sharpeners and put the edge back on.

In this video, I show how to sharpen domino carbide cutters. Save money by sharpening your own cutters. Sharpen regularly so they do not overheat because you need to remove more material. A sharp Festool cutter will speed up your workflow.

I have written a Blog on sharpening the Festool domino cutters including This video.

Removing the cutter can be done with the supplied spanner and the shaft lock button.

Sharpening can be done using a simple diamond sharpener. Watch our video to see how to do that and save on replacement costs.

How Does the Festool Domino Joiner Work?

The team at Festool has come up with engineering genius! The simple need of a hole that can accept a tenon sounds so simple but the in practice is unusual. The Domino Joiner achieves this by using a rotating cutter that moves laterally at the same time. The crucial part is the tip of the Festool cutter. The cutting process is performed by the tip only and the flutes only aide the evacuation of the cut fragments.

Is it a Domino, Dowell or Tenon?

Well, it certainly is not a Dowel as the dowel is traditionally round. A tenon is closer but I would refer to this as a loose tenon with round corners!

festool domino
Beech Festool Domino Dowels

What is a Loose Tenon?

‘Lose it is not’ well as long as you add glue that is. This is one of the tightest joining methods and used across the world in cabinet making and larger construction framework.

There are many advantages to the loose tenon method. Before the Festool, the mortises had to be cut by hand and took a while to achieve but today we have routers or chain mortiser which can perform rapid mortices in concession.

The advantage of the Loose Tenon

Other advantages are that additional strength can be applied to the joint by using a stronger timber for the loose tenon than what the project is made from. When working in angular joints with an ordinary ‘Mortice and Tenon’ joint you have to angle cut the tenon. But the loose tenon is easy as you only have to cut the mortises at angles. Cutting Mortises with the Festool Domino Joiner is easy and an integral feature of the machine.

The Loose tenon resembles the traditional mortise-and-tenon joint. But the speed of assembly, strength and ease of creating the joint is what makes the joint so popular

Would I have any Use for the Domino Joiner?

I said this to myself several times and frankly since I have own this machine I use it every day. I never realised home useful this machine would be. The joint strength was good too.

What is the Festool Domino Good For?

If you need to join two pieces of wood together then the domino could help. I use mine for jointing frames, kitchen carcasses, cabinets and jointing tabletops. Be imaginative these machines are versatile. If you want to start with the smaller Festool Domino such as the DF500 you can buy on Amazon here.

Are the Dominos OK for Exterior Use?

The standard Dominos are made from Beech. This hardwood may be hardwood but is not a good material for external use. Beech turns black and rots easily so not great for outside projects.

I am not a fan of timbers of short-grain for structural purpose. Although Beech is a very hard timber which is great for chairs it is not great outside in my opinion.

Some say the XL DF 700 is no Good for Doors or Gates!

With the right glues, the XL DF 700 can easily cope with the construction of heavy external doors. In Fact, I believe this system to be stronger than the traditional mortice. Multiple loose tenons can create a tremendously strong joint that can outperform a traditional tenon.

I use hard powdered resin wood glues as they produce a strong hard joint with no compression.

Cascamite powdered resin wood glues are my exterior door and gate glue of choice.

What Can I Make with the Festool Domino Jointing System?

I have made many different wooden projects. I find the system very fast for putting doors and window frames together. However, I have found the Domino Joining System very good for other projects. For instance, I have made various staircases using this system. It is especially good for the construction of open back staircases with the aid of a simple guide jig so all the components go together with ease.

“The versatility of the machine is only restricted by your imagination”

A batch of stair spindles ready for collection by the client

Garden Gate built with Festool Domino Doweller

There are many different projects you can build with a Festool domino Doweller. In this video, I built a simple gate and this is at our home and still working well without issue. I also built a sliding electric gate in the same way. This Festool Domino built gate is 5m wide.

You can build a staircase with the Festool Domino

The Domino Doweller is a versatile machine which we have used for a multitude of different projects with good success. A staircase is a good example of an alternative project. Why not open your mind to different ideas and experiment with new conceptual woodworking projects. Watch this video and see how we easily built an open back oak flight of stairs for a mezzanine.

Festool Domino Staircase still good now after 2 years of Trampling up and down

It has been two years since I built this simple staircase with this great machine. Some doubters have expressed that a staircase built using the Festool Domino would not be strong enough. Today I examined this staircase and considering it has been used extensively for over 2 years.

There is no sign of failure with this Festool Domino built staircase even though we have used it on a daily basis. I personally had concerns that the strings would create stress on the dominos and pull them out. Thankfully the staircase is in the same condition as when we built it apart from a few extra footprints.

I know this machine goes against tradition but the Festool Domino joining system is a truly versatile piece of kit.

P.S. This is not an ad or a tool review but only my experience with the Festool DF700, and I have no affiliation Festool. But if Festool wants to sponsor me I would very much like to try their other offerings.

I have written a blog on Making a Staircase with a Festool Domino Dowel system.

Can I Make my Own Domino Loose Tenons? VID

Well, I do! I first decide what timber I need and the size of the domino. I then cut rectangular blanks from wood usually oak hence that is what I make most of my products from.

This is where a Router in a Table comes in handy as I use either a round over bit or a double round over. The wooden blanks are then passed over the router table to produce my preferred loose tenons for use with the Domino Joiner.

I have been criticised for bothering to make my own dominos but frankly, it is my choice and personally, I find it very practical.

Can I make windows with the Festool Domino?

Yes, you can easily build window frames with a Festool Domino joining system. I have been using my DF700 ever since I owned it to make windows and doors.

Is the Festool worth the money?

Personally, I feel the Festool range of tools are overpriced and you can save a fortune if you consider other brands such as Makita.

I have to admit Festool makes some very high-quality well-designed tools. If you can warrant the cost of the machines and sundries then go ahead and treat yourself.

The caveat to this rule is the Festool Domino Joiner which Festool has the Patent pretty sown up. The system is unique and there are not machines which copy the mechanics.

If It Broke Would I Buy Another?

Yes without question. This machine by far is my best purchase and time, saver. Obviously, there are other machines in my shop that are my lifeblood such as the planer and table saw.

Should I buy the DF 500 or the XL DF 700

This is a question which anyone considering the Domino Joiner should be querying. I do not own the smaller DF 500 but from what I can see it is less well-featured than the XL DF 700. Also, the DF500 is smaller with less depth of cut and a smaller diameter. I make more comparisons in my blog Festool 500 VS Festool DF700.

From my observation, I believe the XL DF 700 is better suited to frame construction such as windows and doors.

Do you first have to ask yourself what kind of carpentry you are likely to perform? If you build cabinets for kitchens etc you could easily argue the DF500 is a practical and cheaper option to consider. If framing or other heavier duty joinery then the XL DF700 is a good choice.

Kill Two Birds with One Stone with the XL DF 700

If you have the pennies to spare then I believe you should consider the larger tool for both categories. The XL  DF 700 can accept the cutters from the DF 500 so you can create smaller mortices.

To use the smaller cutters from the df 500 you will need the Festool adapter.  But this will allow the XL DF 700 to be able to fulfil the needs of the smaller DF 500 as well as the XL DF700. You have the opportunity to have a double whammy of a machine.

Festool Domino DF500 Specification

  • Power Source: 120V AC
  • Motor: 420 watts
  • No Load Speed: 24,300 RPM
  • Mortise Cut Diameter: 5/6/8/10 mm
  • Miter Routing: 0 – 90 degree
  • Miter Positive Stops: 0, 22.5, 45, 67.5, 90 degrees
  • Stepped Stops: 16/20/22/25/28/36/40 mm
  • Routing Depth: 12/15/20/25/28 mm
  • Routing Height: 5 – 30 mm
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Festool Domino  XL DF700 Specification

  • Model: Festool Domino DF XL 700
  • Mitre Routing: 0 – 90 degrees
  • No Load Speed: 21,000 RPM
  • Routing Height Range: 3/8″ – 1-15/16″
  • Weight: 11.46 lbs
  • Domino Slot Cutter Diameter: 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 9/16″ 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm
  • Dust Extractor Connection: 1-1/16″
  • Max Routing Depth: 2-3/4″
  • Motor Power Consumption: 720 watts

Do I have to use Extraction with the Festool Domino?

Yes, you do although it is possible to use without an extraction system. If you are using the Festool Domino without an extraction hoover then you should have an airline close so you can blow it out on every cut.

Even with dust extraction, you will need to blow out the machine guides as they can clog with dust. Regular cleaning of the guides will ensure a smooth operation.

Do I have to buy a Festool Extraction hoover?

I have to admit the Festool vacuum extraction is very effective and superb quality. The only thing is that they like all Festool woodworking machines demand a very high price tag. Check out my blog on The Festool Domino Clogs when used without Extraction?

You do not have to use the ‘Festool Extraction Machine’ with the Domino. An alternative manufacturer of vacuum extraction systems works well too with the appropriate hose adapter.

Best shopvac for the Festool Domino?

I use my Domino in the workshop and I never take it to the site so portability is not an issue so I use a cyclone system. You may want to use this machine on-site or need to move it around the workshop with ease so a mobile vacuum is required.

Using an alternative shop vac with your Festool

Most vacuums work ok but having a synchronised power tool outlet removes another step so it will help improve your workflow. One thing you must consider is that the hose has suitable flexibility. Controlling the power tool attached to the shop vac with a stiff hose will make accurate control difficult. There are many different shop vac solutions out there.

The Festool to Festool shop vac is the best option but you might already have a suitable vac.

I have put together a list of suitable shop vacs that are compatible with the Festool Domino and other Festool machines in our Blog on Shop Vacs

3 thoughts on “Festool Domino Alternative? (two years later)”

  1. You feel quite confident that you could use the df700 in external heavy door manufacturing and not use traditional mortice and tenon. I ask this as I am trying to put a small workshop together and if this tool would suffice It would help a great deal as trying to afford all these other machines and buy tooling is really stretching my budget. Many thanks

    1. The Festool domino DF700 XL makes a neat mortice which you can easily multiply. I have been using this machine on my doors ever since I bought it almosty 3 years ago and have seen no come backs yet. I have also made my own doors here so I can monitor the suitability. I am not saying the Festool domino is better than the traditional mortice and tennon. I am sure many would disagree that this machine replaces the familar mortice and tennon. I would say the the glue plays an important part and I recommend Cascamite as it does not compress like PVA glues. If you do buy the machine and need any advice we are here to help. Regards

  2. Hey Marcus,
    Great review of Festool domino joiner from you!

    Festool has been my favourite brand since I started woodworking. Their tools are excellent, easy to handle, and worth the money. I look forward to purchasing a domino joiner in the future. Thanks for your recommendation.

    Off to share.

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