The Festool Domino VS The Biscuit Joiner
As a fellow keen woodworker, I am always keen to find new fast ways of joining timber. In this article, I will explore the practical applications of both the humble ‘Biscuit Joiner’ and the innovative ‘Festool Domino’ dowel system.
I have written this not to promote the Festool but to share my experience with this tool. So please read on and hopefully, you will share your own thoughts in the comments.
Let’s get to it
What kind of joinery do you do?
This might seem obvious but it stands to reason that whatever machine you choose whether it be the Festool domino DF 700 DF 500 or the good old faithful biscuit joiner in whatever breed it comes in. You need to know what type of joinery work you mainly do.
You may have enough funds to buy all three machines, well that’s great then you might as well just do just that. I for one as a poor woody cannot afford to own all three machines. I have owned a biscuit joiner for years starting with a cheap store brand to my current Dewalt which I am very happy with although it is basic compared to Festool or Maffell high-end tools.
Which type of jointer do I need?
If you regularly build cabinetry projects then you might find the biscuit joiner to be sufficient. If you want to add small framing tasks to your repertoire the smaller Festool Domino DF500 is manageable in size although more expensive than the biscuit joiner. But on the other end of the scale where your projects consist of joining boards and larger framework such as doors and windows, you’re going to find that the Festool domino DF 700 XL is a better choice.
- Biscuit Joiner excels at fast edge glue-ups
- Festool Domino DF500 is great for edge glue-ups and small frame jointing
- Festool Domino DF700 is a beast for large projects such as door construction but also edge glue-ups and smaller framing with the DF500 cutter adapter
Which joint is stronger the Festool Domino or the Biscuit Joiner?
The Festool domino provides a much stronger joint than a biscuit joiner. There are a few reasons why the domino joint is stronger than the biscuit joint for instance
- The domino has a larger surface than the biscuit
- The biscuit joiner cutter is shallower than the domino limiting the lateral strength compared to Festool Domino.
- Biscuits are made from beech wood and have a short grain which is not as strong as a timber with a straight grain which I make my Festool dominos from.
- The Festool Domino has a greater glue area.
Which machine for Carcase construction or Board Glues ups?
The biscuit joiner is good for either constructing carcases such as kitchen carpentry but the Festool DF500 dominos are in my opinion stronger than the beech biscuits (plates)
Festool Domino DF500 VS the Biscuit Joiner for small frame construction
If you are a fan of the old woodworking series ‘New Yankee Workshop’ then you will be aware of Norm Abram advocating the use of the Biscuit Joiner for almost everything. His portrayal of the Biscuit joiner was a tad overzealous. I personally do not recommend the use of the biscuit joiner for the purpose of framing at all as there is virtually no lateral strength. The Festool Domino Jointing System, on the other hand, is a great fast frame jointing solution. If you cannot stretch to the Festool Domino for small frame construction then it might be better for you to buy a quality dowelling jig.
What machine should I consider if I am building doors or large frame construction?
The Festool Domino DF700 EQ XL is an obvious choice for jointing large frames and heavy tabletops. With a capable 70mm x 14mm, mortise cutting capacity that can accept 14mm X 140mm domino dowels which can be cut in multiples of is extremely strong and repeatable. A door can have as many a 6 dominos loose tenons in each joint and when coupled with good glues such as Cascamite you will have a joint which is comparable to traditional joinery in strength.
The DF700 loose tenon machine is also good for jointing board edges of larger tabletops which not only helps board alignment but provide lateral strength across the tabletop.
Don’t forget the DF700 can accept the DF500 cutters with the help of the adapter making the DF700 a universal handheld loose tenon machine.
Festool Domino vs Biscuit Joiner – Seriously?
Video animation battling between the Festool domino & Dewalt biscuit joiner, I couldn’t help myself! Sometime we all have to play a little and whats better than to play with our favourite tool.
The Festool Domino comes in two models.
Before I can go into the detail you first need to decide which Domino you are likely to want. Is it the DF700 or the DF500. Both machines are of the same Festool quality but the DF700 is designed for large projects and the DF500 smaller projects.
How much does Festool Domino cost?
The Domino is considered expensive but the Purchase cost of the Festool Domino is outweighed by the time saving due to increased workflow.
- DF500 from 700euro
- DF700 EQ XL from 1100euro
- Biscuit Joiner from 100euro
Why is the biscuit joiner so much cheaper than the Domino?
The biscuit joiner is cheaper than the Festool Domino loose tenon machine because the biscuit joiner is required much less accuracy. If you look at the biscuit joiner you’ll see that the body of the biscuit joiner resembles a simple angle grinder with a special alignment system fitted. The fence on the biscuit joiner is similar to the domino but it’s more basic requiring visual alignment, unlike the Domino’s alignment pins. Festool DF700 or DF500 are very accurately machined and so the carriage and fence are extremely accurate where is the biscuit joiner is of lower engineering standards. The reason for this is that the Domino requires a higher degree of accuracy because the dominos cutter penetrates much deeper thus increasing the risk of misalignment.
Festool has sewn up their copyright.
But I think the key reason is that Festool has very tight copyright on their Festool Domino joining system. Festool has a monopoly with this particular tool and nobody can copy it and so they can demand a higher price. To be fair to Festool the quality of these machines like all Festool is extremely high and the price reflects this.
I chose the DF700 and here is why
Most of my projects are architectural and they require a thicker tenon. The DF700 has a depth of cut of 70mm which can accept a 140mm loose tenon known as a domino. The width of the mortise is 25mm. The thickness of the mortise is up to 14mm using either the 8,10,12 or the 14mm Festool Domino cutters. The smaller mortise depth of the DF500 of only 28mm was too shallow for my purposes. The Festool Domino DF500 accepts cutters of 4,5,6,8 and 10. The DF500 is ideal for jointing furniture projects and kitchen cabinets.
Note: The Festool Domino DF700 accepts DF500 cutters with the aid of an adapter.
Will you be needing the larger DF700 or is the DF500 better suited to your carpentry?
If you already own a biscuit joiner and looking to upgrade then the DF500 is the logical step. But if you like me needed a different beast for large projects then the DF700 is the kiddy.
What about the biscuit joiner?
The concept of Domino joiner has been since around 2005 but the Biscuit joiner has been around for a long time.
What’s good about the biscuit joiner?
The beauty of the biscuit joiner is in its simplicity. It has a plunging cutter which is in the form of a carbide-tipped disc a bit like a mini saw blade. The cutter has a simple depth of cut adjustment usually by turning a single knob from 10, 20 etc. The knob refers to the biscuit joint that you will be using. For instance, the number 10 biscuit is smaller than the number 20.
The biscuit joiner has a very simple alignment system.
One of the key differences between the biscuit joiner and the festival domino is the way it indexes the position of the biscuits compared to the domino doweller.
I own a DeWalt biscuit joiner which is a reasonable quality machine of a simple design.
It doesn’t have any special indexing pins like the festival but relies on my pencil marking. I have only used my biscuit joiner for jointing boards together for cabinet door panels or tabletops because it is a quick way to ensure alignment of the face. Since owning the Festool domino DF 700 XL I rearly pick up the biscuit joiner.
Why do I use my Festool domino instead of biscuit joiner?
For me to explain my reasoning why the festival is my first tool to hand relegating the biscuit joiner to its rack on the wall Gathering dust. I feel it makes sense to describe my experience glueing up a tabletop.
Glueing up a tabletop with a biscuit joiner vs the Festool domino.
Tabletop construction using the biscuit joiner
In my experience using the biscuit joiner to glue boards together edge to edge is as fast as the festival domino DF 700 if not a little quicker but there is a butt!
The problem you find when using the biscuit joiner is that it’s quite easy for the boards to come apart while you are applying the other boards. the reason for this is that the biscuits once half in one piece of wood and half out the oven are fairly shallow so it doesn’t take much for them to pop out while you are forcing the next board onto to the biscuits. The other problem I find is that you require 20% more biscuits than you would do Dominoes. When you get to the point when you want to clamp all your boards together using either pipe clamps or sash clamps the boards can pop.
What I mean by that is that when you clamp the tabletop together you may find that the tabletop could bulge vertically in the middle. When you add more pressure it will literally pop and come apart. To prevent this you have to place either a lot of weight on top of the tabletop or some down wood clamping pressure.
Physically the biscuit joiners have very little lateral strength and are made of pressed beach in most cases. The idea is that when the glue is added to the joint it causes the biscuits to expand and tighten in their slots locking the two pieces of wood together. The biscuits help with the board alignment on the finished side and prevent any glue slide.
Tabletop construction using the Festool Domino DF 700 XL
If you got no intention of buying the Festool domino DF 700 XL well then stick with a biscuit joiner because for tabletops the biscuit joiner does an acceptable job.
The Festool Domino is an oval profile so they require an oval mortice. The Mortice is larger than the biscuit joiner as well as deeper. I make my own domino dowels using Oak of reasonable quality, definitely no knots. One key difference of using the Festool Domino DF 700 is the unique indexed pin alignment system. Basically, when I blew up arp-a tabletop at no point do I need to use a pencil. With the pins and other accessories, it’s very quick and easy to make multiple mortises.
With the indexing system, you are guaranteed to get perfect alignment with the adjacent board. Unlike the biscuit joiner clamping the tabletop together is less hazardous. The length of the loose tenons or Domino’s prevents the the the joint from popping due to excess clamping pressure. At no point have I ever had any issues of the board coming apart once put together while I try to apply the other boards, unlike the biscuit joiner. Although the tabletop is stable once clamped is still a good idea ear to apply either weight or downward clamping pressure.
There is no reason you couldn’t use the Festool domino DF 500 for tabletop glue-ups. I prefer to use my df700 but if you have the df 500 already then it is an improvement over a biscuit joint.
What I use my Festool Domino DF700 for?
I understand that you’re Woodworking is not necessarily the same as my Woodworking and you may require a different machine. Just so you have an understanding of the type of work I do on a more regular basis I will highlight it here.
We build doors with our Festool Domino
My small woodworking business ‘Wallybois.com’ gets commissioned to build windows, internal-external doors and other chunky architectural pieces. We also build staircases and staircase kits designed for DIY installation. I have been questioned in the past either by a common or directly questioning the suitability of the festival domino jointing system for these applications. I did originally question myself would the machine be capable of Supporting a heavy oak door with Dominoes in the corners.
Considering that our house is also a renovation project it made sense to me to have a bit of experiment. I basically built my doors and some of my Windows using the domino joining system and this was a few years ago. All my items were made in Oak using multiple 14 mm thick by 25mm wide 140mm long Domino’s and a few years in there are no signs of any movement and the joints appear to be tight.
On occasions, we build furniture too.
It is not unheard for us to manufacture furniture and kitchen cabinetry. The Festool domino, in my experience, is a better machine for this purpose compared to a biscuit joiner. In fact, I find the biscuit joiner to be a weak joint for anything other than joining boards from edge to edge.
Is the higher cost of the Festool a straight jacket compared with the humble Biscuit Joiner?
Being constrained by the higher cost of the Festool Domino compared to variations of the biscuit jointer is a likely scenario.
It took me years at gauping at promotions for the Domino before I could bring myself to empty my wallet. If you are a pauper like me or you just want to spend your money wisely then you have to be confident with your choice between the Festool and the Biscuit Joiner.
I have owned the Festool for over two years and counting. The machine has been an eyeopener and has changed the way I work. I have written about my time with the Festool Domino DF700 XL
If you want to know if I believe my new investment in the Festool Domino was a wise one then rest assured if it was stolen today I would buy another tomorrow.
Which is best for constructing drawers?
You can construct drawers with either machine quite satisfactorily so for me to make a preference would be only on the basis of fact that I own both machines. the biscuit joiner is more than capable of constructing drawer boxes.
Is door production possible with the Festool VS Biscuit Joiner?
Ever since I purchased the Festool domino I’ve been using it for building internal and external doors. I have attempted to build internal panel doors using a biscuit joiner but I wasn’t satisfied that the joint would be secure for long. The biscuits for a biscuit joiner are just too shallow and they have a very small glue area.
Does the Domino require more glue than the Biscuit?
When I construct anything using the domino system I find that I use considerably more glue because there is more glueing surface compared with a biscuit joint. Yes, we use more glue but we have a stronger joint that is the payoff!
What glue do I use when joining with a biscuit or a domino?
I know many people use Yellow Blues even white glue such as PVA but I have another preference. For some time now I’ve been using powdered resin wood glues made from urea-formaldehyde, these are marketed under the trade name of cascamite.
Why do I use cascamite wood glue?
I’ve been using cascamite wood glue for a while and it was introduced to me by my late father. My father was a boat builder on the Norfolk Broads and would use a variety of waterproof glues such as Aerolite and Cascamite. As a traditional boat Builder, these modern glues made his life much easier. I’ve chosen cascamite powdered resin wood glue because it has very low compression. I find that PVA type glues, once they are fully dry, can still compress under load. Have you ever had to peel off the dry glue from the nozzle of your glue bottle, isn’t it flexible? Imagine any voids within your joint no matter how small having this ability to compress the glue. I believe the low density of dry PVA wood glue contributes too much joint failure. When I mix my cascamite wood glue and I have a little left in the mixing vessel and it sets by the following day it is so hard it tends to snap. The beauty of cascamite is that it is a great gap filling glue which does not compress.
The key differences between the Domino and the Biscuit
In principle, these two machines join mating pieces of wood via wooden connectors. But both machine has its own magic.
- The Festool has a unique pin alignment system
- Dominos are long so they have lateral strength
- Dominos are stronger than Biscuits
- You have a choice of 2 sizes of Festool domino machines
- high-cost initial purchase
- a large range of accessories to facilitate easy use of the Festool Domino joining system
- Easy straight through Joinery
- Festool df700 bulky compared to the festival df500
- Festool domino joiner system must be used with a dust extractor
- Quick to use
- Low cost compared to the Festool Domino
- Cheap operational cost.
- low-cost initial purchase
- Many make available
- Compact machine
- Easy to use as not intimidating.
Which Machine would I purchase if I had a choice
Well, you probably already know this one reading the tone in this blog but I am a convert. it’s taken me a long time to pluck up the courage to buy this machine but I would not go back unless something better came my way. Currently, there is no risk of that.
If you want a fast easy-to-use jointing system that you take to the workpiece then when the option has to focus on the innovative Festool domino joining systems.
If you already own a biscuit joiner then carry on using it. if not then save your pennies and grab a Festool domino either the df 700 XL or the DS 500. You will grunt when you hand over your money but the shock will fall to the wayside once you realise the wise decision that you have made.
Although we do have links to affiliate programs where you can purchase the above items we are not sponsored by Festool or any biscuit joiner manufacturer. It might be obvious but I just love my Festool domino DS 700 XL it is one of the best purchases I have made.
You might be interested in our test of digital tools for wood workers
My conclusion and comparison between the Festool domino and the biscuit joiner.
Trying to make a direct comparison between these two machines is futile in my opinion as there is no alternative to the Festool domino.
Both the Festool domino models and the biscuit joiner are very different beasts. In practice, both the Festool domino models can do what the biscuit joiner can do but the biscuit joiner cannot do the same job as the Festool Domino jointing system.
Here are a few of our honest Festool Domino Articles. Written by me from my own experiences
By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.
Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.
Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.
Why do I write these guides?
We started to write these guides to help our customers. The idea was to provide the information needed to install our made to measure wooden products that we sell on this website and directly to our local customers.
We soon received feedback from people abroad and interested readers not local to us. I like to help people and I am excited that fellow woodworkers or keen DIYers found guidance in my articles. I intend to carry on writing and producing youtube videos for the purpose of providing useful content. Please share our blog with your friends and anyone that could find interest in the magic of working with wood.
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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.
How did we come up with the trading name ‘Wallybois’? Well, it is simple really, my best buddy ‘Wally’ and the fact that ‘Bois’ is French for wood and we live in France.
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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France