Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday ToolFoolery- My Festool Domino Work Triangle

I've never been one to engage in the bloodsport that is the handtool-vs-powertool debate.  We each come to the craft from a different perspective, with varying objectives, and with specific limitations on our time and budget.  I have as much respect for the woodworking Samurai who shapes each mortise with a chisel,  as the one who creates the flowing lines of a rocking chair with a keen eye and a bandsaw.

So it was only a matter of time before I embraced the Festool Domino (btw, I get nothing from Festool; I pay their cosmically stated rate on every purchase.)

And while I have no intention of of adding to the long list of breathless reviews for the tool, I have found that it works quite well in my shop where hand and power tools work side by side.  I call it my Domino Work Triangle and I think that it is a good system for repetitive tasks such as attaching aprons on small tables, inserting slats in arts and crafts pieces, and constructing rails and stiles in frame and panel construction.  You may already take a similar approach for slip-tenon joinery.

1.  A Mitre Saw on the Bench
One of the happiest days of my woodworking life was when I exiled the chopsaw from the studio and sent it to the garage.  Rough stock is cut to length with an old Disston, surfaced, and then cut to final length on my renovated Stanley mitre box.  It rides in the tool tray, has an adjustable stop, and generates a tiny amount of dust.  When stock is marked with a knife you can get very accurate, square cuts.

2. A Mitre Plane in a Shoot Board
A truly perfect joint requires that each edge be square and true.  As the Domino creates the perfect internal bits of a mortise-and-tenon joint, you are left to focus on creating a perfect fit between the shoulder and its mating piece.  Never has a tool that feels like such an indulgence proved to be so necessary.  It is astounding.  Because it weighs in at something like eight pounds, it glides through 2"x3" white oak end grain with ease.  The shoot board attaches to the other end of my handtool bench and doesn't interfere with the mitre box.  A few swipes takes me to the knife line.

3. A Domino on a Festool Work Table
In for a penny, in for a pound.  With a couple of commissions looming and several ideas for spec pieces in my head, I just didn't feel like building anything else for the shop.  I laid out the money for the mft system and I have no regrets.  This third leg of the triangle sits to the right of my bench and is light, strong, and provides another dead flat worktop for the Domino.  I know Fine Woodworking just did an article about jigs for the Domino, but I just clamp the work to the top and let it rip.  Instead of referencing off the top plate, I often use the bottom of the tool riding on the worktop.  On small pieces this provides more stability.

It goes without saying that this combination of kit comes at a price.  It does save me a great deal of time and allows me to spend most of my mental energy on design and details -- and design and details are reasons why someone commissions a piece of custom furniture.  But even if you are just building for yourself, there is something elegant about working with tools that do their jobs well and make your time in the shop successful and rewarding.


  1. I don't do any shooting, but I am thinking about it. How do you like your LN shoot plane?

  2. I love it! It does take some rationalizing to actually spend the money, but I've found that anything that helps to ensure perfect, repeatable results is worth it. I'm thinking about building a new shoot board with the Lee Valley chutes. I might even go for the long one as I could then shoot veneers as well.

  3. Excellent post, Christopher. Glad to see some activity on the blog again, too! You do a good job stringing various words together into enjoyable sentence structure. :)

    I, too, had a woodworking orgasm when I kicked my Dewalt out of the shop and brought in a nice old Craftsman 3646 miter box (similar to the Stanley 150) and had Mark Harrell make me a new miter saw for it. Cuts beautifully, miters are incredibly tight, and I can use it at 11:00 at night without fear of waking up the wife or son.

  4. Thanks, I may be in the market for a new mitre box saw soon, and it is good to know that Bad Axe is an option. I only hear good things about his work. And yeah, now that my youngest daughter is off to college, I hope to be more consistent with the blog.

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