Domino Joiner - Fine Woodworking Tool Review
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Domino Joiner

Festool - Domino Joiner

New joining system cuts mortises to use with prefabricated slip tenons in five different sizes

$Starts at approximately 700 (As of 3/1/2007)

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Editor's Review: Festool Joinery System Takes on Mortises

by Asa Christiana

review date: March 1, 2007

True innovations in portable power tools are rare. The random-orbit sander, the biscuit joiner, cordless technology-the big leaps forward are few and far between. Festool, a German company, stands out in recent years for reinventing a number of old faithful tools. Readers will recall the plunge-style circular saw with the ingenious guide track, as well as a high-end cordless drill that accepts three different heads.

Festool's latest innovation-the Domino Joiner-may be the company's most significant. Available in April, this tool looks and operates like a biscuit joiner, but the Domino uses a spinning and oscillating (wobbling side to side) bit to cut a full mortise in a single plunge. The system employs different-size beech slip tenons. Though the largest tenons are only 3/8 in. thick by 7/8 in. wide by 2 in. long, the uniformly machined mortises and perfect-fitting tenons added up to very strong joints-strong enough for cabinet doors, drawers, face frames, many chairs, and all tables just shy of dining size.

But the real sizzle here is speed. I assembled an entire table, with two slip tenons at each joint (32 mortises in all), in about half an hour, with perfect alignment of parts. I can't think of a way to do this faster with the same strength and results-not even close.

The downside for some woodworkers will be the price, estimated at $700 for the basic kit with one 5mm-dia. cutter, and another $200 for a starter kit that includes all four of the carbide-tipped cutters (5mm through 10mm) and more than 1,000 beech tenons in various sizes. Adjustments are a joy on this tool. Settings for depth and width of cut (oscillation) are precise and easy. As with a biscuit joiner, you reference off a movable front fence to get different slot locations and angles. The Festool's movable fence is nicely designed, but we had two problems with it. One of its pivot pins dropped out, and had to be reinserted and tightened. Worse, though, part of the clamping mechanism broke. With lots of people using the tool, we can't say for sure that it wasn't user error, but a close examination of the break reveals a thin cast section that must withstand considerable pressure if someone overtightens the fence. Festool replaced the front half of the machine, and there have been no problems since. Bottom line: Don't overtighten the clamp handles on the fence; they don't require much pressure.

I have only two other quibbles with the tool. While it oscillates to three mortise widths-up to 11/4 in. wide-tenons come only in the narrowest width. The extra room eases assembly when the mortises are used in rows, but Festool is missing an opportunity to provide more substantial tenons. Also, alignment pins in the front that reference off the corner of a workpiece to make layout unnecessary are too far from the edge of the mortise for my liking, leaving room for twist at the corner of a frame, for example.

Chairmakers will like the accessory that supports narrow parts to allow end-grain mortises at various angles.

Dust collection is critical with this tool; the airflow keeps the motor cool and clears the chips so that the cutter doesn't bind in a deep slot. Also, clamp the workpiece, hold the unit down firmly, and let the tool cut. You'll need to plunge slowly into the hardest woods.

Overall, the Domino is an impressive tool that could change your woodworking. For more information, visit

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Editor Test Results:

Parallel Test N/A
Noise Rating N/A

Manufacturer Specifications

Manufacturer Festool
Manufacturer's Web Site
Manufacturer's Phone Number 888-337-8600
Tenon Sizes 10x50, 8x50, 8x40, 6x40, 5x30
Fence Features
Amps N/A

This past summer I purchased my second Domino Joiner the larger sized XL700 machine. I can now cut slip tenon joints from 4mm to 14mm and with the greater depth of the XL700 I can cut joints 2 3/4" deep. With the retractable reference tabs on the face I can cut as wide of a tenon as I please and then make my own wide slip tenons. I still use my domino 500 for furniture building and both machines compliment each other nicely. I still have my Lamello Top10 from several years back but, It just gathers dust in the shop at this time.

Yes the tool is excellent, but unlike other tool users, I am not yet ready to put the biscuit joiner or Miller dowels away. The Domino is ideal for solid wood projects, but it's not nearly as good as biscuits for a plywood carcase. The shallowest tenon will still be a bit too deep for plywood, which is now generally available in a metric 18mm instead of 3/4". So I'll use the biscuit joiner (my old reliable DeWalt) to put the box together, but the Domino for the face frame.

I was hesitant to spend the money on a machine that "does only one thing", but a friend convinced me when he showed me how easy it is to use and how quickly you get results. Setting up the machine takes seconds and the cuts are perfectly crisp. The resulting fit with the loose tenons is tight and strong. What a time saver!

I bought the Domino machine a few weeks ago, but put off using it initially because I had built up a perception that it is complex. The reality is that once you have it in your hands the adjustments are pretty obvious. The machine itself is exceptionally well made. Something as simple as rotating the fence down to the 45 degree stop, for example, feels as solid as closing the door on a Hummer (well, perhaps Mercedes might be more apt). My first use was building a rosewood box. Although I have a Festool vac, it was in another part of the house, so I hooked the Domino to my Fein vac using Fein's rubber adapter and never saw a chip or speck of dust. The Domino cutter cut through the rosewood like butter, really no resistance at all. The dominos themselves were quite tight, to the point where it was difficult to dry-fit, and a bit tighter than I would cut a tenon normally. Given that, there is no question why the Domino produces a tightly aligned, no twist fit! This is truly a mortise & tenon machine. Any sneaking suspicion that it's a high-end biscuit machine will be gone the instant you use it. Highly recommended.

Just completed a laminated hard maple work bench and used the Festool domino joiner to join and register all top slab pieces for glue up. The tool is a pleasure to use, very ergonomic and very accurate. Made glue up and registration of the 18 top slab pieces a piece of cake and far less stressful than one would expect gluing up hard maple stock laminations that measured 1.75" x 2.5" x 77.5". Highly recommended and worth the price. I will use this tool whenever possible for joinery.


As the editor said in his review this is truly an innovative tool. I cannot imagine every using my biscuit joiner again. I've used it to join wood together for furniture panels and the result is dead flat panels with very little need to plan or sand the panels. Used with the Festool vacuum setup there is almost no dust. The tool as well as the "dominos" are bit pricey, if you can tolerate the price it will not disappoint.

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