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What I Learned At Festool Cabinet Training Class

I recently had the honor of being invited to participate in Festool’s cabinet-making class at their corporate headquarters in Lebanon, Indiana. The class was two full days of solid training…and it was a lot of fun. They have a complete training room set up there, stocked full of tools—more than a person could dream of having in their own shop. In fact, when the class was over, I didn’t want to leave and go home. They had to make me.

(Note: Click any image to enlarge. Hit "back" button to return to article.)

Festool graciously hosted eight attendees for this special class. The group included professional carpenters, woodworkers, and one retired dentist who now chips away at wood instead of teeth. The trainers, Steve Bace and Brian Sedgeley, were experienced and knowledgeable about building cabinets using the Festool system and approach of “Faster. Easier. Smarter.”

I build cabinets, entertainment centers, bookcases, and custom carpentry projects day in and day out. Over the years I have worked hard to improve the way I build cabinets, mostly by learning from mistakes and gaining experience with each project. Several years ago I bought my first Festool tool—the TS 55 saw and guide rail—to help knock down sheet goods faster. That tool made a tremendous difference in how I work. I now own pretty much every tool Festool makes.

For several years I’ve been using a Festool TS 55 and guide rail to break down sheet goods. After attending the Festool class, I started using the Parallel Guide System too, which makes it a lot easier to cut sheet material on jobsites where space is always tight!

A lot to learn

I went to this class with an open mind. Instead of “What can they show me that I don’t already know?” I wondered, “What can I learn today?” And boy was I surprised. I learned a lot! For this article, I’ll narrow my experience down to just two tools—the ones that have made the biggest difference in what I do and how I build cabinets: the MFK 700 Router and the new Parallel Guide System.

MFK 700

We used the MFK 700 for routing a 1/4-inch groove down the rear of the side panels of a cabinet to accept the back panel. This tool worked fantastically for this function. The MFK 700 accepts 1/4-inch collets and 8mm collets. The router is very well balanced, and when attached to the dust collection system it collects virtually all of the resulting dust and chips.

Before I used this router/method for grooving a cabinet for the back, I always installed the backs with pin-nails, wide-crown staples, or small hand-driven nails (remember those!). That old technique worked fine most of the time, at least until my painter pushed a little too hard on the back while painting and popped the back right off. Routing a groove for the back ensures that it will never get pushed out.

Perfect for Bead Board!

The MFK 700 sets up very quickly. You just run your groove down the back side approx. 3/8” to 1/2″ from the edge. The router has an edge guide attachment that just slips on—set the depth and away you go!
However, if you want to add nailers for the top and bottom, move the groove in 3/4” from the edge and attach the nailer behind the back. When you assemble the cabinets, leave the top a bit short of the groove—that way you can slide the back right in. This makes for a stronger built cabinet, which means no chance of pushing out the back.

I use bead board 90% of the time for the backs of built-ins. In fact, I use so much bead board that I have become known as the “Bead board King” on several online forums I participate in. I like using sheets that are 1/4” or 3/16” thick. Using this new method with bead board, I am able to speed up assembly.

Edge Banding

The MFK 700 makes edge banding shelves, or the sides of panels, faster, easier and smarter. In a flash you can set up this router for edge trimming with a special bit that Festool makes specifically for this task. The MFK 700 comes with a special base which makes it very easy to run the router down to a 3/4” thick edge. After applying the edge banding, you can easily trip off the excess banding material. A little light sanding, and it’s a done deal.

Since the class, I’ve used this method for shelf edges as well as counter tops (using the laminate trimming blade).

I’ve also used the small router for tricky beading edges. My old router would tip a lot on a skinny 3/4 in. edge. Not so with the MFK 700, because the extended base provides additional footing, something you really need when cutting a delicate quirk-and-bead edge.

Parallel Guides

Festool also makes a Parallel Guide System for the TS 55 and TS 75 saws, which helps to speed up repeat cuts on sheet goods. In the class, we were shown how to set up these accessories and use them correctly. First, you attach the guide rail system to the outside edges of your sheet good. Once you’re set up, you can make your cut, pick the guides up, and set them on the next piece for an exact repeat of the last cut.

Steve and Brian taught us all how to set up the Parallel Guide System, which seemed pretty touchy at first, but it wasn’t long before all of us were making repetitive cuts on full-length sheets with ease.

This accessory has cut in half the amount of time I used to spend measuring both ends of the sheet, marking the piece, resetting the guide rail, double checking the marks, and then cutting.

I now use the Parallel Guide System at home frequently. Though the scale is metric, I usually start by laying out the guides with a tape measure, then use the metric scale to make sure they’re dialed in precisely!

Saving the dessert for last

Finally, the icing on the cake: even though I had dinner with Festool’s president, Christian Oltzscher, which was fantastic, and I had met the whole Festool staff, along with a gang of fellow carpenters…going into the FESTOOL WAREHOUSE and seeing all those tools, just sitting on the shelves, thousands of them, just waiting for a home—well, I nearly passed out. It was better than being a little boy in a candy store. Thank you, Festool.

What I took home

I recently built a 4-section bookcase project with repeat cuts for eight sides, bottoms, tops and shelves. Thanks to these new tools, and all I learned at the Festool class, I zipped through this job with ease. Again: Faster, easier, and smarter—that is the Festool way.

In closing, I highly recommend this class to everyone. You will learn new tricks; you will pick up better ways to use Festools; and you will improve your onsite cabinet-making skills. And to top it all off, you will meet new friends and have a great time.

Comments/Discussion

52 Responses to “What I Learned At Festool Cabinet Training Class”

  1. Bob Garman

    This is Carpentry has a great purpose, but this article is just a blatant advertisement for Festool. It even has official Festool videos embedded! I love Festool as much as the next guy, but if This is Carpentry wants to have any credibility, it should not publish articles like this one.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Bob,
      I agree with you in MANY ways! At first I couldn’t make up my mind about that story. In the end it was an easy decision. We do our best to remain honest to our authors’ intentions. If you knew Kreg McMahon, you’d know exactly what I mean. Yes, in some ways we do ‘direct’ the magazine. But pretty much, we publish the stories we receive–nearly every one of them! We use the author’s words as much as possible, and when a story is short on words and we need a few more, we try our best to capture their voice. But we don’t change the content. Kreg is a Festoolaholic. And after being chosen to attend that class, naturally he felt extremely appreciative. I hope that helps you read between the lines! Or skip a few! :0)
      Gary

      Reply
    • Ken Nagrod

      Hello all! I’ve been staying in the background too long since the inception of T.I.C., so first I’ll introduce myself, then give my 4 cents.

      My name is Ken Nagrod. I have a construction business and I’m a union carpenter and cabinetmaker. My working ranges from foundation to roof, rough framing to finish work and building cabinetry. I am constantly trying to improve my skills in this field, seeking out experts or even a novice with a good idea. As Gary Katz can attest to, I’ve sought him out for help by phone, email and in person. I’ve even asked his advice on particular tools and brands and I appreciate his honest opinions. I don’t have any issue with Kreg’s article. He didn’t try to force me to buy Festool products, but he did accomplish two things. He offered his way of accomplishing a task for others to consider and he made people aware of training available to them by Festool. I always look for ways to improve myself or learn something new, even teach what I know to others. I want to be highly skilled in my trade and pass along what I’ve learned to others so people can enjoy doing our craft and gain respect for their quality work. If someone doesn’t like Festool, that’s fine, but see the article for what it really is. It’s NOT a marketing ploy!

      Reply
  2. Kreg mcmahon

    Bob, thanks for your comment and I disagree. In our business we all need knowledge and we all use tools. That is what I was sharing. Knowledge on how to build better cabinets and with better tools and how to use them.

    I was not asked or paid by anybody to write this article. I choose to because it helps people to be informed on how to do things better and with some of the best tools.

    But, again thanks for comment because this is what the feedback feature is all about and we all respect that and each other!

    Reply
  3. Joe Adams

    Kreg,

    Nice job on the article! I learned several things and appreciate you sharing this unique experience.

    Reply
  4. John

    Nice review and a good starting point for first time users. I have the parallel guides in the box and have not used them because I had the impression that the guides were used only for cutting thin strips but now I understand the concept for whole sheets with repeatable components of cabinet boxes.

    Reply
  5. Dreamcatcher

    This “article” seemed more like an advertisement for Festool than an actual TIC editorial. It doesn’t lend much to the unbiased reporting when the author is wearing a Festool/Kapex t-shirt.

    As a professional carpenter for almost 15 years, several of those years exclusively as a cabinetmaker, I feel as this article may have the tendency to steer some would be cabinetmakers in the wrong direction through it’s unabashed product placement and the authors quixotic on-site preference.

    While performing work using the methods and equipment described in the article are entirely possible, it may be noted that in the world of fine carpentry and cabinetmaking they are less than ideal.

    Here are some tips from a real cabinetmaker who has not been influenced by corporate contribution:

    1. Get A Workshop.
    While fine cabinetry can be fabricated on-site, the conditions are less than ideal. Commuting to and from the site, unloading then reloading tools daily, protecting materials and progress fabrications, working around tradesmen and homeowners, finding space, and working in cumbersome conditions should all be avoided. A dedicated workshop allows you to focus on the project task. The expense of daily travel may be lessened as is the daily time to start work, clean up, and stay organized.

    2. Get a Good Tablesaw
    I know what a Festool guiderail system can do. It can be very useful. But it is not as useful in cabinetmaking as a good tablesaw. From precision rips to perfect dados, a tablesaw should be adjusted to perform cabinetmaking tasks with 1/64″ tolerance or less. Measuring should be avoided and the fence should be trustworthy and predictable everywhere between 0″ and 48″. This is usually only necessary to calibrate once in the saw’s lifetime as, opposed to small portable tools, it is worked around not dragged around. A good tablesaw (preferably a cabinet style tablesaw) is heavy, durable, and vibration free while hand based power tools are dependent on the workpiece, the sturdiness of the bench, the condition of the tool (often beat up from transport), the proper use of the guide system, and the steadiness of the user. Steadiness is often key – and let’s face it, the less you can rely on your human hands to do the work the easier and often better the product is going to be.

    3. Get a Stacked Dado Blade
    I have dadoed, rabbeted, and grooved with a router many times. Sometimes it is literally the only feasible way. But 98% of the time you are going to get the most efficient AND highest quality results from a tablesaw set-up with a stacked dado set. Whereas a router can tip, vibrate, and wobble a good tablesaw with a dado set is rock solid.

    4. Get a Router Table
    Making moldings using a hand held router can go two ways – either it’s quick and easy with short set-up and near instant reward OR it goes very bad. The router could tip and destroy the work, you could hit a bad grain and splinter the piece, the guide wheel could lock up or fall into a knot, you could even lose control of the router and cause harm to yourself. The point is it’s sometimes [often] a crapshoot making moulding with a router in hand. Making moldings on a router table produces more uniform results with less chatter, and thereby less “tune-up” time afterwards. It also gives you the ability to make larger moldings, sometimes impossible using a hand router.

    5. Consider Hiring a Cabinetmaker
    Often the best results are gained by hiring a professional – not that any good carpenter couldn’t build cabinets, but a real cabinetmaker is likely to build them better.

    Please take these tips into account as you ponder which Festool wonder to purchase as you venture into the cabinetmaking trade. You might find that the Festool “system” is not as perfect of a system as it is claimed to be and as certain writers want you to believe.

    Reply
    • Bob Scott

      Yes there is some talk of Festool in the article.

      But if you read the title of the article “What I learned at Festool cabinet training class” it kinda alludes that there would be some information on how to use Festool tools.

      Bob

      Reply
      • Leon

        Your comments regarding the making of mouldings is about the only comment I can agree with 100%. The balance of your comments, I think,are a little off, based on your opening statement.
        Everything you have mentioned regarding having a workshop is not always ideal. I don’t know how much fun you have trying to cut ply sheet on a table saw. I have a workshop, a big one, with lots of large fancy machinery. But I find, that using the Festool system, I save time and effort doing almost all parts of a cabinet.
        There is a distinct difference between time saving and working fast. I save time, but never work fast. This is when the accidents happen
        I have proven this to my staff by doing identical projects. My staff used all the equipment you say is what a real cabinet maker needs and I used only my Festool systems.
        Not only did I complete the project (a six drawer desk) 1 hour before them, but my finish was better.
        Festool allowed me to set up faster and work in literally one spot. My staff on the other hand were moving around to the various parts of the workshop with the material.
        If you want to build 100 units of the the same piece of furniture, then you will win with your argument, But if you want to make a one off piece, I’ll beat you hands-down anytime AND ANYWHERE!
        This is my humble opinion as a carpentry business owner for the last 11 years & real cabinetmaker, with all 10 fingers and toes still attached.

        Reply
    • Steve Parent

      I too am a finish carpenter and cabinetmaker and I have a shop with all the tools. The Festool saw with rail is one of the best tools I have purchased in years. It is light, accurate and very well engineered. The big plus is bringing the saw to the sheet goods instead of wrestling heavy sheets to the tablesaw. I can stack sheets on the bench and make repeat cuts all day.I mostly do my crosscuts with the Festool and rips on the tablesaw. This is my first visit to this website and it is quite good!

      Reply
  6. Kreg McMahon

    Dreamcatcher,

    Thank you for your response. First, I build approx 25 built-in units a year for books, display and entertainment centers. I have a shop with a Delta Unisaw 3hp and 5 router tables along with many other shop tools.IO also have 3 dado Sets by Forrest, That I do not use that much any more. I Knock down and do alot of prep work in my shop, and then I go to the customers house for 2-3 days for assembly, installation and finishing the work..

    I take over 1/2 their garage, and 90% are fine with this. those that are not I do what I can. By using the festool system it collects 90% of the dust, in turn keeps their garage clean.

    I do not work for builders, only homeowners and usually on a refferal basis due to the quality and work that I do.
    I agree that if you are building kitchen cabs and fine fine cabinetry, shops for this kind of work is essentially and usuually a huge shop for space. I do not do that kind of work.

    Festool’s system is designed for people like myself who do on site work to make it easier and faster to complete the task at hand, and there are a lot of people like my self all over the country and world that do on site built-ins.

    What is nice about festool is that they are taking the time to help educate carpenters on how to do these task on site, and do it better. I have yet to see Bosch, Dewalt, Porter Cable etc put on classes to help and train carpenters, accept where Norm does the New Yankee workshop and uses Porter Cable, who used to sponsor that show, again to help sell Porter Cable.

    On This Old House over the last several years you see Tommy useing Festool’s even though they do not mention the name, we all know what they are, and again becuase they work for what they are designed for.

    I as others do, fill a nitch in the market place for built-ins at a fair price, I do not build Fine Fine, Custom Laquered top of the line cabinet projects, But what I do build are some pretty awesome built-ins and Festool’s have help me take it to this level, again as they were designed to do.

    so in conclusion thank you again and I agree that for what you do, your shop is essential and the tools you use.

    Oh, I choose to wear the festool shirt on my own over my standard american eagle shirt or my Lynard Skinner concert shirt with the sleves cut off! LOl.

    Glad that you posted your comments!

    Reply
  7. Joe Stoddard

    This article was definitely a little Fanboy-ish – but there are times when that’s necessary. When the procedures being presented are unique to a particular product – what are you going to do? Ignoring a brand doesn’t help readers either. I deal mostly with software/technology products and it’s very difficult to stay generic and brand-neutral 100% of the time. Sometimes you have to cover a specific application, and that means a particular product.

    I have a much bigger problem with losing an inch of cabinet depth to a back that’s routed in 3/4″ from the true back than I do with covering Festool. That practice makes no sense to me – on a standard wall cabinet that inch is the difference between a dinner plate fitting behind the faceframe and not. What’s wrong with a rabbet and a few staples?

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Yeah…like Sketchup. How can talk about 3D drawing software without talking about….:0)

      Reply
  8. Joe Stoddard

    PS – Tom Silva was using Festool years before anyone knew what it was. Check the TOH shows from the ’80s.

    Reply
    • Kreg McMahon

      Joe, I have to pay better attention to the older toh! thanks,

      also thanks for your response about the 1/4″ and yes that is also a good way to do it. I usually have room so losing that extra bit has not been a big deal so far.

      Reply
  9. David Pugh

    Another cabinet class attendee. I was wishing that I could have been present for this class in Lebanon- I was lucky enough to go to one in Las Vegas. The tools are great, the techniques are great, the instructors are the greatest. You learn things you never knew. You will be glad you were able to attend.
    As to the controversy regarding blatant advertising. When it comes to tools someone said in a Fine Woodworking review of the guide system, that Festool was the difference between men and boys. This is serious stuff that enables you to do your best work- whether in a well equipped shop or in the field. I just retired after a lifetime of working mostly in state of the art industrial facilities. I have used these tools in both environments- they were able to produce fine and precise results both places.
    My boss and I traveled by airplane to Napa California to cut the depth of a lacquer finshed 22 foot wide entertainment center by 1-1/2 inches. We had to fly in in the morning and fly out again that afternoon. We came in, took the thing apart, cut down the top, the deck, the sides and the dividers. I created a dado in the deck using just the saw and the guide rail. We put it all back together, went back to the airport and waited around for about 2 hours before our flight. If you need to do something hard wouldn’t you like to do it with the best knowledge and equipment and support? I was sure grateful that I had it.

    Reply
  10. Evan

    After reading the comments on this article I had to add a few things. The Festool tools are designed to work not only better than most alone, but far better as a system that is properly engineered for better results than is normally possible on the jobsite. We all know that the jobsite is not the ideal work area, however some things cannot be done better and more efficiently in the shop, especially custom applications where things are not perfect. Tools that are actually engineered to work well with the end user in mind are rare now and becoming more so with the “Why buy one when you can have three for the same price?” mentality. I appreciate well made tools much more than cheaper made ones no matter the brand or price because they save you time, money, and actually pay for themselves after the first job in some cases. I beg to differ on the fact that shop tools can always make better cuts, more accurately because always is a very strong word. All of us are hopefully looking for ways to increase our speed, efficiency, and most of all our quality of work. I look at some old construction techniques and often ask whether my techiniques will stand the test of time as well as theirs did even though they did not have some of the tools and resources we have available now to make our job easier, faster, and also sometimes safer. We ALL have much to learn and even though this article focuses on the Festool tools we can derive somthing deeper from the article in the way that it is another outlet for education which we ALL can use no matter our age or experience. The best to all and thank you!

    Reply
    • Kreg McMahon

      Evan, thanks for the response and glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the added information n!

      Reply
  11. Eric Buggeln

    Kreg, loved the article. Mainly because I want to plan a trip to one of the classes and you gave me the best look at what types of stuff I would be learning there. Im sure there are other Festool using readers who did as well. Festool is so controversial. There are one of two people, ones who own every Festool and bleed green and ones who wished they owned every Festool, but don’t and have to spew hatred to those who do.

    I could always use some more “Whats Kreg McMahon doing with Festool that I need to get into?” in my life, Eric

    Reply
    • Kreg McMahon

      Eric,

      thanks for the compliment ! i know that you also build cabinets etc on site and that festool has helped you to acheive better results !

      Reply
  12. Arte

    Kreg:
    First, I want to thank you for taking the time to put this article out there and thanks to TIC for publishing it.

    While I agree with the other posts that indicate this seems like a Festool Commercial, I say – so what! I like you love Festool, and have no problem pushing a great product to our brothers – I do it on building sites all the time.

    I do cabinet and built-in work on site in multi-million dollar homes, and Festool products allow me to do shop quality work on site. Unless I misunderstand, it this not the purpose of the Festool line?

    For those of you who have the advantage of having a shop to go to and build, I say – be grateful. For me – THANKYOU FESTOOL!

    Kreg, thanks for your time an insight, and thanks for taking the time to pass that on the rest of us. I commend any brother carpenter willing to take the time and energy to pass on his help and knowledge (Gary, special Cudos to you in this regard).

    Regards, Arte Stein
    PS. Festool: Been trying to get into an Indiana class to no avail – How about it boys – Let’s get more classes for the masses of Festool Geeks.

    Reply
    • Kreg McMahon

      Arte,

      Thanks ! and yep they do what they say they will do. and that is why I also along with many many others use festool day in and day out on the job site.

      Reply
  13. Stanley D. Jubas

    I am a corporate type who took a sabbatical from my business for a year to go back to school and graduate as a cabinetmaker. It is a hobby for me and over the years I have accumulated a large selection of power tools, hand and shop. I am pretty proficient with all my tools. I do like my toys. I also have a logical mind. If I needed tools, I would probably purchase some Festool products as their quality is excellent. I will be purchasing their mortice and tenant cutting tool as I have seen it demonstrated in my woodworking class and am impressed by it. I work in solid wood only and specialize in 18th century reproductions.

    A router is simply a motor that spins a cutting blade and once you understand its function and know how to set it up and use it properly and if the one you already own does its job without error, why get rid of it to get a more expensive one that will do the same work? I own numerous routers which some are dedicated and set up for specific tasks such as dovetailing, etc.

    I have several shop vacuums which are made by Fein that are excellent and with extension tubes can easily be hooked into any hand power tool to remove dust. Why should one be forced to purchase a Festool vacuum when you purchase a Festool. Vacuums all work on the same princpal and and have been around forever. There is no rocket science involved.

    The one thing I do not like about Festool is the metric system it uses. I understand the system but am always translating into imperial which is an extra couple of steps for me. If Festool is such a great company, why do they not make their tools for export to North America with Imperial makings instead of metric? They certainly charge enough for their products.

    Quality is an important factor but so is price. Festool is at the high end of the quality and price factor and their tools may rate a margin better than the top of American or Japanese tools but if a $600.00 sliding table saw will do just as good a job for you as the $1350.00 Festool and will last just as long, why spend the extra money? It all depends on ones need.

    Reply
    • Rik Tacoma

      I’m a Festool fanboy and one of the reasons is the metric system, I’m in Canada a metric nation in North America. On the globe I can’t find too many countries using the Imperial system. I’m a carpenter and use feet and inches often on the jobsite but I find the metric system superior in the shop.
      Great article I like the attention to detail when reviewing a single type of tool or system rather than a comparitive of all brands.

      Reply
    • Micheal O'Doherty

      A few small points to contend with here:
      I use a different brand shop-vac , coupled with an iVac switch with my TS55. Festool are smart enough to make their hose compatible with another brand’s vac.

      Your “$600.00 sliding table saw ” is, I presume, a sliding miter saw.

      RE Imperial?Metric:
      Adjust.
      I don’t care if the scale says “25 elephants” as long as it is consistent, accurate and repeatable.

      Reply
  14. Kreg McMahon

    Stanley how fantastic that you went back to school. and festool does not force any one to buy a vac, however if you buy a dust extractor along with a tool they give you a discount. Fein works great as they also are a higher end dust collector.

    and you will love their mortise and tennon tool better known as the domonio, which I use all the time in cabinet making and it works so much better than biscuting.

    enjoy! and again thanks for reading and adding your views !

    Reply
  15. David Tuttle

    OK… my two cents. I’ve made high end custom furniture and I’ve build some pretty fancy stores… I do wish I had a shop, but I tend to loath the time I have to spend in there to justify keeping the lights on.

    I’m now building much like Kreg. The world is changing and Kreg worked more than most anyone else did last year.

    I enjoyed seeing him using the parallel guides. I’ve used the Big very expensive and large Real Estate Panel saws and Unless you’ve got a huge shop, and lots of employees, the TS55 and rail system is by far better than any panel saw.

    Reply
  16. John R Graybill

    The last thing I had to do on a kitchen remodel in 2003 was install 2-1/4″ thick butcher block counters on to a penisula and around a pilar etc. Lots of long miters with angles from 45 to 60 degrees. I figured using a good sidewinder, belt sander a draw tites it would take two days to get good, even, tight joints.
    Then I discoved Festool’s AT 65E with three tracks, four sets of clamps and the CT33 vacuum.
    I was done in a day, perfect long, tight joints in one cut. No burns, no kick back, no do-overs. When I found out that my Fein vacuum would have worked just as well as the CT33, Festool said; send it back we will pay the freight. No other Tool company has stood up and performed as well as Festool has.

    Reply
    • Kreg mcmahon

      Thanks that is a great story and yep Festool backs up what they sell! And you saw the value of using the right tool designed for the right job. Thanks for adding your thoughts

      Reply
  17. gary

    You attended a Festool school and you’re sharing your experience along with your satisfaction with Festool tools.

    Next time wear a makita shirt and use bosch tools, too, to keep the festool jealous folks happy

    Reply
  18. scot Doolittle

    I enjoy all the different opinions on here, even those on the opposite side of the Festool fence! I bought my first festool tool several years ago, a sander and vac for some interior work, and was sold. I thought this must be ther flagship and all the rest of their line will be good but not worth the money.

    Then I had 34 prefinished doors to trim, saw and rail guide payed for itself. So I thought ok, two flagship tools. Needless to say that was many tools ago.
    I bought the kapex when I had extra money burning a hole in my pocket, and for me the best feature is the dust collection and weight, even though it now never leaves the shop. Working with mdf trim has made me very sensitive to its dust and without the dust collection I dont even want to work.
    I have a small shop and agree a table saw is best for most case work but these tools bridge the gap between shop work and site work with unparreled quality. You cant be sure triming a prefinished sheet or freshly finished wood top wil be safe on a table saw, but saw and guide, you bet!

    I recenty did started a job cutting down some prefinished bamboo counter tops for a resturaunt table tops. Would not dare sliding those across my powermatic 66 but in short time, all were sized with minimal sanding left to be tackled.
    My most recent purchase was the mkf700 and the domino, the router in its horizontal base was the best I have ever used to edge band some wenge doors I made, it used to be one slip and I was starting over, not this time, it takes some of the human error possibilities out. The domino, has been good for for putting together trim and keeping them tight and flush.
    The only complaint thus far is the mft table and guide, I founf this useless, but I see other who swear by it.

    My purpose here was to explain that there are tools designed for one use and they do it best but our work is not this simple, we often need to make perfect from the shop builds, fit not so perfect homes, and keep the home owners happy and dust free, THIS is were Festool is top notch.

    Reply
    • Dreamcatcher

      Really liking the commentary here. Thanks to Kreg and the other TIC staffers for being so proactive in their replies.

      There are some cabinetmakers out there who only use hand tools, maybe some others who just use Craftsman tools and swear by them. I know that my set up is perfect for me but everyone is different in their needs and their wants.

      A note for any of you tool hounds who praise quality and design… check out Mafell tools sometime. They have an automated portable rail guided circular saw.

      I didn’t mean to come off like a Festool hater. I judge tools on an individual basis and understand to each their own and some situations are unique and require a specialized set of tools. I acknowledge that if you absolutely must build cabs in a confined space you would certainly need some sort of system like Festool. But as I said earlier, I just don’t recommend building cabs in a confined space unless you really have to (at which rate I’d just roll the price of the tools into the build anyway). Sometimes what you “have to” do and what you “think you have to” do get blurred. When I started out working under a master carpenter, we did EVERYTHING on-site. It was literally a Framing-to-Furniture operation. Then I was asked to help a friend build cabs in his shop. It blew my mind how much more efficient and higher quality it was. I set a new course right then and there.

      My [modest] garage shop is set up just to quickly knock out case work, face frames, doors, and trim in the manner that I recommended before. Then I have a separate set of equipment (hand and benchtop) that I take on the road for install. I scribe everything to fit, which is generally freehand on a tablesaw, backward circ. saw, jig saw, belt sander, or hand plane work. In my most common situation, there is no place for a rail saw/router. But I have been in plenty of other situations where it might have been a major help. While I don’t recall how I got through those spots, I know I got through and still made a buck. I suppose sometimes it’s just gadgets vs. technique. While I have used Festool systems, and felt they were nice, I just never saw a calculable need for them in my repertoire.

      Whilst I have all you Festool fans at the round table, can anyone tell me why there is such a praise over the Domino? That’s one tool that I just don’t understand how it could make my work better or my life easier. I see they even have a new decking system for it now but it looks complicated and slow. So far the domino just looks like another gadget to me. While it may be unique, it also may be unnecessary.

      Reply
      • Kreg McMahon

        I just sent you an email, and afterwards thought I would repost it here as others will probably want to know also, so here it is:

        Hey Dreamcatcher:

        again thanks for your comments and dialogue and it is always nice to here how others do things and what they have found.

        The main thing I like about the domonio is for alignment purposes. Since I build lots of built ins it has always been a pain to line up the sides and tops and if you pocket screw them without clamps they slip. biscuts help but not really.

        you can spend time clamping up the sides and top with corner clamps etc but that takes time. so in comes the domonio.

        I put a domonio slot at both ends of the edge of the top piece for example about 3/4″ in and then on the side piece I put a slot on the face. then add domonio biscut, glue and when you put the 2 pieces together they line up perfectly ! screw them together with pockets screws or face screw if hidden. that is one main reason.

        yes it was a big bucks layout of a gran for the machine and box systainer of domonios, but it has paid for itself over and over and over again. I use it for all sorts of things now and it is quick, accurate and very easy and makes things quicker and better.

        that is why festool will sell you the tool, try it for 30 days and if not happy sent it back and get a full refund! no questions asked. and yes I did that year and 1/2 ago with the 850 hand planer.

        but 3 months ago bought it again with the undulating head cuz I had to make some rustic cedar fire place mantels, and it worked great. in fact last week we built a deck add on and he did not want a straight line where the new boards meet, so I had to remove about 16″ of every other deck board so I could piece them in. well new verses old they would not fit. so I got out the planer and had to plane about 1/4″ off 22 deck boards 16′ long, pain in the ass,,,,, but it did the job. so would other planers also.

        so try the domonio, and especially for what you do I think you will really find a nich in your shop for it……and if you do get it and decide not to keep it…. let me know and I will send you a $30.00 gift certicate for dinner at a restuarant near you (if you are in the usa, which I think you are, in fact where are you located.? and have dinner on me for trying it out.

        in closing, I am just a rock and roll er carpenter, love what I do and love to help people, as people have helped me in the past and I love to pass on what I know. and I get nothing, absoululty nothing from festool or gary and the magizine for what I do…. I do it because it is like a great dinner, if I find one I love to tell others about it so they also can have a great meal.

        so let me know you got this, as your email showed up on the reply and thanks again and glad I could help!, i think! lol and have a great day and remember

        Rock and Roll and Carpentry is here to Stay…… Time to Cut some wood and Rock ON !!!!

        Kreg

        (704)987-0374

        Reply
        • Robert Pap

          I recently bought the joiner with the CT26. I have a dust collector in my shop for the table saw, jointer and planer but I love how well the CT26 works with the smaller machines like disk sander, random orbital sander and even with my Kreg Jig for pocket holes. Your comments above just gave me a great idea of using my poket hole jig with the domino. That way I will not have to use clamps and benefit from the ease and accuracy of the floating tennon for case work. Thank you.
          I also use both metric and imperial. Canada is a metric nation.
          Robert

          Reply
  19. Alex Leslie

    I’m a big fan of Festool now that I own a stable 1/2 full of their tools. I started out as a skeptic, wary of paying the “premium” price for their tools. After using them, I don’t find that the price is too much.

    I generally work alone, and the safety factor of the Festool tracksaw is more than worth the price. I no longer risk back injuries repeatedly wrestling sheets of 3/4″ MDF through my 5hp table saw. I still use my tablesaw, most often with a crosscut sled, to do repetitive cutoffs.

    I use the parallel guides with a variety of rails to breakdown sheet goods – with one hand! No wiggle burns or double passes to finished width. I had to rip joint-ready 17′ cuts on a bartop I built last year. A tablesaw would have required at least 40′ of work area and several skilled helpers. I did it alone, in a 14′ x 20′ room, on site, with a TS75 and several rails.

    I have had the priveledge of going to Lebanon twice for classes and also attended Gary Katz’s Roadshow at Lincoln, NE last year. Gary also uses lots of Festools in his demonstrations; they just do the job better than most other tools available today. He does use a DeWalt tablesaw, Stabila levels & lasers and several other quality tools.

    Nice article, Kreg! You’ll want to go back to Lebanon for more classes!

    Reply
    • Kreg McMahon

      Alex,

      that was the way I was also in the beggining my first festool was the atf65 and the rail and it saved the day many times over. especially trimming a bottom of doors when you need to take off from “0″ to 1/4″ rip.

      and I am going back to lebanon in july for the Router class, and yes I own other brands of tools but pretty much have switched over to all festools! because they do the job!

      Reply
    • Ray Menard

      Exactly Alex, I too have used all the biggest and the most HP with great capacity sliders and CNC machines etc., etc., Now however I am back in a one man shop (designing & building truly high quality cabinetry & furniture). I am happy to be able to stack 10 sheets of 3/4″ ply at a time in one place and work down the pile partsing out my kitchen or library with my Festool TS55. Requires a different kind of planning and I still depend on the repeatability and accuracy of my table saw to augment the process but I am – importantly – no longer manhandling sheet goods to the saw. I just ease my way down my stack. Very nice new way to work, without any compromise to accuracy or efficiency.

      Festool systems can be quirky as with any tool but I figure out the personality and then we get along.
      Had my doubts about the Dominoe, but have used that tool for set ups that no other tool could have improved upon, and so I am happy for owning one.

      I must admit that few tool brands have engendered as much enthusiasm from me as has Festool. My Gil Lift is worth a poem or two as well. Still, I only own a sander, the dominoe and the TS55 with a midi dust collector. Wish I could afford more but each piece has to prove its worth like any good employee. I can appreciate Kreg’s enthusiasm as well as Dreamcatcher’s caution. Talking about all this will make us all better able to make the best choices for ourselves as to how we approach our work.

      Cheers to all!

      Reply
  20. Timothy L Shevel

    Kreg, I all ways enjoy your articles. If some of the posters think you are selling tools, so be it. I thought this is a pro site ,so we can speak candidly. You write your posts as if we were having a coffee break and sharin the info. Thats how it works where Im at. People I know watch me to see what im doing,as with you. I have a complete shop aslo. However The sheet goods when delivered, is much less complicated when processed with the track saws. Saves gas time luggin stuff all over hell and back. customers I work with are the same as yours. They get a eye opener seeing how things go together. I to use the festools. I really like to work smarter. Be well Kreg Tim

    Reply
    • Kreg mcmahon

      Tim,

      thanks for the comment and I agree and maybe someday we can have a cup! Live!

      Reply
  21. Eric Buggeln

    Kreg, your article finally pushed me over the edge and drove me to have to have the parallel guides. I initially really wanted them, but shyed away because my table saw could do all that??? Well I used to cut all cabinet parts a 1/4 of an inch long with the guide rails and then run them through my table saw to get repetitive cuts. I pretty much always had my assistant help me with this, which took him away from what he was doing. Now with the parallel guides Im doing all the cutting or better yet my assistant is doing it because its pretty full proof and Im getting ready to attack the next step of the process.
    My initial thoughts on the parallel guides are very positive. They are well built, well thought out, and work as advertised. With a little help from the Festool Owners Group, I was able to calibrate and use mine very quickly. I do believe that a portable tool of this sort should come with a bag or case and I would especially like to see attachments for larger cuts. All in all a great buy. kreg, you never fail me, dude, Eric

    Reply
    • Ed Latson

      It’s 2010…..our ‘age of glory’…Yes, I’m a Recovering Neanderthal-26″ hand miter saws in the cast iron assembly…used to be called your miter saw-very simple,etc,etc… I drove the Festool guys nuts at JLC shows,local trade shows…even drove Gary Katz and company nuts at one of their shows—-questions,questions,questions to all of them……..FINALLY! I broke down and purchased some Festool components 3 1/2 years ago…Here is my litmus test for any tool-power or hand-…put them out-whether in the shop or on the jobsite- and let your crew-The Pros- choose what they want to use…guess what folks? Festool,Mafele (Yes, some of the components are interchangeable…) get used over and over again.
      Any regrets??? You betcha!!! It would have been most prudent for me to have purchased Festool/Mafele tools 10 years ago when they were first introduced to me…Funny thing is..try this-take an old miter saw system that still works and is sharp…give it to The Pros to use-they’ll bust a gut laughing!!!
      None of our choices are either/or today. We have the richness of unparalleled choice-and quality- sitting in front of us. There is no one system that works 100% at 100% of the time….but, Festool,et al come darn close.
      Keep it simple…Oh, also! That darn Festool vac and dust collection system works so well INSIDE YOUR CLIENT’S FINISHED HOME….it is, simply,a “DUH!” moment.
      It actually makes money for you.
      Thanks to Gary & Co for this splendid forum-THIS is what we need more of.
      The Recovering Neaderthal- Ed Latson

      Reply
  22. William Cazeault

    Its a sorry day in carpentry when old masters refuse to acknowledge new ideas. I am 65 with a shop etc. but I am just getting into Festool.Where would we be if we stopped at the Wright Bros.When I started no one would show you how to do things,job security.These articles are fantastic;
    making life easier.Less cleanup.Most other tool manufactures are good but old hat,old style;nowhere as efficient.Just to conclude,”How long does it take without Festool to clean your shop before and after cutting 20 plywood treads”

    Reply
    • Kreg mcmahon

      Yep so true! Nicely said that’s why Festool’s slogan is faster easier and smarter!

      When I was at the class we had eight guys cutting , routing , sanding etc all day. Clean up maybe 10 min probably 5-7 min.

      Reply
  23. Benjamin Miner

    I feel the same way about Festool as I do about Apple – love the products, hate the company, and try hard not to sound like a fanboy. However, in both instances I am a total convert and will purchase by brand loyalty whenever possible.

    On the flip side, I just built a shop last year and outfitted it with large scale tools which have absolutely taken my work and my productivity to the next level. In the past I have built cabinets on site or out of my basement, using lots of Festool gear, a decent contractor saw, and a 3 HP router table. You can get very good results this way or by taking over part of the on-site garage. In many cases it’s completely appropriate and fine for budgets and schedules. But in terms of overall ease of work and productivity, when it comes to building cabinets, a shop is without peer. Cabinet saws are well and good, but an 8′sliding table is a game changer. As for moldings, a shaper with a power feeder (or Williams and Hussey) makes a night and day difference even over a good router table. If you need to make doors, you really need a jointer and planer, which is pretty inconvenient to take to the site. That’s not to mention the increase in quality and speed that comes with a wide-belt sander (pre-sanded stock is very nice!), and let’s not leave out a central dust collection system.

    I say all this as someone who became interested in cabinetry after doing a lot of trim work and built ins on site, using the Festool system. In the future, I’ll probably end up doing some more work that way. It’s a very good way of working (and they keep improving it), and for those without the option of building or renting shop space and making a huge investment in stationary tooling, you can go a long way using those methods. It also allows the carpenter or GC to keep the cabinetry budget rather than subbing it out. But when all is said and done, I have to ultimately agree with Dreamcatcher – the best quality and most efficient methods come from the shop.

    Reply
    • Frank Shannon

      Excellent points.

      Without consideration of portability or cost or space, why is a sliding table saw better for breaking down sheet goods for cabinet parts than the combination of a track saw and cabinet saw?

      Reply
      • Willy

        Look at it this way – in a production cabinet shop, consistency, accuracy and repeatability are the highest priority. Add to that the fact that the sawyers are handling multiple sheets of heavy MDF or other multi-ply materials all day long. A sliding table saw all but eliminates the inconsistencies inherent in cabinet saws and track saws. A sliding table saw also carries the full weight of the materials while they’re being cut, unlike a cabinet saw which requires a body to manhandle and support the materials while simultaneously feeding them through the blade. A really good sliding table saw like the Altendorf F45 (http://www.altendorf.com.au/products/panelsaws/f45.html) provides computerized sizing to the thousanth of an inch. Try that on a cabinet saw or with a track saw.

        If you have to custom-cut on-site, the track saw is the way to go, but for production cabinetmaking, the sliding table saw will provide the tightest tolerances possible. Obviously you won’t slip one of these into the back of your pickup or van.

        Reply
  24. Ronald Sauve

    My Festool dealer said it all: “We only need to sell you one Festool”. After that you’re already sold on them. At one time, I thought, these are very nice tools, but they are way overpriced. But after I bought my first Festool, (the TS55 and 2 55″ guide rails), I never went back. I bought the clamps, but never used them. The guides never moved even with sawdust under them.
    But the thing I really like about Festool is the quality of work one can do is better. That alone makes them worth the price paid.
    As an example, I needed a new 5″ R.O. finish sander, and dust collection was a necessity. I really wanted the Festool, but it was $170, and the P.C. was $80, so I got the P.C. Mistake; there was minimal dust collection. Back to the dealer, picked up the Festool, and Viola! What a difference! No dust. The discs last forever. The finish is FLAT. I can even sand board edges and not get roundover.
    LOVE FESTOOL!

    Reply
  25. Brian

    I enjoyed reading the information regarding Kreg, Festool, etc. I recently bought a Festool track saw and have yet to use it. My opinion: Tools cost a considerable amount of money, and there’s a place in carpentry for virtually all of them. I bought my Festool as a means to get started, hoping to expand from there. Festool $525, a nice cabinet saw $3000 and wired for 220v. The difference in cost makes one affordable and the other far out of reach. I hear very unfair comparisons in regards to various products. I think everyone has to keep their personal needs in perspective and not have expectations that exceed the tools themselves!!!

    Reply
  26. Brian

    Hello all fellow carpenters! This is my first time here and I must say, I really like what I see so far. I do not yet own any festool products, but I certainly plan to in the future. I guess the reason I don’t have one yet is because I have not used one or even seen one used in person. I work in extremely high end homes, 12,000 sf is my current project and we have 4 unisaws set up around the castle. It is a brand new home, so there is no space issue nor dust issue presently. When I am in a occupied home, we either set up in the garage or easy to clean and unused room inside or do the bulk of our cutting in the shop which is nearby to the neighborhood where most of our work is done. I often could really benefit from a track saw and have come close to buying just a track that fits all saws and giving that a whirl, but then I just think of the 150 dollar blades on all those 52″ table saws and convince myself that I don’t need a track. Its a vicious circle, and I’m still trucking 3/4 alder, maple, mdf, etc around a quarter mile long house just to make a short cut on a bulkhead or style. Hopefully, my careful decision making style will eventually allow me to invest in the saw with dust collection system.

    The real reason I decided to post to this thread was because after reading the entire list of comments, I am 100% more informed about the track saw and festool brand as a whole than I ever could have been from researching the tool’s own website. I find it a bit ironic and humorous that this whole convo was based on someone being overly enthusiastic about a certain brand and during the course of the thread, all contributors have helped create an impeccable marketing campaign and I’m Way closer to taking the “plunge” lol and buying that saw! So I guess I owe both sides of the fence a big thank you for the quick and direct education.

    I will throw my 2 cents in about the nature of the original praise post as well. I am not real familiar with message boards yet so I might not be as easily offended by ads hidden in messages but I certainly did not even consider that as a pushy or dirty attempt to influence my tool bag. It could be that I am used to it by now because like it or not, every time festool gets brought up, anyone who has had the pleasure of using one will say the same thing. Must be something in the water…..????

    Reply
  27. Gary

    Hello professionals. I read your comments, often with a grin, as you bantered over tools and what not. Thanks for your viewpoints. I bought a TS55 and track several months ago and just started using them, today.

    I am writing from the viewpoint of a retired fellow with a rekindled interest in woodworking from my younger days. Forty-five years ago I bought a 10″ Rockwell saw and Sears 10″ radial arm saw. These traveled to Texas with me and remained pushed into a remote corner of the garage until a few months ago. I began cleaning up the table saw intending to build some case goods. It is amazing how much heavier wood has become, especially sheet goods! So I have shifted gears and went the track saw route. I find these tools to be well suited for my needs. Hefting plywood and trying to guide it through a table saw is arduous stuff, but the ease of the track method and its accuracy coupled with the higher degree of safety has its place. It is not all about the cost; there are other factors to be considered as well. I have seen a couple of Kreg’s videos on-line. I believe he is well intentioned, sincere, and not a hype-person for Festools.

    Reply

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