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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.