I had been pining for a Festool dust extractor for a while. I mentioned this to a Festool rep a few months ago, and that I was thinking of pulling the trigger on one. He said, “Can you hold off till October?” Huh? I just said I want to buy something from you. What kind of a salesman are you? Of course, I didn’t say that out loud; I think I just said, “Sure.” The wait turned out to be worth it when I received my new CT 26 dust extractor a couple weeks after it was released.
Why go green?
I have had a Festool domino for a little while, and when Festool offered 10% off of their tracksaws and tracks, I had to take the plunge (no pun intended…well, maybe a little). Of course, these tools work great, but I’m constantly amazed at how much dust they can produce. Since this affects not only the life of the tool, but the life of my lungs, a dust extractor was the next logical step. This is probably the appropriate time to make a disclaimer: My blood does not run perpetually Festool green. My attitude is that if something works, it works. I don’t care if it’s green, blue, yellow, red, pink…actually I don’t think I’ll be buying any pink tools, unless it’s for breast cancer or something. But, I digress.
Quite a few carpenters I know like Festool and their products, but are put off by the initial price. I say that if it makes you more efficient and gives you a top-quality end result, it’s less about the upfront price and more about the costs associated with not owning it. Okay, that’s the end of my rant; back to the review.
Apples to apples
For the purpose of this review, I got my hands on a CT 22, just to compare apples to apples. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of both models and see where things have changed.
In all the photos, you will notice that the optional hose garage is attached to the CT 22. I did this for two reasons. One, it allows for better comparison, since the the CT 26 has a hose garage integrated to its design; and two, if you do have a CT 22, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t have the garage attached, especially if you are mobile. Unless I used it in a shop set up, where I wouldn’t necessarily “roll up” every night, it only seems logical to have a place to store the hose with the unit.
As far as size goes (and we all know size matters) things are pretty much the same, in the overall scheme of things. Same basic wheel setup. Suction control, manual/auto switch, and power connection for tool-actuated startup are all the same, just slightly reconfigured. The CT 26 is about 2 lbs lighter. The gasket seal along the dust collection bin is the same. The decibel levels are nearly identical; the CT 26 measured 71db(A) and the CT 22 measured 72db(A). Amps, power cord, and hose: all unchanged. One thing the 22 has that the 26 does not is a blower port. Underneath the 22 you could connect your hose and choose “clean air out” to clear off a work space. I really don’t think losing this feature is a deal-breaker, because I don’t know how many 22 owners actually used it. As for me, well, that’s why God made compressed air.
Now let’s look at the good stuff.
As I alluded to earlier, the integrated hose garage is fantastic. Also, the integrated carrying handle seems much more stout and robust. When you remove the lid, you don’t feel even a little flex in the handle.
The removable motor/suction unit is a real plus, and doesn’t require any modifications for using accessories, such as the handle, boom arm, and so on.
I did see, on the Festool Owner’s Group, where someone actually mounted the new one-piece cord-storage component on one side of the hose garage. This required some custom modification, but is certainly an option if you have a lot of onboard accessories. I don’t use the accessory handles on either of mine, but I know at least some of you do. I suppose it could get in the way a little when it comes to changing the filter bags on the CT 22, but the 2-part system of the CT 26 makes it a non-issue. I assume wet operations would be much less cumbersome with the new system, as well, since you remove all mechanical components when you take the lid off.
Let’s talk filters.
|The CT 22 had two HEPA filters,|
but with the CT 26 they’ve gone to one HEPA filter. And changing it couldn’t be easier. Lift the green “active” handle and pull…that’s it.
Some of the functional features have been refined, too. The connecting-clasps on the CT 22 were single-pivot-and-click. The CT 26 has two pivot points and is spring loaded. This may seem insignificant, but if the handles are not secured properly on the CT 26, the spring will throw them open—which means there’s no guess-work on whether or not the unit is sealed.
The hose port was moved from the front left corner to dead-center (see photo, left). It’s only a few inches, but I noticed a big difference—when vacuuming around my shop, the CT 26 just glided behind me. That’s not to say that the CT 22 performed poorly, but, moving from one to the other, you could certainly feel the difference in how they tracked. This also may be due to the fact that the new wheels on the CT 26 have a thin hardened-rubber coating. While it is an improvement, I would’ve liked to have seen all-rubber wheels instead of hard rubber over plastic. This was the only gripe I had with the entire system.
The wheel locking system was given a welcome upgrade. The CT 22 was fine, but the CT 26 is fantastic. Instead of setting the locks individually, the CT 26 has a single-motion system: just step on a lever, and the front wheels lift off the ground, locking the unit in place. Watch this video for a quick demonstration:
When I pulled on the hose of a locked CT 22, it slid a bit, and left some tiny scratches in the floor. I had to pull hard on the locked CT 26 just to get it to budge, and when it did, the rubber on the bottom of the brake gripped like a champ. The release couldn’t be easier, too. Tap with your toe, and the spring-loaded brake hops into the “up” position.
Capacity & Filter Bags
Capacity has been increased from 5.3 to 6.3 gallons. When you compare the cavities side-by-side, the CT 26 looks nothing short of gargantuan. I bet if you yelled into it, you’d hear an echo; it’s that big.
|CT 22||CT 26|
The filter bags have also been improved. I know that the CT 22 bags are pleated, but when you put them next to each other, it looks like three CT 22 bags could fit in one CT 26 bag. Not only was the size increased, but there were steps taken to make the design more efficient. The new bags are made of a “unique, pliable fleece,” which prevents caking on the inside of the bag. When caking occurs, you lose a significant amount of suction, even if the bag is not yet full, because the filter portion of the bag is essentially clogged. These new pliable bags still inflate while in use, allowing the cake to form. But when you turn the unit off, the bag deflates, breaking the cake loose. Once paper bags are inflated they rarely deflate. So the cake remains and grows during every use. This can cause undue stress on the motor, which can lead to mechanical issues down the road. Not to mention the fact that you are paying for bags that are half full. Who needs that? It should be noted that this occurs more frequently when you are dealing with fines from sanding.
Another important factor is “how” the bags are filled. I checked mine several times during use, and, without fail, the majority of the dust was in the back half of the bag. This is due to the massive amount of suction put out by the new motor. According to Festool’s specifications, the RPMs have been increased from 24,000 to 36,000, while slightly lowering the decibel level, and decreasing the weight of the motor by 2 lbs.
The max. suction force was increased from 134 to 137 CFM, but more importantly, the Static Water Lift (SWL) was increased from 90 in. to 96 in. What does that mean? I didn’t really know either, so I read for a few hours and learned a couple things. Now, by no means am I a scientist or mathematician, so I’m going to give you the “wood shop definition.” The greater the SWL, the more suction you feel. It’s essentially the power behind the air movement.
Here’s a real-world example of how well this unit performs: I was working with a friend on a remodel, and he had to sand a 1x8x16-in. wall cap that had been filled with spackle. This was in the middle of a nearly completed great room with dark wood floors. He had planned on masking and blah, blah, blah. I said, “Why don’t you try this and see how it works.” He hooked the CT 26 up to his 5-in. Porter Cable sander and started sanding away. I watched closely, and didn’t see any dust. I thought to myself, “No way this thing can be capturing everything;” so I got my head about 12 in. away from the pad. Looking into the light of a nearby window, I couldn’t see anything. Not a puff or wisp of dust. Even after he was done, you could run your hand on the cap and barely feel anything. And the floor? Nothing. The suction on this thing is nothing short of incredible—and remember, this was not a Festool sander he was using.
This is definitely a dust extractor, not a shop vac.
The long and short of it: this new unit is a definite improvement over its predecessor. However, if you’re reading this and you own a CT 22, I’m not suggesting you go out, tie it to a tree and bash it to pieces with a shovel. If you look at other companies that lead the way in innovation and high quality, like, say, Apple or Cadillac, the new products they release are always better, quicker, and smarter than the previous versions, yet the older models retain a lot of value, because they are still far beyond the competition. The CT line from Festool is certainly worth including in that category.
This story was very well done. I was impressed that Festool, even though they had a superior product, went ahead and made an even better one. Many companies just stop and put out the same thing year after year. Kudos to the author. Great work.
Well said David & I agree. It really is nice to see a company that doesn’t rest on their laurels even though they are at the front of the pack. I’m excited to get my hands on the new carvex to see firsthand the upgrades they made on an already great tool.
Side note: Has anyone got any of the new T-Loc systainers? That’s another big improvement on an already great product. How much you wanna bet that I get an email from Gary saying ‘Hey great idea for article :)
Nice write up Matt.
I went from a Midi to a CT26 recently when I bought my Kapex. The only thing I have an issue with is cord/hose storage. I wish they would have made the garage slightly larger to accommodate the cord and larger hose for those of us who “travel”. The stock hose and cord both fit in the Midi garage. The CT26 screw-on cord bracket seems like an after thought. A 36 MM hose (recommended with a Kapex for max collection)is a tight fit. I removed the bracket and keep the cord, which is somewhat stiff, in the garage and the 36MM hose is in the Installer Cleanup kit systainer.(Where it is also a tight fit.)
Ditto on the size of the hose garage. I’ve found the only way to get the hose in there is to start with a loop that stick out the front about 2 or three inches, and then I can just barely get the thing coiled inside the garage without sticking up and preventing another systainer from seating tight.
And Ditto on Matt’s review. He did a great job on that story–I loved his videos. He’s got the right combination of dry humor and dry facts.
Thanx Gary. The goal is one part Patton Oswalt, one part Bill Nye the Science Guy, & one part Monty Python. Still working on the formula but that’s what I have for a goal so far. :)
Thanx for adding that comment. I actually picked up a 36mm hose after I wrote this article for use on my yellow SCMS which I agree works great. I still leave my smaller hose in the garage as my primary & I have the larger hanging in my van. This will become more of an issue when I get my 2nd extractor & want to have one with a larger hose, one with a smaller. Well I have to have one for the chopsaw & one for the tracksaw, right??
Great review: I’ve been toying with upgrading my midi to something larger. I think your article was the push I needed.
Since you already have the MIDI, I’m sure you don’t need any convincing as to why this portion of ‘the system’ works so well. This does seem a good time to add this little fact that I discovered about a week ago.
I was cleaning at the end of the day & sucked up a drywall screw that was on the floor. I heard it ‘tick along the hose & then all of a sudden…’THWACK’!! It was so loud that I stopped & pulled the top off the unit to see if the screw had cracked the back of lower unit. Of course it hadn’t but you wanna talk about suction. This unit is nothing short of amazing.
Thanx for your comment
Love the Review and the humor. I’ve got the CT26 and it is as fantastic as this review says it is. It’s more portable etc, etc. than my old Fein!
The Fein is also a great system but I have to agree with you. Portability, storability & functionality have to go to the Festool.
Thanx for the comment.
I CAN NOT WAIT TO TELL MY GREAT GRANDSON ABOUT THOSE GREAT BAGS FROM fES when we find them in 50 years at the landfill. Same as with my Hilti vac, at least the replacement Hepa is not 120.00$ as with the hilti , or am I wrong. Replacement costs Must be figured into the whole factor as well. Just to be clear Fes is for certain of of the greatest tool manufacturing Companies in the world and I understand the change, however is it a corn, or other bio based renewable bag?
I’m not sure on the biodegradability of the bags so I’d have to check on that. My gut tells me the paper bags for the 22 or 33 would more biodegradable than the fleece bags for the 26 or 36, but again, have to check. I do know the replacement HEPA that filters down to 0.3 microns is $60 & the non-HEPA that filters down to 1 micron is $27 or so.
Replacement costs are certainly something to consider. If you’re concerned about environmental impact you might want to think about the longlife filter bag. They are like a quarter inch thick & are really easy to empty. However, there may be times when you want to just chuck the bag & leave the contents undisturbed. Say if you were faring a fiberglass boat, sanding old painted millwork or even dealing with Teak which has a huge amount of silica, those are times you way not want to go out to the dumpster shake all that stuff back into the air. With those two bagging options you could really choose what works best for your application. Either way, containment at the source is always a good thing.
Wouldn’t it be great if Festool could get this unit approved for compliance with RRP regulations. I would love to buy a HEPA vac that I actually used for something productive.
I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking that. If you could, hang on to that thought for just a bit longer & keep an eye on TiC. You may have an opportunity to voice that topic specific concern very soon. I will say that regardless of whether you use this unit for renovations or not, I’ll bet you would be able to use it on something productive. If you decide to take the plunge I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results.
Thanx for the comment & really,…stay tuned.
Thanks for the article Matt. I’ve been looking at replacing my vacuum for a while now as I use it more for dust extraction these days for than for general hoover duties. I’ve looked at the Fein which seems like a good buy but as it’s already been said, there is no where to store 5m hose etc and the unit isn’t exactly compact. Up until now I was looking at the Midi unit. I’m cutting a lot of tile so dust is a big problem. Do you think the increased suction power of the 26 would be more noticeable than the Midi?
So I’ll start at the end and work forward. As far as which model you choose, you really can’t go wrong. And by that I mean the performance of each unit across the line is nearly identical; which for me is fantastic. I’ll add a link that compares all the units so we can ‘compare’:
Now all you need to figure out is how big :). I will say this though, I own both the CT-26 and the Mini (very similar to the Midi) and while I use both quite a bit, the 26 is my workhorse for one reason: LongLife filter bag. Both smaller units use only use the disposable filter bags (which to clarify work just fine but are nearly impossible to empty while keeping the outside of the bag clean; I’ve tried). It really depends on your frequency of use and what you use it for. I for one found myself carrying a crappy shop vac for bulkier material clean up (wood chips, etc) and then using my 26 for simple dust to make my usable life on the disposable bag go further. The trouble with that is its a complete waste of time. Now that I’m rockin’ the reusable bag, I use the 26 for cleaning up after I auger through studs, on final cleanup day, and everywhere in between without a 2nd thought. And when they say LongLife, they mean LOOOONGLife. Your standard bag is about as thick as house wrap by comparison; the LL bag is probably at least 3/8″ thick at least. I see know reason why it wouldn’t last as long as the unit you choose. The price is ~175$ last time I checked but if you look at what you may potentially pay out for bags over its lifetime it becomes a no-brainer. The only caveat I’ll add to my argument is a question: Do you work on tile (or houses) pre 1977? If so you may fall under the lead regulations from either the EPA or your state. The good news is all these extractors meet the current criteria for HEPA requirements. The bad news is if you do engage in ‘lead work’ you will need to use disposable bags to keep the contaminants contained which is why I always have a few kicking around. Long winded but I hope that answered your question.
Oh ya, the FEIN is fine (no pun intended). I at one time worked with both. I just found that the boxy shape of the Festool stored better and the features (wheel brake, hose garage, HEPA Certified, anti-static hose, etc) made it a simple choice for me.
The power cord is hard and unwieldy
The hose is plastic & stiff as well..(what ever happened to rubber??? especially on quality equipment @ this price point.
The wheels are plastic..i don’t care what you say…they are plastic.
The whole thing is plastic!
remember the days of cast aluminum & rubber? We are getting ripped off. period. I wonder why they use those hard power cords..and hoses & wheels? seriously. Because its cheaper, that’s all. Have you seen the amount of festools in Europe? Its like we get 2% of what they actually make. I like festool because its about the best we can get now a days and the warranty & service are really top notch..but change to rubber! charge us for it but change it!
Plastic reduces weight.