Two years ago if I would have mentioned the company Festool, more likely than not, you wouldn’t have known the name. Then the Domino was introduced and the name Festool jumped in popularity. The next year the company delivered two routers, the OF2200 and the MFK 700, along with Kapex, the Festool miter saw, and the company name is now well known throughout woodworking.
Of course Festool is here at the International Woodworking Fair. The main draw in the booth is the Kapex. That saw wasn’t at the big Las Vegas show last year. There wasn’t even a prototype to look at. So, even though we’ve all heard tons of information about this miter saw, this is the first look for many woodworkers.
For those of us covering the happenings at IWF, Festool scheduled appointments that were held outside the booth in a “secret” room. I think the team at Festool had a great idea. With scheduled appointments, the team met with everyone on a one-on-one basis to show us what was waiting in the wings from Festool , what the company planned to bring to the table in the next couple years. And we get to deliver to you that look into the future.
I’ve always heard Festool talk about “the system.” I knew a router or plunge-cut saw with a multi-function table (MFT) wasn’t the system. Today the concept of system came into focus. Festool envisions woodworkers setting up complete shops with Festool tools. That’s what was displayed in the secret room.
The big concept was a Compact Module system. The table for this system attaches to an MFT by way of the v-grooves along all edges. The top of the table, where you change plates in and out, is where the action takes place.
In one module the Festool team set up a router station. Simply mount a router on the bottom of a plate, flip the plate as you place it into the table and turn a normally hand-held tool into a router table. (That’s not a new concept until you add in a number of possible modules and plates, each with different tools). You can use an OF1400 up to and including the super-sized OF2200 routers and the setup comes complete with a fully functioning fence that allows quick-action movement for positioning and then a fine-tune adjustment so you can dial in the cut exactly.
Another module in the display held a Festool TS 55 EQ plunge-cut saw. Again the saw was attached to the plate then inverted and extended through the plate to form a small table saw. Included on this table saw was a fence ready to position and lock as needed, along with a see-through guard system and of course, a riving knife (which is part of the plunge-cut saw). The look and feel was that of a table saw.
What makes both these setups so cool is a sliding table that is positioned directly beside the saw and in front of the router. These sliders fasten to the Compact Module table using v-grooves and are very smooth in operation. Now you have a setup for crosscuts or, if the sliding attachment is used at the router module, you have a great way to mill the ends for rails and much more.
I think we can look for additional modules down the road. One that is in the works, but you might not see due to Underwriters Laboratory hurdles concerning guards, is a plate holding an inverted Festool jigsaw.
Also, Festool gave us a look at a couple new tools, one of which is a vacuum-clamping system. This system has a vacuum built into a systainer and it was as quiet as a church mouse. We could talk in normal volumes and easily hear what was said as the vacuum powered up to hold firm.
Attached to the vacuum is a stand that can be clamped to an MFT or can be held to a smooth tabletop via vacuum action at the base of each pod. At the top of the pods are interchangeable hard rubber-like platforms (four designs in all) that immediately grab most any surface. We watched as a rough-sawn, straight-from-the-sawmill chunk of mahogany was grabbed strong and tight. And with a smooth surface such as a piece of melamine, the hold was incredible. So incredible that using this as a mount for edge routing would be a walk in the park. Also, the platforms can be rotated and pivoted as needed bringing to mind the possibility of holding work while carving or shaping cabriole legs.
Additionally, Festool has two new T-handle drills about to hit the scene. These drills are well-balanced and very comfortable in your hands and there are interchangeable chucks designed for a variety of duties. The first is what Festool labeled a 12 + 3, which is equal to a 10.8-volt drill, and a 15 + 3 that’s equivalent to a 14.4-volt drill. Each drill comes with a lithium-ion battery made of the highest quality (what else would you expect from Festool?) and is backwards compatible with earlier Festool batteries and chargers. Look for these drills to come to market during the second quarter of 2009.