Festool’s Table Saws: Foreign Country, Foreign Tools

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A Festool table saw ready for ripping.

During the last seven days, I’ve eaten a lot of foreign food, drank a lot of foreign beer and listened to a lot of foreign languages (such as Scottish). But the most foreign experience of my entire trip to Germany has been using the Festool CS 70 EB table saw.

This saw operates unlike any other table saw I’ve ever used, and because Festool is working on getting it approved by Underwriters Laboratories for sale in the United States, I thought you might be interested in reading about it.

The saw is not really what I would call a table saw, though it is both a table and a saw. And here’s why: The sawblade on a traditional table saw will spin around in a circle. And you can adjust it up and down and tilt it left (or right). But with the CS 70 EB (and some other European saws) you also can slide the sawblade forward and back.

Imagine if a sliding compound miter saw married a jobsite table saw , that’s what this saw is like. As a result, some operations feel quite familiar. Ripping, for example isn’t anything new. You position the rip fence where you want it and push your stock through.

But crosscutting and mitering are an entirely different animal. Here is where the sliding saw carriage comes into play. You position the saw’s fence and set the length of the crosscut (or miter) that you desire. It’s like setting a miter gauge that doesn’t move , it’s fixed to the front edge of the aluminum table. Then you set your workpiece in place against your fence and stop. OK, so what is so odd about this? It’s what comes next.

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The CS 70 Eb  is easy to use for crosscuts, one someone show you how to use the saw in a precise manner.

Reach your right hand beneath the saw and grab the knob beneath the table. Turn it to the left and pull it smoothly toward you. The entire sawblade assembly (with the splitter and the guard) moves toward your work. It makes the cut and then you let go of the knob. The sawblade assembly then moves backwards in a controlled yet quick manner.

The CS 70 EB is, quite literally, a pullsaw. The first time I used it, I was a bit bewildered , just like the first time I used a Japanese pullsaw. But after a few cuts, the saw became quite easy to control, predict and manage.

Why would you want a saw like this? Good question. I think it helps to understand what each machine is meant to do in the woodshop. A table saw is, above all other things, a ripping tool. It rips better than any other machine available. But it’s OK for crosscutting and pretty OK for making joinery cuts.

A sliding compound miter saw is no good for rip cuts and joinery cuts, but it’s a champ at crosscuts and miters.

The CS 70 EB is just like a table saw for rip cuts and just like a sliding compound miter saw for crosscuts and miters. And it’s not really suited for joinery cuts (tenons and so on) , at least as far as I can tell. The machine is also incredibly lightweight and easy to set up and use. After about 10 minutes, I was running the thing like a pro, as were all the other woodworking magazine editors on this Festool tour. For ripping, the saw has an unusual fence: It’s actually the crosscut fence for the tool that has been mounted on the side of the tool’s table

So is there a downside? Well, that depends on what you do. If I were a trim carpenter or someone who built high-end cabinets on job sites, this saw would be the bee’s knees. Will it replace a cabinet saw in professional shop? I think that’s doubtful. The top is aluminum and the saw is, all-in-all, lightweight for the American consumer, who expects a massive cast-iron experience. And the CS 70 EB will be priced higher than other jobsite saws as well. How expensive? The Festool people don’t know. Right now they are trying to get the tool through Underwriters Laboratory so they can introduce it to the U.S. market. The biggest hang-up, Festool officials say, is the saw’s guarding. The CS 70 EB doesn’t have the anti-kickback pawls that are (unfortunately) standard on U.S. saws.

But people were shocked that Festool could convince people to use a circular saw in place of a cabinet saw, but a growing number of people do with the company’s TS 55 EQ plunge saw. And the Festool system really, really works in that case as in many others. So don’t you dare count Festool out on this issue.

And it’s the system aspect of this saw that you can’t forget. There are a wide variety of accessories for this saw, including a sweet sliding crosscut table plus outfeed and support tables, that make it a joy to use. And the saw is safe to use. You never move your hands near the blade during crosscuts , nice. So keep your eyes peeled for the CS 70 EB. And maybe for a couple other table saws from Festool in the coming year.

– Christopher Schwarz

One thought on “Festool’s Table Saws: Foreign Country, Foreign Tools

  1. Doug Anders

    Would the CS 70EB be able to replace a compound miter for doing crown molding work? If it could do that, could be a pretty sweet alternative….

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