The Domino Effect

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This week I’m in Germany with a group of woodworking editors to visit the Festool headquarters in Stuttgart and try out the company’s new DF 500 Q Domino system. This moment is one of those few times during my 10 years with Popular Woodworking magazine that I’ve felt like I am going to see an absolutely and truly new kind of tool.

I’ve watched lots of manufacturers roll out tools with significant improvements, but very few of those new tools are designed to change the fundamental nature of the way you work. The Festool Domino appears to be just that.
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In essence, the Domino looks like a biscuit joiner, but it really is a hand-held tool that is designed to make true loose-tenon joints. The machine makes a mortise when its patented cutting head oscillates and turns plunges into the work and routs out a recess to one of five preset depths and three widths. Then you use the tool’s indexing system (which I am eager to see) to make its mating mortise.

Finally, you add glue and one of the Domino beech tenons to complete the joint. The tool has been available in Europe for some time and will be rolled out in the United States in 2007. At this moment (5:24 a.m. local time) I have just as many questions about the system as you do. And I’m greatly looking forward to getting those answered and getting my hands on the Domino system. Plus, Festool officials promise us we’re going to get to see some other new tools the company is working on.

Over the weekend, all of the editors have been acclimating to the new time zone in a city outside Stuttgart called Nurtingen. On Sunday, all of us went to the nearby town of Esslingen (top photo) to visit the city’s Christmas market, view some of the stunning half-timbered houses and begin to soak up some of the German culture (including accordion music).

I know a fair number of Germans back in the United States, but it’s an entirely different thing to meet Germans in their native country. The country is remarkably different than ours, and so are their woodworking tools.

For example, Festool officials explained the years-long process that woodworkers have to go through to open their own cabinet shop, including years of apprenticeship and study. The typical German woodworker will take far better care of their tools than the typical American or Australian woodworkers. And the German woodworkers are much less price-sensitive than the American consumer.

All of which adds to my interest in the Domino system. Will it be something that a North American consumer will accept , like we did with the biscuit joiner a generation ago? Or will it be a tool that has a small but highly enthusiastic customer-base, such as some of the European multi-machines?

Check back here on the blog in the next few days to get some clues.

– Christopher Schwarz

One thought on “The Domino Effect

  1. Dave Brown

    I checked out the Festool site and a few vendor sites to get some information. Their domino joinery looks incredibly versatile and seems to overcome the shortcomings of dowels, biscuits and loose tenons.

    I only wish that the price didn’t immediately exclude most hobbyists . . . but not all of us . . . does Philly over in Poole have one yet? 😉

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