When it comes to woodworking, there is never only a single path to follow. Most of the tasks can be tackled from different angles. Let’s say joinery, for example. There are a plethora of techniques you can choose from. They vary in strength, resistance, appearance, craftsmanship, time required, and so on. Even the same joinery technique can be implemented differently. Let’s think of the floating tenon, for example. You can make it by hand, or you could use a power tool like a router. Another option is the Festool Domino Joiner, which is specifically made to cut slots for floating tenons.
If you are here, reading this article, you are probably thinking about getting a domino joiner, but you are not sure if it’s worth it. Perhaps you saw its price and you had a minor heart attack. Don’t worry, that’s a common reaction. But let’s stick to it for a second. The best thing to do is to evaluate the domino joint advantages and disadvantages so that we avoid hasty decisions.
To make it short, the main pros of the domino joint are its strength and resistance to torque. On top of that, the domino joiner is very simple to use and quick, but the results you get are top-notch. On the other hand, the main cons of the Festool Domino Joiner are the price and the fact that you’ll have to use patent tenons (and everything that comes with it).
So let’s dive into it, starting with the advantages.
Domino Joint Advantages
Ok, let’s start with the domino joint advantages. In order to discuss the issue in its entirety, we will talk about the advantages related to the tool, the Festool Domino Joiner, and the joinery technique, the floating tenon.
- A loose tenon is perfect for strength and alignment. You often hear that biscuit joiners are perfect for alignment purposes. That’s not entirely true: you always have some wiggle room left since the slots are a bit bigger than the biscuits. In this sense, a floating tenon made with a domino joiner is even better. Talking about strength, a loose tenon is as strong as a classic mortise and tenon joint, if not even more. You also have the glue added strength, plus it’s quicker to make. That’s why floating tenons are so used in modern woodworking.
- Loose tenons are definitely stronger than biscuit joints, plus they also resist torsion.
- A domino joiner allows you to build things better and faster, even if you don’t have a lot of craftsmanship. It’s very easy to set up and extremely accurate.
- Domino joiners have a built-in tilting fence, which allows you to cut mortises at an angle with ease. The cutting angle varies between 0° to 90° degrees, with useful stop positions at 0°, 22.5°, 45°, 67.5°, and 90°. That’s definitely easier than making a mortise and tenon at an angle by hand.
Domino Joint Disadvantages
After the advantages, let’s discuss the domino joiner disadvantages.
- First of all, the price. It’s pointless to beat about the bush, Festool Domino joiners are very expensive. Both the DF 500 and the XL DF 700 cost more than 1000 dollars. Even if I don’t think it’s fair to compare them, since they are very different tools, a good biscuit joiner costs around 200$.
- You need to use Domino tenons (manufactured by Festool) to fit the mortises. If you are handy, you could try making your own tenons. In my opinion, though, that defeats the purpose of the Domino joiner, which is being quick and accurate.
- Two other drawbacks are noise and dust. Dominos are very powerful, so they can get pretty noisy. Make sure to wear ear protection, and also goggles. You’ll also need dust extraction for a couple of reasons. Without it, the mortises will clog with sawdust very fast, which can be detrimental for the cutters. To add to that, cleaning mortises by hand can is a hassle. You can use your shop vac with the Domino, simply use the right adapter. Festool offers a 27mm hose so that you can connect your tool to most shop dust extractors. However, for the best performances, you’ll need high-velocity dust extraction. In this regard, consider getting a Festool dust extractor, which is specifically designed for it. If you buy online, most dealers offer some kind of discount if you get a Domino and a vac, so there’s also that.
- The size of your joints is limited to the dimension of the tenons you can use. Domino tenons come in a great variety of thickness and length. The DF 500 cuts slots from 4 to 10mm thick and from 20 to 50mm long. On the other hand, the width is limited. That could be a problem for certain projects. There are workarounds, obviously. You could cut 2 slots side by side and fit 2 tenons in, to double the joint strength. You could also self-produce tenons that suit your needs, and adjust your slots accordingly.
Final Thoughts: Is a Festool Domino Joiner Worth my Money?
We have discussed the domino joint advantages and disadvantages: it’s time to draw conclusions. The pros definitely beat the cons. A domino joiner is a well worthy addition to a woodworking enthusiast workshop. It is a professional tool that can suit the needs of a contractor, but it’s also appropriate to a beginner since it’s very simple to use. It’s kind of a woodworking cheat code: you get all the benefits of a perfectly fitted floating tenon without having to cut perfectly sized mortises and tenons by hand.
The only downside is the price. In my opinion, it’s too much. Obviously, they deliberately do it: they know their tool is one of the best so people would buy it anyways.
All things considered, even if it’s overpriced, I think you should get a Festool Domino Joiner if you can afford it. It’s one of those tools that you didn’t know you needed. Then, once you get it, you ask yourself how you managed without it until that moment.
If you need more food for thought, I discussed some Festool Domino alternatives here. Maybe you’ll find an option that suits your need.
Well, that’s it for this article, hope I helped you clear your head a bit.