5 Festool Domino Alternatives: Can You Get Away Without It?

A Festool Domino joiner is probably one of the best additions you can make to your tool’s arsenal. It makes floating tenons super quick and easy to achieve. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced woodworker, a Festool Domino will take your woodworking to a whole another level. The problem is that the tool is very expensive. So you might be looking for alternatives to achieve the same results without having to shell out that much money.

Let me tell you the harsh truth: there aren’t proper Festool Domino alternatives out there. It’s simply impossible to replicate the precision, simplicity of use, speed, overall professionality of the tool. Don’t worry, though. There are ways to obtain similar results without a Domino joiner. You’ll need to either use a different tool or a different joinery technique. In this article, we’ll go through some possible options.

We’ll talk about other tools you could possibly use, such as a router or a biscuit joiner. We’ll evaluate other joinery methods that could replace floating tenons, like dowel joints or the classic mortise and tenon joints. Finally, we’ll discuss a cheap domino joiner alternative available on the market.

Festool Domino Alternatives

As I mentioned before, there are many alternatives available if you don’t own (or you don’t want to get) a Festool Domino Joiner. You’ll need to trade in some of the Festool Domino qualities, though. The main missing feature in all the following alternatives is the Festool efficiency. It’s very hard to replicate the accurate results a Domino Joiner guarantees without spending much more time to get them.

Domino Joiner vs Router

router
“Makita RP1110C Router in action” by toolstop is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Maybe you don’t want to change the joinery technique. You need a strong joint type for your project, but you don’t want to make mortise and tenon joints by hand. Then, the best choice you could make is to use a plunge router. As opposed to fixed routers, which are ideal for trim work, plunge routers let you lower the bit directly from the top, allowing you to cut the slots you need.

The key to getting a strong, durable joint is cutting a mortise that fits the tenon perfectly. Make sure to use an appropriately-sized bit for it. While it also depends on the tenon’s shape, using a round nose bit might work well for you.

There are a few benefits of using a router instead of a domino joiner:

  • You don’t have to use Festool Domino Tenons. You can get away with cheap alternatives, or you could even cut your own ones;
  • With the appropriate setup, it’s very simple to use. If you are planning on cutting mortises extensively, consider getting a mortise jig for routers to speed up the process;
  • A plunge router can also be used for other activities, so consider it as an investment.
  • Lastly, the bigger benefit. A router is way cheaper than a Festool Domino. Even if you’ll need to get router bits and mortise jigs, you’ll still save a ton of money that you could use to get other machinery for your shop.

In the end, let’s consider some downsides. Using a router for cutting mortises isn’t as fast as using a domino joiner, since it requires additional setup. On top of that, you’ll probably take longer to get the hang of it.

Domino Joiner vs Mortise

mortise and tenon
“File:Mortise_tenon.png” by Jomegat at English Wikibooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Considering that the Domino Joiner cut loose tenons, what about utilizing the classic mortise and tenon joint?

Obviously, it wouldn’t be as fast as using a Festool Domino, but it’s a good alternative if you are doing a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of project, where you only care about the strength of the joint.

If it’s your first time cutting a mortise and tenon joint, I would suggest you start by practicing on some piece of wood. Make sure you refined your technique enough before getting your hands onto your project.

What tools do you need to make the tenon and the mortise? Very inexpensive stuff: a handheld saw and a sharp chisel are all the tools you need. Arm yourself with patience, and you’ll be surprised by the end result.

Domino Joiner vs Dowels

If you need a strong joint, then biscuits might not be the best for you. In my opinion, a reasonable alternative to floating tenons is dowel joints.

They’re similar to loose tenons since they both require a cut in both the wood pieces. The main difference is the wooden bit shape, which is cylindrical for dowels. It means that you can cut the slots you need with a simple drill. No specific tool is required here.

The only additional thing you might want to get is a doweling jig. In order to get good results, you need to be very accurate when drilling. Any misalignment between the slots might compromise the joint resistance. With a little money (doweling jigs are quite cheap), you’ll avoid any of these problems. Also make sure to use a drill stop to cut at the same depth in both pieces, so that you have a stable joint.

The only downside of dowels is they require a bit of a setup, so they aren’t as quick as it would be using a domino joiner. Other than that, they are a solid alternative if speed isn’t a priority.

Domino Joiner vs Biscuit Joiner

biscuit joiner
“biscuit cutter” by David W. Hogg is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one of the most discussed alternatives. At first glance, Domino joiners and plate joiners look very similar. Actually, they are very different. Domino joiners are used for loose tenons, biscuit joiners are utilized for biscuit joints. These joints aren’t comparable when it comes to strength. Floating tenons are way stronger.

Here are some reasons why you may want to get a biscuit joiner:

  • You don’t need very strong joints for your projects. You mostly deal with cabinetry and you need a way to make lots of joints fast.
  • For alignment purposes, biscuit joiners are highly recommended. There’s always some wiggle room left between biscuits and the slots, which might come in handy.
  • You mainly work with thin boards and/or plywood.
  • Biscuits are inexpensive when compared to Festool Tenons. The same goes for the tool itself.

Obviously, I would recommend a biscuit joiner for structural joints, for example when making tables, chairs, etc. In that case, you need a stronger joinery technique. For small projects like jewelry boxes, or for attaching face frames, biscuit joints are ideal.

If you wanna read more about this comparison, I wrote a more comprehensive article here.

Domino Joiner Other Than Festool?

The following question might come to your mind: if Festool tools are so expensive, what about other manufacturers? Maybe there is a domino joiner manufacturer whose tools are cheaper, right? Let me tell you, there aren’t any others. Festool domino system is patented.

Let’s say the alternatives I introduced before aren’t appropriate for your needs. They are either too weak (biscuit joiners) or too slow (they require a setup). If you are looking for something to make strong joints (a lot of them) fast, maybe the Triton Duo Dowelling Jointer is the right tool for you.

This tool is unique of its kind, the same as the domino joiner. It’s used to make dowel joints in an efficient manner. It cuts 2 slots for dowels at the same time. Here are some benefits:

  • Obviously, all dowel joints pros are valid here. The main pro is the joint’s strength that makes it suitable for a wide selection of projects;
  • The main problem with dowels is the difficulty of cutting precise slots with the right depth. The Triton Jointer comes with a clear 3 line viewer that makes accurate positioning super easy.
  • It’s straightforward and simple to use. It doesn’t require any additional setup, so it’s very quick.
  • The tool is equipped with a dust port so that you can easily connect it to a shop vac. Keeping the dust away is key for better results. Dust accumulation might overheat the cutting bit.
  • It can cut at different angles, thanks to the adjustable fence;
  • Last, but not least, the price. The Triton Jointer costs about a fifth of the Festool Domino Joiner price.

So if you often build large projects that require strong joints, the Triton Jointer might be a smart way to increase your efficiency.

Learn more about this tool in the article I wrote here.

Final Thoughts

festool domino joiner
“Festool Time” by geishaboy500 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As you can see, there are few Festool Domino alternatives available. To be honest, there might be even more, but I didn’t want to write a paper on it, plus some of them might be even more expensive than a Festool Dominos. I thought that staying on the cheaper end would be appropriate since the price is the main reason people look for Festool Domino alternatives.

We started with the router, which is the best way to get similar results to a Domino Joiner, especially if you are using an appropriate jig. Then, we discussed other possible joinery techniques you might use (mortise and tenon joints and dowel joints). They guarantee you similar results in strength, at the expense of time needed to make them. Finally, we talked about a couple of tool alternatives: the biscuit joiner and the Triton Dowelling Jointer. Both are valid tools for different reasons.

Finally, which one of these Festool Domino alternatives is the best for you? The final decision depends on the following questions:

  • What tools do you already have available? For example, if you own a router, that would be the obvious choice;
  • Which type of projects do you want to make? Maybe you don’t need joints as strong as loose tenons, so a biscuit joiner might be enough. If you are building large projects that require lots of strong joints, the Triton Jointer route might be better for you;
  • Are you looking to expand your skills pool? Maybe this is the right time to get down and practice your craftsmanship by cutting mortise and tenon joints by hand.

These are just some aspects to evaluate. Many things come into considerations when buying new tools. I hope I gave you some food for thought. If you want to learn more about the matter, check out the following articles:

– How Does a Domino Joiner Work? What Can You Do With It?
– Domino Joint Advantages and Disadvantages: Is It Worth It?
– Domino Joiner vs Biscuit Joiner: Find Out What YOU Need!

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