Festool Domino XL
Wednesday 14 March 2012
Derek Jones finds favour with the new Domino XL from Festool
Festool presented the woodworking world with the Domino back in 2006. Such was its impact that you'd have to look long and hard to find another development in power tool technology since that has had as much impact on the way we work. As someone who struggles to find a new angle each month on the subject of woodworking I don't envy the technicians who are charged with developing new concepts in what is an ancient process.
Festool get round this mental block by establishing a few ground rules. First, they won't even consider working on a new product that's already in the market-place if they can't significantly improve on the idea. Second, they don't go in for the 'big sell' believing that the tools they produce are capable alone of delivering the right message. So with the bar already raised way above some of their competitors how does a second generation Domino fit into the market-place?
The Domino XL has much in common with the original machine but as the name implies it's a bigger unit.
The original concept remains the same; a hand-held machine to cut flat bottom mortises for loose tenons.
The XL is aimed squarely at the joiner and in true Festool fashion it's designed to operate at the heart of a system where it can make a difference. The XL uses cutters from 8 to 14mm and will bore to a depth of 70mm. The pre-cut beech tenons are available in three short sizes (80, 100 and 140mm) and in 750mm lengths. The joint sizes are ideally suited to larger stock and the powerful 720W motor runs smooth and is relatively quiet. I worked repeatedly on sections of oak for this review process and at no time did the motor feel laboured.
There are a number of features on the XL that make it a good machine for repeat cutting and batch work.
A lever on the side of the motor casing causes the cutter to produce mortises wider than the pre-cut loose tenons. When working from free-hand marks this compensates for any misalignment in the marking or machining process.
Stops save time
Built into the XL are a series of stops that can be used to position the machine for cuts off a fixed datum such as the face or edge of the mating components or the previous mortise. Working in this way takes a little getting used to but once mastered it can save a great deal of time. The position of the stops is recorded in the sole plate
of the machine to help with this.
The sprung stops can be depressed into the casing where they remain until released by a small button each side of the plate. As an example the spacing allowed for mortises to be grouped in pairs on a frame leaving space for any extra details like grooves, mouldings or a rebate. With so many nooks and crannies built into this machine it's good that the extraction port is well placed to remove the large amount of waste for the 12mm cutter I was using.
Set for production
There are a few makes of power tools available that are calibrated in the factory to perform accurately from the scales indicated on them.
Festool is one of them and this makes for quick initial set-up for a single process and freedom to switch between settings for a complex one. The XL will work from angles between 0° to 90° with presets along the way. Depth of cut from the face of the fence can be set free-hand or by using pre-sets. The depth of the mortise can also be adjusted to a given setting or permitted to work within a specific range. Tool changes are also quick to do. A small lever is flicked with the wrench supplied, which releases a catch holding the machine body and faceplate together. It's possible to swap tooling without disassembling the XL but there is a risk of knocking the sharp edge of the tool against the metal of the machine.