Driving Miss Daisy

I have now had the Festool CXS Cordless drill/driver for 6 months now (give or take a week) so it is worth a revisit.


I have been using the CXS extensively in that period, both while getting the old place ready, and since moving into the new one, so have really had a chance to experience its features, capabilities and limitations.

To start, I have heard criticism that this is just a screwdriver.  Of course it is, and no it isn’t on so many levels.  But this will come out as we progress.

The CXS is pretty light – not as much as one of those powered screwdrivers, but then they don’t have the range of features on offer.  I initially took the clip off (comes off easily once the battery is removed), but have since reinstated it.  It doesn’t interfere when you are not needing or using it, and particularly useful when you do.  It is able to be placed on either the left or the right, so a matter of personal preference.

The battery has an impressive longevity, and you can complete a lot of jobs before needing a recharge.  Even so, it comes with a second Li-Ion battery for when the drill stops drilling, and the light flashes (indicating the battery is finally flat).  The charger takes about 20 minutes, so if diligent about charging your battery when it does run down, you’d be hard-pressed to find yourself short.

The front of the CXS has two slots that look like they are there for a bit of styling.  That may be the case, but they are also magnetic to hold an alternate bit (or 4), or the next screw or two.  Above that is a small light, which as previously mentioned indicates when the battery has run down.  The real reason for its existence is to illuminate the are just in front of the drill, particularly useful when working in confined spaces.

To the main function – drilling, and driving.  This isn’t an impact driver, so has no where near the maximum torque of those devices, but there again, that is often a lot of overkill (ideally, your toolbox would have both).  The Centrotec driver holder is not very useful if you don’t have a set of Centrotec bits.  Still, I use the holder as it is easy to rapidly interchange the different heads using the FastFix system.  If you want to fit a traditional hex bit and not use the magnetic extension supplied, you can remove all the heads, and insert the bit directly into the shaft.  Also a method to reduce overall length if you need to get into a confined space.

The drill chuck is also easy to interchange (also FastFix), so it isn’t too much of a hassle to switch between drill bit (for a pilot hole) and the driver.  It is limited to a maximum of 8mm, which seems a bit low.  However, I can understand the rationale behind this – larger will start to push the overall capacity of the driver.  It can still manage drill bits up to 12mm in wood, so long as they have a smaller shaft at the end (bits like this are readily available).  This is not a high-torque tool, and you can find its limit.  The advantage of an electronic motor is it senses the load, and will cut out when it hits the max.  Unlike my last drill, you can’t burn this one out by overloading it!

The shaft autolocks when doing toolless bit changing.  About the only frustration is if you remove the chuck without removing the drill bit – not a big deal, but you can’t remove the drill bit when the chuck is not attached!

You won’t use it as much, but that right-angle adapter is genius when you need it.  Fit either driver bits or the drill chuck to the end, to be able to reach in and around, and still deliver the bit to the work.  Very clever, much quieter than expected, and when you need it, you’ll love having it.

There are 12 torque settings (I rarely remember to use), and two speed settings on the gearbox.

Around this place, I have already forgotten the number of jobs I have used the CXS for.  Drilling and screwing a gate together (metal frame, self tapping screws), building (or reassembing) a bunch of Ikea furniture, and attaching various units to the wall, building a cat run (self-tapping metal screws), and I can’t remember what else – it has almost become a permanent attachment!

So the positives and negatives.

Convenient size and weight (900g)
Able to reach where others cannot
Great battery life and quick recharge
Comfortable ergonomics
Variable speed and torque (although would have preferred a bit more)
Drills and drives. Having additional Centrotec bits would be a real benefit.

Bottom line – having now experienced one for a decent run, would I want one if I didn’t have the one I currently have?  You bet.  I enjoy using this tool  It feels right, it works right  It is spot on for the job it was designed to do.  I love that it comes in a Systainer, not that it gets to see its home very often!

Have a chat to Anthony from Ideal Tools if you want one too. (My Festool supplier of choice 🙂 )

Robertson Screw

I am going to paraphrase (aka butcher) the history badly, but there are plenty of websites providing a fuller history.

Around the turn of the 20th century, an inventor called Robertson came up with a cold forming method for producing a screw head with an internal square drive, with a tapered socket.  It would have been huge, especially as it was initially very popular with Henry Ford, and the fledgling car industry.  They would save considerable time in manufacture.  The taper makes it very easy to use the screws one handed, and means they stay on the end of the driver easily.

However, Robertson was not prepared to license the screw design to Ford, so they went with the Phillips instead.  I guess Henry was a relative of Steve Jobs!

The Robertson is the screw of choice in Canada, but did not get much of an uptake elsewhere (particularly the US) – either because of the Ford thing, or simply because Phillips is local, and Robertson is “foreign”.

In more recent times, Kreg have been making the screw increasingly popular with their pocket hole jig.  Certainly that is where I first came across them.  They have been my screw of choice for a while now, leaving flats, Phillips and Pozidriv stripped and in the dust.  I am a definite fan for a number of reasons – they don’t strip.  I use them over and over with jigs, and they screw in and out time and again.  It isn’t that I am being thrifty, (although why waste a good screw), but it also means I don’t need to try to extract a screw that has stripped out.  Even if a Robertson is painted over, you can extract it easily.

Can’t say I have ever driven one by hand though – I’m always using an impact driver (or drill) to drive them.  They mount on the end, don’t fall off, and drive superbly.  Unlike Phillips, these don’t cam out under high torque, and that is what really kills Phillips screws.


The latest application was all the way along the front fence.  I made it a number of years ago, and since then the pickets have become hard, and brittle.  I initially tried to use a pneumatic nail gun with galv nails, and every single nail split the picket in half.  Take 2, I tried to use the original galv nails I used when first making the fence, and each nail bent.  So Take 3, and out came the Robertsons.  The Festool CXS drove screw after screw, smooth as you’d like.  Not a single stripped head, not a single one fell off the head of the driver.  That alone saved time, and aggravation.  While one was screwing in, I was already able to reach into the box to pull out another handful to continue with.  You can see why they would have saved ol’ Henry so much production time.

Festool on the Doorstep

What better than coming home to find a brand new Festool tool sitting on the doorstep?

I ordered the Festool CXS cordless drill (plus) in a systainer. This version comes with the right angle adapter. The XS indicates its purpose: extra small. It weights 900g. It is designed to get into tight ares (such as when doing cabinetry), and although rated for 10.8V, its brushless motor offers more torque than a brushed motor of similar size.

If I need massive torque, I’ll use my old corded drill, but it can’t get into the tight spaces this one can, and drill around corners when it can’t.

It is also worth knowing Ideal Tools currently have these on special at $150 off.

It is the sort of styling I love in a tool- no fancy bits of inlay rubber without a purpose, no Battlestar Galactica Cylon look, just a tool designed for one purpose- to be an exceptional tool.

It also comes with 2 batteries, and a 20 minute charge time, so you should not run short when you need it. Recently upgraded to a 1.5Ah (from 1.3) Li-ion battery. It has the typical Festool driver chuck, and a standard Festool drill chuck for drill bits from 1mm to 8mm. This doesn’t mean you cannot use larger bits, but it just needs a set that has a smaller diameter shaft (or a hex shaft).

There has been quite a bit mentioned that you can only use Festool driver bits because of a different hex size, and although this is true for the FastFix chuck, if this is removed, there is a standard hex size behind. And in any case, the bit holder takes standard driver bits (with magnetic hold).

Let’s face it- you can either buy a brand that has taken the output of a Chinese factory and rebadged it/enshouded it with a pastic case of their design, or take a tool designed but then sent off to,the cheapest bidder to have it made, or buy quality from the ground up- design and manufacture, and German engineering is still revered.

I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to really put it through its paces.

WSE Oscillating Blades

The other thing we were introduced to was the WSE oscillating blades. Festool don’t make an oscillating saw (sadly), but for some reason have decided to market WSE blades as part of their range.

I say for some reason – a number were given, but it seems strange to me for a company such as Festool to market consumables for a product they do not make or sell. The blades are not branded Festool or Protool either.

WSE Blades

There are two parts to the WSE blades – there is the mount, of which there are a number to suit the different brands of oscillating cutter now on the market, and the blade itself.  One of the justifications given was that you could own a bunch of blades, and fit them to an assortment of machines.  Another was that the ‘expensive’ part of the manufacture being where the blade mounted wasn’t required for the consumable part of the blade itself, so there was a cost saving.

Consumable part of the blade

However, these many be good reasons for the manufacturer, they appear to offer the end user very little realisable benefit.  The manufacturing cost difference between this blade, and these:

Fein, Bosch, Worx, Dremel

wouldn’t seem to offer much of a cost saving, and it would be rare indeed for someone to own more than one type of machine to want to swap the blades from one to the next.  Keeping in mind too, these are consumables, not something intended to last for years.

On the other hand it is not all bad, there is a good justification for considering these blades – it is a pity that it isn’t this aspect that isn’t being pushed.

Instead of pushing the (debatable) cost savings, what should be pushed is the quality benefits of the WSE system.  By separating the blade from the mounting system they can be sold separately, meaning you can get a much more substantial mount that you don’t pay for  every blade.  Have another look at that first photo – it is a good mount compared to a basic (cheaply produced) punched hole.

The blades themselves are also quality, using a bimetal construction to get the benefits of durability/fatigue resistance/flexibility as well as maintenance  of the cutting edge.

There was some mention that there is a benefit to blade changing, but when you take the toolless system of the Fein and make it so tools are required, that really defeats the purpose.

Mounting to the Fein

(There is something rather backward about that photo from Festool marketing!)

So what we have here is potentially an interesting blade system, that just needs to be marketed in a different way.  I haven’t had an opportunity to try these blades out, so can’t speak for their quality from an operator’s point-of-view.  They only have this style of blade at this stage – it will be interesting if they start offering some other blade types.

CXS Drill Driver

Saw the new CXS Driver as well – it is a small(er) one in the Festool family, and when seen alongside some of the others, it is a bit of a baby.

Drill Family

One very obvious part of this is the battery being contained within the grip, rather than under it.


It is a mini drill in capacity too, with a 10mm chuck (and it is not able to take the larger ones, or the eccentric one that is in the main range), so is light and convenient and with the 90 degree attachment, particularly suitable for getting into smaller places.

A sideways screw

Not having a heavy battery swung under the drill would also help when completing repetitive jobs.

Onboard Storage

Neat little tool, almost a pity it doesn’t have a impact function so it could double as a drill and impact driver. But for what it was designed to be, looks like it is on the money.

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