Domino Primary Features

Walking around the Domino, there are a number of features that control all aspects of the positioning of the mortises.

Festool Domino

Festool Domino

The front support platform can both tilt through 90 degrees and be set to a specific height. There are preset locators for the primary mitre angles, and the ability to set any other angle between.

The Front End

The Front End

At the front end, you can see where the mortising bit protrudes from, and there are the stop pins on either side for rapid positioning from the edges of the board.  The three arrows cut in front platform are in line with the centre of the mortise, and the reference edge of the stops.  The far left and right edges of the lower section align with the centre of the mortise.

Manually Aligning a Mortise

Manually Aligning a Mortise

In addition to the stops, there is also a magnifying scale in the centre you can use to manually align up with a pencil mark drawn on the work.  By abutting the two pieces to be joined together and drawing a line across the gap, the domino mortises can be easily aligned.  There are also lines engraved on the base (not photographed) to also aid alignment, particularly for vertical plunging.

Height Setting

Height Setting

There are also two methods for setting the height of the mortise.  The first is the lower scale, where you set the material thickness so the mortise becomes placed in the middle of the material.  The second scale sets the absolute height of the mortise cut.

Depth of Cut

Depth of Cut

The depth of the mortise can be set to one of 5 settings. You can use combinations thereof to either centralise the tenon across the joint, or offset it as material thicknesses dictate.

Changing Cutters

Changing Cutters

With the cutter-change spanner, a release lever can be lifted so the entire front mechanism of the Domino can be removed, providing easy access to the cutter. It also allows access to the control rods, so if a different plunge depth than is provided by the presets, you can add a tube as a surrogate stop, for any other plunge depth that is required.  Most of the time this isn’t necessary – the provided plunge depths are sufficient.

Festool Domino Cutaway

Festool Domino Cutaway

The mechanism inside the Domino is quite elaborate, producing the rotation and oscillation of the cutter. With a steady plunge by the operator, the mortise is quickly produced.

Viva la Revolution

Back early 2006 (or early 2007 in the US), one of many revolutions in woodworking occurred, with the arrival on the scene of the Festool Domino. It caused quite a furor at the time! I was quite busy at the time as a moderator on a large woodworking forum, and if you could exchange blows through a computer, I’ve no doubt it would have come to that.  Not sure if there has been another tool released to be surrounded by such polarised opinions!

Mortise and tenon joinery has been around for a long, long time – thousands of years even.  As modern machines have bought additional ease to the production of the joints, particularly in producing the mortise, the floating tenon (loose tenon, or feather tenon depending on your terminology) has come into being, and the domino is the latest version of that joint.  The basic premise being – cut a slot and shove a tenon in one side, then cut a slot into the other and glue it all together.

Sounds simple enough, and it really is.  Where the Festool Domino comes in, is in the absolute ease of producing the required mortises, and the precision in their placement.  This helps dramatically with the accuracy of assembly, and can increase overall joint strength (obviously dependent on load direction).

I experienced (briefly) the Domino a couple of times, the main I recall being at the late Steve Bisson‘s place, where along with his Incra LS Positioner, and a fine collection of handplanes, he had the Domino which he handled with as much reverence as his prized planes.  He showed me how he used it for “Domi-dogs” (bench dogs using dominos) and a couple of other techniques I’m sure I was meant to be impressed by.  I didn’t understand the passion at the time – it’s not until you own one that you understand just how much of a revolution in your own workshop one small tool can have.

Where I really became hooked was after attending the Domino course run at Ideal Tools, I then went onto the Hall Table course, and got to use one for all aspects of that construction, and at that point I really started to understand. At that stage it became a matter of time until one found its way into my shed.

It will find its way into many future projects, but keep in mind – mortise and tenons have been around for millenia, so if I use a domino, you can substitute other methods, either for creating a floating tenon joint, traditional mortise and tenon, a biscuit joint, dowel joint etc (but that will get discussed at the time as appropriate).

The Domino kit I have came with the base machine, a trim stop, cross stop, support bracket and a second Systainer full of various sizes of domino (4, 6, 8 and 10mm) For those that are not aware, the systainers stack, and lock together and are the standard way Festool sell all their handheld powertools and larger accessories (you can save a bit by not getting it, but they are a good way to store and protect your tools).

Domino DF 500 Q-Plus Kit

Domino DF 500 Q-Plus Kit

(In this photo, I’ve also included a mahogany domino – they are available in addition to the standard beech dominos, for situations where the joint is subjected to outdoor weather, or you are exposing the domino and want a different colour!).  At some stage I’ll add a third systainer for the mahogany dominos.

Festool Domino set for edge-mortising

Festool Domino set for edge-mortising

Such a simple concept, such an easy technique, handled with precision.  The front platform supports the tool on the work when mortising an edge.

Precise placement of domino from an edge

Precise placement of domino from an edge

Photographed from underneath, you can see how a domino can be set a controlled distance from an edge, with a stop (black in the photo) registering off the side.

With the correct bit installed, the height set and the depth of plunge set, you can begin cutting mortises.

Mortise cut and domino ready to be inserted

Mortise cut and domino ready to be inserted

The Domino has a circular bit, with cutting edges on front and sides.  The machine both rotates the bit at high speed (router-like), and also oscillates it from side-to-side, so as you plunge the bit in, it cuts a channel with straight sides, and doesn’t just drill a hole.

You can choose one of three settings for the width of the mortise, and as will be covered in a later post I will discuss the merits of doing so.

Varying mortise width

Varying mortise width

Each setting (with the green-dial in the background) increases the mortise width, adding 6mm and 10mm to standard mortise width.

Plunging in to cut a domino

Plunging vertically to cut a domino

In some cases, you want a mortise away from an edge, so plunging in vertically works equally as well.  Again, positioning these mortises will be a subject down-track.

Tight-fitting mortise and tenon joints

Tight-fitting mortise and tenon joints

So this has been an introductory look at Festool Domino joinery.  I’ll talk more about it in upcoming posts, and it will be of definite benefit in some upcoming projects.

As I mentioned, I found it really beneficial attending the course(s) at Ideal Tools – as much as I will have a read through the manual, I found when it got down to brass tacks, I was plenty confident with this tool to jump in when I had it in my own workshop (not that I don’t anyway, but I was well ahead of the usual curve in this case).  I have heard of some of these being bought, then sitting unused in their containers for over a year as the new owner didn’t have the confidence to actually wield the tool. Such a sad state for a precision machine. Ideal Tools have the very impressive workshop/showroom in Williamstown which I mentioned a while ago, and have their business primarily focused on the Festool range.

Decisions part 2

To follow up on the recent post, and to cover what I finally went with:

The thicknesser (planer) is as mentioned the 15″ 381.  With a retail price of $1600 (minus their current offer of 10% off or a free dust extractor or something), it is more than something like the Triton 15″ (which was retailing at $1000, and can take moulding blades), but boy do you get a lot of machine for your money! It is, I am lead to believe, very very similar to the Grizzly 15″ Planer – the GO453. Other than the colour, I’d struggle to be able to tell them apart (not even sure I could).

I did buy the WDS400 in the end – there was a lot of umming and ahhring (and not it wasn’t “Speak Like a Pirate Day”), but in the end, there isn’t another machine out there that comes close in price, and it is a 16/32 drum sander (for some reason it has been metricised) (I don’t know if that is a word, but it sounds good). I did take into account the many opinions that were kindly offered – these were probably as much the cause of much of my uncertainty, and also my decision to proceed.  See, I listen to everyone, but in the end I have to make a final call, and in this case it was “suck and see”.

I also added the mortising attachment for the drill press.  I was thinking of a dedicated machine, but we’ll see how much demand there is for little investment before forking out for yet another machine that I am rapidly running out of room to house!

And finally, (and most importantly?!) I went with the Foxtel IQ2 for a DVR.  Strange decision for me perhaps, but by juggling my account requirements, I ended up getting it and actually having the overall package costing $5 less per month than what I currently pay.  And how is that related to woodworking?  Simple – this thing has quad tuners in it.  This means I can record the various woodworking shows when they come on Foxtel (or free to air (except channel 7 (currently), and not have to compromise shed time (or the other things we want to watch and/or record).  As with the other decisions, I did note and investigate the various other options.  Hard to beat getting one for nothing and saving $5/month in the process!

When Men were Men, and Wood was King

(Stills from Episode 44)

During one outing in the Yarra Valley (driving to Warburton), I came across a field full of old rusting farm and forestry equipment.

A Field Museum

A Field Museum

One of the vehicles in particular gives an idea of how much harder it was to get things done back then – transporting a single log where these days 40 or more at a time is typical.

I took a few quick photos from the road, and decided to give them a bit of a dated feel to match the age of the equipment themselves.

An Aussie Ute

An Aussie Ute

Pimped out dragster

Pimped out dragster

Bigfoot

Bigfoot

B Double

B Double

Aussie Road Train

Aussie Road Train

The fence in that last photo is also very applicable – made by the traditional method of adze and pull-knife carved mortise and tenons.  Nothing like using machine-shaped timber when making a fence – this is definitely hand-made and hand-dressed-all-round.  Logs are typically split with axe and wedge to produce the rails.

Those carriage wheels are also the work of a real wheel wright, and one of the tools that we still use came from that specific application – the spoke shave.

Play Table Progress

Made some progress over the weekend on a small play table.  Still have the chair to make, but the hard part is done: starting!

Firstly, I prototyped the leg and a part of the chair back.

Play Table Prototype

Play Table Prototype

The back is curved, and was cut on the bandsaw.  First the top was done, then the front and back curves cut.  Came out better than I expected, so from here, I will make up a template so future chairs can be made with the same design.

The leg was a guess at the right height, and the pen marks on it are the susequent measurements I made when my model was available – from back of knee to floor, thickness of thigh etc.  Then added on some clearances, and allowance for growth, and the final height was arrived at.

I then made the top for the table.  Cut in MDF, because I want to paint it and anything else would be wasted under paint.

Laying out the corners

Laying out the corners

The top was sized, and then the corners rounded off.  This was done first on the bandsaw, and then finished with a pattern following bit on the router table.  Next, I wanted a channel all round so that it would catch minor spills, and potentially pens/crayons etc so they didn’t necessarily roll onto the floor.  It won’t stop either, but it will certainly help.

Routing the channel

Routing the channel

This was done by clamping the top to my only working surface in the shed (still) – my tablesaw, then the router with a cove bit and a fence to cut the channel.

Then it was back onto the router table to round over the edges.

Finished Top

Finished Top

The leg material was cut and dressed, then cut to length.  Mortise slots cut into the top, and into the skirting.  The skirting took a few passes on the router table to round over corners, add a bit of beading detail, and cut a slot at the back for clips to hold the top on.  The Mortise Pal certainly made cutting mortises easy, so was a good initiation for it!

Table base glueup

Table base glueup

Table base detail

Table base detail

Play table ready for painting

Play table ready for painting

So that in brief was how the table came together.  The chairs will be very similar, and will be the next project.

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