Vacuum Systainer

An interesting concept- Festool now have a vacuum that is inside one of their systainers. Makes for an interesting option, especially in space-limited situations, or when needing real portability.

  • Power consumption : 1000 W
  • Max. vacuum : 20000 Pa
  • Filter surface area : 5357 cm²
  • Rubber-insulated mains cable : 5 m
  • Container/Filter bag capacity : 4.5/3.5 l
  • Dimension (L x W x H) : 396 x 296 x 270 mm
  • Maximum wattage of connected tool : 1200 W
  • Volume flow : 3000 l/min
  • Weight : 6.9 kg

Called the Mini Extractor, or CTL SYS

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.59.25 amScreen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.58.59 am

Confused, or Impressed?

Either way, I think I’d want one, but I have no idea why, or even the minor point that I don’t typically work with material that needs edgebanding!

A Festool workshop- shame we can’t buy one of these off the shelf!


If you are away from the workshop, perhaps this systainer would get you out of trouble

So much Festool, so little time!


Getting Sorted, Adding Hardware

With a bit of a shuffle, and cleanup, the workspace is looking good.  The shed is tight, but having the dedicated work surface is invaluable, and is already being put to good use.

The stack of Festool has been moved to a more accessible location, and again the advantage of the boom arm is apparent – giving easy access to the hose and power from the Festool vac (thanks to autostart).

Relocation of the setting out tools makes them a lot more accessible.  The gas bottle is stored under the bench at the moment- as good a place as any (currently used most often for the branding iron).  Not sure what I’ll store on the shelf – at this stage the Kreg Pockethole jig is stored under there (in a Festool Systainer).  In the drawer under the bench are bench dogs and surface clamps.

The Veritas Bench Dogs (and Bench Pups) from Carbatec are a very nice add-on.  Being used here while hand planing (HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane on New Guinean Rosewood).

The dogs and pups set low (as low as you want them) sit below the edge of the board so as not to affect planing.

Veritas Bench Dog (left) and Pup (right). You need a thicker bench for the bench dog (than for the pup).  The pups are very functional.

The Veritas Surface Clamps are very quick and easy to install – drop them in the desired hole and tighten the knurled knob.  There is a shoulder that prevents the clamp holddown going any deeper than necessary.

Now to find some interesting projects to really commission the bench, and get my teeth into.

Festool Storage

Some more of the products demonstrated at the Press event at Festool included storage solutions.  The first, and very readily associated with Festool are the Systainers.  They have received an upgrade from a 4 point attachment system (front and rear, to a single point for operation, called the T-Loc.  The rear of the Systainer engages along the length with the Systainer below it, but the only locking mechanism is the one central point at the front.


The system has partial compatibility with the older Systainers- they can connect to the bottom of the new ones, but not to the top.  There is also no version of the T-Loc systainers for the larger tools – specifically the BS 105 belt sander, which comes in a systainer twice the width of a normal one.

There are some distinct advantages to the new systainer locking system – the ability to couple and uncouple the stack with a single twist of the lock.  That is good, but even better is the ability to open a systainer without first having to remove the stack that is on top.

Accessing into the stack

In the background, you can see another advantage of the new systainers – an optional handle that can be attached to the front as an alternate carry position.  The same slots where the handle attaches can instead be used for identification cards to show what is inside the systainer – no more of the labels stuck to the sides and top that fall off over time.

Carry Handle

While looking at traditional storage, this was the rather cool tool carry each attendee of the Media Event was given

Protool Tool Carry

The top edges have a heavy bar supporting either side, and a metal handle screwed to the top, that can pivot out of the way when required.

Rear of Carry

Lots of heavy-duty storage pockets on the outside, front and back

Inside Cavity

Lots of storage inside too – this is a cool tool carry. Even the storage box has been put to good use – is now a doll hospital bed my daughter is using!

While dealing with storage, there is also the mobile Compact-Workstation that attaches to the top of the Cleantex (Festool Vac), such as the CT36. This provides a very compact storage – taking up the same footprint as the vac itself.  It will still attach if the boom arm is fitted (so I was told anyway).


It provides a stack of storage options, trays, tool storage for those ready-to-use, and can still fit a systainer on top of the vac.

Hand Sanding Block

Even the arguably strangest tool in the Festool stable, the hand plane block with dust extraction has a home, and also happens to act as a bit of a lid on top of the unit.

Yes - I want one

Finally, while still on the storage bandwagon, this wasn’t introduced as part of the morning, but I can’t help but like the inter connectivity and tidiness of the systainer solution.

Festool Socket Set


Super Systainer

Along with the BS105, came the largest systainer I have come across to date – a double-width one.

BS105 at Home

Again, it just highlights the shear size of the BS105.

The Systainer still fits in with the rest of the range, allowing stacking and interlocking.  At the mid-section of the lid are two flip-up components that the next systainer’s tabs engage with.


After that, you can begin stacking, and stacking.

House of Systainer

Systainers are not restricted to Festool, and indeed even the Festool Systainer actually comes from another company: Tanos.  Even my Cooltainer is actually branded Tanos, rather than Festool.  It may be that Festool using the Systainers for tool storage, but there are a wide variety of applications.

And other brands using them as well, including 3M, CleHo, Berner GmbH, Siemens AG, DeWalt, BTI GmbH, Festool, Metabo, Protool, Makita, Mafell, Lamello, Brillux, Ironside International, Wilpu, EBH AG, Linhof, Societé FOBI, Holzher, and I’m sure the list isn’t close to complete.

Makita Systainer

The company is continuing to develop new products and styles.

Blue Systainer

and on the Tanos website, you can even design your own (at least colour schemes)

Systainer Colour Schemes

Just mucking around, and yes, you can create some hideous combinations!

Think I’ll just stick to Festool (and probably Protool) ones at this stage!

Cyclonic Festool

With Safety Week drawing to a close, thought a couple of practical articles would be good to offset all the theory during the rest of the week!

With the arrival of the Festool Cleantex Dust Collection CT36 and coincidentally the Dust Deputy, it seemed ideal to couple the two together, and especially given that Systainers can be locked solidly to the top of the Cleantex, transforming one into a dust bin seemed perfect.

Step one involved removing the lid from the systainer, and that was easily achieved with the lid open, and a screwdriver inserted into the pin/hinge and a gentle rap with a rubber mallet. Rinse and repeat for the other side and the top came straight off.

Next, I took the Dust Deputy cyclone off its original lid, and used that lid as a template to mark out where the holes need to be.

I needed to offset the cyclone so it didn’t impact on the handle, and especially the forms on the inside of the lid.

Marking out the holes

I originally thought that I’d use this Systainer on top of a second, with the base of one cut away, and the top of the next cut away so I could detach the top Systainer completely so the lower one could be emptied.  However, I couldn’t justify sacrificing two Systainers to the experiment, so thought I’d experiment with just the one (at least initially).  I decided to swap this lid with one on a larger Systainer (and if you notice that the lid that got marked out is different to the one that is cut, you’d be right – I initially marked the wrong lid!)

Holes cut, including bolt holes

Underneath there is some reinforcing ribbing, and some of that had to be cut away.  It doesn’t weaken the top, because I am replacing a few light ribs with a chunk of solid steel!

Cutting away underside ribbing

Next it was easy to bolt the cyclone on top of the lid.

Attaching the cyclone

The lid, ready to go – so far a very easy modification, and other than one damaged lid, easily reversed.  I got the Systainer cheaply (second hand), so the mod so far cost $10.

Systainer Lid with Dust Deputy Cyclone

Fitting the whole unit on top of the CT36 is also a no brainer, and the hose that comes with the cyclone is a perfect size for the Festool Cleantex.

CT36 with Cyclone Collector

Nothing left to do, but give it a test, so made a pile of dust…..

Test pile of sawdust

And sucked it up.


Now at this stage the system is working, but I need to make some immediate additions – the Systainer is not able to resist the strength of the vacuum, and that causes some significant leaks around the lid (and the rear wall of the Systainer gets pulled in).  These leaks mean the separator didn’t work well at all (yet) because the influx of air from the collection bin means the dust was able to progress from the inlet tube to the outlet rather than fall into the Systainer.

I can solve two problems with one solution – I will make a thin-walled box (MDF) to fit inside the Systainer.  This will fully support the walls of the Systainer, as well as collect the dust and it can be lifted out to empty, rather than removing the Systainer from the Cleantex.  Secondly, some of that rubber that goes around windows and doors as a draught stop should significantly help the sealing, resulting in effective use of the cyclone.

As a quick initial modification (30 minutes), I am very happy with how it is looking already, and with a few extra improvements should become a perfect addition to the new shop vac.

A Tale of Two Sanders

It was the best of finishes, it was the worst of finishes, it was the age of exorbitance, it was the age of thrift, it was the epoch of German engineering, it was the epoch of Chinese manufacturing, it was the season of pleasure, it was the season of pain, it was the spring of jet dust extraction, it was the winter of clogged abrasive, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to woodworking Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the machines were so far apart, that some of the noisiest proponents of one insisted on it being placed on a pedestal, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I was in the shed one day, using the same random orbital sander (ROS) that I have for a few years – an $80 Triton, and my hands were really hurting from the vibration.  Irrespective of the risk on ongoing health problems from exposure to vibration (HAVS being a rather undesirable effect), what’s the point of trying to enjoy woodworking, when a tool is causing such a distraction?  So without even realising that it was on the cards when I headed down to the shed that day, at that point I decided that tool was being retired, immediately, and a replacement ROS was to be sought.

Triton ROS

Despite the range of brands available out there, I had no question which brand I was going to go with after having experienced them first hand at the Ideal Tools workshop.  Despite the premium price tag, I was going Festool.  The machines operate so smoothly, you almost don’t have to hold them, guiding them around the surface with a finger.  The only question I had was which model to choose.

I specifically wanted a random orbital sander, so I quickly narrowed my choices down to either the Rotex, or one of the two eccentric (ETS) sanders – the 150/3 or the 150/5.  That is where I started to run into a decision-making problem.  Just which one was the most suitable for my requirements?  It wasn’t like I could eliminate any on quality.  Price could have some bearing – the Rotex is quite a bit more than the ETS sanders, but then it is more versatile than the other two.  People who own one really swear by it, and that is very inspiring.

I was rather fortunate that I was given access to all three sanders to compare by Ideal Tools, which meant I was able to make a decision with full confidence, rather than choosing and hoping based on what I read on the net, or in the marketing materials.

Festool Rotex 150

The Rotex is called a 3 in 1 sander – being switchable between orbital and random orbital settings.  Orbital being used for bulk material removal, and random orbital for finishing, with the circular and elliptical motions simultaneously meaning that there is no swirl marks produced.  The 3rd action is polishing, but that I gather is more of a use of the tool – there is no specific setting unique to the tool for this.

Festool RAS115 "Termite"

I have the Festool termite (RAS 115), so bulk material removal is not something I have to struggle with, so I was particularly interested in its ROS use.  Handling it is rather different to other ROS, in that the centre of balance isn’t directly above the sanding pad, so operation has to be two-handed.  This isn’t as unusual to me than for some, because for a few years I was using the original Triton ROS sanding attachment which fits to an angle grinder.  I know how well regarded the machine is, so was really looking forward to trying it out for myself.

Triton ROS Attachment

After giving the unit a good run in both modes, I was still trying to ‘get’ why it is so popular with its enthusiastic supporters. That is probably going to be quite a bone-of-contention, but I didn’t.  “Get it” that is.  Controversially, I found it not unlike the Triton ROS fitted to an angle grinder, with the obvious upgrades – multi jetstream, variable speed.  On the other hand, the Festool Termite has a similar layout, and like my angle grinder is much easier to hold.  I found the body of the Rotex too bulky for me to feel like I had good control over the tool.  Bit surprised by my reaction, particularly given the feedback I’ve heard about the tool, but this isn’t a criticism of the Rotex, or its supporters – it just wasn’t for me.

So now I’ve turned to the ETS models, and other than the number 3 or 5 on top, they are indistinguishable.  The numbers represent the degree of eccentricity – either 3mm or 5mm.

Festool ETS 150/x

Both units are very well balanced – you can hold the handle, or just push the unit around the surface with a finger!  They are variable speed, and have the multi-jetstream dust clearing technology (which is both an air supply and removal system across the surface of the pad that clears away dust that has been created, and in doing so prevents dust buildup that results in heat buildup, and clogging of the abrasive.)  You don’t have to use abrasives that have the multi-jetstream holes, but obviously you loose the advantage of the system while you do.

In the end there was no question that it would be an ETS that I would buy, the final question would be which model.  The 150/3 is for very fine finishing, the 150/5 less so (by all of 2mm), and is slightly more versatile.  That is something I needed (when I was only going to end up with one of these), and I also found I appreciated the sanding action of the 150/5 more – the 150/3 just didn’t feel like it was doing enough (it being a fine finishing sander only) for my purposes. And still it has variable speed, and I can work right through the different grades of abrasive – up to 2500 if I choose.  (And I did take note of all the comments made when I first raised the question back around Nov last year!)

So that is what I went for in the end – the Festool ETS 150/5.  The brand new unit arrived recently, and I haven’t actually gotten it dusty yet – there is plenty of time.  I also got the Systainer for the sander, as well as a second one with the abrasives insert to keep all the different abrasive pads organised,

Abrasives Systainer

and a rollboard which goes under my slowly increasing pile of systainers to make it easier to move them around the workshop (until I find a more permanent location for them).

Festool Systainer Rollboard

All these were sourced from Ideal Tools, and thanks to Anthony for the opportunity to give the various models a workout before I made a final decision. (Oh, and when I bought it, the deal at the time (still current) was for a Festool Cooler Bag and set of BBQ utensils – quite handy for a Stu’s Shed BBQ!)

Festool Cooler Bag & BBQ Set

As to what happened to the old Triton ROS?  Dickens to it 🙂

Bananas on the Slope

Damn, but this Festool slope sure is slippery!

I was using my Triton ROS for some Xmas presents the other day (like just before Xmas obviously), and I was reminded just how much it vibrated – you come away with your hand tingling from the sensation.  If those fat-buster belts of the 60’s actually worked, my hand would be anorexic by now after the latest session.  That was enough for me – if it came to the point that I’d almost prefer not to sand because of the tool, then it is time for that tool to find a more sympathetic home.

It has been a bit of a debate, which sander to replace it with, and I sought advice on here back in November which gave me plenty to think about (thanks to all contributors).  There was obviously the Rotex, but it is significantly more money, and I couldn’t bring myself to go that route (and in part because I have the Festool Termite, so the orbital capabilities of the Rotex are duplicated in the Termite (which is also a Rotex fwiw)).

So it came down to the ETS sanders.  There is the 125 and 150mm diameter first, and in this case I decided a slightly larger diameter than what I have been using would not hurt.  With the 150s, there are 2 models – 150/3 and 150/5.  The /x number represents the amount of eccentricity the tool can achieve (either 3mm or 5mm), and again, decisions, decisions.

For the fact that I am looking for a bit more capability from one machine, I went with the 150/5, in a Systainer.  It comes with 50 free assorted abrasives, and I got another 100 for 1/2 price (a current Ideal Tools special), as well as a Cooltainer for $20 – after all, you can’t have too many beverages on ice eh!

Given the rapidly increasing stack of Systainers, I’ve also added the roller unit for the bottom so they can be moved around easily, and another Systainer to finally keep my abrasives all neat and sorted.

Finally, another bag of 4mm Dominos, as what I started with took a heavy hit with the recent Toy Kitchen construction.

Hmm – online shopping can be addictive – just keep ticking boxes 😉

1001 Words



The Ideal Tools Workshop

After the weekend’s visit to Ideal Tools, I took a bunch of photos to give you a better idea of this resource. These are general ones of the location, I will post a second set that were taken during the Advanced Domino course.

They include a photo of one of the tabletops from the Hall Table course, made from Silky Oak with a ‘river’ of Blackwood, racks of Festool Systainers (with tools) and Sortainers (for keeping everything else neat and, well, sorted!) and of course the tool stations.

Along one wall is the students’ workbenches, with shop-made wooden/magnetic tool racks and racks of Bessey and Frontline clamps.

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