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.

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.

The Rejuvenating Properties of The Shed

Did I ever need yesterday (and a whole heap more required, but I’ll take what I can get!)

Took a day off work yesterday because I really needed a bit of time out to recharge the batteries.  Not to sleep (although with a 20 month-old, sleep is a thing of the past!), but just to ground myself – my blood/sawdust ratio was obviously getting periously low!

And I had (and have) so many things to play around with.  I could take a week and not break the back of everything that could be done, but even a day out there sure helps.

There will be a few item-specific posts about the individual activities, but overall the day went such:

Unloaded the new tools down to the workshop. New tools? GMC are being very supportive of my activites which is very cool, and so there are some new tools to review, and use both in my workshop, and at courses I run etc, such as the upcoming toy course.  (Still looking for bookings for it (through Holmesglen), but there are going to be lots of ‘toys’ to play with, while making toys to play with!!)

So I had a Triton 3 in 1 to get down there, and boy, is that thing a monster.  Not physically large (still a reasonable size), but it feels like it has been carved from a solid lump of steel.  61kgs to be exact.

I also had to (sadly) pack up the Excalibur EX21 Scroll Saw that I have been reviewing for the next edition of the Australian Wood Review magazine.

Once there was a little space, I also had a small GMC benchtop drill press to assemble, the GMC 18V AllNailer to unplack and charge, a CMT Dado set (on loan from Carbatec), and I think that was about it.

Not sure about the AllNailer as yet – the first few nails I’ve driven, some have easily gone full-depth, but others don’t seem to have been able to penetrate to much more than 20-30mm of remaining nail.

I tried cutting a wheel with the 1/3HP GMC drill press (I’m hoping the Triton one will become available soon), and although I managed a 50mm one (in pine), it sure struggled.  The stalling was one thing – that’s just a fact of life that I was pushing it a bit hard, but each time that I did (and I did stall it often), I had to wait 30 seconds for the coil’s thermal cutoff to reset.  I’m guessing what was happening was – each time the motor stalled, the coils in the motor would get hot (immediately), and that there is a thermal switch in there that was tripping.  However, it is a VERY sensitive switch, so even a brief stall was too much for it, and the saw wouldn’t turn on again until the coils cooled.  Interestingly, the first side of the wheel went easily, and it was the second side that was problematic.

Once play time had ended, I went to work on a few prototype parts for a child’s table and chair, including trying out the Mortise Pal for making loose tenon joints using the router (rather than something like the Festool Domino (which looks great, but is miles out of my budget)).

So that’s a bit of an overview of the day.  I’ll go into more detail of the individual events later.

At least I feel a little refreshed.  More needed!!

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