The Festool Domino DF500 is a woodworker’s tool for those serious about DIY projects. This handy little joiner is versatile enough to accompany a large contractor on-site but at the same time, it’s simple enough for a novice woodworker.
This article is a review of the Festool Domino DF500. Below, we’ll take a look at its main features and, hopefully, when you get to the end, you’ll understand whether you need it or not.
Why Is A Joiner Important To Have?
If you’re a beginner, you might still be on the fence about whether you need a joiner in your arsenal of home tools. And those who are just starting out might not really need it just yet.
However, once you’ve been working on projects for a while, a joiner becomes one of those tools you’ll love to have. These devices help to join two pieces of wood without exposing the joint.
Screws and nails do this as well but the end result isn’t neat or professional looking. With a hidden mortise and tenon joints, you’ll be able to achieve the same result but with a more professional finish.
Who needs a joiner?
Anyone from beginners to professionals can justify owning a joiner. You could either get a biscuit joiner or a domino joiner like the Festool DF500. We’ll take a look at the difference between these two types of joiners later in the article.
What To Consider Before Buying A Joiner
If you’re thinking about getting yourself a joiner, we’ve listed down some of the things you need to consider before settling on one.
1. Level of expertise
How much skill do you have in woodworking? If you’re a professional then buying a joiner like the Festool DF500 is an easy decision. However, if you’re a beginner, perhaps the projects you’re working on don’t really require owning a joiner.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you should forego owning one. If you foresee yourself working on several projects within the near future then go ahead and arm yourself with a joiner.
The point is, figure out your intention for owning a joiner and whether it is worth buying one or simply borrowing when the need arises. This brings us to the next consideration….
2. Frequency of use
As we mentioned above, professionals/contractors probably have a clear need for a joiner since they’re working on lots of projects. If this is you then skip to the next consideration. However, beginners who would be working on home projects need to think about how often they’ll be in a position where they actually need to use a joiner.
If it’s just the one project that needs a special type of joint and that’s it, perhaps it would be cheaper for you to rent a joiner for the day or borrow from a friend. Still, if you have a couple of projects lined up then buying would be a better option.
How much do you have to spend? As you’ll see in this Festool DF500 review, this joiner isn’t cheap compared to biscuit joiners. Consider whether your projects justify the cost of the joiner and this will help you make a decision. Renting might be a more viable option cost-wise if you only need the tool for a couple of hours.
However, those who need it for contract work, then the joiner might end up paying for itself.
4. Durability & warranty
Read online reviews and talk to long-time users before deciding on which joiner to buy. Figure out which brands have the best products and, depending on how much you have to spend, make a decision.
Heavy users will need a tool that can keep up and these will probably be more expensive. The materials used to make the parts determine how strong it is. Moving parts and those that come into contact with the cutting bits are usually metalling, be it steel or a hard alloy. For comfort and added aesthetic value, the handles are made of plastic. Check the quality of these materials to get an idea of how sturdy they are.
At least a one-year warranty is acceptable but some manufacturers like Festool offer up to three years’ limited warranty. There are also money-back offers by some manufacturers, that last about 30 days, in case you feel dissatisfied with your product. These are all signs that they have confidence in what they’ve built and you know that the manufacturer has your back in case an issue arises.
Key Features of The Festool Domino DF500
1. Easy assembly and disassembly
The Festool Domino DF500 is very easy to take apart into two main units; the head unit and the power unit.
The head unit is made up of the adjustable fence, indexing pins, the height and angle adjustment knobs, and the dust port. This is the part of the joiner that comes into contact with the project wood and so it’s made of metal. The dust port is quite efficient; with a connected dust collector, you should be able to keep your workshop clean.
The main unit has a motor inside and the drilling/cutting bit is attached to it. The cutter is easy to remove and replace, which is a good thing because the joiner is sold with only one cutting bit, the 5mm one. You’ll need to buy additional cutters so that you’re able to cut different sized mortises. Changing the bits is a quick and painless process.
2. Fast action
With the Festool Domino, you can quickly cut a mortise slot in less than a minute. The Domino uses a unique cutting style, where the bit rotates and drills into the piece of wood while at the same time it oscillates to widen the mortise slot.
This joiner can accept a bit from 4mm to 10 mm but, as we mentioned above, it’s only sold with the 5mm bit. With this versatility, you can easily cut the desired size without breaking a sweat.
If you’re planning to do large-scale projects then you should trust that the Festool Domino DF500 will be able to keep up with your speed.
There are several adjustment options to ensure you get the precise cut, every time.
- You can adjust how wide you want the mortise to be. Thanks to the easy-to-use adjustment knob on the main unit, you can select three different width sizes, whether you want an exact fit of the domino or a slightly larger mortise to give the domino some wiggle room.
- The joining machine also allows you to adjust the depth of the mortise. There’s a depth stop that ensures that all the mortises you cut are equal in depth so you don’t have to guess or eye-ball it. Simply set the desired depth and make continuous cuts easily.
- With the pivoting fence, you can adjust the angle at which you can make your mortises. There’s a stop that you can use to lock the fence at the desired angle; from 0 to 90 degrees. This comes in quite handy when you’re cutting a mortise on a diagonal surface.
The protractor scale on the side of the joiner has clearly labeled angles and mid-point labels as well, allowing you to select the precise angle you want the fence to pivot at.
- There’s also a height adjustment setting that allows you to easily raise or lower the fence. The benefit of this is that you’ll be able to work on different wood thicknesses.
- The front face of the fence has indexing pins that are useful in aligning the joiner to the work surface. This ensures that you cut the mortise at the exact spot.
- Finally, the ability to use different bit sizes allows you to cut the perfect mortise for your project.
This is a joiner that you’ll bring to your work and because of this, its weight is kept low. At only about 7 pounds (3 kgs) you won’t strain to carry it around. Storage of such a portable machine is also easy.
The dust port snuggly attaches to a hose which allows you to use the dust collector of your choice. This is a good feature that is almost a must-have in all woodworking machines. With this, you won’t take long to clean up after yourself.
How Different Is The Festool Domino DF500 From A Biscuit Joiner?
The concept between the Domino and a biscuit joiner is the same; both make mortise and tenon joints that are used to join two pieces of wood. These two machines have other inherent similarities;
- You can adjust the angle and height of the fence in both.
- Both a Biscuit and Domino joiner use a cutter plunging action.
- Both have almost similar parts: dust port, fence, handle, power cable.
However, as you’ll see in the table below, these two joiners have some clear differences that may determine which one you would choose to get.
It has a large selection of dominoes, from 4mm to 10mm in size.
It only has three sizes of biscuits to choose from.
Uses a drill bit that rotates as a drill would but also oscillates to widen the hole.
Uses a saw blade that cuts into the stock wood.
It can cut varying hole widths and depths.
Cuts only one width size but the depth can vary.
Domino joints are strong.
Biscuits basically help to align boards but they don’t add strength.
Machines and dominoes are expensive to buy.
It has a significantly lower cost.
Best for large-scale projects.
Best for beginners.
Pros and Cons of the Festool Domino DF500
- It’s easy to use.
- Cuts the domino hole quickly with a high level of accuracy.
- The Festool Domino DF500 is great for a large quantity of work.
- It’s portable so you can easily carry it to your project site.
- You can easily adjust the angle of the fence for cutting different mortise orientations.
- The Festool Domino can cut different mortise sizes, whether you want an exact size for the domino or a slightly larger size for more flexibility in adjustment.
- Domino joints are strong.
- Not best for small-scale home projects.
- The joiner is very expensive to buy and the dominoes are also quite costly.
If the Festool Domino is too pricey for you, here are some alternatives that are equally as reliable.
Other Joiner Options
This is a cordless joiner that uses Biscuits instead of dominoes. It has a similar design as the Festool but the difference, other than the fact that this is a Biscuit joiner, is that the Makita uses battery power. For a full charge, you should be able to get up to 300 cuts out of it, just enough for home use.
The Makita XJP03Z also has a fence that is easily adjustable, ensuring that the slots it makes are just where you intended. You can choose three different depths and the sizes are compatible with most biscuits in the market. Here’s a look at its pros and cons.
- It has a cordless design that enhances portability.
- The fence is easily adjustable for added accuracy.
- The battery can make 300 cuts before it requires recharging.
- The cast aluminum build adds durability.
- More affordable than the Festool Domino DF500.
- The battery and charger are sold separately.
- The dust collection bag doesn’t tightly fit the port. You’ll need to reinforce it to keep it from falling off.
VonHaus offers this joiner that’s small and portable yet powerful enough to handle your tasks. This is an excellent option for a novice woodworker as it costs less than $100. Its design is reminiscent of the Makita and Festool, with an adjustable fence, and a plastic, ergonomic handle.
You also get a dust bag with this machine, if you don’t intend to use an extractor. For simple home projects, this is a great option. Check out the pros and cons below.
- Very affordable and ideal for beginners.
- The VonHaus is lightweight and highly portable.
- It’s sold with a dust collection bag.
- There are three pre-set biscuit size options.
- Makes accurate and consistent cuts
- It’s very noisy.
- The blade loses its edge quickly.
Just like the VonHaus joiner, this REXBETI device is quite affordable but highly reliable. It’s sold with a four-inch carbide blade which is very durable. It plugs into a standard wall outlet and powers a motor that does 10,000 rpm. This power is sure to handle your home projects without breaking a sweat.
Just like the other joiners on our list, the REXBETI Biscuit Joiner has an adjustable fence and three pre-set depths. And assuring you of its reliability, you also get a two-year warranty.
- It has a powerful motor for general home projects.
- The REXBETI is lightweight and is easy to carry to the project.
- You get a dust bag on purchase.
- The adjustable fence ensures accuracy, even when working on angled surfaces.
- It’s very affordable.
- This joiner is easy to use and is perfect for beginners.
- It’s not ideal for heavy use.
Yes, the Festool is the only Domino joiner perhaps because the way the cutter operates is unique and patented. There are other joiners like the Biscuit joiner, but the Festool is the only one that uses Dominoes.
Both dowels and dominoes application is the same but the difference is that a dowel is a long, round, wooden pin while a domino is more oval and has a wider diameter. Both, however, work in place of screws or nails and they reinforce joints.
The strongest wood joint is a mortise and tenon joints, and the two have been used by woodworkers for many years since they are durable and simple to make.
The Festool Domino DF500 is no doubt a wonderful joiner that anyone would enjoy using. It’s strong and fast, making accurate cuts, of course, as long as you’re precise in alignment. Still, because of the fence adjustability and the guide pins, aligning the wood stock for an accurate cut isn’t difficult.
If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t advise you to buy this tool, despite its obvious reliability. It’s quite expensive and the dominoes also don’t come cheap. So, those starting out might not justify incurring the high cost. If this is you, consider a Biscuit joiner.
On the other hand, if you run a commercial woodworking venture then the Festool DF500 will give you value for your money because of its efficiency. I would recommend this for large-scale users.
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