Many shops have avoided traditional mortise and tenon joinery because it was time consuming and required high levels of precision and skill to produce good joints. Now, Festool has come up with an innovative system that makes solid-wood loose-tenon joinery as fast, easy and precise as biscuit joinery.

The system is designed to be versatile. It can be used anywhere a mortise-and-tenon joint would work. This includes face frames, door frames, carcase construction and many furniture joints. Compared to dowels, the loose tenons provide secure, non-rotating alignment, and added depth and thickness gives them superior strength to biscuits.

How it works

Central to the system is the new Domino joiner and prefabricated loose tenons that resemble domino tiles, hence the name. The rounded-side tenons are made of solid beech and shaped to allow for maximum glue adhesion. They come in five sizes to fit a wide range of applications.

The Domino joiner looks like a biscuit joiner on steroids. It works by plunging an oscillating round cutter into the workpiece to cut a precise mortise with rounded ends to match the Domino loose tenons.

Festool's engineers have built in precise adjustments and controls too numerous to discuss completely in this short review, but here's a quick overview. Precise alignment lines make it easy to line up the tool. Positive stops make changing settings easy and repeatable. Stop pins on the tool and in accessory jigs make it simple to cut multiple mortises without tedious realignment. There's even a quick three-position mortise width setting that allows you to set one mortise with no extra clearance for alignment and then set adjoining mortises with extra clearance to compensate for wood movement.

How the Domino stacks up

At first when I got the Domino system for testing, I was a little daunted by all the adjustment knobs and settings. But after reading the instructions and making some test cuts, it soon became second nature to make changes in the machine for whatever kind of joint needed.

The powerful tool plunges into stock easily. You feel a little vibration from the oscillating cutter, but you don't experience the side-to-side kick so common with biscuit joiners. Another improvement is the dust extraction, which is excellent when the tool is hooked up to a Festool dust extractor/vacuum.

Of course, all of this precision isn't cheap. Street prices range from about $750 for the basic set to a little over $1,000 for an outfit with a Festool dust extractor. Considering the time you'll save and the improvemed joinery, it seems like the tool would quickly pay for itself. For more information, visit  www.festoolusa.com.

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