In the world of joinery, a perfectly executed mortise and tenon joint is the holy grail of woodworking. Many a laborious hour has passed whilst I have fine-tuned an errant mortise or sanded a wayward tenon to perfection. While I find the art of joinery with hand tools to be well ….an art, the more practical side of my brain repeats the homage “ time is money, dude “. Enter the Festool Domino DF XL 700 Joiner.
Our shop at Kent Made, LLC specializes in Architectural woodworking and as such we are often asked to create custom doors, gates and windows from all manner of hardwoods. I love the whole custom aspect of our business but there are times when the romantic idea of built from scratch hand joined artwork does not fit with the economics of survival. Simply put, most people have a budget.
Being practical, I’ll have to save the romance for my wife.
A while back the fine fellas at Pro Tool Reviews got our hands on a Festool DF 500 Joiner and I must say I was blown away. This tool is our go-to method of joinery for all of our casework and more. The only downfall of this fine machine is the limited size of the Dominos. The largest size is too small for a heavy door or gate joinery and we still create those tedious joints by hand.
As fate would have it, while contemplating a large exterior gate project, we got the call from PTR about the Festool Domino DF XL 700. Let’s just say that I am still filling in the ruts from my son’s rapid departure to pick it up.
Festool has never failed to impress with their well-designed and well-made Systainers. The Domino XL comes in a Systainer SYS 5 T-LOC. The deep case has a foam insert that perfectly encases the machine to ensure damage free storage. It also has a two compartment tray system for bits and accessories with onboard storage for the various attachments.
At first glance, the Festool Domino DF XL 700 appears unwieldy but in actuality, is a well-balanced tool. In a departure from the Domino’s low center grip, the Domino XL utilizes a top center rear handle and a front center grip that balances the tool perfectly. I find it easier on the wrists than the smaller DF 500.
Set up is a breeze as it is pretty much plug and play. Installing the bit is a simple procedure due to the release pin at the front left. The pin will separate the slide assembly from the body allowing easy access to the bit. The spindle lock button on the right side allows bit changes with one wrench. Once reassembled there are four settings to be concerned with:
1. Pitch angle
Pitch angle is adjusted with a lever on the left front side. Adjustable from 0 to 90 degrees the slide has positive stops at 22.5, 45, 67, and 90 degrees. The locking lever is substantial and you can be assured of a positive lock at any degree within range.
2. Vertical alignment
The vertical alignment is adjusted by a lever on the front right of the machine. This adjustment relates to the center of the Domino to your work surface and has a center bit mark on both sides of the base plate. The slide has positive stops at 10mm to 40mm in 5mm increments but is capable of anything in between with the locking mechanism.
3. Domino tight or lateral play
A unique feature to the Festool Domino XL is the quick adjust lever to allow lateral play in the Domino. This will simply enlarge the Domino bore in width to allow movement laterally if needed. The lever is located on the left center and has a locator window on top center.
4. Depth of mortise
On the lower left side is a set of slides that adjust the plunge depth of the bit. The depth is adjustable from 15mm to 70 mm and has positive stops every 5mm along the scale. The lower set of stops allows you to set two different depths for joining materials of different thicknesses.
You achieve lateral alignment by viewing the center mark through the graduated clear scale located on the front of the slide mechanism. Graduated lock pins on the front allow for consistent Domino spacing form edges or mortise to mortise. A new feature with this unit is the ability to lock the pins up and away with a simple push keeping them flush when not in use.
Like nearly all Festool tools, the Festool Domino XL 700 is designed to use in conjunction with one of their vacuum systems. For our work, we paired it with the Festool CT 36 system we own. It’s imperative that you connect it to a vacuum system to clears the drill shavings or the unit will not operate properly.
Check out our review of the Festool CT SYS Portable Dust Extractor
We first tested the unit on an order of historic window sashes that required some repetitious mortise and tenon joinery. While the DF 500 could have fit this bill, the increased Domino size of the DF 700 produced a more stable joint. The easy depth adjustment is a time saver when mortising the narrow stiles to the rails allowing us to switch operations with ease.
The lateral centering attachment is a time saver as well. Once attached to the shoe plate and aligned it produced repeat dead center mortises. The unit performs admirably with precision bores and seemingly endless power.
Walnut Table Top
The second test was on a walnut table top. The 8/4 top was milled from slab walnut and required edge gluing 4 milled pieces together. We decided to utilize the Domino to control the edge alignment as well as to provide cupping control. Using the deepest depth adjustment we mortised the top every 16 inches. The machine powered through the walnut easily and the alignment was nearly perfect. The length and girth of the larger Dominos kept the top very flat and rigid and made glue up a pleasure.
Pro Tip: The Dominos fit very tight so be cautious when test fitting as they are hard to get apart.
The third test was the gates I mentioned at the beginning. The gates are 8’ x 3’ 6” and are made of sapele mahogany. The challenge with exterior joinery is not only the structural integrity of the joint but the elemental forces that wreak havoc on the piece daily. In Florida, you can count on rain, sun, more rain, a lot more sun… you get the picture. All of that expansion and contraction can and will cause an ill-fitting joint to fail. A small error in a tenon or a slightly over bored mortise is exponentially worse when subject to Mother Nature’s charms.
The Festool Domino system creates what we call a floating tenon. We create a perfect size mortise for the pre-engineered tenons which have pressed scoring for glue relief. We find the unit to create near perfect joints to the degree that glue almost seems unnecessary…..almost.
The accuracy of the joinery allows for assembly with minimal glue. In our case, Titebond 3 is our go-to for exterior work. The Dominos also come in Sipo mahogany which is an excellent hardwood for harsh weather applications.
The Bottom Line
The Domino may look a little intimidating at first, but the learning curve is pretty quick. Once you get used to the setup procedure for each workpiece, the genius of the design and impeccable performance take over. If you’ve ever attempted a mortise and tenon joint by hand, you’ll be amazed at how much the Domino XL will increase your productivity and the quality of your joints.
Not talking about the price would make this an incomplete review. The Festool Domino XL is pricey at $1335 for the EQ-Plus kit or $1430 for the EQ-Set kit. That’s an investment for any carpenter. But when you’re talking about fine woodworking and custom carpentry at a level that your high-end clients are willing to pay to have, the Domino gets the results they demand while saving you valuable time.
The Festool Domino XL is another fine example of what Festool does best – shop-like performance in a portable package that integrates so completely with their system it is seamless in its utility. The Domino system is a marvel of engineering and deserves a place in the shop of anyone needing to produce quality products in a timely manner.
Festool Domino DF XL 700 Key Features
Unique, patented cutting action that rotates and oscillates to create perfect, clean, and repeatable mortises every time
Mortise width adjustment with the turn of a dial allows for easier alignment when joining panels
Indexing pins for quick alignment against the edge of the workpiece for accurate placement
Tenons up to approximately 5-1/2-Inch in length for large scale projects
Festool Domino DF XL 700 EQ-Plus Kit
DOMINO DF 700 XL 15/32″ (12mm) cutter
2x dowel box
in SYSTAINER SYS 5 T-LOC
Festool Domino DF XL 700 EQ-Set Kit
- DOMINO DF 700 XL 15/32″ (12mm) cutter
- support bracket
- trim Stop
- cross Stop
- dowel box
- operation tool
- in SYSTAINER SYS 5 T-LOC
Find a Festool Dealer Online!
Festool Domino DF XL 700 Specifications
- Model: Festool Domino DF XL 700
- Mitre Routing: 0 – 90 degrees
- No Load Speed: 21,000 RPM
- Routing Height Range: 3/8″ – 1-15/16″
- Weight: 11.46 lbs
- Domino Slot Cutter Diameter: 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 9/16″
- Dust Extractor Connection: 1-1/16″
- Max Routing Depth: 2-3/4″
- Motor Power Consumption: 720 watts
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: $1335 (EQ-Plus Kit), $1,500.00 (EQ-Set Kit)
I am very interested in the Mafell DD40P Duo Dowel System PowerMAX or the Triton Doweling Jointer 710W, they seem more versatile.
And so expensive that you can’t justify the expense.