Do any of you have experience using Festool products in a busy commercial shop?
I have always used simple power tools (drill, circular saw, trim router) on the job site for installations. I usually make a shooting board (low tech version of the track-saw) when needed, but any serious carpentry was always done in the shop. However, the cost of deliveries is very high in the super densely populated city I live in, so I want to be able to make entire cabinet assemblies on the job site. That got me looking at the Festool products.
It seems the MFT-3 table and a 2400mm ripping track would allow me to cut just about anything I can on the panel saw back in the shop. There is a version of the track that has a 32mm boring guide built into it. This track with a medium sized router allows super easy line boring even on complicated case work. All I would lack is an edgebander and a doweling machine. For joinery I would use confirmats, and banding would be by hand.
Watching the videos on Youtube, it looks like a very well thought out system, but I am concerned about durability. The plastic adjustment knobs and stamped sheet metal parts worry me. Will this equipment stay true after two years of use on a real job site? I could even see using it in the shop to supplement the main saws. The hinges, crosscut/miter guide and the locking mechanisms on the MFT-3 look flimsy, as if they could easily be bent or worn out of true.
I have seen some guys make really nice cabinetry using Festool, but they were only making one kitchen a month or less. I will be using the machines every day and they will not be treated like the tools in a hobby/amateur woodworker shop. They will be dropped and banged around. My guys are more careful than most, but they are still just carpenters.
From contributor A:
I have a 2 man shop and we use the ts 55 saw all the time for quick angled or odd cuts. The Domino is also used more than I thought. Both pricey, but well worth it for the special jobs. And yes, I think they're built for production.
I have a hard time picturing making one hole at a time versus nesting an entire sheet in 6 or 8 minutes on the router. Precision tools are never happy with being dropped! It seems like delivering to the job all the tools and materials or the completely machined and maybe assembled work takes the same amount of time. On site labor is not as easily supervised as in the shop.
Back in the day when a lot of nursing homes were being built, there was a man that had a semi-trailer equipped with a case clamp. He could haul lots of machined parts, flat, and assemble on site.
The track saw allows me to get a table saw quality cut anywhere with a few moments of setup. It has actually displaced my slider for angle cuts in the shop. In a pinch, it can cut really clean dadoes on site. I could probably come up with 50 situations in which it has saved my butt when I'm 1200 miles from my shop and need to achieve some finish quality millwork.
The Domino has made on site assembly super predictable, as well as giving me a super easy and fast joinery method that rivals traditional methods in strength and durability. It makes biscuit machines seem like the equivalent of using an angry beaver to cut a joint. Just for kicks, I built a heavy duty work bench in my shop with nothing but dominoes to hold it together. Not a drop of glue and I couldn't take it apart if I tried.
AS far as the actual quality of the tools, their design and quality is better than most tools available in NA. I don't baby my tools - they get dropped and thrown into piles. I don't think my Festool stuff will fair any worse than my other things. I am a little more careful with the Domino, seeing that it's a precision machine.
Festool's line perfectly fills the need of the finish carpenter who desires shop machine performance that he can throw into the back of his truck. Makes my old construction type tools feel like a bunch of sharp rocks. I highly recommend them. Especially the saw. Being able to work in a client's house with almost perfect dust collection is also a big plus.
I agree drilling one hole at a time sucks, but I just spent 30 minutes drilling holes for 4 hinges, and the holes were not all perfectly aligned. Because the 32mm hole guide is really a saw track, I can carry it to the site with no extra effort. I only need the router we normally carry anyway. Then site work can be done a lot easier.
I can also see how angled. It would be easier with the MFT setup compared to my panel saw.
It looks like this will set me back about 3k for all the things I want, not including shipping. But 3k doesn't seem like a lot for what it will do. Does anyone know how well the tools perform without dust collection? I do not usually bring a shop vac to the job site.
Don't get me wrong - most of them are nice, but there are workarounds and they really aren't worth the premium price to me, not to mention they hose you so much on the accessories you never want to buy them and don't get the full use of the tool. The chop saw is a piece of junk; I should have spent a little more and bought an Omga. Buy tools that will make you money, not cost you. Most Festools cost more than they will make. Think it over before you fall into the trap.
By themselves, their routers are just good routers, but the versatility you get with the track system ups the ante. I use the hole drilling system with a spiral bit for shelf pin holes, and they're perfect. You can do some interesting things with the router and track - stopped flutes, dados, etc.
Their sanders are just okay. I like the big one (Rotex 150) for heavy work, but I got rid of my small ROS.
Vacuums are nice. They work well to keep the dust down when working in the clients' home. I have a bigger one in the shop that's my standard dust collection for finish sanding. Works fine with other brands of sanders, too.
The MFT is a great general purpose work table - heavy and stable with lots of holes and slots for clamping. Good for putting face frames together. I didn't like the flip-down track thing. Too fussy, in the way, and not very accurate.
Mostly nice tools, and definitely expensive. I use them myself, and absolutely worth the money to me. Not sure I'd trust a crew of ham-fisted grunts with them, though.
I think I will try the MFT-3 table, the smaller saw, a rip track and the medium sized router. Still portable enough to carry up 25 floors in a crowded condo, but will allow us to do a lot more work.
As it is, the finish carpenters usually get this work and do a bad job, which makes my work look worse. There are also some situations where I think it will be faster to have this equipment on the site - for example, trimming out a bank with wall mounted panels or building a simple reception desk. I expect 90% of the work to be done in our shop. But this extra 10% should be money in my pocket.