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The Best Festool DOMINO Alternatives

Updated: June 27, 2023
The Festool DOMINO is the undisputed king of loose tenon joinery. And while Festool owns the patent on this hand-held tool, there are Festool DOMINO alternatives that will either cut loose tenons or offer similar strength joints with different methods.
Festool DOMINO Joiner Alternatives
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The Best Festool DOMINO Alternatives

Top Pick: Power Doweler

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POWER DOWEL MACHINE

Portable, Fast, Dual Spindle (Under $150)

IN THIS GUIDE

› PLATE JOINER: DEWALT DW682K

 LOOSE TENON JIG: MORTY

 DOMINO: FESTOOL DF 500

 DOWEL JIG: JESSEM DOWEL JIG

Woodworkers look for Festool DOMINO alternatives because a Festool DOMINO is well over $1,000. Which, unfortunately, makes this master of wood joinery more expensive than most miter saws and competitive in price to a quality contractor’s table saw.

However, if you are willing to take a little extra time, there are a few alternatives that will produce a strong joint:

  • Hand-held dowel jigs are not what they used to be.  Offerings from JessEm and others are innovative, fast, and excellent at repeatable setups. 
  • Power dowel machines will drill dual dowels for a rigid joint.
  • Plate joiners are still a great budget choice for face frames and alignment.
  • And, of course, the classic mortise & tenon joint is always an option (as it has for 3000+ years)

While many woodworkers wish there were a cheaper alternative, unfortunately, Festool owns the patent on the hand-held DOMINO design. There is no direct replica of this machine, but there are machines that will cut the same loose tenon (the Morty) or strong alignment joints like a doweling jig.

Our Experience

After building hundreds of cabinets, countless pieces of furniture, and joining tens of thousands of pieces of wood, we know:

  • Speed of joinery is critical
  • Precision of cuts is vital for alignment
  • Strength of joints for durability is important
  • However, the cost of the joinery tools is best considered versus all of the above (cheaper tool = slower production time)

While a biscuit joiner or dowel jig (we own both) is an old-timer’s choice, the Festool DOMINO is faster and better than all alternatives. You can read more in our Festool DOMINO 500 review.

FESTOOL DOMINO ALTERNATIVES

Festool Domino Alternatives Infographic
With no replica of the DOMINO available, mortise and tenons are the best alternatives

When choosing a Festool alternative, the simple answer is you might need a few tools to compensate for the all-in-one capability the DOMINO provides. 

But choosing an alternative also comes down to an equation of:

  1. Types of projects
  2. Speed requirements
  3. Strength of joint

For example, there’s no reason to use a doweling jig for cabinet face frames. A biscuit joiner is faster. However, a dowel provides higher joint strength for furniture joints and makes the project easier to assemble.

EDITOR: After making thousands of face frames with a biscuit joiner, the first frame I made with a DOMINO was eye opening. With the Festool guide system I didn't need to mark center on 2-inch frames, the frame didn't wobble in the clamps during glue-up and the frames were perfectly flush.

What Makes a Festool Domino Special

Festool Domino Loose Tenon
DOMINO cutting free-form tenon on a pine cabinet

A Festool DOMINO creates a loose tenon which isn’t uncommon. But the speed at which it does it makes it the envy of woodworkers. 

The magic to the DOMINO? It uses an oscillating bit to create an oval-shaped hole for the loose tenon that no fixed saw blade or single drill bit can do. 

By providing a blazing-fast alternative to the classic mortise and tenon, the DOMINO offers the ability to:

  • Mortise small to large projects
  • Perform complex gluing without the wobble of biscuits
  • Create tenons on angled joints
  • Make joints on rounded surfaces with an optional jig
  • Take the tool to work vs. traditional mortise and tenons cut in fixed tools
  • Cut mortises 4″+ deep (DF700)
  • Perform repeatable cuts between surfaces for perfect matching joints

The primary drawback to a Festool DOMINO? It doesn’t use the project’s wood for the tenon, which limits some joints, such as through tenons.

Why haven't other tool manufacturers copied the Festool DOMINO? Patent protection. For the foreseeable future there just isn't an alternative imitation that cuts the unique through tenon.

Best Festool DOMINO Alternatives

There are dozens of ways to make wood joints. 

But when replacing a Festool, don’t expect to spend $40 on a jig. Instead, put away cheap alternatives like a pocket hole system (sorry, there’s no comparison) and realize that a biscuit joiner is a suitable alternative in limited situations.

Instead, expect to spend between $150 to $700 for a genuine alternative to make quality joints.  

Domino Alternative #1: The Dowel Jig

Available on Amazon: JessEm 08530

A loose tenon is a piece of wood connecting two other parts.

And while a DOMINO is a rounded rectangle, a dowel is just round. But offers the same advantages of precision alignment, strength, and glue-up workability.

This makes a HIGH-QUALITY dowel jig a suitable alternative if your project’s speed and timeline are such that you can spend a few extra minutes lining up and drilling.

Key features of a quality dowel jig:

  • Alignment slots for mating two pieces
  • Separates from the base and works on a flat surface
  • Clamping surfaces
  • Integrated clamps for edge doweling (only)
  • Five-hole pattern for more expansive surfaces

On a budget, many woodworkers will decide on dowels vs. biscuits for their wood joinery, which is a great place to start.

Domino Alternative #2: Woodpecker's Morty Jig

Available on Amazon: Morty Loose Tenon Joinery Jig

Professional woodworkers know that a few tool brands make unique jigs and tools. And Woodpeckers is one of those brands.

With the Morty loose tenon jig, they have specifically targeted the same size and shape as the Festool loose tenon with their jig.

Here’s why this alternative is worth it:

  • Cuts lose tenons to the same size and shape as a Festool
  • Uses a plunge router you likely already own
  • Fast alignment with indexing marks
  • Portable
  • Index pins for end cuts

The drawback of this jig? It only works on angles, circles and has width limitations if your project requires tenons in wide or long stock.

Domino Alternative #3: Dowel Machine

Similar on Amazon: Dual-Spindle 

Overview

If you polled most woodworkers, they probably wouldn’t know this tool existed.

The Grizzly is a unique doweling jig that one-ups the plate/biscuit joiners by offering the SAME hand-held design but offers a superior joint strength by drilling dual dowels using the same action.

Features

Similar to a biscuit jointer you are likely familiar with, only with dowels, expect:

  • Simple to use
  • Drills dual 5/16″ holes spaced 1-1/4″ apart
  • 0-90 degree angle joining
  • Adjustable drill depth to 1-1/4″
  • Dust port for keeping the working area clean
The downside? Similar to a Festool DOMINO, this alternative requires EXACT placement as the dowel is not moving or shifting once drilled.
 

When to Buy vs. Festool

If joint strength is a priority and your projects are more extensive, this is a must-consider. 

While biscuit and plate joiners offer ease of use, this machine will:

  • Produce strong joints for a fifth of the Festool DOMINO purchase price
  • Improved joint strength over the biscuit joiner
  • Suitable for angles, straight, small, and large projects

The critical gap is the Festool oval biscuit offers a non-twist design with one tenon, which is essential for glue-up and long-term joint strength in applications with rotational torque.

Domino Alternative #4: Rockler Beadlock

Available on rockler.com

Overview

Like the dual-hole doweling machine, this jig offers an easy-to-use, fast system that provides the strength qualities of a DOMINO joint but at a lower cost.

While a standard, drill bit-based mortise jig requires you to chisel the holes clean, the Beadlock works around this by including the material left as part of the finished joint.

And, for maximum flexibility, router bits are available to cut your tenons for use through joints or exterior projects.

Features

Key features:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast drilling with no chisel clean-out
  • Packaged / off-the-shelf tenons.
  • Strong joint with anti-torque capabilities similar to the Festool DOMINO
  • Economical
  • Router bits for making your tenons

When to Buy vs. Festool

Rockler is a leading innovator, so they have created a very appealing system. 

But it has a few limitations:

  • Beadlock does not work with angled joints
  • Slower vs. Festool with multiple drilling actions required
  • Not meant for plywood joints

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider if:

  • Your mortise and tenon joints are lower volume
  • You have a plate or biscuit joiner for angles and connecting plywood

Domino Alternative #5: Mortise & Tenon Router Jig

Available on woodcraft.com

Overview

So this jig IS NOT a cost-saving option.

This jig typically costs more than the Festool DOMINO 500-series. 

But, it is an alternative and is one of the premier router jigs for making mortise and tenons. It supports tenon layouts that the Festool cannot do.

Features

Key features:

  • Precise mortise and tenons
  • Leverages a router base and jigging for controlled depths and easy stock removal
  • One setting for both the mortise and tenon
  • Smallest tenon: 1/16” x ⅛”
  • Largest tenon: ½” x 5”
  • And 68 sizes of tenons within this range
    Single, double, triple, quadruple, and even angled tenons are possible
  • Ability to create bridle joints
  • Build floating tenons for the breadboard ends on tables
  • Dowel joints, louvers, and much more

When to Buy vs. Festool

So for more money than Festool, there must be reasons to buy this router mortise and tenon jig, right?

Fortunately, there are several reasons:

  • Supports decorative tenons that extend through the wood and in a variety of layouts
  • Choose when you need the same wood in both the mortise and tenon (Festool is only beech or mahogany)
  • Your projects don’t demand joining plywood on edge (or you use a biscuit joiner for that)
  • Most of your projects are small(er) and can be fit into the jig
However, if your projects aren’t as complicated, your skill level with a router is low, and the return on investment is uncertain, please keep reading for more economical options.

Domino Alternative #6: Plate Joiner

Plate joiner

Overview

It provides a portable and high-quality joint after building countless face frames, dozens of pieces of furniture, and even counters with a biscuit joiner.

While it has limitations versus the DOMINO with the depth and joint strength, it is undoubtedly an option for face frames or plywood edge joinery.

Features

Key features:

  • Fast joinery
  • Works equally well for plywood and angle joints
  • Uses purchased joints (vs. the wood)
  • Helps align pieces during glue-up
  • Available in cordless for portability

When to Buy vs. Festool

So this is a tempting buy at around $200 versus over $1000 for the Festool, right?

Here’s when you should consider this as an alternative:

  • You won’t be building furniture with volumes of 90-degree joints
  • Your projects will involve edge gluing a lot of 3/4 to 1-1/2″ thick wood
  • And most joints won’t require the structural integrity of a loose joint

Domino Alternative #7: Benchtop Mortise Machine

Jet Benchtop Mortise Machine

Overview

A mortise machine is a worthy alternative for the joint’s overall strength. However, it doesn’t automate the “tenon” part of a mortise and tenon jig. However, if your time, projects, and skill allow you to cut a tenon (table saw or bandsaw, among other ways), you’ll find this a low(er) cost option with plenty of machines on the market.

Features

Key features:

  • Fast and repeatable mortising of stock (usually) up to 6″ thick
  • Uses a square bit that will align the holes – and require some chiseling to flatten later
  • High-quality machines are all metal and have durable fences for repeat clamping
  • Creates an ultra-strong joint when the tenon is cut correctly
But, if you’re on the fence and have ambitious woodworking plans, you’ll find a Festool DOMINO will just plain work BETTER and FASTER.
 

When to Buy vs. Festool

The #1 reason to consider this mortiser is you’ll be making a low volume of mortise and tenon joints and don’t have the time (or skill) to learn the more complicated router jig mortise and tenon (the Leigh jig) and biscuits/dowels just won’t cut it.

Domino Alternative #8: Basic Mortise and Tenon Jig

General Tools 870 Mortise and Tenon Jig

Available on Amazon: General Tools Mortise Jig

Overview

Like the dual-hole doweling machine, this jig offers an easy-to-use, fast system that provides the strength qualities of a DOMINO joint but at a lower cost.

General Tool is an innovator in woodworking tools, and this aircraft aluminum all-in-one jig allows for cutting both tenons and mortises in one setup. While Festool uses a purchased tenon, this jig one-ups the benchtop mortiser by creating a jig for the tenon.

Features

Key features:

  • Cut matching mortise and tenon in one setup
  • Utilizes a router
  • Integrated clamps for holding material
  • Handles stock from 1/2 to 1-1/2″
  • Integrated marking lines with clear vue
  • Most kits include a spiral up-cut bit

When to Buy vs. Festool

Why you can consider this jig vs. Festool:

  • Medium complexity for all skill levels to learn and master
  • Fraction of cost for mortise and tenons
  • Ultra strong joints and allows for through tenons (vs. concealed Festool tenons)

But like most other jigs, if angles, through tenons, or plywood joining is in your future, you’ll want to augment this jig with a plate joiner or other jig.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Festool DOMINO worth the money?

A Festool DOMINO is worth the money if you USE it often enough on projects that need the strength (and concealment) of this rather expensive jig. But with no similar jig on the market there is a bit of premium to pay – including some of the accessories you’ll need to accompany it.

Do I need a Festool DOMINO?

If your woodworking is regular, you build a lot of furniture and your budget allows a Festool DOMINO is a premier tool that serious woodworkers need. While biscuit joiners and dowel jigs are good performing tools, a DOMINO jig just plain outperforms these jigs.

What is a Festool DOMINO joiner?

A Festool DOMINO joiner is a power tool used to drill a mortise into two matching pieces of wood or plywood. As a power tool it quickly creates a space for a custom Festool tenon that is glued and inserted into the mortises.

What is the strongest wood joint?

A mortise and tenon is the strongest wood joint and has been in use for over 7000 years to build lasting structures and furniture of all sizes.

Are dowels or biscuits strongest?

The strength of a joint is comprised of a quality glue joint and the surface area of the joint (biscuit or dowels) used to help connect the wood. And since dowels are typically drilled deep into both sides of the wood a dowel joint will be stronger in most situations. Why? Well, a biscuit joint is great for initial stability but with a shallow groove in the wood it doesn’t ADD to the joint strength significantly.

Are pocket holes stronger than a domino joint?

No, a pocket hole relies on screws and glue to form a joint. On the other hand, a DOMINO joint uses a mortise and tenon design that provides for superior strength, rigidity and anti-torque power due to an oval-like tenon inserted into both pieces of wood forming the joint. Due to this secure connection, and with glue, a DOMINO joint will outperform a pocket hole screw joint.

Summary - Festool Domino Alternatives

The Festool DOMINO is like a SawStop table saw: neither has competitors. 

While the SawStop features a must-have safety device, the DOMINO offers a fast and robust joint. And in many cases, a Festool DOMINO alternative requires two tools, such as a dowelling jig AND a biscuit joiner.

Hopefully, this article was helpful, and we’d like your comments on other (power)  alternatives.

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  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

5 thoughts on “The Best Festool DOMINO Alternatives”

  1. Eric,
    I’m new to wood working. That is, I’ve only been building small furniture for past 3 years. The local high school wood’s teacher opens his shop one night per week and that’s how I was introduced to the Festool Domino. Love the tool for simplicity and the domino strength. I can’t afford to buy a similar model for home use so I really liked your article. Thinking a plunger cordless router is the best (and cheapest) alternative.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for writing in. What projects do you most often make? A dowel jig or biscuit joiner are two other considerations.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  3. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for asking and the suggestion but unfortunately a dowel jig or biscuit joiner would not provide the strength required for the small furniture that I build. I have built console tables, end tables, nested tables, shelfs, bakers island and current project is a storage chest. Woods used range from sugar maple, 100+ year old barn boards to cherry. I purchase wood (sugar maple, cherry, oak) in full quarters and mill to my specs. I’ve also used pocket holes but don’t like the finished look.

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