Festool Domino Alternatives

Festool DOMINO alternatives: 7 other tools to consider first

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Not every woodworkers budget allows for a $1000+ domino joiner, which makes Festool DOMINO alternatives a common search for many budget minded woodworkers. In this article learn what alternatives exist to fit your projects and budget.

With Festool owning a patent for the Domino technology until at least 2024 there just isn’t an imitation alternative.

While the Triton Dowel Jointer  and Rockler beadlock  are budget options they don’t rival the Festool 500  capability.

So what are your other options?

Well, there are quite a few. And these domino alternatives vary from sticking to the mortise and tenon style to biscuits, dowels and splines:

  • Router mortise and tenon jig
  • Biscuit joiner
  • Benchtop mortise and tenon jig
  • Doweling jigs

And, along the way, we”ll take a look at the top jigs and tools in each category.

Only Power Tool Alternative to the Festool Domino

Last update on 2020-09-23 at 16:34 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Festool DOMINO Alternatives: What's the Big Deal?

Festool Domino Alternatives Infographic

Among professional woodworkers there isn’t much doubt: Festool is a premium brand, sometime mocked for it’s price, but un-equaled in the quality of manufacturing and innovation.

While professionals can also afford a tool that is often higher priced than most home-based table saws, there are serious DIY’ers that decide this tool just offers too much capability to look elsewhere:

  • A Festool DOMINO can mortise small to large projects
  • Festool tenons are available for indoor and outdoor projects
  • Unique to the DOMINO, you take the tool to the work (vs. benchtop mortisers where the wood must fit to the bench)
  • Ability to cut mortises 4″+ deep
  • Support for rounded surfaces with optional jig
  • Guides for repeatable cuts between surfaces for perfect matching joints
  • Great dust collection
  • Easy setup and support for angled joints
  • And of course, ultra-fast joints.

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

Festool DOMINO Alternatives: Other Types of Joints

Festool DOMINO joiner

We’ll go into each domino alternative in detail, but before we do it’s worth taking a look at the different styles of joints.

Mortise and Tenon

Of course, the Festool DOMINO is a modified mortise and tenon system. Which allows for alternatives such as:

  • Router mortise and tenon jigs
  • Benchtop mortise and tenon jigs
  • Floor model mortise and tenon jigs
  • Manufacturer custom solutions like the Rockler Beadlock
  • Hand tools and saws
Why the variety of tools for mortise and tenons? Well, dating back 7000 years these joints have been proven durable and strong. 
 

Biscuit Joinery

One of my preferred joints for it’s speed, ease of glue-ups, and for most projects, sufficient joint strength. 

A biscuit joint is made by using a small diameter cutting wheel mounted in a hand-held tool. Similar to the DOMINO it is pressed on the wood, makes a cut, and the cut is filled with a football-shaped biscuit that is used to form a joint.

Doweling Jigs

This is arguably the most economical Festool DOMINO alternative and allows for similar furniture-style joints but at a fraction of the price.

A doweling jig creates a set-diameter hole that, when lined up between the two surfaces, produces a VERY strong joint. 

Surprise to most woodworkers (even pros) is a plate-joiner like doweling jig that drives dual dowels at a rapid pace. It is possibly THE machine you’re looking for.

Pocket HOle Joints

While just about any starting woodworker has evaluated or purchased a Kreg pocket hole jig, they are really NOT a DOMINO alternative. So, in this article we’ll stick to jigs that use a biscuit, tenon or other wood (or composite) to bridge the wood faces.

 

Festool DOMINO Alternatives: 7 Options for Woodworkers of all Skills

#1 - Triton Hand Held Dowel Joiner

Triton Doweling Jig - Festool DOMINO alternative

If a hand held alternative is a priority, and you're looking for the maximum strength joints, then the Triton is the best option (in my opinion) for speed, strength and affordability

Overview

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

The Triton 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.

Oddly, the Triton seems to be the only joiner of it’s kind. 

Features

Similar to a biscuit jointer, 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 working area clean
The downside? Similar to a Festool DOMINO this alternative requires EXACT placement as there is no moving or shifting the dowels once drilled.
 

When to Buy vs. Festool

If joint strength is a priority and your projects tend to be larger, this 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 key gap is the Festool oval biscuit offers a non-twist design with one tenon. Which is important for glue-up and long-term joint strength in applications with rotational torque.

#2 - Leigh Router Jig (Mortise and Tenon)

Leigh router jig - Festool DOMINO alternative #1

The Leigh Mortise and Tenon jig is a professional woodworkers domino alternative that will create tenons the domino cannot (thru-tenons, various layouts) and uses the wood as the tenon.

Overview

So this jig IS NOT a cost saving option.

In fact 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. In fact, it supports tenon layouts that the Festool cannot do.

Features

Key features for this Festool DOMINO alternative:

  • 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 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 a number of 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 intricate, your skill level with a router is low, and the return on investment is uncertain then keep reading for more economical options.
 

#3 - Dewalt Biscuit Joiner

Dewalt Biscuit Joiner - Festool DOMINO alternative

For cabinet projects a Dewalt biscuit joiner is my go-to tool. From face frames, plywood joints and counter edges a biscuit joiner is fast, clean and cheap. And, I've made over 100 kitchens with a biscuit joiner.

Overview

If the Festool DOMINO is appealing because of the hidden joinery it does so well, then there is a more economical option: a biscuit joinery.

While there are debates over this tool, I’ve found most new woodworkers don’t understand the strength of a glued joint.

Features

Key features for this Festool DOMINO alternative:

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

When to Buy vs. Festool

So this is a tempting buy at around 20% of the Festool cost, right?

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

  • You won’t be building furniture
  • Your projects will involve edge gluing a lot of 3/4 to 1-1/2″ thick wood
  • And, most joints won’t be put under strain or twisting (eg. face frames are ok, doors not so much

#4 - Jet Benchtop Mortise Machine

Jet Bench Mortiser, 1/2 HP, 120V, 1/2' Cap.

For $300-500+ you can have the same mortise and tenon joint at a reduced cost. But, the tradeoff will be SPEED in this slower Festool DOMINO alternative.

Overview

Maybe you’re expecting this to be the #1 Festool DOMINO alternative?

Well, I’ve ranked it well behind as an option because 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 properly cut
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.

#5 - Woodstock D4116 Doweling Jig

Woodstock Doweling Jig - Festool DOMINO alternative #1

If the Festool DOMINO is out of your budget, and you plan on making furniture, then a doweling jig is a must buy. Without one, slats and other joints will be very difficult.

Overview

This Festool DOMINO alternative is a breeze to use thanks to it’s ultra-simple, self-centering design. And since dowels can be drilled from 1/4″ to 1/2″ it sports the ability to do small, intricate projects similar to the Domino.

All for about 5% of the cost of an entry level Domino.

Features

Key features:

  • Easy to use with minimal instructions
  • Dowels form a strong joint, and when installed in pairs will prevent twisting.
  • Inexpensive
  • Can work on small to large projects
However, this is a slower tool, doesn’t have the setup for complex joints, will work in plywood but not as accurate.
 

When to Buy vs. Festool

If you are truly a beginner this is a great budget tool to see if you will use doweling longer term.

So, here’s when you should consider this as an alternative:

  • You won’t be building high volumes of furniture
  • Projects you’ll tackle will be low volumes of plywood joining
  • Festool may be in your future, but your budget and projects need to grow into the domino joints.

#6 - Rockler Beadlock (Mortise & Tenon)

Rockler Beadlock System - Festool DOMINO alternatives

While benchtop mortise and tenon jigs have one flaw (you need to chisel out the holes after), the Rockler Beadlock skips this by shaping the tenon to the shape left by the drill bits. Which makes it fast and strong.

Overview

Like the dual hole doweling machine, this jig offers an easy to use, fast system that offers 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 own tenons for use in 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 own tenons

When to Buy vs. Festool

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

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

#7 - General Tools 870 Mortise and Tenon Jig

General Tools Mortise and Tenon Jig - Festool DOMINO Alternative

By now you're getting the picture that speed of both the mortise and tenon are a must for a comparable tool to Festool. And that makes this innovative General Tools a worthy entrant to Festool DOMINO alternatives.

Overview

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

General Tools 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.

Festool DOMINO Joiner - Buying Guide

While there are a dozen other manual ways to cut mortise and tenons and an equal amount of doweling jigs there is only ONE Festool DOMINO.

Or, actually two:

ProductHighlightsShop
Festool DOMINO 500
Festool DOMINO joiner 500 model
Standard model for cabinets and furnitureCheck price 
Festool DOMINO 700 Festool DOMINO joiner model 700 joinerLarger tenons (up to 5-1/2″) for beds, gates, doors, etc.Check price 

If you’ve decided the alternatives are interesting but a short-term investment you’ll end up replacing (remember, replacement costs are REAL expenses) then consider both the 500 and 700 series with all the attachments.

And, in Festool fashion, you’ll have options for dust collection, power supplies, and a unique tenon case to hold the variety of tenons available.

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 joint that is both fast and strong. And in many cases a Festool DOMINO alternative requires two tools such as a dowelling jig AND a biscuit joiner.

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

Recommended Reading

Interesting Finds

Last update on 2020-09-24 at 01:55 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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