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Festool Domino Joiner DF500 Review

Festool Domino DF500

Overview

Rating:
4.9/5

After twenty years of biscuit joinery the day I used a Festool DOMINO Joiner 500 on a face frame I was sold. This innovative tool is fast, accurate, and creates a loose tenon joint that is a pleasure to work with.

Buying Festool Products

The first challenge with the German made Festool line of products is finding them in stock. While prices are generally the same (discounts are rare), you can check the following for availability:

Tip: make sure you warranty your tool immediately as you have 30 days from date of purchase. Festool has an easy to use online system and will build a collection of your tools. Which makes it easier later to request support. I missed this step with my Festool Dust Extractor, but for my Kapex and DOMINO it was the first thing I did.

Festool DOMINO Joiner 500

Coming in two sizes, the Festool DOMINO comes in two models: the DF 500 and DF 700. While both produce the same style of loose tenon joint, the DF 700 makes wider, thicker and deeper tenons suitable for extra large projects (doors, gates, etc.). 

The DF 500, however, is perfect for cabinetry, furniture and other interior projects.

Domino Joint End View

Key Features

  • Creates loose tenons in 5, 6, 8 and 10mm widths
  • Plunges from 12 to 28mm deep in wood
  • Medium weight of about 7 pounds
  • Dust extraction port keeps work and shop clean
  • Compatible with Festool pre-manufactured tenons, other supplies or make your own
  • Clear face plate lets you see the work
  • Face plate guide lines allow you to skip measuring on some cuts
  • Flip of lever locks release to allow height and angle changes
  • Indexed stops for common material height settings
  • Easy bit changes

Specifications

  • Model #: DF500
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • 120 volt
  • 420 watts

Festool DF500 DOMINO Joiner Review

There are few things not to like about a Festool DOMINO Joiner. 

First, though, if you’re interested in the difference between the DF500 and DF700 then think about your projects. I purchased the DF500 because it was easy to hold at 7 pounds (not light, but not heavy). However, the DF700 weighs in at an arm-testing 11+ pounds and is best for large-project joinery.

Pros

There is a very good reason woodworkers, including me, are willing to part with over $1,000 for this tool: versatility and speed.

Here’s what I like about this tool:

  • Loose tenons are stronger than biscuits, and there are few alternatives to a DOMINO’s speed.
  • Surprising speed – especially in narrower material with the clear guide plate.
  • Fast adjustment for angles, heights and plunge depths
  • Almost no dust escapes the dust extraction port (I use a Festool dust extractor)
  • The included Systainer and plug-n-play power cord allow for compact storage
  • Low vibration
  • Fast plunge cuts
  • Fast mortise width adjustment with a dial

Cons

I’m not sure if this was factory or a reseller issue, but the first unit shipped to me had a broken plunge control knob. Frustrating, but Amazon honored the return and I quickly had a new one in hand.

Other than that, there are only three things I was surprised with:

  • The dust port is close to the end grip and isn’t a great fit for my larger hands
  • The release levers are plastic and suspect will break over years of use. One plastic end cap already chipped.
  • The machining wasn’t “perfect” as you’d expect from a high end tool (eg. Leigh Tools are spotless).
  • The mortise width dial is easy to use – so easy in fact I’ve occasionally bumped it without realizing.

Price Ranges

The DF500 is generally available from $1000-1100 depending on source and accessories.

Optional Equipment

  • Tenon assortment
  • Optional cutters for 4, 6, 8 or 10mm tenons
  • Dust extractor 

Alternatives to the Festool DOMINO Joiner DF500

Dowel Jig:  For a fraction of the price a dowel jig will create any pattern of dowels that offer joint strength similar to the DOMINO. The trade-off? Loss of speed.

Woodpeckers “Morty”: If you know anything about woodworking brands, Woodpecker is know for top quality, precision tools. And their “Morty” loose tenon jig for plunge routers is specifically targeted as both a Festool alternative AND complementary tool.

Biscuit Joiner: While a completely different type of joint, the biscuit joiner is a. popular alternative for its price and versatility. Just don’t expect as strong of a joint or easy glue-ups.

Recommendation

If your woodworking requires anything beyond the basics, you have plans to continue as a hobby or as a profession then RUN and don’t walk to get your DOMINO joiner. While there are a few things about the build quality I’d like to see better in a $1100 tool, the joinery speed and precision far outweigh the nits.

DOMINO DF500: Where to Buy

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