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. While the price tag is high, its capability exceeds the initial purchase price.
And, for those new to loose-tenon joinery, the ability to glue up large projects and have them stay together (a headache with biscuits) is transformative.
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 a 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.
- 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 guidelines 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
- Model #: DF500
- Weight: 7 pounds
- 120 volt
- 420 watts
Festool DF500 DOMINO Joiner Review
There are a 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.
There is an excellent 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 transparent 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
I’m unsure if this was a factory or a reseller issue, but the first unit shipped to me had a broken plunge control knob. It was 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 an excellent fit for my larger hands
- The release levers are plastic and are suspected to break over years of use. One plastic end cap is already chipped.
- The machining wasn’t “perfect” as expected from a high-end tool (e.g., Leigh Tools are spotless).
- The mortise-width dial is easy to use – so easy I’ve occasionally bumped it without realizing it.
Depending on sources and accessories, the DF500 is generally available from $1000-1100.
- 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 dowel pattern that offers joint strength similar to the DOMINO. The trade-off? Loss of speed.
Woodpeckers “Morty”: If you know anything about woodworking brands, Woodpecker is known for top quality, precision tools. And their “Morty” loose tenon jig for plunge routers is targeted explicitly as 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.
If your woodworking requires anything beyond the basics, and you plan to continue as a hobby or profession, then RUN and don’t walk to get your DOMINO joiner. While I’d like to see a few things about the build quality better in a $1100 tool, the joinery speed and precision far outweigh the nits.
DOMINO DF500: Where to Buy
Read more: Festool DOMINO Alternatives
- About the Author
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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.