I picked up the Festool Domino XL last year. I was really gung-ho on getting this little machine working for me and cranking out projects, but there were a few things I learned on my first project using the Domino that has me looking at it in a different light.
It is not as simple as “point and shoot”: There is a lot more to take into consideration than merely lining up a pencil mark with the reference on the fence and plunging in. While length and thickness of the domino you’ll use is an obvious you also have to consider how will you get a reveal? What about angled joinery? And how about mortising into a case side that doesn’t necessarily have a reference face such as a shelves of a book shelf. While the Domino really save time when you have a bunch of the same joints to make, if you have to make one or two semi involved joint you may be better off going the traditional route.
It is not a one stop solution for joinery: As quick and easy as it may be, I don’t think it should be used where ever it can be. After my first project done with a Domino I’ve concluded that it should be used as a supplementary joinery tool. Where a joint needs to be as strong as it can be I’m going to stick with the traditional methods. My goal when I build a piece of furniture is to make a piece that will last for generations, and I’m not completely convinced that a table built completely from Dominos has that potential; I’m sure in some instances it will but there is something about a well executed mortise and tenon that gives me a sense of security.
It is not gratifying: As efficient as the Domino is, it lacks the gratification you get from a well cut and fit joint. Part of why I love woodworking so much is the satisfaction you get from executing a complicated task. The Domino doesn’t leave me with the same sense of accomplishment when I’m done knocking out a bunch of joinery using the tool.
It excels at what it does. The first 3 things have been somewhat negative, but don’t get me wrong I like this machine. When the task is appropriate for the Domino, this tool is awesome. When you can knock out 10 mortise and tenon joints in minutes it really speeds up a project significantly.
Despite what may seem like a negative post about the Festool Domino, I do love this little machine and Festool products in general. But you have to (or at least I do) treat the Domino as a tool to increase efficiency and make sure not to sacrifice efficiency for quality. There is a time when the Domino is more than enough to make a quality piece of joinery and there are other times when you should stick to the more “traditional” methods.