DIY Festool Parallel Guides

I love my Festool TS55 track saw and rail system. I also love my Festool MFT for crosscutting. Both, however, have their limitations when it comes to repeat-ability on large items. The MFT has a woeful crosscut ability with the rail installed, and even without is still limited – no full sheet crosscutting here.

To solve that, Festool has available a parallel guide system. Unfortunately it is beset with issues from those who own it, and it is terribly expensive. Third parties like Seneca Woodworking and Precision, and even Woodpeckers have come up with their own solutions. I needed a solution relatively quickly, and I didn’t want to spend the $100 plus on one of their systems, plus supply my own track. I decided to design something myself, use that same track, and if it didn’t work out I would then go with a commercial solution.

I got my main inspiration from a user on the Festool forum, and I’ll link directly to the thread at the bottom of this entry. I did see some room for improvement, and while not all of my ideas bore fruit, they were still worthwhile.

I headed to Woodcraft and picked up everything but the two bags of bolts to the right:

Two 24″ sections of Incra T-Track Plus – $14.99 ea

One Incra 1/4″-20 Build-It System bag – $12.50

One Festool rail connector (482107) – $18.00

I decided early on to go with MDF, being dimensionally true and stable. I also figured out that I could use M6 bolts, so I went with what I call thumb screws. The ones in the picture are 20mm, but what you really need is more like maybe 25mm.

I had a piece of 1/2″ MDF on hand that I tried to use, and glued everything up separately after fitting the T-track. At this point I wasn’t worried about the stops, just the attachment to the rails. I then did my best guess at getting the Festool rail connector to where it needed to be, drilled holes, cut the connector in half with my miter saw, and mocked it up with the Build-It kit.

It wasn’t bad, but I knew I could do better. Since I was out of MDF the right size, I bought a project panel (2’x4′) from the Depot and started again. This time, instead of cutting small parts and gluing them around the track, I went with a full glue up of two pieces. Then I could use the table saw and remove the material for both the rail connector and the T-track.

I had a third glue-up that was similar that I turned into the stops. The Incra T-track plus is exactly 1/2″ high, and I went with 3/8″ deep dado for the rail connector. I think in actuality it should be more like 1/4″ deep, but I’m sure there will be a third revision to this that will correct it.

I used drill bits that just fit those M6 bolts, so they threaded in to the MDF just like the rail connector. I did the same for the 1/4″ bolts that attach the guides to the T-track. I don’t know why I did this, but it seemed to make sense and worked.

As I said, I made the stops the exact same way as the connector part, thinking that a wide base would be better for getting a true measurement. I used slick tape to line where the T-track touched the stop, so I could get a good connection there and still slide easily. That worked well.

The width of the stops however did not. When I did my test cuts, I was out by about 1/16″ over two feet.

Now, there could have been a few factors here, but I chose to improve the stops. I cut them a lot narrower, and added screws where it would contact the piece.

This gives me pretty good adjustability for getting good contact with the workpiece. My method for these, for now, is to make sure I have a clean edge on the piece I am cutting. Then I mark the width I need, line the Festool rail up with my marks, then adjust the stops and screw heads to where everything is snug like it needs to be. I then verified my test cut.

There’s only the slightest bit of difference, and this is over 16″ wide. At least for the upcoming project this will be completely acceptable, but I won’t stop striving for excellence. To that fact, I decided to freestyle some softening of the edges and corners on the connectors and hung them on the wall.

Yeah, I’ll make a version three at some point. I’ll be a bit more exact on my hole placement, etc. But I think this is a fully functional setup at this point and I’ll be using it very soon…like maybe tomorrow.

Including the 1/4 sheet MDF I had to buy for version two, I’m all in for right at $75 for the entire lot, including going back and buying additional M6-25 bolts. Since I have plenty of that MDF left, a third version will not cost me a cent if I decide to revise.

 

 

Link to my motivation:

http://festoolownersgroup.com/festool-jigs-tool-enhancements/yet-another-homemade-parallel-guides/

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