Most readers will know by now the humble state of the shop and of my woodworking, both projects and ability. I started with some of the cheapest stuff I could find, both due to budget and the fact I wasn’t sure if this was what I wanted to do as a hobby. Since then I’ve affirmed my place in this hobby, and have continued to acquire tools and ideas.
One idea I’ve let go of recently is that money doesn’t buy a quality tool. Not that exact phrase I would use, but simple enough to repeat. My Dewalt planer, along with my Narex chisels have shown me what careful application of plastic can do for one’s outlook. The chisels are so nice to hold in my hand and cut very well. The Dewalt puts a surface on a piece of wood like glass.
I’ve always kinda admired track saws from afar, with the ability to easily rip plywood sheets without wrestling them on the table saw. Same goes for cross cuts, which is why I bought a fence and guide for a circular saw. Up until recently (see future post), this combination wasn’t a great solution. It worked, but just enough. I had to do math, and math doesn’t like me. It’s why I didn’t follow through on my goal to be a civil engineer. People tend to frown upon simple math errors when it comes to things like bridges.
With my secret admiration for the track saws did not come a similar admiration for perhaps the most well-known of the manufacturers, Festool. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would pay $500 for a cordless drill. A thousand dollars for a fancy biscuit joiner? $600 for a vacuum? Those are high prices any time, but to a beginning woodworker they are insane. My entire Ryobi line didn’t cost $500, although my last battery and drill purchase may make a liar out of me for that.
Lately though, even before my Dewalt revelation, I started thinking more about Festool, and the track saw in particular. I have a miter saw stand project coming up that would make building cabinets that much easier. Then I came across a series by a guy named erock on the Festool forum, MrBigerock on YouTube (link in a couple of posts back, or do a search). His videos on his kitchen cabinet build for his mom really took me back for a few reasons. One, is the sheer amount of Festool gear he has. I’m guessing easily in the five figure range, just what I can see. That’s impressive. The second reason was how well they turned out, from a guy who best I can tell isn’t a professional. That’s the kind of quality I want in my workshop, and eventually my home. I’ve wanted to remodel the kitchen with my own cabinets since I bought my first circular saw.
I was impressed at how easily the Domino lined everything up, and how easily the track saw got everything cut down. The LR32 system for the shelves and hinges may have been the ultimate kicker – that’s some cool stuff right there. I don’t know for sure, but those videos may have been the tipping point that won me over. His garage may look like a Festool showroom, but I don’t think he’s an employee.
They call it the green Kool-Aid, because once you take a taste you keep wanting more. I’m not going to sit here and predict the future, but I can’t say I’d be in the market for everything they make. I still don’t quite get the appeal of a $500 cordless drill, but I won’t assume it isn’t worth the money. I hope my Ryobis last me quite a long time though. What I found interesting about the rest of the line is the dust collection and power cord, how you can keep those bundled and use the one thing for every corded tool. I’m in the market for a corded sander or two, and that gets my attention. My shop is cluttered enough without streams of cords going everywhere.
I’m hoping in the first half of 2014 I can add a track saw, I’m leaning toward the smaller one for reasons I can’t completely relate. Perhaps it is the additional cost increases for the larger blade and accessories. $600 base is a big enough task to ask as it is. I can certainly see myself in the market for one of the Dominos, however it is probably years off with how expensive it is. A couple of sanders, perhaps a HEPA vac (instead of planned full DC) and some Systainers have a good chance of finding a home in my shop.
I’ve already said it – these things are a pantload in the earnings department. There’s no impulse buys here, not for guys like me of limited means. I am starting to see the value, though. I enter every Festool contest I can find though, just to help defray some of the massive costs. Two mini systainers found their new home here thanks to one such contest, but I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t disappointed to not win storage without some tools in them. I also secretly hope they’ll sponsor my website one day, but without videos it seems unlikely. I’m no Marc Spagnuolo. The best I can do is keep playing the lotto and setting aside a little bit here and there for my Festool slush fund.