The Dowel Joint VS A Festool Domino
A dilemma I read online and chat with colleagues about. We debate and argue on which type of jointing system is best. I feel there is some argument to be had but as I have both, A Duo Doweler and a Festool Domino I think I can honestly give my unbiased opinion on both systems.
*My father, a master craftsman would argue that the Festool Domino is a waste of money! I still bought one though as I could see past the 1100 euro price tag. I already owned a Triton duo dowel jointer which was ok but not as good as I hoped which I will get to later.
Triton Duo Dowel TDJ 600
This tool is interesting and has some similar characteristics to the Festool Domino DF 500 in that you drive the cutter into the workpiece on a sliding carriage.
Dowel Drill Centres
These little marking pins are quite good and I do use them for the odd dowel job. Basically I just pre drill one face to be joined. Pop on the Drill Centres and place the mating components firmly together thus leaving an indentation. I then drill the opposing components using a Brad point drill.
Dowel holes drilled so what is next?
With all these examples you are left with the assembly to glue and clamp with the dowels in place.
Dowel joinery has been around for decades and I have used many different systems; some simple and some not so. I still use them even though I have the Festool Domino. Doweling jigs and machines I use are:
- Woden Dowel Jig
- Triton Duo Dowel TDJ 600
- Dowel Drill Centres
Woden Dowel Jig
This tool has been in my custody for as long as I can remember and itt has been used loads in the early days of making particle board cabinets. A popular dowel jig in its time and many modern equivalents have manifested itself from this original. The only thing is it is worn now and I cannot get new bushes as they are discontinued.
Rockler Dowel Drilling Jig
This little jig is cheap and surprisingly quick to use. A simple drilling jig that uses a straightforward polycarbonate alignment gauge making repeated dowel drilling possible. I do like this tool but I only use it to drill holes in small jointing projects. Although you can make repeated dowel holes it can be a little inaccurate.
Which is Stronger the ‘Festool Domino’ or ‘The Round Dowel’?
I read so many so-called tests on the strength of the ‘Festool Domino’ or the ‘Round Dowel’ Every time it seems that some comparisons are inaccurate and not comparable.
Although the tests I have seen and performed myself in the past are not scientific the Domino was still a clear winner.
Domino Versus Dowel test
I made two 90° test examples out of clean straight-grained Oak. The section was 50mm x 50mm square and each leg 300mm long.
Test Example One
Two pieces joined together with an 8mm Festool cutter using Cascamite powdered resin wood glue.
Test Example Two
Two Pieces of Oak joined using a Triton Duo Dowel TDJ 600. 7.5 mm dowels at 32 mm centres.
The Dowel break test
Nothing scientific here as my press was my Record 56 vice and my sense of pressure. I placed one test example at a time into the vice so the joint was pointing up. I turned the handle of the vice until I felt steady pressure was being applied. Little by little I added more compression onto the joint until it failed. I did this for both examples. Each example failed but at different times and different breakage characteristics.
Dowel Breakage Results
Test Example One
The Festool domino required considerably more pressure to make the joint fail. The Oak Joiner I made for the test did not break but exploded out of the end grain.
Test Example Two
This simple test using the shop bought ribbed round dowels performed OK but by no way anywhere near the Festool Domino. The joint broke snapping both round dowels leaving the frame section intact but in two pieces. The Beech dowels, in my opinion, have a grain which is two short hence the dowels shearing off.
What are the key strength differences between the Festool Domino and a Round dowel?
- Round Dowels have on two flat surfaces (the ends!)
- Dominos have four flat surfaces.
- Domino loose tenons can be 140mm long
- I make my own Dominos in matching timber
- Round dowels are generally Beech which is brittle
Which has more glue area?
The Domino has more glue area but also the large flat areas accept wood glue more efficiently.
We have to remember that the main difference between these two jointing methods is the shape of the loose tenon and the round dowel. In my honest opinion based on my long term experience with the Festool Domino DF700 and the old school round dowel joiners. I have my preferences.
Both the Festool Domino and the Round Dowel need good glues.
My wood glue of choice is a Urea Formaldehyde or better known as ‘Cascamite powdered resin Wood Glue’ You could use a quality PVA but I choose to use Cascamite because:
- Low compression when cured
- Higher Strength compared with PVA
My Festool is my GO-TO jointing system
Dowels do have a place in my workshop but if the job requires a better and stronger solution the Festool Domino Jointing System is hands down a better solution. I know it gets slated by many because it is out of reach because they are expensive. I understand that but I pressed the buy button because the tool was the best choice for a paying customers project.
By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.
Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.
Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.
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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.
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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France