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Spectric

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Hi all

Well woodworking when simplified comes down to just a matter of joining multiple pieces of wood together to make a single item, sounds easy but compared to metalwork people seem to have created every possible variant on joints that can be imagined. Well I have been looking into my jointing methods and woodworking joints in general, and thanks for all the feedback provided on these forums.

I currently use a Dowelmax for 10mm dowels, a Woodrat that seems to be capable of almost any joint imaginable and produces dovetails that look hand cut but requires time and careful layout and also both the Kreg pocket hole jigs, the std one and the HD version. I have also tried using the bandsaw for cutting Tennon’s and the Woodrat for the mortices which is ok but again requires careful planning and layout and takes time so I often just default to my Dowelmax which is very accurate, easy to use and extremely well made but slow, having just made a basic unit for my new oven that required 96 dowel holes that on average were 50mm deep the time to align and drill seemed to take forever and then the glue up of all those dowels just made me start to think if I could make some changes and look at potential alternative joining methods. Here are some images of a Dowelmax joint:

1610728748765.png


What follows is my thought process and information that resulted in any decisions, and it may help others in a similar conundrum.

So what are my main problems that need to be addressed, any new method would need to overcome these in order to be a viable solution. Simply put it is the time taken to make the joints, and I want to reduce the assembly/glue up time because I am governed by the time before the glue cures. The Dowelmax is great but you can reach a point where it becomes tedious due to the number of dowels required which also impacts on the assembly time.

The obvious solution seemed to be the Mafell DDF40 doweler, could this be a Dowelmax on steroids? Mafell, no question on quality as people rate this brand the number one so can it deliver. First issue for me is that the two dowels have a fixed spacing at 32mm with a maximum depth of 40mm. The Dowelmax can place five holes at 17.5mm centres and depth only limited by the drill bit, 80mm is possible. If I accept the 40mm max depth then we come to alignment and accuracy, by offsetting the DDF40 you could place two more dowels so one would be between the existing two and the other further out, but if this one was not needed then you would need to remove the cutter. I only use 10mm dowels, although you can get the parts for 6 & * mm dowels. The DDF40 comes with 6 & 8mm cutters and 3,5,10 and 12mm are available so easy to change between dowel sizes and a lot of flexibility whereas the Dowelmax requires a new drill/collar, five guides, spacing bar pin and a location pin for each size. I think the DDF40 would match the Dowelmax for accuracy because any discrepancy in dowel placement and the joint will not close but I do think you also need the Mafell 203980 800mm Dowel Template Guide at £220. This expensive item looks to be based on the straight edge clamping guides as sold by Axminster, same type of clamping arrangement. Another advantage of dowels is that they are very cheap.

So why did I not opt for the DDF40, I think it is because you are stuck with two dowels at 32mm centres and many times with my Dowelmax I can get 2 or 3 rows of dowels in the end of a workpiece but at 17.5mm spacing so 32mm could be restrictive. Then cost of £840 plus pair of 10mm cutters at £110 and the guide at £220 means an outlay of £1170 for something that does exactly what my Dowelmax can although in many situations faster but not always and my new oven unit would still have needed 96 dowel holes, not all would have been easy with the fixed 32mm centres. You could design to suit the tool and ensure the 32mm centres can be used or remove a cutter and have a mono Dowler but not at this price. Perhaps a future version could be a pento-dowler with easy to remove cutters to give flexibility and at say 17.5mm centres! I will add that if I had a larger workshop then I may just have got the DDF40 so that I could experience it first hand, and I suppose you always end up finding a task for everything.

So what next, Lamello easily discounted because I use more wood than man made sheet goods and that leaves the Festool Domino, could this be my first Festool tool, will it resolve the issues and meet my expectations, plus can I justify going this route.

They call it a loose Tenon system but when I look at the loose Tenon’s I make to fit the mortices I cut on the woodrat they are much larger in proportion to the end face than a Domino so really the Domino is an oblong Dowler which puts it in the same category as the Dowelmax and DDF40. Now we know that there are two versions, a small lighter 500 and the bigger heavier 700, but having looked at all the specs and many sources of info I dropped the 500 on the basis that it can only depth to 28mm and to me the 700 looked ergonomically better, with a 70mm plunge depth and I believe it should cover a wider range of task. Some people say it is heavy but it is lighter than many 9 inch angle grinders and definitely much safer. The question is could a Domino 700 be a solution to my requirements, so let’s start by comparing a 10mm dowel and a 10mm domino, both 80mm long and using an insertion depth of 40mm. The dowel has a total surface area of 1256mm2, the Domino has 2320mm2 so you could say that a domino equals a pair of dowels which would have meant I only had to do 48 dominos compared to 96 dowels in my unit and the domino’s do provide a larger surface area for the glue which includes flat surfaces unlike a dowel. Taking this concept further, let’s join two 3x2’s.

You could make a traditional M&T joint with a 40mm Tennon which gives you a glue area of 6400mm2, use six 10mm dowels at 40mm depth to give 7540mm2 or four 10mm domino’s at 40mm depth to give 9280mm2. If I have not made any mistakes in the calculations then it does appear that the Dominos do provide an overall larger surface area for the glue.

At this point the Festool Domino does seem to be a better option for me than the DDF40, but the Domino machines do have a sloppy setting unlike the DDF40 which does make you think about alignment issues. I did get a reply from @MikeK who says he has no issues with aligning multiple dominos on the tight setting which is a positive, so I now tend to think of the sloppy setting is for sloppy workers or maybe those who are in a rush. The Dowelmax is precise, no issues with alignment and some of this is because it clamps to the workpiece and after the first hole you can insert a pin to help keep it in place, then all subsequent holes are referenced from previous holes. Both the DDF40 and the Domino are like a biscuit jointer, totally handheld and no clamping so you now have the human factor and the marking is a source of error, not so much if using a sloppy setting. You could buy Domino Alignment Jig System (DAJ) Deluxe | FC Tools at £390 with the 700 plate to resolve any alignment issues but there are probably other solutions at less cost. All you need is something between the last Domino and the 700 so I am not that worried about alignment.

Now for the outcome, I did go for a 700 that was at a good price with FFX and the 8/10 domino box also at a good price, but the 12/14 box even on offer was not cost effective when compared to buying the items individually. So why did I make this decision; because it only makes a single mortice at a time which gives you complete flexibility with placement when compared to having two holes at 32mm on the DDF40. For a given joint it will require only a single domino for every two dowels previously used and these holes can be done quickly. This will also make assembly faster and the larger holes should be easier to glue than just round holes. I have yet to compare accuracy and alignment but with a Dowelmax it was a given, with the 700 it depends a lot more on the user, i.e. me. I like the Seneca adaptor, it works well with a 5mm cutter which is probably as small as I will ever need, but you need to ensure you do not exceed 28mm plunge depth otherwise you could damage the machine. Quality is comparable to my Dewalt router and Bosch mitre saw but only time will really tell, it is interesting that our Kitchen Aid mixer sitting in the kitchen is of better quality than all of these mentioned items but of no use when it comes to woodwork. I will say that I do not find it that heavy, in fact I think the weight provides stability but this could be because I was into metalwork long before wood and so probably got used to heavier tools. Once I have used it a lot more I will probably post an update, but for now just need to use it and see if my decision was a sound one.
 

Jacob

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What's wrong with ordinary mortice and tenon?
 

Chippymint

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What's wrong with ordinary mortice and tenon?
Totally agree. Has to be one of the strongest joints we can do and once mastered is pretty straight forward to do and can be applied in many guises.
 

Jacob

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very interesting..thanks for taking the time to explain..........
Simple, traditional, tried and tested, can be done entirely by hand, or buy a morticer instead of all those jigs, gadgets and expensive power tools.
Dowel joints are fundamentally weak and nearly always the thing that's failed in any furniture repair.
 

harryc

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Simple, traditional, tried and tested, can be done entirely by hand, or buy a morticer instead of all those jigs, gadgets and expensive power tools.
Dowel joints are fundamentally weak and nearly always the thing that's failed in any furniture repair.
Tests done on various joints from M&T, Dowels, Loose tenons, pocket holes would suggest otherwise but could be down to your dowel technique.
 

Jacob

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Tests done on various joints from M&T, Dowels, Loose tenons, pocket holes would suggest otherwise but could be down to your dowel technique.
Not my dowel technique I never use them. Stuff brought in for repair with failed dowels - made by dowelling experts.
Pocket holes even worse, except for quick bodges. Easily done without a jig by the way.
 

doctor Bob

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Great write up.
As a commercial business, I'll stick to M & T's for furniture.
3 reasons.
1/ traditional and what a customer would expect on a piece of furniture
2/ I can do it with heavy fixed machines, anything portable is liable to be dropped, damaged and inconsistent due to this.
3/ far easier glue ups
 

shed9

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Appreciate the time taken to share the info.

Have a look at the Seneca RTS adapter and grab a 1060 assortment box from Festool, this will increase the capacity of the 700 to no end.
 

Jacob

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Appreciate the time taken to share the info.

Have a look at the Seneca RTS adapter and grab a 1060 assortment box from Festool, this will increase the capacity of the 700 to no end.
Unless I'm mistaken thats £250 worth of kit, just as an incidental add-on!!
These gadgets seem incredibly expensive to buy and to keep running, just to make weak dowel and loose tenon joints, slowly and with difficulty.
Morticer wins hands down!
 
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shed9

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Unless I'm mistaken thats £250 worth of kit, just as an incidental add-on!!
These gadgets seem incredibly expensive to buy and to keep running, just to make weak dowel and loose tenon joints, slowly and with difficulty.
Morticer wins hands down!
Firstly, it's not an incidental add on, the RTS adapter increases the capacity of the original investment quite significantly. As for the 1060 Domino assortment, that comes with five additional cutters in 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10mm sizes and (as the name suggests) over 1000 Domino tenons - all within its own storage unit. This is not incidental add-on territory, it's tool adaptation, tooling and consumables.

Secondly, it's a bit late in the game to suggest the Domino is a gadget or indeed produces weak joints that take longer to make. You could have possibly gotten away with some of those comments back in 2006 but those statements simply have no legs now, especially in the context of its intended use.

I's also suggest that the Domino is not always a direct competitor to the Morticer. They are different joints in different circumstances. A lot of wood workers have both as they recognise the need within their work flow.

Lastly, price is not always the main factor when it comes to tools and neither is tradition for that matter. I fully appreciate it is a deciding influence in some instances but sometimes the offset of the convenience and functionality rationalises higher initial outlay costs and method.
 

Jacob

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.......the convenience and functionality rationalises higher initial outlay costs and method.
But the OP doesn't seem to be getting convenience and functionality, in spite of very high costs!
n.b. there are no 'consumables' with M&Ts and a mortice machine and the cutters go years before even needing sharpening.
1000 loose tenons made the trad way from offcuts, cost next to nothing.
 

shed9

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But the OP doesn't seem to be getting convenience and functionality, in spite of very high costs!
Given he just bought it, I can't comment on that outcome.
n.b. there are no 'consumables' with M&Ts and a mortice machine and the cutters go years before even needing sharpening.
Granted there is some cross over but again, different joints in different circumstances. Comparing a morticer to a Domino doesn't stack up that much these days.
1000 loose tenons made the trad way from offcuts, cost next to nothing.
Again, cost is not always the concern and a weak argument anyhow if you don't attribute value to your own time.

There is a place for Domino's and a place for morticers, It's not a convincing argument to pitch one against the other by diluting the use of one tool over the other.
 

Spectric

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What's wrong with ordinary mortice and tenon?
Absolutely nothing, probably one of the oldest joints around and also very strong, with the tenon being part of the wood and not a piece glued in so totaly agree with Doc Bob on all counts. It is also a much cheaper option but although it looks very simple it requires very clean cuts to make it look right and is why I used loose tenons for a lot of task, easier to route mortices than cut tenons in my opinion because tennons require more experience and skill. I am trying the domino approach because it is iidiot proof and will allow me to make things faster and free up time so I can practice the basic woodworking skills, I have no formal training in any form of woodworking so everyday is a learning day. It is nice to see that there are still people not making everything using portable power tools but as much as I enjoy the journey I need to reach the destination.
 
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Spectric

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Hi

Already got that adaptor,
I like the Seneca adaptor, it works well with a 5mm cutter which is probably as small as I will ever need, but you need to ensure you do not exceed 28mm plunge depth otherwise you could damage the machine.
Basically if you don't mind the bigger/heavier machine then you end up with a Domino 1200, but I think 8mm should cover the smaller requirements and I got the 5mm cutter to see what I can do with thiner sheet materials. There is guy on here using the 700 with a 4mm cutter so anythings possible.

As for the 1060 assortment box for me it would be a waste as I already have the 8 & 10mm cutters that were in another set and a 5mm to fit the adaptor. I don't make dainty items in wood, tend to be heavier so thats why I went for the 700 with it's 70mm plunge depth.
 

mossycave

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As a beginner, I can relate to the problem of the time taken I create a m&t joint. But adding a dowel, or some other intermediate fixing part creates an extra joint, so actually joining 3 pieces of wood together instead of the intended 2. In my simple mind, that creates more chance of failure in the long term?
 

Jacob

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As a beginner, I can relate to the problem of the time taken I create a m&t joint. But adding a dowel, or some other intermediate fixing part creates an extra joint, so actually joining 3 pieces of wood together instead of the intended 2. In my simple mind, that creates more chance of failure in the long term?
Well yes. The main weakness is that dowels and loose tenons rely on glue alone, whereas M&Ts are also nearly always wedged and sometimes pegged through as well - real belt and braces jobs!
Also doing dowels accurately is not as easy as it looks at first glance - hence the expensive bits of machinery and attachments required.
 

Jester129

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I thought it was a well written piece with plenty of information that was interesting, with no argument re M&T's.
Thank you for the write-up.
 

Jacob

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I thought it was a well written piece with plenty of information that was interesting, with no argument re M&T's.
Thank you for the write-up.
Yes I agree!
It can be useful to remind people of alternatives though.
 

lexi

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That was a good write up sir!
Why do you want to put your oven in a cupboard? :LOL:
 

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