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Reply by Dan Lyke

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Posted on Festool (I just don't get it.)

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Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4181 days


#1 posted 09-28-2007 10:08 PM

As we say over on the Festool Owner’s group, “perhaps Festool is not for you, then”.

I started without wanting a big shop, I have no big iron, and I’m a hobbiest. I can give you the reasons I went with Festool from that standpoint. A good number of the folks who use Festool that I’ve talked with are professionals, they justify the price difference with “compared to labor, the difference between a $50 cordless drill and a $400 cordless drill doesn’t matter”. For me, that price difference is pretty big, however:

  • I can get a saw on a rail from a few other vendors, a relatively quiet saw on a rail with excellent dust collection wasn’t so easy to find. Even if the rail isn’t quite as cool as the ones available from other vendors. It’s not the features individually, it’s that they’re all in one package.
  • I’ve been burned by cheap tools too often. I don’t know today what all of the features and things I want in a new tool are. My experience with Festool products so far is that if I buy Festool I won’t ever know, because I won’t notice the lack of those features. Unlike, say, my Skilsaw, or my Craftsman power tools. How many hours researching tool purchases rather than doing projects does it take for me to go with a brand that I’m relatively certain is going to be one of the best in the breed.
  • Yeah, it’s a system. For good or bad. When the pitch was first made to me, I heard “system”, and almost ran screaming from the store. Now I love that my jigsaw, my circular saw and my router all fit the same rail, and any jigs I build with those rails, and the table which has one of those rails on a hinge and a fence and a bunch of good ways to clamp my work stock.
  • My shop is my living room. Really. I do much of my woodworking over an afghan wool carpet, and there are 4 computers, a stereo and a bunch of knick-knacks in that room. Dust collection works that well for me.
  • We had a $80 vacuum cleaner. We also had one of those extremely expensive Kirby vacuum cleaners (inherited). Both of those were replaced by the Festool dust collector: it’s quieter and more effective. My guess is that per-use it’ll end up being cheaper than both.
  • What’s the ratio of your spending on wood to spending on tools? Now remember that tools are the capital portion of that expenditure. For me, that put a lot of the tool price in perspective.

On the Domino, yeah, you can set up a router and a jig to do those things. On my list of things to do is to build a set of dining room chairs. I could make jigs to cut the tenons and mortises for all of those pieces. When I consider the time necessary to do those operations, and the potential for mucking up pieces that I’ve carefully cut, I’m thinking that that’s about the time I get a Domino.

On the C12 drill, I’ve played with various battery powered drills and couldn’t imagine getting a battery powered drill. But they had the 3 tool pack, with the sander and the jigsaw, and I wanted the latter two and my sweety/partner said “it’d be really cool to have a battery powered drill”. I don’t know where the break even point is, I know it’s not the $150 cordless drills I’ve looked at previously, so it’s somewhere between that and the $460 cordless drill I’ve got. Maybe there’s a $250 cordless drill I’d be happy with, maybe it’s $350, but it doesn’t matter: I’ve got a cordless drill that’s actually the first drill I reach for, even for tasks like drum sanding. Tons of tasks around the house have gotten done because I didn’t have to string an extension cord and worry about what I was going to knock over dragging cables around, and could I have saved one or two hundred bucks? Maybe. How long would I have to have researched the topic to figure out what the differences were? That alone is worth a hundred bucks to me.

Like all of woodworking, either you’re doing this professionally, in which case you can do a pretty clear cost/benefit analysis, or you’re doing this as a hobby, in which case the cost/benefit analysis is a little harder to work out. The question I run up against when I look at hobbies is what parts of the hobby do I enjoy doing, and how much is it worth to me to avoid the parts I don’t like doing?

I also have some familial reasons to not want a table saw that’s not a euroslider or a Saw Stop: My dad’s got a few short fingers… So, whether or not my concerns about a table saw are rational fears or not, that enters into my cost equation, and not only does the saw cost a lot more, I’d need a bigger shop in which to put it.

To take another simile, I ride a fairly expensive bicycle, and I ride in a very upscale area (Marin County, California). Most people around here who ride a bicycle in that class take it into the shop very often. I’ve met people who take their bikes into the shop to get a tire change, let alone adjust their derailleurs. I’d rather adjust my own drivetrain and change my own tires because I actually enjoy that tinkering.

Similarly, some people like building jigs and working to fine-tune alignment. That doesn’t appeal to me, but if you enjoy doing that then the time spent on that stuff doesn’t cost you anything. More power to ya! I’m a little less interested in the journey and a little more interested in the destination, and I don’t have the space for a full-sized shop nor do I want to set one up.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke


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