To Dominio or slot mortise?

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Forum topic by WhittleMeThis posted 11-10-2009 07:41 PM 6186 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WhittleMeThis's profile


125 posts in 3337 days

11-10-2009 07:41 PM

I have an order for 12 chairs and another order for 8 chairs coming in, normally I use a router and strait edge to mortise loose tenons for small tenons and a floor mortiser for big mortises. The chairs will all be small mortises, so the though of all the repeat make-ups and setups is making me a bit exhausted before i begin the job, lol.

So, I am looking for a more productive way to cut small mortises. I am considering a slot mortise machine by Laguna and Festool’s domino hand tool. After all is said and done its about $1,400 for either machine. The Laguna tool is a big steel simple floor model, the Festool is, well a complicated hand tool. The Laguna can cut a wide variety of mortise sizes the Festool is limited. The Festool seems very precise with a lot of dummy proof gadgets. I have no experience with Festool and the mechanical complexity of the tool makes it seem fragile and prone to break down under heavy use.

I’m looking for some opinion on the domino or slot mortise machine in general or some possible alternatives, with productivity and dependability being the most important factor (budget limited to $1,500). With the economy being what it is I don’t want to buy twice if I can avoid it.

Thanks all.

10 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117061 posts in 3541 days

#1 posted 11-10-2009 07:54 PM

There are a number of post on the domino by Festool I know Todd posted a few about how he liked it among others. You might do a search on on LJs and read a great number of post about it. I don’t own one I use a Multi router but it’s in a price range about $ 1200 above what your thinking about.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View IanW's profile


9 posts in 3630 days

#2 posted 11-10-2009 10:30 PM

You could also make a jig that you reference the chair piece to and route on top of.

Here is an example:

It is pretty simple to make, costs next to nothing, and is very accurate. All you need is an upcut spiral bit and a template guide. A small piece of MDF, a few pieces of hardwood scrap and a few screws. You can then keep the jig for any future chairs you make, or re-use it on other projects that require the same sized mortise.

I have used this method many times and it works very well.


View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 3442 days

#3 posted 11-17-2009 06:15 AM

Look at the video on here for the Mortise Pal. I have one and love it

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View WhittleMeThis's profile


125 posts in 3337 days

#4 posted 11-17-2009 07:02 AM

I am really looking for a tool in which I can set up a couple of stop blocks and cut mortise all day long and not have to draw and/or worry about reference marks after the first mortise is done correctly. I know I can do that with a slot mortise machine, I believe I can do it with a Domino. Its all about productivity, it has to be quick yet accurate with minimal setup.

I’ve seen the Mortise pal its a great jig, but I done really think its suited for production work, to much work centering each work piece, I guess a jig could be built for the Jig 8).

The Multi-router is a very nice tool but at $2,700 Yikes and no motor.

I am having a tough time with this purchase, thanks Jim, Ian and Rocky for taking the time to make some good suggestions.

View a1Jim's profile


117061 posts in 3541 days

#5 posted 11-17-2009 07:21 AM

Another alternative is a shop made multi router it cost about $600 just in parts and looked like a plywood hunk of junk but worked almost as good as the real thing. I Think I have a photo some were if it’s some thing you think you might try.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3093 days

#6 posted 11-17-2009 07:33 AM

If it helps, the Festool is only $850 with all the gadgets and the case though only a #5 bit. There are four bits, I think they are $15 or so. The Festool is easy to use. You use it just like a biscuit joiner. There are some problems with the Domino. I have posted extensively about the Domino mortiser on the Festool website where any criticism of Festool is never welcome. I got nothing, but grief for discussing the problems of the Domino and so gave up on the Festoolian people. But I’m willing to help a fellow LJ. So here goes. One: the the system for setting the fence height is idiotic. Instead of a rack and pinion and guide rods like you see on the Porter-cable biscuit joiner. They use a dovetailed way system with a clamping lever. A common problem with this is that the fence can slide during use resulting in completely misaligned mortises. Some machines have this problem some don’t. Festool does not provide any real answers though I believe have found the cause and a cure (I will discuss this with you later if you wish). Two: the dominoes themselves do not hold all that well. Fine woodworking did a strength test on joints and the domino came in just above biscuits. I replicated their tests and found they were correct. I also found the problem here too. The problem is the domino tenon itself. The domino is a small beech tenon with about 3/4” wide glue surface. This limited surface is impressed with a pattern like a biscuit. But unlike a biscuit which is a compressed chip that really swells up when installed in a joint with water base glue, the solid beech dominos do not. The impressed pattern leaves gaps in the actual wood to wood contact. The result is that the 3/4” wide glue surface is reduced by about half producing a weak joint. The answer here is simple: Make two mortises that line up to make one wide mortise. Throw the domino tenons out and use your own smooth, wide, shop made tenons. I do this all the time and it makes a really great joint. One thing to keep in mind though is the Domino only cuts a 1” deep mortise. It has its place in the shop and I use it extensively, but you should consider its limitations. As for the Laguna slot mortiser, I can’t speak to that directly. I was very interested in their slot mortiser myself, but the many, many, bad things I hear about that company has kept me from purchasing anything from them. I suggest you look at the posts on LJ about Laguna. Someone pointed out they have a D rating from The Better Business Bureau. From what I hear about Laguna , both on this site and elsewhere, I would have to say buyer beware!
Anyway, if you have any questions about the Domino machine send me a message and I’ll answer them as best I can

View WhittleMeThis's profile


125 posts in 3337 days

#7 posted 11-17-2009 07:46 AM

Wow, great post mcase, its nice to read a more objective opinion stating both the good and the bad. I guess I need to do some more reading on both the domino and Laguna. Thanks for the post.

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3804 days

#8 posted 11-21-2009 09:32 AM


Very well put, the Domino has it’s weak points, I think that is why Festool is doing what they call “Updating” it. They wont admit to a problem, but many of the projected updates are very close to its weakness’s.
As for Laguna I would not recommend them to anyone. I have never owned one of their products due to the poor service they provide after the sale. They have screwed over to many people with their lack of morality. Some of the crap they have pulled on others seems to border on Fraud. We had one of their Band Saws at the school I attended, and for the price it was not worth it.
I picked up a Jet Floor Mortiser earlier this year. If I remember right I paid about 8 or 9 hundred for it, and it has been a great investment. I have had no problems with it at all. I also have a Jet 22-44 oscillating drum sander that I had a problem with the tracking on the feed belt. When the belt broke Jet took care of the problem right away without any hassle. To me a machine that is going so sit idle waiting on parts is not the thing I want in my shop. Laguna has driven some shops out of business with their games.

Good luck on your decision Whittle me this

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View pickles's profile


68 posts in 3377 days

#9 posted 11-25-2009 02:48 PM

Mortises made with Mortise Pal

I made the 88 mortises on the bed rails on the left of the photo with the Mortise Pal. I used a story stick to layout centerlines and cut them in less than 1 1/2 hrs. You can also see the other mortises made with it on the ends of the rails and legs. I have a brand new Jet floor model mortiser that I use for big mortises but you just can’t beat the speed, accuracy, and repeatability of this thing! Absolutely worth $170!

View mynoblebear's profile


722 posts in 3071 days

#10 posted 11-25-2009 06:22 PM

I am all for keeping it simple and without spending money now and paying for the floor space for storing a piece of machinery. Most tasks can be done with a simple jig that you can store for that task in the future or throw it away and move on.

-- Best Regards With Personalized Rocking Chairs And Furniture On My Mind,

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