Tracksaw and Accessories for Site Fabrication of Cabinets

      Are pricey tracksaw and router setups practical for professional use? Opinions vary. April 10, 2012

Question
Do any of you have experience using Festool products in a busy commercial shop?

I have always used simple power tools (drill, circular saw, trim router) on the job site for installations. I usually make a shooting board (low tech version of the track-saw) when needed, but any serious carpentry was always done in the shop. However, the cost of deliveries is very high in the super densely populated city I live in, so I want to be able to make entire cabinet assemblies on the job site. That got me looking at the Festool products.

It seems the MFT-3 table and a 2400mm ripping track would allow me to cut just about anything I can on the panel saw back in the shop. There is a version of the track that has a 32mm boring guide built into it. This track with a medium sized router allows super easy line boring even on complicated case work. All I would lack is an edgebander and a doweling machine. For joinery I would use confirmats, and banding would be by hand.

Watching the videos on Youtube, it looks like a very well thought out system, but I am concerned about durability. The plastic adjustment knobs and stamped sheet metal parts worry me. Will this equipment stay true after two years of use on a real job site? I could even see using it in the shop to supplement the main saws. The hinges, crosscut/miter guide and the locking mechanisms on the MFT-3 look flimsy, as if they could easily be bent or worn out of true.

I have seen some guys make really nice cabinetry using Festool, but they were only making one kitchen a month or less. I will be using the machines every day and they will not be treated like the tools in a hobby/amateur woodworker shop. They will be dropped and banged around. My guys are more careful than most, but they are still just carpenters.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I have a 2 man shop and we use the ts 55 saw all the time for quick angled or odd cuts. The Domino is also used more than I thought. Both pricey, but well worth it for the special jobs. And yes, I think they're built for production.



From contributor L:
I think the Festool products are well thought out. I only own one, a Domino machine. It works well but is only used for one oddball product we make.

I have a hard time picturing making one hole at a time versus nesting an entire sheet in 6 or 8 minutes on the router. Precision tools are never happy with being dropped! It seems like delivering to the job all the tools and materials or the completely machined and maybe assembled work takes the same amount of time. On site labor is not as easily supervised as in the shop.

Back in the day when a lot of nursing homes were being built, there was a man that had a semi-trailer equipped with a case clamp. He could haul lots of machined parts, flat, and assemble on site.



From contributor N:
I have the table, the 75 saw and the vacuum. The vacuum works great and is attached to an orbital sander most of the time in my shop. The saw and table are good for odd cuts in the shop and clean cuts on the job site. Keep in mind the saw doesn't work without the guide and it can take some time to get the track clamped down for just one cut. I would never consider it for breaking down panels.


From contributor M:
I'm a reluctant Festool convert. Sure I thought it was way too pricey at first, but what's a few hundred dollars on better tools when you're running through several thousand in materials on a monthly basis? My favorites are the track saw and the Domino. Both of these regularly save me several hours of labor.

The track saw allows me to get a table saw quality cut anywhere with a few moments of setup. It has actually displaced my slider for angle cuts in the shop. In a pinch, it can cut really clean dadoes on site. I could probably come up with 50 situations in which it has saved my butt when I'm 1200 miles from my shop and need to achieve some finish quality millwork.

The Domino has made on site assembly super predictable, as well as giving me a super easy and fast joinery method that rivals traditional methods in strength and durability. It makes biscuit machines seem like the equivalent of using an angry beaver to cut a joint. Just for kicks, I built a heavy duty work bench in my shop with nothing but dominoes to hold it together. Not a drop of glue and I couldn't take it apart if I tried.

AS far as the actual quality of the tools, their design and quality is better than most tools available in NA. I don't baby my tools - they get dropped and thrown into piles. I don't think my Festool stuff will fair any worse than my other things. I am a little more careful with the Domino, seeing that it's a precision machine.

Festool's line perfectly fills the need of the finish carpenter who desires shop machine performance that he can throw into the back of his truck. Makes my old construction type tools feel like a bunch of sharp rocks. I highly recommend them. Especially the saw. Being able to work in a client's house with almost perfect dust collection is also a big plus.



From contributor D:
I have had the track saw since 01. Now I have my own shop with all the tools any good woodworking shop should have, and still use it in the shop. I could not imagine not having one on site for installs. We own a few saws now - the one from 01 is long gone. The Domino is a great shop tool. Their sanders are real good and with the vac setup, perfect for the jobsite. The cordless drills we have are okay, but like Panasonic better. The tracksaw is the best portable tool since the nail gun.


From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. Especially the comments on durability. I have a complete shop with everything but a safe full of cash. I am generally too far from the shop to make a quick trip. In fact once we start an install, we do not even go back to the shop until it is over. I can not stress how bad traffic is here. Top 3 in the world on some lists. Portability is also a big deal to me, and Festool looks like it was made for this situation.

I agree drilling one hole at a time sucks, but I just spent 30 minutes drilling holes for 4 hinges, and the holes were not all perfectly aligned. Because the 32mm hole guide is really a saw track, I can carry it to the site with no extra effort. I only need the router we normally carry anyway. Then site work can be done a lot easier.

I can also see how angled. It would be easier with the MFT setup compared to my panel saw.

It looks like this will set me back about 3k for all the things I want, not including shipping. But 3k doesn't seem like a lot for what it will do. Does anyone know how well the tools perform without dust collection? I do not usually bring a shop vac to the job site.



From contributor I:
I feel as though a busy commercial shop needs commercial tools and Festool isn't it. They are a luxury tool. I have about 6500.00 worth of them and if I could go back in time, I would be 6500.00 dollars closer to retiring.

Don't get me wrong - most of them are nice, but there are workarounds and they really aren't worth the premium price to me, not to mention they hose you so much on the accessories you never want to buy them and don't get the full use of the tool. The chop saw is a piece of junk; I should have spent a little more and bought an Omga. Buy tools that will make you money, not cost you. Most Festools cost more than they will make. Think it over before you fall into the trap.



From contributor P:
I have both Festool track saws, 2 routers, a few sanders, vacuums and the MFT. All are well-made and durable. The tracksaw is indispensable and still their best invention in my book. I use it with a big (18") tri square with a saddle. I cut a clean edge with the long track (105"), then work my way through sheets of ply with the square against the back of the track and get clean, chip-free, accurate cuts.

By themselves, their routers are just good routers, but the versatility you get with the track system ups the ante. I use the hole drilling system with a spiral bit for shelf pin holes, and they're perfect. You can do some interesting things with the router and track - stopped flutes, dados, etc.

Their sanders are just okay. I like the big one (Rotex 150) for heavy work, but I got rid of my small ROS.

Vacuums are nice. They work well to keep the dust down when working in the clients' home. I have a bigger one in the shop that's my standard dust collection for finish sanding. Works fine with other brands of sanders, too.

The MFT is a great general purpose work table - heavy and stable with lots of holes and slots for clamping. Good for putting face frames together. I didn't like the flip-down track thing. Too fussy, in the way, and not very accurate.

Mostly nice tools, and definitely expensive. I use them myself, and absolutely worth the money to me. Not sure I'd trust a crew of ham-fisted grunts with them, though.



From contributor G:
Have you considered machining all the parts in your shop and assembling cabinets at the jobsite? All the material has to be delivered to the jobsite anyway, so why not deliver pre-machined material? Less dust and no waste to remove from the jobsite. Also fewer tools to get into and out of the site.


From contributor K:
We use a Festool tracksaw, router and Domino in the shop and the tracksaw onsite. Expensive up front but worth it in my opinion. They are designed to work well with dust collection, unlike many portable tools. The Domino would likely clog without vacuum, the others not, but why would you want to subject yourself, your employees and clients to excess dust unnecessarily? Since you have a well-equipped shop, why not do the machining there prior to assembly in the field?


From contributor D:
We only use the tracksaw for the odd cut in the shop. By no means will it replace our panel saw. As for the domino, we never use it with dust collection and it doesn't clog.


From the original questioner:
Thanks for the suggestions. We do lot of custom finish-out work. It is seldom that we need to make or modify a cabinet on the jobsite, but when we do, it is a big deal. Mostly these tools are far custom fitting wall panels, trim, doors, and punchout work.

I think I will try the MFT-3 table, the smaller saw, a rip track and the medium sized router. Still portable enough to carry up 25 floors in a crowded condo, but will allow us to do a lot more work.



From contributor G:
Your very first post said "I want to make entire cabinet assemblies on the jobsite."


From contributor K:
I would recommend the TS75 over the smaller saw. Unless you are only cutting cabinet parts, the extra power and thickness capability is worth a couple hundred extra dollars. The Festool vacuums are expensive but quiet and efficient, and can be stacked up with systainers and rolled in and out of the workspace - definitely an advantage in elevators, aside from the lessened dust exposure. You should consider the parallel guides and extensions for the saw tracks for ripping accurately. We use a 55" and 118" track to good advantage. The shorter one is barely long enough to crosscut a 48" sheet by plunge cutting to start. The longer one allows ripping a 96" sheet, and they can be joined end to end with a slight loss of accuracy for longer cuts with optional hardware. The plastic self-stick zero clearance cutting guide strips need to be replaced fairly often, so get some spares. The mid-range router uses a short adjustable foot to level its base when overhanging the guide track, so make sure you get that with the fixture that mates the router to the track. Most saw cuts can be made safely without clamping, but the optional clamps are good insurance.


From the original questioner:
Contributor G, sorry - you're right. I do not really intend to make cabinetry on site. We have 600 square meters of machinery and computers to do that. What usually happens is change orders and overly inspired designers cause us to have to go back to the shop to make other items. On a typical 20,000 dollar residential kitchen project, I can usually rack up 5,000 dollars or more for additional work the clients want me to do. The problem is the cost of going back to the shop turning on the lights, air compressor, computers, office air conditioner and 100 horsepower worth of machinery makes it not worth the trouble for what is usually only a couple simple items. It takes longer to open the shop than to make the items and the overhead is brutal. If I can fabricate these items on the site with the same precision and quality I do in the shop, I will be able to offer my clients a valuable service that I can make money from.

As it is, the finish carpenters usually get this work and do a bad job, which makes my work look worse. There are also some situations where I think it will be faster to have this equipment on the site - for example, trimming out a bank with wall mounted panels or building a simple reception desk. I expect 90% of the work to be done in our shop. But this extra 10% should be money in my pocket.



From contributor F:
We use the skill saw and track for on-site cutting of melamine and it does a good job. Nice machine but way overpriced for what it does. (And they have a price fixing schedule on their pricing.)

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