Woodworking Tools and Supplies Lie Nielsen Planes

A Festool New User Experience
by Amy Herschleb
Last summer I visited my parents' home in North Florida and my dad showed me around his remodeled shop. The structure is a free-standing pole barn built to house tools and supplies for the construction of my parents' home (now in its 36th consecutive year of construction), which he has since converted into a woodworking shop.

In his own words: I began my introduction to Festool products when I started setting up my wood shop. I always wanted to get serious about woodworking, but as a high school principal there never seemed to be the time to dedicate to the hobby. I first began reading about Festool products several years ago in various woodworking magazines. At about the same time, I discovered the Highland Woodworking website and discovered that they sold Festool products. I also learned through web searches that there was a Festool Owners Group where people who used Festool products had an opportunity to discuss their own opinions of and uses for Festool products. I saw that the Festool company had a very loyal customer base. I also noticed that whenever trade magazines evaluated tools for features and quality, Festool products usually "set the curve" compared to their competitors.

"A lot of these tools are built to last generations," he said. "Is woodworking something you'd be interested in?"

I'd always assumed that entry into woodworking was dependent on a background in carpentry, which was significantly less appealing. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad's carpenter friends building the staircase in that house, and most vividly, of his longtime friend with somewhat fewer than ten digits expounding the virtues of table saw safety (This friend, I might add, is a master woodworker in spite of his apparent shortcomings. Dad, perhaps in response to the same cautionary tales, outfitted his shop with a SawStop table saw).

"Yes," I said. I bought a book (being a writer) and signed up for a class at Highland Woodworking at his suggestion. Last autumn, I had the immense satisfaction of texting him a picture of books I had written shelved on my completed bookcase.

My dad loves gadgets, my dad is meticulous, and my dad is of German descent. So it's no wonder that he equipped his shop with a generous helping of Festool products to compliment the larger machinery. So far, Dad’s shop includes: CT 26 Dust Extractor, DF 500Q Domino Cutter, CXS Compact Cordless Drill, OF 1400 EQ Router, OF 1010 EQ Router, Rotex RO 150 FEQ Sander, ETS 150 EQ Random Orbital Sander, Rotex RO 90 Multipurpose Sander, TS 750 EQ Plunge Cut Saw, LR 32 Hole Drilling Set, Kapex 120 EB Miter Saw, and various support accessories for them.

My own bent is toward hand tools, possibly because I have less space and resources to commit to a workshop coupled with the illusion of having more time. When I asked him what he appreciates most about the brand, he replied: Difficult question, as there are many features that I really appreciate. The ergonomics are amazing. Operator comfort seems to be an important consideration for the Festool engineers. I really appreciate quality products that should provide years and years of trouble free service. I understand that only 4 months of ownership and use does not constitute "years and years of trouble free service", but from the initial quality of the metal and composite casings used in the tools, and the carefully designed electronics, I am anticipating many years of trouble free service. I am amazed at the dust control capabilities of the tools and dust extractor. It is clear that Festool engineers are developing a complete system, both for use in compact home shops but more importantly in homes themselves. I have already used sander/extractor combinations in several in-home projects, and have left no dust behind!

In April of this year, I visited again and we began a project—which would be the inaugural shop project—end-grain cutting boards in cherry and maple secured from the auction of a cabinetmaker's shop. Dad had been unwilling up to this point to begin any projects, perhaps in the same way that a new woodworking bench needs to be struck with a hammer to remove the anxiety of messing it up (per Jim Dillon).
Dad: I really just began assembling my Festool shop in April of 2016. I completely retired from public education in June of 2016. Since then, I first built a cabinet for organizing the Festool equipment. That was a great project to help acquaint me with the operation and features of the tools. I also began to appreciate the benefits of using metric measurements in woodworking (that is a whole other story.)

The main obstacle in constructing an end-grain cutting board in Florida in the spring is that it takes about a month for each application of glue to dry.

By the end of June we were ready to sand. The initial pass was done by a planer to compensate for the imperfect glue-up and slight warping of the wood. A second, rough pass was through a drum sander. Then we got to the fun part. The Festool ETS 150/3 EQ Random Orbital Sander coupled with Granat sandpaper effected a mirror-like finish, the CT26E Mobile Dust Extractor concurrently vacuuming dust from the work surface to prevent buildup and scratches. It floats like an air hockey puck. Hours of obsessive sanding were compressed to a mere hour. Scratches and inconsistencies were smoothed away with a handful of passes.

Traveling back and forth from Atlanta when I was able, the project took three months start to finish. By the end of it, we had a name for our shop (Coywolf, a lately evolved hybrid of coyote and wolf), an Instagram account and plans for our next project.

Dad and his woodworker buddy continue work on the house in the meantime: I have the benefit of being able to work with a master craftsman and artist, someone I have known for more than 35 years. He is helping me with my current entryway project. I introduced him to the Festool brand. He is discovering feature and applications of the Festool product line and is beginning to understand why I am adopting the system. The last few weeks, I have been fabricating and installing raised panels with fluted columns as interior and exterior finishes on the entryway. Difficult to say which [tool] I use the most. With my latest project (finally completing the house that we built in 1980), I rely on all of them.

I consider myself a novice, just learning something new every day. I do not look for instant solutions and understand that it is important to appreciate the processes as well as the products. I seem to get as much satisfaction using the tools as I get from completing a project.

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