Tricks of the Trade – Domino Joiner


Tricks of the Trade – Domino Joiner:
Things you wish you’d known when you first started.

Things you wish you’d known when you first started

Professional makers have a knack for making the most complex procedures look simple. Ramon Valdez is one such maker. When he’s not building furniture in his spare time he’s a production manager at his brother’s cabinet, countertop and fixtures shop in New Mexico. Encountering problems at work on a daily basis for over three decades has, in his own words ‘been both an annoyance and a blessing’. Keeping a team of professionals moving in the right direction and constantly finding ways to streamline production is no mean feat so we’ve asked him to share a selection of his best tips each month. Whether you’re into hand tools, power tools, machine woodworking or a combination of all three, we’re pretty certain Ramon will have something for you. So, in the first of a new series of short, sharp techniques designed to make your time in the workshop more productive, here’s a crafty little way of making your Domino even more of an asset.
The mortise and tenon joint has been around since antiquity with early examples found in ancient Egyptian tombs so it’s truly a time-tested method of strong joinery. Fast forward a few thousand years and it’s still a favourite among furniture makers and joiners. The Festool Domino joiner, however, takes this joint to the next level. I purchased the larger version (XL DF700) and fell in love with it immediately quickly adding the adaptor that allows me to use all sizes of cutters (including those used in the smaller DF500 version) from 4mm up to 14mm. Note the simple plywood stand I’ve made to hold the XL Domino in an upright position. This helps hold smallish parts much easier and I also use a clamp to keep things tight.

A ‘shop-made cradle designed to hold the DF700

A ‘shop-made cradle holding the DF700

Easier indexing
Now, the Domino has many unique features but the one I want to talk about is the indexing pins. These allow the user to repeatedly place the Domino in perfect alignment with the part being cut. However, the spacing of the indexing pins doesn’t always fit incrementally with every project. That’s where the self-centring jig by RTS Engineering shines. Perhaps it was designed and intended as a device to help hold a part that would receive the Domino slot in its centre but I’ve found it very useful to align parts that don’t always fit with the increments of the pins on the machine. By adjusting the pivoting arms, one can easily index the part from either edge and still use the Domino’s indexing pins. It’s machined well, performs fantastically and now in an upgraded version known as the Symtrax. This accurate little device makes the Domino an even more versatile tool and a joy to use.

The RTS jig allows equally quick indexing beyond the fixed range

The regular indexing pins are convenient for some locations

Mortises are indexed from the same reference edge

Working with thinner stock
I’ve made a simple plywood block that acts as a spacer to allow the fence to be closer to the bit when I’m using the smaller bits, 10mm and under. A bit of sandpaper glued onto it provides fantastic gription.


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