Rather than trying to be all things to all people, or in LDVs terms, a “Universal Man” (a concept straight from the Renaissance (LDV – Leonardo da Vinci)), specialising lets you discard, or not realise a number of other skills, and instead really focus on being the best possible at the task at hand.
This absolutely carries across to tools as well. How many tools have you seen boasting “3 in 1″, “6 in 1″, “21 in 1!!!”? How many are actually decent tools? Or “it’s a router table, it’s a table saw, it’s a lathe, and makes cups of tea”
The point is, when you build a tool to perform multiple functions, you have immediately had to compromise each of those functions. When you build a tool to a price, you had to compromise.
When you buy an expensive tool, designed to perform a single task, you are expecting big things, and impressive performance.
So with all that in mind, I was expecting to be particularly impressed with my latest purchase: the Festool OFK500Q
First thing I noticed, was unlike the commercial photo, the bearing retaining bolt is not proud, so the roundover bit can really get into some tight spaces. I call it a roundover bit, and Festool call it a Ogee bit. Looking closely at the profile, I think we are both right. That shiny base was one of the things that really caught my eye. The last thing you want is a base that is going to catch on rough areas and protrusions, and instead you want one that will slip over the surface. Have a look too, at the clearance between the router bit and the base (or lack thereof). These are unquestionably designed to work together.
To try it out, I rounded over the outside of a piece of Tassie Oak. This has a tendency to splinter, but no such problems here at all. Either routing against the bit, or climb cutting. Climb cutting is generally regarded as a “no no”, but I had absolutely no trouble controlling the tool in either direction. There was no feeling of the tool trying to run away at all. Holding the tool was also an interesting experience. Unlike traditional routers, where the position you hold the router is some distance above the cutter, this Festool allows you to hold the router right around the knurled section of the base, only mm above the cutter itself. This give an impressive sense of control. The tool itself weights 1.4kg, so although heavier than some trimmers, it is not unreasonable.
There are no controls for speed (nor any need for there to be so), nor is it a plunge router. Stripping away all the multipurpose functionality has left a single purpose tool, which does one job exceptionally.
The trimmer still has depth control, just very precise depth control (as you’d expect). Each notch you can see here (the green lock has engaged one), is 1/10mm. If you make a test cut or two, and the result is just out, you can precisely dial in the adjustment. The knurled ring is the height adjustment.
After routing around the outside edge of the piece, I tried rounding over either side of the dado (trench) as well. This would not have been possible with my normal roundover bits, as the bearing (and specifically the retaining bolt) would have bottomed out.
The router bits this trimmer takes are rather unusual. Instead of the traditional 1/2″ or 1/4″, these are a hollow shaft that has a threaded shaft with attached bearing that fits down the centre of the bit, directly into the shaft of the trimmer. There is no collet. It is a very positive, precise mounting method that ensures a minimum of runout and slippage.
Other pieces of timber were equally at risk of being rounded over, with the same precision. Holes, edges, end grain, corners all got the same attention. I haven’t tried the chamfer bit yet, and will also get the 2mm radius roundover (which Festool also call an Ogee) where I want to break the edge in a less obvious way.
Typical of Festool, they also have concentrated on dust extraction, and it works exceptionally well. While the plastic extraction is in place, it blocks the port on the underside of the baseplate, so all the dust is collected by the attached vacuum hose. Interestingly, and I am not sure why, there is a spring-loaded plastic rod that pushes on the top of the bearing, preventing it from free-spinning. The only real reason I can think that is done is to prevent any opportunity for the bearing to spin to the full 28000 RPM that the router bit spins at.
Purchased, as always, from Ideal Tools. Tell Anthony I said hi!
Oh, and at the moment you can get a genuine Festool Esky for $10 with your purchase! Hey. Where’s my esky?!