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182 – Festool CMS Router Table

Added on September 10, 2012

As most of you know, I have a nice working relationship with Festool. While they are no longer a sponsor, they do give us great tools for our giveaways throughout the year and they also provide me with tools for review purposes. This gives me a unique opportunity to show you how the tool works so you can decide if it’s worth the investment.

I’ll be honest, I have an unhealthy addiction to the green and black. Or is it a really dark blue? And I know I’m not the only one with this affliction! But even if you’re not quite prepared to pull out your credit card just yet, you can at least enjoy the eye-candy of a well-made machine. Not me….the CMS! So here’s a first look at the Festool CMS Router Table.

My goal with this presentation was to show you the three primary functions of the table: edge profiling, end-grain routing with the sliding table and miter gauge, and bearing routing. The system performs well in all three areas but here are a few things that caught my attention, for better or worse.

Sliding Table

The sliding table is the bees knees. Anyone who has used a sliding table on a tablesaw knows how useful and accurate these things can be. They slide along effortlessly with friction-free motion, resulting in the cleanest and most secure cuts possible. So imagine that same concept on a much smaller scale at the router table. Just like at the tablesaw, the slider isn’t a necessity, but it’s a heck of a nice add-on.

Bearing Routing

One thing I do a lot of in my shop is pattern routing, so anything that makes that process easier and safer is a good thing. Festool includes a separate dust shroud/guard that attaches right to the table and is very effective. Keep in mind that this is a feature that most router tables, to my knowledge, don’t even offer. If you want something like this, you would normally have to make it yourself. Additionally, they came up with a nifty alternative to the traditional index pin. Instead of having a few inches of space between the pin and the spinning bit, Festool gives you a long plastic arm that nestles into the bearing of the bit. This gives you continuous support as you smoothly transition from the support arm to the bit. I am not exaggerating when I say that using a bearing-guided bit has never felt safer! I was quite impressed with this simple feature.

Dust collection

Is anyone surprised that their dust collection is second to none? I’m not. This is just something that you come to expect from Festool. Because the unit collects the dust from above and below, dust collection is about as close to perfect as you can get.

Vibration

This is something I noticed immediately when I first fired up the router: the system has very little vibration. I don’t know if it’s the rubber feet or the little rubber tape strips under the table top, but something is eating up that vibration. I’m not sure how much this ultimately impacts the quality of the work, but less vibration is always a good thing. Get your minds out of the gutter you heathens!

Micro-Adjustment

This isn’t a negative so much as a missed opportunity. The primary fence has a big old adjustment knob at the back that can be used to push the right side of the fence in and out. This is incredibly helpful when you need to use the router as a quick make-shift jointer. Of course with respect to the road warrior crowd, that’s a killer feature. But to the shop woodworker, it’s a missed opportunity. Sure, some of us might use our router as a jointer, but the vast majority of us already have a jointer. It’s too bad the micro adjustment can’t be applied to the entire fence as well. This could have given Incra a run for their money in terms of micro-adjustment. Instead, it’s a very cool feature that I’ll never use.

Portability

The router table comes in two forms: one that attaches to an MFT Table and one that is stand-alone. The version I received was the stand-alone. Because the table is on its own folding stand, you have to expect a little movement. However, the unit never felt unstable in any way. The system is compact and obviously weighs considerably less than a comparable shaper or traditional router table. If stability is a major concern for you, you might consider the MFT-attached version as I hear it is more stable.

*Update*

The Metal Bar

Within a few minutes of posting, several folks pointed out the potential obstacle created by the metal bar that holds the featherboards in place. I didn’t provide much commentary about this primarily because I felt it was just too soon. Many safety features initially feel like they are in your way until you learn how to work with them. Tablesaw guards and jointer guards (especially European versions) tend to create a similar situation. So I really didn’t want to pass judgement too soon. Time will tell. I should also point out that in the video, I was using one of my tablesaw push sticks. Clearly not the best tool for the job, but it’s all I had access to at the time.

It’s Your Call

When I mentioned I would be doing a video on the CMS, I immediately received questions asking how it compares to other comparable router tables on the market and whether it would be worth the typical Festool premium. I am not really prepared to answer this right now as I have only worked with the system for a few days, using test pieces for the sake of demonstration. I’ll know a lot more in six months. Even then, I may not be able to tell you if it is “worth it” for you. Similar to most tools in the Festool lineup, some will find the feature set and quality-level irresistible and invaluable while others will simply balk at the price. Welcome to a phenomenon I like to call, The Festool Polarization.

What I can tell you with confidence is that this unit is every bit as capable as other router table systems we know and love already. Do the extra features justify the extra cost? Well, that depends on how much you value those extras. But rest assured, as with all Festool products, this unit is designed with precision and safety in mind and is made from high quality components. It also integrates seamlessly into pre-existing Festool setups.

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Written by Marc Spagnuolo

Marc is the host of The Wood Whisperer and author of Hybrid Woodworking.

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