Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ron Wenner Made my Day today

In 2006 Festool released their Domino joining system. At the time, I was working at a store that sold them. I can say with a fair amount of perspective that there was a large group of woodworkers who were collectively wetting themselves over this machine. Incontinence isn't something to make jokes about. Communal voluntary incontinence is something else, though.

As things would have it, early adopters learned pretty quickly that it was great... but there were issues. That's one of the perks of being an early adopter of any new product, so I'm not picking on Festool here. Not all of the fences on the early versions locked down the height adjustment adequately. As a result, joints weren't lining up as cleanly as they should have. Some of the brave souls took to performing their own modifications. Others simply cranked down on the tightening knob and learned to deal with the fence when it deflected. Festool eventually released an updated fence, and I'm told that the problem was solved. I'm still having problems with mine, because I've heard stories about damage due to over-tightening.

So who is Ron Wenner? He's the guy who made using this machine a lot easier.

As a  result of their frustration with the fence, and the fussiness, someone on Festool Owner's Group had taken to bolting a piece of plywood to the bottom of the Domino. The idea was to make a rigid, fixed fence, and simply using the machine upside down. It wasn't the most eloquent solution, but by God it worked. Not long after, Ron Wenner shows up on the scene with a milled aluminum plate. It has a slot down the middle, to make it easy to see the alignment mark that's scribed on the bottom plate of the tool. It's beefy. And it has different offsets: Positioned one way, it centers the mortise in 3/4" stock. Flipped over, it centers in 1/2" stock.

What I like about Ron's jig is that it's made the process a little more analogous to a point-and-shoot camera. It substitutes ease of use for adjustability. Just line up with a pencil mark and shove.

I received mine in the mail the other day. I was excited to see what it could do, but I had to wait until I was at that step in the project... which was this morning. In short, the jig really made my day. It was everything I hoped for. During my first trial run, the joints I made were dead flat when everything was clamped up. If I'd had one of these on my last job, with all of the frame and panel work, it would have saved me at least a day or two of planing and sanding out uneven joints.
What I realized, as I worked with it, and grinned like a monkey, was that there's more going on with this version than I'd originally noticed. The plate is beefy. And flat. And it hangs WAY out there. In other words, it's provided a great clamping surface. When the time comes, and it will to start mortising out narrow pieces of wood, I'll be able to clamp directly to the work, before mortising. That's going to eliminate A LOT of user error problems, and make using the domino on small pieces a lot easier.

I wrote to Ron earlier today to let him know how happy I was about his jig. For those of you who are interested in getting one for yourself, look for response #188 on page 7 of the above mentioned thread on FOG.

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