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Festool’s German production leaves little room for error

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I’m told that German beer — which according to the Reinheitsgebot (“purity decree”) can only be made from water, hops, malt and yeast — does not produce a hangover. After extensive testing, I can say this is mostly true. But the rules change when you throw on your lederhosen and head to a beer festival in Stuttgart.

Yes, that’s me in the picture. What you can’t see are another dozen or so North American woodworking industry writers and editors in similar dress, part of a weeklong invite from Festool to tour its manufacturing facilities around southern Germany.

This was my second visit to Germany at Festool’s request. In 2006, we were introduced to the Domino joinery system before it hit the U.S. market. It was love at first sight by the tool junkies that attend these events.

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For this trip, like the previous one, we had no idea what to expect. The itinerary was top secret. We arrived in Munich and took a luxury bus to a Stuttgart hotel, where the secrecy continued. For most of the next three days, Festool had our undivided attention, making new product presentations, showing its manufacturing processes and testing facilities, and providing insight to what I can only describe as the Festool way.

For example, we learned that it takes about four years to bring a tool from concept to market, 80 percent of the tools are made in Germany and the company has pretty much perfected lean manufacturing. My quick impressions from watching the assembly line: Productivity and performance is measured around the clock; the employees know this and work hard as a team, assembling and packaging complete tools in a U-shaped work cell; and slackers were nowhere to be seen.

Festool says it will launch 12 new tools in 2015. The Conturo KA 65 edgebander is this year’s Domino and it’s a great example of Festool’s engineers studying what the competition has to offer, creating an entirely new tool and completing a thorough testing procedure before its release.

The Conturo is a hand-held, portable edgebander that can apply wood, plastic and melamine edging with a height of 23/32” to 2-9/16” (18-65 mm) and thickness of 1/32” to 1/8” (0.5-3 mm) to straight and curved surfaces. It features a self-contained glue cartridge system that eliminates glue-pit related hassles while allowing for rapid color changes.

A Festool dealer showroom in Aichstetten, Bavaria.

Festool has several new cordless tools, starting with the 36-volt TSC 55 plunge-cut saw. It’s powered by two 15- or 18-volt batteries, which can be used in any combination or with just one battery to reduce weight. It’s also compatible with the company’s guide rail and accessory system.

There are two new 18-volt drills — the Quadradrive with a four-speed gear unit and the C 18 — plus the BHC 18 hammer drill that will be available June 1, along with the TSC 55 and currently available Conturo.

This fall, Festool is scheduled to release an 18-volt circular saw, two 10.8-volt compact drills (TXS and CXS) and the ETS EC 150 random orbit sander.

We’ll provide more information in upcoming issues. But for now, Bis wir uns wieder treffen (“Till we meet again”).

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue.

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