DowelMax Vs. Festool Domino Dowel Jig: In-depth Differences

Woodworkers have been creating strong, long-lasting furniture and cabinetry using dowels for centuries. Dowels are wooden pins that act as internal supports, aligning and strengthening wood joints.

While doweling by hand takes patience and precision, modern dowel jigs have simplified the process. Two of the most popular doweling tools on the market today are the DowelMax and Festool Domino. But which one is right for your woodworking needs?

We’ll compare the key features and performance of these two dowel jig systems to help you decide.

A Brief Comparison Table

FeatureDowelMaxFestool Domino
Doweling MethodFluted dowels into drilled holesLoose tenons into mortise slots
Dowel Size Options20mm diameter dowels4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm tenons
Dowel Spacing32mm – 128mm, requires spacers20mm – 500mm with fence
Dowel PositioningClamp guide references edgeFence registers off edge
OperationDrilling then dowel insertionPlunge cutting mortises
Learning CurveMore setup timeVery fast setup
SpeedDoweling is slowerRapid plunge cutting
Cost~$150 for starter kit$1000+ for tool
Optimal Use CasesCurved work, traditionalistsProduction, speed focus

Introducing The DowelMax and Festool Domino

The Dowelmax and Festool Domino represent the pinnacle of dowel joinery systems. Both allow quick, accurate dowel placement for versatile and durable wood joints. However, there are some key differences between these premium tools.

  • Dowelmax
DowelMax Dowel Jig

The award-winning Dowelmax system consists of a drill guide jig and specialty self-centering dowel drill bits.

The drill guide precisely positions 20mm holes to accept the included fluted oak dowels.

With various bushing sizes, you can center dowel holes at different distances from board edges.

The Dowelmax drill guide mounts to your workpiece using sturdy clamps.

This allows drilling straight, evenly-spaced holes up to 24” long. Dowelmax’s open design provides excellent drill bit access at any angle. Micro-adjustable side stops allow fine-tuning hole positioning.

Dowelmax’s drill bits feature a flat centering tip that positions the bit precisely before the flutes cut the hole. This prevents wandering and ensures centered holes. Depth stops control hole depth for consistent results. Spacers pair with the Dowelmax drill guide to widen spacing options between 32mm and 128mm.

  • Festool Domino

The Festool Domino utilizes a plunge-cutting mechanism to directly slot mortises for loose tenons. The Domino joiner has a single chisel-like cutter that slices mortises as you push the tool through your workpiece. An adjustment dial controls mortise depth from 5mm to 30mm.

Festool Domino Dowel Jig

The Domino uses a simple hole-spacing system for quick alignment.

The gaps between mortise slots are adjustable from 20mm to 500mm apart.

You slide the joiner along a fence to space and cut each mortise.

The joiner fence references off one workpiece edge for consistency.

The Domino loose tenons are short, rectangular blocks made from high-density beech. You tap the tenons into the matching mortise slots with a mallet to draw the joints tightly together.

The Domino can cut curved slots for mortise-tenon joinery on shaped workpieces. An aftermarket fence further expands tenon spacing options.

DowelMax And Domino – Direct Feature Comparison

Now that we’ve introduced both systems, let’s take a closer look at how they stack up against each other:

Dowel Joint Method

  • Dowelmax – Uses traditional fluted dowels inserted into precisely drilled holes.
  • Domino – Utilizes loose tenons inserted into slot mortises cut by the tool.

Dowel Size Options

  • Dowelmax – Works with standard 20mm dowels.
  • Domino – Proprietary tenons come in widths of 4mm, 6mm, 8mm and 10mm.

Dowel Spacing

  • Dowelmax – Adjustable spaces between 32mm and 128mm. Requires drill guide spacers.
  • Domino – Spaces mortises from 20mm to 500mm apart. Easily set via positioning fence.

Dowel Positioning

  • Dowelmax – Drill guide clamps to workpiece for consistent edge distance.
  • Domino – Joiner fence references off workpiece edge. Depth stop sets mortise depth.


  • Dowelmax – Requires separate drilling and dowel insertion.
  • Domino – Plunge cutter machines mortises. Simply tap in tenons with mallet.

Learning Curve

  • Dowelmax – More intricate setup but easy drilling process.
  • Domino – Very fast setup and operation overall.


  • Dowelmax – Doweling process takes longer.
  • Domino – Quickly slots mortises with direct plunge cutting.


  • Dowelmax – Drill guide package starts around $150
  • Domino – Joiner costs $1,000+, proprietary tenons extra

Why Choose Dowelmax?

DowelMax Doweling Jig

So when does it make sense to choose the Dowelmax over the more popular Festool Domino? Here are the main advantages of the Dowelmax doweling system:

  • Traditional Wood Joinery

Dowelmax allows you to employ traditional fluted hardwood dowels to create time-tested joints. The traditional doweling process provides excellent strength and alignment. Many woodworkers simply prefer the classic look and construction of dowel joints.

  • Cost

The Dowelmax drill guide is only a fraction of the cost of the Festool Domino. For thrifty hobbyists, the Dowelmax provides premium accuracy and results without the premium price tag. While the Domino machines mortises rapidly, the process with the Dowelmax just takes longer rather than being more difficult.

  • No Proprietary Consumables

You aren’t locked into buying Domino brand tenons with the Dowelmax. It accepts standard, affordable 20mm hardwood dowels available anywhere. With Domino, the proprietary tenons can get very pricey, especially for large projects.

  • Easier Curved Joinery

Creating doweled joints on curved workpieces is simpler with the Dowelmax. The Domino requires special curved slot mortising for curved joinery. With Dowelmax, you just clamp the drill guide and drill evenly spaced holes along the curve.

  • No Learning Curve

The Dowelmax has a more straightforward operation without the plunge cutting finesse required for the Domino. If you are intimidated by the Domino, Dowelmax provides an easier entry into precise dowel joinery.

Why Choose Festool Domino?

Festool Domino Doweling Jig

The Domino’s popularity is well-deserved, however. Here are some key benefits that make it a standout doweling machine:

  • Speed

There’s no arguing that the Domino is faster for most doweling tasks. The integrated plunge cutting makes short work of slotting mortises. Being able to rapidly machine joints is the Domino’s biggest selling point for most users.

  • One-Tool Doweling

With the Domino, you don’t have to swap between multiple drills and dowel insertion tools. The single machine handles the complete doweling procedure from start to finish. The all-in-one functionality aids speed, convenience and consistency.

  • Precise Spacing

Setting the fence to your desired spacing and cutting all mortises in one pass eliminates measuring errors. You can be confident every mortise is precisely spaced and aligned with little setup. Dowelmax requires more careful setup for each set of holes.

  • Cleaner Dowel Holes

The Domino’s spinning mortising chisel leaves cleaner, smoother slot walls than drilling. This allows easier tenon insertion without tearing up the mortise edges. Drilling is more prone to chip out, especially in brittle exotic woods.

  • Lower Chance of Mistakes

With automated positioning and depth control, the Domino makes it harder to mess up. All mortises come out spaced accurately and to the ideal depth with little effort. It’s easier to drill off-center holes or incorrect depths with the Dowelmax if you aren’t meticulous.

  • Stronger Glue Joints

Dominos allow very substantial glue surface area between the mortise walls and sides of the loose tenon. This creates an incredibly strong bond. While dowels are glued too, the long grain glue surface is much more limited.

DowelMax Or Domino – Which Is Best For You?

As you can see, there are excellent reasons to select either system. Here are some guidelines for choosing the best option for your woodworking:

The Domino is ideal if you:

  • Do a lot of repetitive dowel joints in production or need speed.
  • Want the strongest possible joint with maximum glue surface area.
  • Prefer the simplicity and minimal setup of an all-in-one doweling machine.
  • Appreciate the crisp mortises created by the plunge cutting mechanism.

The Dowelmax excels when you:

  • Want the traditional look and feel of real wood dowel joinery.
  • Need to dowel curved workpieces.
  • Desire an accurate and affordable alternative to the pricey Domino.
  • Prefer the more tactile process of drilling holes and tapping in dowels.
  • Dowel infrequently so speed is less important.

For most hobbyists doing occasional dowel joinery, the Dowelmax provides tremendous value. The less expensive Dowelmax has a longer learning curve but produces comparable results to the Domino.

However, furniture factories and other professional settings will maximize productivity from the Domino’s incredible speed and timesaving convenience.

There’s no definitively “correct” option, only the best choice based on your specific needs and preferences. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each system, you can confidently select the ideal doweling tool to match your work style.

Both produce extremely accurate, strong joints in the hands of a trained operator.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is there a cheaper version of Festool Domino?

There are some less expensive alternatives that mimic some functions of the Festool Domino:
Porter Cable 557 – At around $230, this doweling jig has spaced bushings to guide drilling. It lacks the Domino’s mortising capabilities however.
Mibro 416.511 – Mibro makes a mini plunge router for around $300 that can cut loose tenon mortises. It requires more manual precision than the Domino.
WoodRat – Starting around $500, the WoodRat uses interchangeable templates for drilling, routing and mortising tasks. It can create Domino-style joints but is slower.
While cheaper, these options lack the refinement, speed and accuracy of the Festool Domino. The Domino’s optimized design and precision engineering justify the higher price for serious woodworkers.

Who makes Dowelmax?

Dowelmax was created and is manufactured by theJoinTech company located in Snohomish, Washington, USA. TheJoinTech is focused on innovative woodworking tools and jigs. They have patented the unique self-centering drill bits that are the key to Dowelmax’s accuracy and ease of use.

What can you use instead of a domino?

There are several traditional wood joinery techniques that can substitute for a Festool Domino:
Mortise and Loose Tenon – Cut mortises with chisel or drill then make loose tenons with router or table saw. Requires precision work.
Biscuits – Cut slots with a biscuit joiner and use football-shaped biscuits to align boards. Quick but less strength.
Pocket Holes – Drill angled pocket holes to screw adjoining boards together from the back side. Also a quick, low-strength joint.
Traditional Dowels – Use a doweling jig like Dowelmax for precisely aligned dowel holes. More time consuming than Domino method.
Dovetails – Hand cut or machine cut dovetails offer excellent joint strength through interlocking joints. Complex and slow, however.
While lacking the Domino’s speed and engineering, these techniques can create comparable joints with added time, skill, and effort.

What is a domino joint?

A Domino joint refers to the proprietary loose tenon joinery system created and popularized by Festool. Here’s a quick overview of domino joints:
1. Holes called “mortises” are cut into the mating surfaces using the Domino joiner’s plunge cutting mechanism.
2. Mortises are precisely spaced and aligned between adjoining boards using the joiner’s fence and depth stop.
3. Small “loose tenons” made from beech wood are tapped into the mortise holes.
4. When glue is added and joints assembled, the tenons lock the boards together firmly and accurately.
5. The rectangular tenons provide substantial long grain glue surface to create very strong joints.
6. Domino joints are admired for their speed, strength and precision compared to traditional woodworking joinery techniques. The Domino machine eliminates much of the skill and effort needed for strong wood joints.

Closing Remarks

While the Festool Domino has faster operation, integrated mortising, and rock-solid strength, the Dowelmax provides an extremely viable alternative for passionate hobbyists.

With careful setup and drilling, the Dowelmax allows creating joints that are nearly as precise and strong using traditional doweling techniques. The Dowelmax drill guide is simpler and more affordable while producing professional-level results.

However, for production shops where speed is paramount, the premium Domino joiner can’t be beaten. Whichever doweling jig you choose, you can achieve sturdy long-lasting furniture and cabinetry.

Take your time to evaluate your needs and woodworking style to determine if the DowelMax or Festool Domino is right for your next project.

Ralph Wade

Hey...Ralph is here! So, did you find this article useful? If so, please leave a comment and let me know. If not, please tell me how I can improve this article. Your feedback is always appreciated. Take love :)

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