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Bob Marino of Festool asked if I would try the Festool ATF 55E circular saw in our shop and pass on a review. Since we use our DeWALT 364 circular saw with shop-made cutting guides and table as a "panel saw", I enthusiastically accepted the offer to work with the Festool circular saw, its guide rail and a Festool dust extractor.
The Festool catalog advertises the phrase LIKE NOTHING ELSE on its cover. It only takes a few minutes with the ATF 55E and its accessories to agree. The saw may appear like a typical circular saw to the casual observer, but once you handle it and begin to use it you'll find it is quite a different animal. Because the saw is so unique, I wrote this review in two parts. Part 1 includes my usual, like and no like lists. Part 2 provides a more indepth look at the saw and its unique features, including a few videos.
Note: Clicking the hypertext links (bold-faced blue text) and blue-framed images will launch additional content.
Depth Adjustment and Stop
Two non-slip strips are applied to the bottom of the guide that prevent the guide from slipping. Consequently, you can use the guide rail without clamping it to the work surface. I have used the guide on melamine without the guide rail clamps and the guide did not slip. Because of the plunge design of the saw, it is necessary to apply downward pressure against the depth stop during a cut-this pressure in conjunction with the non-slip strips, keeps the guide from slipping. This is a boon for anyone cutting counter tops or other surfaces where it might be inconvenient or impossible to "clamp" the guide/straight edge.
Base (Sole Plate-Shoe)
Riving Knife - Splitter
Festool Thinks of Everything
The blade / blade carriage does not lock in the extended position.
Millimeters-Metric System. The depth stop adjustment scale is in millimeters and I don't use the metric system. Luckily the depths I use are easy to remember (i.e., 25 mm for cutting ¾" panels with the guide rail).
You must remove the riving knife/splitter to perform pocket/plunge cuts.
span class="red">You must adjust the angle guide for square.
I would like to see their rip-guide included with the saw.
Click to view a brief slide show of the Festool ATF55E.
The Festool ATF 55E circular saw out performs my DeWALT 364 and PC 743 in several ways. It's lighter and better balanced than either saw. The standard blade is much better than the blades supplied with either saw for panel and finish carpentry tasks. In conjunction with the Festool guide rail, it will cut a straight, accurate, clean line. Its dust collection is far superior to our DeWALT 364 and other circular saws I have owned or used. And it is head and shoulders above our primary saws in regards to details such as depth adjustment (accuracy and ease), blade changing, noise levels, and so forth. I highly recommend the saw for cabinet making, finish carpentry, or other fine woodworking. It is best suited for woodworking activities that require a precise and easy to handle saw. I would not recommend it as a framer's saw or a general purpose, throw-it-in-the-back-of-the-truck type saw. With the right blade it will cut construction lumber, metals, or whatever, but I think I would purchase a second, less-expensive saw for such duties.
And what about price? Well, the saw, guide rail, and systainer runs about $375.00. If you figure in the premium top-notch blade (I paid $60.00 for my 7-1/4" Forrest WWII), the guide rail (a non-integrated guide runs about $60), its performance, pleasure of use and a three year warranty (an indication of the tool's reliability), the price does not seem out of line. A decent panel saw with less versatility, precision, and splinter control will run several times the price of the ATF 55E. The saw is geared towards professional cabinet makers, finish carpenters, floor installers, and small shops who will quickly see the dividends of a Festool captial investment. However, I recommend that anyone who wants a state-of-the-art circular saw and panel cutting system should take a look at the ATF 55E.
Generally big-box home centers do not carry Festool products. So, where can you purchase Festool tools and accessories? A number of Woodworking Tool mail order and chain retail stores are starting to carry them. You can also order Festool products online, direct from the Festool-USA web site or from Bob Marino's Festool retail web site. I purchase my Festool accessories and parts from Bob Marino.....
Festool Online Sales - Bob Marino
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