One of the best aspects of buying Festool is that you are buying into a system that links together wherever possible. So, saws and sanders and benches and vacuums etc, can all be coordinated to create a team of tools that will hopefully enable the highest quality work. This does mean that the user has to be up to the job too, but the Festool System provides a great starting point.
The other thing about the Festool system is that you can be confident that an Research and Development team, better qualified than you or I, has done all of the thinking during the development of the product, so all the user has to do is take advantage of the opportunities provided. This is definitely the feeling I was left with having used the CTM 36 E AC HD vacuum extractor for two weeks on site. I shall endeavour to explain how I came to this conclusion and why it is a comforting one.
The Dust Regulations
As most trades should know by now, the minimum requirement for a dust collector/extractor on sites is at least an M-Class machine capable of filtering out 99.9% of 10 micron size respirable dust from a number of sources. Most L-Class machines collected heavier dust quite well, but passed the highly dangerous respirable dust through the filter into the atmosphere where the dust particles are so tiny that they can float in the air for up to eight hours.
Confidence and Ease of Use
The first thing that buyers of this Festool vac will know is that it comes with the required HEPA filter and Airflow necessary to extract dangerous dusts up to M-Class requirements. Along with this is a built-in electronic monitoring system for filters and airflow. If the airflow ever falls below 20m/s a warning beep will sound to alert the user. All the control switches are grouped together and all are marked in green - Festool’s long-established way of marking parts that users need to know are controls.
Up to 5 diameters of extraction hose can be selected, from 16mm to 50mm, and the electronics will take care of power required from the motor to ensure the best possible extraction rate. The guesswork is taken out for the user – simply choose from the options and you can be confident of the correct performance.
Other controls are equally simple. Auto Clean is selected with a switch and this acates an electronic control that forces air under pressure through the filter and it is this that removes the dust from the filter and provides an opportunity for the extractor to take a breath every 10 seconds. To see this in action go to this link: -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeh5QWMGf6M
By simply plugging a corded power tool into the auxiliary socket and connecting it to the extraction hose, and selecting ‘automatic’ on the switch, the vacuum will come on when the tool is started and turn off when the tool is switched off. I was able to work at sanding a series of six rather woodworm eaten doors outside with no visible dust, and the noise levels from the vac were less than the sander’s. Selecting the suction needed to ensure good extraction as well as efficient sanding is again very easy – just move the relevant switch.
Other Reassuring Things
For those tired of squashed and easily tangled extraction hoses, the 4 metre-long green and black Festool hose resists kinking and is antistatic. No clingy dust when you clear it up at the end of the day. The machine end of the hose has a rubber adaptor that fits tightly into the front of the machine, as well as into the closing slide that comes with this vacuum. Using the closing slide ensures that the user can close off the hose aperture when the hose is removed, making dust leaks impossible. Or you can use the sealing plug provided. The other end of the hose has a standard rubber adaptor that can be teamed with a Festool stepped adaptor to fit the tool in hand. Storing the hose in transit is done via the foldable hose holder on top of the casing.
To allow for a generous working radius the Festool has 7.5 metres of rubberised mains cord and typically, Festool has thought about where to store it by providing a tool and cable storage holder that is attached to the back by two screws.
By attaching an optional Systainer retainer, other tools in boxes may be attached for easy transport.
Filter and Bag Maintenance
There is little point in providing M-Class extraction only to expose users to concentrated dusts when the dust bag needs emptying or the filter needs changing. Of course, the right grade of face mask is needed, but both of these tasks can be done quickly and easily by the user. Replacements are simply slotted into place with a minimum of exposure time to dust.
The vac can also be used to collect water spills but precautions need to be taken and then it needs to be allowed to dry out thoroughly before reinstalling a dust bag.
In Daily Use
I used this vacuum intensively for two weeks on a barn restoration, where it was used connected to circular saws and sanders, as well as collecting cement and sand dust and clearing up at the end of the day. It has a big 36 litre capacity and took up a large space in my boot. Weighing 14.5 Kgs it is not that easy to lift into my hatchback, but the big wheels make moving it, even on roughish surfaces, quite easy. The truth is, regular site users need a machine with some capacity because of the workloads. By the end of the two weeks I had grown so used to the Festool that it was part of my work routine. Efficient, easy to use and reliable.
Some will always bring up the common complaint about the price – this vac costs over £600. But we need to take into account Festool’s extended warranty, service and insurance offer and 10 year parts guarantee in our calculations. I rather like the ease and confidence that such a machine provides and I am also worried enough about my lung health to think that users need to look at the bigger picture.
Festool Fans, on the other hand, will have none of these concerns – they have already established that being part of the Festool system has lots of advantages.