RETAILING at over £600, (though prices do vary) end users would be justified in expecting the Festool CTM MIDI 1 dust extractor to be packed full of class-leading features as well as efficient and safe dust extraction – and to cut a long story short it is exactly that, writes PETER BRETT.
In the few weeks I have used this machine, I have come to appreciate its many virtues, but I am finding it hard to make the all-important value for money judgement.
Of course, for Festool Fans the answer is a no-brainer. I own and have used enough Festool tools to appreciate the Festool System that enables the various tools and accessories to work together, and the benefits that this brings. But I also have a value-for-money hat on which asks what a buyer is getting for the price.
I am sure that I am not the only end user that faces this dilemma, but hopefully a closer look at the features will help me solve the costs / benefits conundrum.
Sophisticated and mobile
One of the things I really like about this vac is that the hose and cable are well stowed so that moving it and lifting it are really simple and there are no cables to catch on things around the worksite. The cable and hose are also easy to stow so at packing up time you don’t waste time dealing with twisted cables and hose. I have to say that this is a real efficiency gain, so maybe that is a tick to put into the credit column of the value chart.
The Festool designers have not only managed to neatly stow the cable and hoses, but also left a flat lid which contains the lifting handle and can also be used as a flat base on which to clip a Systainer box (or two). The Systainer boxes also have top handles so potentially the dust extractor can still be lifted, but if more Systainers are added, then the whole unit and Systainers can be pushed along on the well-designed fixed back and castored front wheels.
With an empty collection bag, the weight of the MIDI is 11.3kg so it is well within the manual lifting recommendations. Another tick in the credit column?
Combining the length of the 7.5m power cable and the 3.5m hose, users can get a good 11m working radius which is pretty good for most indoor cleaning and dust extraction applications.
Both hose and cable are heavy duty – the braided nylon exterior of the extraction hose does not catch on things in the way that ribbed hoses often do, and the rubber outer insulation of the power cable should be proof against the sorts of rough surfaces and snags sometimes found on the worksite. Another tick?
Some users might never use it, nor indeed even discover it, but I like the brake on the front of the machine. It is very handy when you want it to stay in one place - perhaps where you have already cleaned – so that it doesn’t roll on to the area that hasn’t. A marginal touch and perhaps only worth half a tick?
But something that I think brings a whole range of benefits to the dust extractor is the placement of the flat filter cartridge directly into the body of the vac like a small drawer. This compact filter can be replaced in seconds and it takes up no room in the dust collection container - the filter bag does not have to be fitted around it. The result is that the dust container/filter bag have a collection capacity of 15 and 12.5 l respectively. And as anyone who has had to replace a filthy filter on a dust extractor will confirm, the ability to simply slide out the old filter and slide in a new one keeps dust exposure to a minimum and is definitely worth a couple of ticks in the credit column.
Similarly, the dust collection bag is easily accessed by unclipping the catches on each side of the casing. It can be sealed off with a sliding strip and lifted out for disposal. Due to the ‘dedusting’ feature, the dust bag can literally be filled until it is almost solidly packed with dust. “Dedusting’ is initiated by selecting manual full power suction, blocking off the end of the dust hose with your hand and then pushing down a switch above the filter tray three times at intervals. I think this is another tick because it aids efficiency and saves money.
Another refinement is the Bluetooth automatic switching system. Using a new type of Festool Bluetooth battery in a cordless tool connected for dust extraction, all the user has to do is switch on the tool and the machine (connected to the mains, of course) will switch on automatically and switch off again when the tool is stopped.
Should the user need to use a smaller diameter dust collection hose on a small sander for example, the electronics will automatically adjust the suction levels.
These considerable efficiency gains must get another tick in my view.
The switching on the front panel of the casing is simple and pretty self-explanatory. Users can select five levels of suction power, Bluetooth mode and manual mode. The switches are all dust protected, as is the auxiliary power socket – you never know, you might still want to plug in your old mains circular saw.
In use, there is now doubt that this CLEANTEC dust extractor is a star performer. It is easy to operate, easy to move around and it removes dusts of all kinds very efficiently whether from a tool or simply cleaning up a dusty floor.
There is an old adage that you get what you pay for and in the tool world this is largely true. The more I used the dust extractor the more I realised that it adds to your experience of jobs because it aids efficiency and safety and is intuitive to handle. So, the more you use it the more you appreciate that quality doesn’t come cheap.
Users who want one will have to bite the price bullet, but my guess is that they won’t be disappointed.