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Festool TDK 12 and 15.6

 a Review


Bill Esposito

5 January 2005


I must tell you that I really enjoy reviewing tools and writing reviews though when it gets to putting pen to paper some of the more complex items end up being less enjoyable and more of a chore. When I received these two drills for evaluation I thought to myself, "ahh, something simple to look at". Well I was wrong! These drills have alot to evaluate and report on and judging from the amount of pictures I took, this review is going to take some work.

As with all my reviews I'll try to describe in detail all aspects of these tools with my goal to to provide you with enough information that you can make up your own mind as if you were standing in a tool store looking it over in person. Feel free to double click on any picture to bring up a larger version for more clarity. The drills were provided by Festool USA for evaluation.

What's in the box...umm Systainer:
The drills are delivered right in their Systainer. The Systainer is then packaged in a shipping box. If this is your first Festool purchase, the Systainer is part of Festools modular tool storage system, it is not a cheap plastic case like you get with most other tools. The Systainers have multi-position latches so that the box can be used alone or latched together with others. They can also be latched onto some of Festools vacuum systems and slid into the Systainer-Port to make a roll around cabinet.
Inside the box (photo at right of TDK 15.6) You'll find the drill, CENTROTEC chuck, FastFix keyless chuck, two NiCd batteries, 45 minute charger and assorted bits. If you look on the charger at right I've laid the three included bits on top. You'll receive a bit adapter to allow you to utilize regular bits in the CENTROTEC chuck, a Phillips bit, a torx bit and a 3mm drill bit (.1285"). If you order the TDK-12 set you will also receive FastFix right angle and eccentric chucks.

Before we move on I thought it noteworthy to show you the included documentation.The drills include complete parts breakdowns for everything...including the chucks.

The Specs:

TDK 15.6 CE
Battery Voltage
No Load Speed
0-450 (low gear)
0-430 (low gear)
0-1500 (high gear)
0-1400 (high gear)
Chuck Size
Max drill dia. in steel
Max drill dia. in wood
1 3/8"
Torque setting range
4.5-62 in. lbs.
4.5-62 in. lbs.
Max torque in steel
320 in. lbs.
250 in. lbs.
Max torque in wood
220 in. lbs.
175 in. lbs.
Weight with battery
5 lbs.
4.4 lbs.

The Drills
Being familiar with Festool products, the first thing I thought when I grabbed one of the drills was, "Where the heck you hook up the vacuum?". Of course the TDK drills are one of the few Festool products which dosen't connect to their dustless vacuum system :) As you can see there really isn't much difference in size between the two drills. I emailed Festool and asked them why they picked 15.6v (on left in photo) as the size for the larger drill and their answer was simply that the batteries fit in the same form factor as the 12v. That makes sense since I think for most woodworkers we tend to like the smaller drills and these are marketed as compact.
The drills weigh 5 lbs and 4.4 lbs for the 15.6v and 12v respectively and I find that they feel a bit heavy for compact drills. This is undoubtedly due to their metal gears etc. I did search the net and at most the 12v is about .4 lbs heavier than the leading brands but I'm used to my 9.6v Bosch and it seems much lighter.

As you can see there isn't much difference in size between the two drills. The 15.6v TDK (left at bottom) being slightly longer overall and the 15v battery bulging just a bit (right at top).

Well, just how big are they? My everyday drill is a Bosch 9.6v Compact Tough which until I received these Festools I thought was fairly small. You can see that the angle of attack for the driver is just slightly more than 90° and that the TDK's overall height and length is smaller.
These drills can fit in some pretty tight spaces. The 15.6v TDK with just a Phillips bit inserted into the motor (oh, you didn't know about that?) measures 7.5" (top right) and utilizing the CENTROTEC chuck with bit adapter it measures just 9.5".

Now is as good a time as any to talk about the chucks. There are actually 5 different chucking options with the TDK. The chucks are all quick connect style with the Fast Fix and CENTROTEC (left top and bottom) having a collar that you slide and can be installed/removes with one hand. The eccentric and right angle have variable positions at which they can be set so they attach via a bayonet style connection and require both hands to install. The fifth option is no chuck at all.

At left you can see the bayonet style connection of the eccentric chuck. The gear like protuberances allow the chuck to be positively locked in any position in 22.5° increments. The FastFix and CENTROTEC chucks at right simply pop on and off. Before I get into the fancier chucks, the standard FastFix keyless chuck is a one-handed chuck and works very well. If you have a couple of them chucked up with something that doesn't come in a quick disconnect style, you can use the chucks as your quick disconnect...they go on and off that easy.

No, that's not a jet turbine at left. You're looking at the business end of the TDK with the chuck removed. One of the outstanding features of this drill design is that the bits attach directly into the motor shaft when using the CENTROTEC chuck. In the setup at right a phillips bit is inserted directly into the motor shaft. Also note the two tabs on the the motor housing which are the male ends of the bayonet connections.

CENTROTEC: I borrowed the drawing at left from the Festool site but unfortunately it is as large as its going to get. If you can see it on your monitor what it depicts is a CENTROTEC bit inserted in the chuck. The bit's hex shank inserts directly into the motor shaft that you saw above. The chuck itself slips over that motor shaft and contacts the bit. You can click on the photo at right to enlarge it for a better view of how the chuck works. Because of this design, the CENTROTEC ensures the truest, concentric drilling of any chuck I've seen.

The right angle chuck works great for those hard to reach screws inside a cabinet. You can either insert a bit directly into it ala the drill motor or you can slip on the CENTROTEC chuck and gain the added versatility it has to offer. The Right Angle chuck, like the end of the motor shaft has no way of retaining the bit unless you add the CENTROTEC or FastFix. If you want to use bits directly in the end of the motor shaft or right angle chuck you need to buy the ones with some sort of built in retainer...ball bearing or ring clip.

The eccentric chuck (my favorite) allows you to get right up to a wall or cabinet side and drill a hole. It is equipped with a bit retainer which uses ball bearings. Just about any bit with a detent will lock in place. The eccentric chuck, like the right angle chuck, can lock itself in 22.5° increments.

If you have a high speed internet connection you can click here for a short movie clip demonstrating the different chucks. (5mb)

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Copyright © 2005, Bill Esposito.
All Rights Reserved.