50 Cool Things You Could Have Seen at the Tool Store in Aichstetten, Germany

The first thing you see upon entering the store is a large area devoted to Festool, with the occasional stationary machine mixed in. The back wall is covered with an astounding assortment of sandpaper and polishing supplies—a Festool catalog come to life.

The second room in from the entrance contains a number of brands, with the largest area devoted to Makita. There are also power tools from Lamello, machinery from Felder, and multiple brands of hand tools.

The third room in contains Mafell, Fein, DeWalt, and industrial equipment. One of the interesting things about Miller is the breadth of product it sells—everything from small hand tools to giant industrial machines.

Room number three also contains stationary equipment, including sliding table saws, edge banders, and a vacuum press (the thing that looks like an old fashioned chest freezer with the lid open).

The biggest machine in the showroom is a vertical panel saw that’s about 20’ long and 10’ tall. Miller is probably “show rooming” it. If someone wants to buy, a machine will likely be delivered straight from the manufacturer—in this case, a company called Elcon.

This is one of several aisles of hand tools in room number two. It was surprising to me to be in a tool store where I could see industrial machines in one room and chisels, hammers, and squares in another.

Except for the 220-volt motors on the corded models, most of these DeWalt tools are more or less the same as are sold in the U.S. Three that are not available here: the barrel grip jig saw, the beam saw, and the “ alligator saw” to the right of the corded wormdrive.

This portion of room number one contains a mix of stationary equipment (mostly Felder, an Austrian brand) and portable table saws such as this one from Festool. Yes, Festool makes table saws, but you are unlikely to ever see them here. Why? European portable table saws are different than ours: they lack cabinets, the guards are different, and in many cases the blade can be moved back and forth in the table for cross-cutting (here we prefer miter saws for cross-cutting). And what tool company in its right mind would enter the U.S. table saw market with the CPSC/SawStop issue unresolved?

Here’s something you won’t see in the U.S., a combination table/miter saw. With the miter saw locked down, the table can be flipped and the bottom side (now facing up) used as a table saw. The same blade and motor are used for both applications. This particular saw is from Makita, but many tool companies sell similar products in Europe. Machines of this type were available here in the 1980s and 90s; I worked with a carpenter who had one from Elu. The idea of converting back and forth between table and miter saw did not appeal to me but my coworker liked it because he drove a small SUV and it fit the back with space left over for many other tools.

Here’s a different take on the combination saw, slide miter saw below and table saw above. The appeal of these machines is lost on me, but then I don’t live in Europe, where vehicles are small and storage space more limited than here. This particular model is from DeWalt; similar models are available from just about every tool company that sells benchtop saws in Europe.

The Festool Symetric SYM 70E is a non-beveling chop-style saw with pivoting fences that allow for the automatic bisection of angles. It’s difficult to describe how the thing works—best to watch the video. This saw is available in Europe but not the U.S.

This DeWalt drill/driver illustrates how things are different in Europe. I own the U.S. version of this drill, and the battery in mine says “20V MAX”. But the battery in this one says 18V. Why? In Europe, if a battery is nominally 18 volts (5 cells at 3.6 volts each in compact packs; 5 cells x 2 in full size packs) it must be labeled 18 volts. In the U.S. there’s no law against labeling packs with the maximum voltage they can deliver the moment they come off the charger—which is why batteries that would be 10.8 volts and 18 volts in Europe are called 12-volt max and 20-volt max here.

This 10.8- and 18-volt drill/driver are from Mafell, a company far better known for corded circular saws, beam saws, jig saws, and chainsaw mortisers.

The CTL-SYS is a corded vacuum built into a Systainer. The motor, tools, and collection bag are under the lower lid. The hose and cord store in the upper unit—which can be removed to make the vac more portable than it already is. Currently available in Europe, it’s hard to believe there won’t someday be a U.S. version of this product—because for many jobs a small vac is all that’s needed.

This DWS778 is descended from a much older Elu miter saw that continues to be popular in Europe (Milwaukee sells a similarly configured saw there, including an M18 cordless model). Elu invented the plunge router in 1951 and was acquired by Black & Decker in 1984. DeWalt’s first plunge router was a rebranded Elu.

You probably recognize most of the cordless drill and impact drivers on the upper shelf—as they are already available here. The hammer drill/driver on the upper right ( Quadrive PDC184) will soon be released on the U.S. market. The lower shelf contains jigsaws and some tools that may soon be available in this country: a cordless plunge cutting track saw, a rotary hammer, and a drywall screwdriver.

Makita does not sell cordless barrel grip models in the U.S., but they do in Europe, where barrel grip is the preferred configuration. The 5.0 Ah battery recently announced in this country is already available in Europe. The battery on this tool was impossibly light, because it was a dummy with no cells inside. I asked why and was told they have the same problem in Germany we have here; batteries in tool stores tend to grow legs…

For truth in advertising, you’ve got to hand it to the Europeans—because their portable table saws do look like tables. I’m not making fun of this style of saw. With the use of dust collection little is gained by having the motor enclosed in a cabinet. And being so long front to back this saw has to be stable. The large blade, narrow rip capacity, and emphasis on cross cutting suggest this machine is intended for use with timber rather than sheet goods.

This is the price tag on the table saw in the previous slide. At the current exchange rate one Euro equals $1.10 USD. Why the two prices? The first is the price of the machine. The second is the price of the machine including Mehrwertsteuer (MwST), the German equivalent of the value added tax (VAT) charged in the U.K. or sales tax charged here.

The first time I saw it I thought this tool from Lamello (Tanga Delta S2) was a super-sized plate jointer. But it’s something entirely different, a specialized machine for removing/replacing European-style windows (probably mostly from masonry buildings). The machine reminds me of a jamb saw; it plunges like a plate jointer and can be equipped with the base that allows it to slide along the window as it is cutting—to separate the window from the surrounding trim or cut straight through the jamb. It’s hard to explain how the tool works—best to see it in action (clearly, windows are installed differently in Europe than here).

There are few tools in this photo you haven’t already seen. The dovetail jig on the upper shelf is kind of surprising, as is the small vacuum on the lower left shelf. This smaller more basic wet/dry vac is available with or without tool activation. I saw this model being produced at the Festool/Tanos factory in Illertissen, Germany. More on that factory in an upcoming story….

Maybe half of these tools are currently available in the U.S. The belt sanders and pneumatic sanders on the top right shelf definitely are not. The low-profile brushless sanders on the lower shelf (4th and 5th in from the right) are new to Germany and may come here late this year or early next.

Felder makes industrial woodworking machinery in Austria. Hammer is a less expensive, though seemingly equally well-made, sub-brand of Felder. Both brands are available in the U.S.

Wall chasers, such as this Makita SG1250, are common on European remodeling sites—where masonry construction means there are no stud bays in which to run plumbing and wiring. The wall chaser contains a pair of diamond blades that are used to cut parallel kerfs in concrete and masonry. The waste is chiseled out to form a channel, in which pipes or wires can be run. It’s a terribly messy job so the machines are typically connected to dust-collecting vacs. Many tool companies offer wall chasers and specialized attachments for rotary hammers for cutting in electrical boxes; click here to see a Hilti wall chaser in action.

This is one of the smaller, more portable, Festool table saws at the store. The gizmo that holds the fence can be used for ripping or to set angles when the machine is being used as a pull-saw. In that mode, the material remains stationary and the blade is pulled towards the front of the table to cut it. This configuration is common in Europe; it’s akin to using a radial arm saw where the blade is under rather than over the table.

Many German carpenters use latthammers, hammers with square heads and mismatched claws—one long and pointy and the other short and blunt. Most have magnetic nail holders on top. Look them up in a catalog and you will see them described as “carpenter’s roofing hammers”. I don’t know why they call them that, unless it’s because the point could be used to punch holes in slate or because in a part of the world where masonry is dominant the roof is one of the few parts of the house that is framed. What I do know is square heads can drive nails, asymmetrical claws can pull them, and hammers of this kind make for an entertaining juggling act.

This is the area just in from the loading dock.

This is one of many aisles where parts and accessories are stored. Those shady looking characters in back are our own Michael Springer and Core 77’s Rain Noe.

I can think of only one Mafell supplier in the U.S. and that company caters to timber framers—who buy beam saws, chainsaw mortisers, and the like. But Mafell also makes carpentry and cabinet making tools.

Here are a couple of Mafell circular saws that attach to a cross-cutting rail that allows carpenters to cut precise angles one-handed.

This Festool circ saw ( HKC 55) is similar to the Mafell saws in the previous slide. It can be used on or off the cross-cutting rail, or with a standard FS rail. On the cross-cutting rail it’s a portable cross-cutting machine, which I could see using to for exterior trim and basic interior trim. Carpenters who have always had access to miter saws might have trouble accepting the idea that trim can be cut with a hand-held machine. But I know it can be done because that’s how I did it in my early days in the trade, when power miter saws were rare and it was not always possible to bring a radial arm saw or table saw to the jobsite.

I was excited to find these DMT diamond sharpeners in the store because they were the only U.S. made tools I saw during my visit. DMT’s HQ and factory are in Marlborough, MA.

These tools are interesting because they run counter to the reputation Festool has in this country—that its tools are for fussy carpenters and cabinet makers. That may be true of some Festool products, but certainly not for these, which are designed for the decidedly gnarly tasks of cutting concrete and masonry, chasing cracks, and creating control joints.

This chainsaw mortiser must be older stock, because the Protool brand was discontinued in 2013—though many of its products live on and carry the Festool label. Protool was created by Festool’s parent company (Tool Technic Systems) after it purchased a Czech tool company called Narex. Narex power tools are aimed at the hobbyist; Protool’s were aimed at professional carpenters.

Schneider makes air compressors and like Festool, is a Tool Technic Systems brand.

We’ve seen Systainers adapted to carry off-the-shelf compressors. This Schneider ( SysMaster SYM 150) compressor was purpose-built to be housed inside a Systainer. Prebena offers a similar product. Unfortunately, neither company sells in the U.S.

If the color was different, this tischkreissage (table saw) would still look like a Makita—though clearly not the model 2705 we are accustomed to seeing. The saw ( MLT 100) has an unfamiliar switch and a sliding table. The stand is different too, with locking wheels and a crank for raising and lowering the height of the table. The MLT 100 is not available in the U.S.

Festool pneumatic sanders are available in the U.S., though not this particular model—which takes a 3-inch disk. Note the unusual air fitting; it plugs into a supply port integrated into the dust extraction hose.

Prebena is a German company with limited sales in the U.S. Their primary products are compressors, fasteners, and pneumatic fastening tools.

The back wall of the main room contains an impressive assortment of Festool sanding and polishing supplies—including more kinds of their sandpaper than I have seen outside of a catalog.

The SYS-HWZ tool organizer has been available in the U.S. for some time, though this is the first time I saw one in person. It’s an unusual setup, a wooden hand tool holder that fits in a Systainer.

A small section of the showroom is devoted to Fein. There are some drill drivers, impact drivers, and grinders—but mostly it is multitools and accessories. Note the Systainer style boxes, which are different than the boxes Fein typically uses in the U.S. Systainers are better and Fein may soon be supplying them with some of the tools they sell here.

I had to go to Germany to see the Dust Extracting Box (194175-6) on this Makita miter saw—and yet it has been available in the U.S. for at least a couple of years. A replacement for a dust collection bag, it uses cyclonic action (think Dyson vacuum) to collect dust in primary and secondary chambers. Air exits through the top and is said to be free of dust. The unit can be removed and emptied the same as a dust bag.

An assortment of hand tools from Knipex (pronounced Kn-ipex), an awesome brand of German hand tools.

Although it has been out for some time in other parts of the world, Makita’s electric bike is unlikely to make it here. I remember seeing this online a few years back because it’s hard to forget a bike that runs on cordless tool batteries—and because it’s an early example of two 18-volt tool batteries being used to power a 36-volt motor. The battery adapter on this bike was the precursor to the integral dual battery connectors on tools such as the X2 Series Circular Saw.

Who knew Metabo made stationary equipment?

Check out this interesting aluminum ladder; it has a wood top and “fabric” straps to keep the legs from spreading too far.

A Festool Precisio 70 table saw with an outfeed support and a sliding table. The protractor-like mechanism on the sliding table allows for precise cross-cutting at the angle of your choosing. The long slot in front of the blade is there so the blade can slide forward for cross-cutting. Note the lack of conventional blade guard. The riving knife and dust collection port on the guard above the blade—is the standard setup on European saws.

There was a large selection of Jet equipment on the upper floor of the showroom—including these jointers and metal cutting saws (behind).

Here’s a bonus for clicking through to the final slide, a link to the 462-page Miller catalogeaxyawrztaccvtaxfraexavutudzyvawd. I recommend setting aside an evening or part of a weekend to view it, because it contains more cool stuff than you can imagine. Who cares if it’s in German? By the time you’re done looking at it you’ll know the German terms for many of the tools you use.

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