Review By Dean Bielanowski  Festool Website - http://www.festool.com

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Festool CT22E Dust Extractor
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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If someone new to woodworking was to ask me which tool they should buy first, I would probably tell them a dust extractor! I amassed a good amount of hand tools, power tools and woodworking machinery before I bought a 2HP, 1200 cfm workshop dust extractor. I wish I had bought it earlier! Not only does it help reduce airborne dust making for a safer woodworking environment, but catching dust and waste material at the source saves a lot of clean up time later.

Unfortunately these large dust extraction systems (the ones with the big white bags top and bottom for those not familiar) are not appropriate for many hand held power tools. As soon as you start reducing dust flow ports to 3" or less, a high volume (high cfm), low speed extraction unit does not work terribly effectively. Since most dust ports on handheld power tools are often less than 2", you need a "vacuum" extraction system, i.e. lower flow (cfm), but at much higher speed. We managed to get our hands on a review unit of the Festool CT22E extraction machine. Let's take a closer look.

The CT22E is a German-made wet/dry vacuum, meaning it can extract both dry materials, and also wet materials (liquids). We did not test the liquid extraction feature (we only tested it in woodworking capacities), however, if you do use the liquid extraction function, you must remove the filter bag first. The CT22E is fitted with an automatic shut-off mechanism once the liquid fill level reaches a certain point.

Motor/Power
The CT22E is equipped with a 1200W motor. If you look after the machine, ensure the filters remain clean and empty the filter/collection bags when full, you should not have any major dramas with excessive loss of suction during use. Power consumption, and hence suction force, can be regulated via the green suction force regulator dial on the front of the machine. It is marked with a turtle (lowest speed) and a hare (highest speed) - much to my children's interest. As mentioned above, 1200W is the maximum power setting, but this can be reduced infinitely down to just 350W if needed. There are times when you may not require the full suction force. I found it useful to turn to a lower setting during general vacuum use in cleaning up around the workshop, as it stops the head of the hose, or the vacuum attachment I was using to 'stick' to an object through excess suction force. Some power tools may not require full suction force either, however, it depends of the size and effectiveness of the dust collection features on the tool itself. I found I used the CT22E at the maximum 1200W for most power tools in the shop. For the tech spec conscious, at full load the CT22E can draw 228 cubic meters of air per hour, however, according to the manual the typical value in use is around 160 cubic meters per hour. At max suction force, it really does suck... literally!

A generous 7.5 meter (24.6 ft) insulated power cord allows the machine to reach easily to a nearby power outlet in the shop without use of extension cords. It may be a different story on a worksite, but 7.5m is certainly more than some shop vacs I have used in the past.

Connect Your Tool!
One of the best features of the Festool CT22E (in my opinion) is its integrated power tool socket. This allows you to connect a power tool direct to the unit and have the extraction automatically switch on when you power up your tool. No more manually turning shop vacs on and off before and after using your tool. There is a maximum connected tool load of 1200W, however, this does vary depending on the country you live in. For example, in the UK, this max limit is 1800W and in Europe, as high as 2400W. It does depend on the max current load your electrical circuits can handle. Most of my handheld power tools are 1200W or less. For those that are more, I simply have to connect these to their own power source separately although you could use a 1400W tool if you turned your suction force regulator down to 1000W power consumption for example, however, you do this at your own risk! It's always best to stick to the specified limits for your area, or risk damaging your electrical circuits.

To avoid load spiking on startup, there is a delay of a few seconds between when you turn on your connected power tool to when the dust extraction unit kicks in. This causes no problem with extraction itself. When you switch off your power tool, the CT22E continues to run for a few seconds after that to allow it to clear any dust or material still resident inside the vacuum hose before it switches itself off. This auto ON/OFF feature with your power tool connected through the unit is great, and it is a feature you should look for if you are buying any vacuum type extraction unit. A spring-loaded socket cover stops dust getting into the power socket when not in use.

To the right of the suction force regulator dial is your main extraction control knob. There are three settings available - OFF (marked as "O"), "AUTO" and "MAN". The AUTO mode is used when you have a power tool connected to the onboard socket. In this mode, when you switch on your power tool, the CT22E will automatically switch itself on, and off as well once your power tool is turned off. The MAN setting basically turns the machine on and off manually. All very simple.

Size and Weight
The CT22E is a little larger than your average home vacuum cleaner. Its dimensions are 625 x 380 x 440 (mm), or in inches 24 x 15 x 17. It weighs in at 12kg (26.5 lbs). It sounds a little bulky, but it's all very compact and highly maneuverable. The CT22E features two fixed wheels at the rear and two pivot wheels at the front of the unit. These seem to glide easier than an eagle in a upstream wind current. I must admit that I was skeptical of these on first viewing the unit as they are plastic constructed wheels, but I was pleasantly surprised. You can wheel the unit around the workshop all day with little hint of resistance. You can even lock the wheels via the brake latches if needed to stop it rolling away (if using on a slope as an example). A carry handle is molded into the center top of the machine and this provides good even balance for lifting the machine to carry it around or for loading it into the car for transportation to a work site. Mobility-wise, the design is simple but effective.

Hose and Filter Bags
A non-static 3.5 meter (11.5 ft) hose is included as standard with the extractor. Additionally, our unit came with standard 'household' cleaning attachments for a variety of tasks. The CT22E can be used equally effectively vacuuming the floors, chairs and carpets in your house. I vacuumed our lounge suite top to bottom with the CT22E and included attachments. The lady of the house was quite impressed with the results to say the least, or was it the fact that I was simply vacuuming? We shall never know.

The end of the hose features a tapered rubber attachment. While it doesn't fit all my power tool dust collection outlets out of the box, you can buy reducers/converters and attachments of all shapes and sizes from your local woodworking outlet to adapt it to most tools. Naturally, it does fit most Festool tools with no further accessories needed. For reference, the Festool OF1400 router shown in the picture in the right column has a dust extraction port with an inside diameter of 1 3/8" (35mm).

The hose connects to the extraction unit via a simple friction fit system. It has not dislodged during use as yet.

You can also buy an integrated Festool 'plug it' hose which comes fitted with a power cable and attachment to hook up to newer Festool power tools. This idea is quite well thought out as it ties both your power cord and dust extraction hose together so there are less cords and hoses getting in your way. The click-and-rotate power cord system for connection to Festool power tools is also somewhat unique and prevents the cord from being pulled out of the tool in use. The other major advantage this accessory has is that, if you own several Festool tools, this cord can be used interchangeably with other Festool tools. Take for example a corded tool that is damaged on a worksite, or even in the workshop. To replace the cord on a regular tool means a trip to a service center which could take days before your tool is back in operation. With the plug-it system, you can just grab the power cord from another Festool tool and continue on with no down-time.

With regard to filter bags and container capacity, the CT22E is labeled as '22' because it has a container capacity of 22 liters (5.8 gals). Other models in the range are similarly marked. the CT33E has 33 liter capacity and the CT44E features 44 liter capacity etc. It is important to ensure the dust/filter bag is attached and secured properly before use. This will go a long way to maintaining effectiveness of the air filters fitted to the unit. And, replace bags when full, or suction will be adversely affected. You should check the filter bags regularly to maintain a healthy and efficient dust extraction system.

To do this, you need to raise the top of the unit to gain access to the innards of the machine. To do this, simply release the two black latches, one of either side of the machine toward the back, and raise the lid from the back end. It pivots up on the front of the machine and an internal latch clicks in once fully raised to stop the cover falling back down to the closed position. Inside you will see the main filter bag and two air filters. The motor is pretty much enclosed keeping it sealed off from the internal surrounds. The Festool bags are fitted with a circular hose-type attachment that slots into the collection tube coming from the main hose. Just drop the bag in, line up the two fittings and slot the bag in as far as it will go. Pretty easy. In fact, somewhat easier than our household vacuum system. Once the bag is full, pull it out and replace with a new one. The process takes about 10 seconds at most. Replacement collection bags are available from any Festool supplier/retailer.

The two air filters are also exposed with the top lid open. If you are vigilant with filter bag use, you will get a lot of service from the air filters. These filters are the final step in cleaning the air from the 'loop' before it is exhausted externally. If you do find they need a bit of a clean then you can simply use the green slide out pull lever on the top rear of the lid and pull it out and push back in a couple times. This 'agitates' the filters and cleans them of loose debris and material. As I mentioned, if you keep an eye on your bags, the air filters themselves will require little maintenance.

Systainer Storage
Festool's 'Systainer' storage system for power tools allows you to stack Festool tool boxes (called 'Systainers') on top of each other securely for easy and efficient storage and mobility. On top of the CT22E are two green clips than can hold a smaller Festool systainer securely on top of the unit. If you are using a Festool router with systainer, for example, you can carry this around on top of the unit without fear of it sliding off or toppling over. See the image in the right column for a better idea of what I am getting at here. This simple inclusion ratifies Festool's design philosophy of not just providing a 'tool' for the woodworker, but a 'system' that solves common issues associated with using that tool in everyday situations.

Sound
Vacuums can be the loudest and most annoying sound in the workshop, often worse than the router! The Festool CT22E rates pretty well in the sound area in relation to its great suction force. It emits a maximum sound level of 72dB, which is not a problem to use safely without ear protection, however, I make it a habit to always use ear protection, especially when you are using the CT22E in conjunction with another power tool. It does not deliver as higher a pitched noise commonly heard from routers, but is slightly higher pitched than a standard large high CFM workshop dust extraction machine.

Checkout & Service
The price tag is certainly at the higher end of the scale (check the Festool website for latest pricing), but essentially, you get what you pay for in this case - ease of use, high quality German engineering, good after sales service etc. I believe that with Festool tools, you really need to see one in the flesh to appreciate their features and ease of use. The price may be high, but in 30 years time, when you might be sitting in a hospital bed with lung problems, if someone came along and offered you a clean pair of lungs for only several hundred dollars, wouldn't you think that was a bargain? You can never pay too high a price for safety, in my opinion.

Use and Conclusions
There is not really much to be said for a vacuum cleaner. It basically sucks air and the dust and debris that air is carrying. There is no doubt in my mind the effectiveness of the unit itself, however, the design of the tool you are connecting it to does also play a major factor in how well the CT22E can extract dust at the source of your tool. With well designed dust collection features on your power tool, the CT22E will be able to catch most of the dust created. It is hard to measure, so I am only giving you my qualitative opinion on the matter.

What I really found useful on this tool is the ability to very quickly access the insides of the machine to change filter bags and inspect air filters etc. Although you do not need to actually open up the top to clean the air filters (as explained above). The ease in which the CT22E rolls around the workshop is excellent. Festool have managed to put together an extremely well made dust extraction unit that is simpler to use and maintain than any other vacuum system I have used in the past.

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Festool CT22E Photos
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The CT22E Dust Extractor.
Note the Top handle for carrying
the unit around.


The main ON/OFF control.


The "suction force" control.


Power tool outlet. Note the USA plug configuration will differ.


Large plastic wheels offer smooth, almost effortless mobility. You can also see the large black rectangular latch on the side to open the cover of the CT22E to access the insides.


Power Cord holder and green brake latches for wheels are shown here.


Anti-static dust hose connects to unit via a friction fit.


Tapered rubber hose end fits Festool collection ports, plus ports on other machinery.


Festool Systainers can be securely locked on top of the CT22E for safe, secure transport.


The top opened up shows the motor and filter bag. The green latch that can be seen holds the cover up.


Dual Air filters on the CT22E ensure exhausted air is very clean. The top green push-pull lever rubs against air filters to clean them. No need to even open the top cover!


When used with a tool that itself has good dust collection features, the CT22E captures most of the dust!


The CT22E used in conjunction with a custom router fence.

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