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

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Festool CT Mini Dust Extractor

 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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Having trouble sleeping at night, or finding yourself coughing, sneezing or getting irritated from excessive wood dust in your shop? It's not hard to generate enough airborne dust in the workshop to have it become a health hazard, or a pain in the behind to clean. Even one small saw cut can throw up a heap of tiny dust particles into the air. The solution, of course, is efficient dust extraction at the source, and while most woodworkers have a dedicated large volume dust extractor in their shops, not as many have a smaller vacuum extraction system. Really, you need both if you want to be serious about reducing your exposure to airborne dust, and then you should even add a hanging room air cleaner as well to the mix for even better efficiency and protection.

Today we are going to look at a vacuum extractor option from Festool, a name synonymous with power tool quality and innovative design. Let's see if the Festool CT Mini extractor stacks up as a viable workshop vacuum extraction system.

Note for US/Canadian/International readers: The unit we reviewed was the model available in Australia. It is no different from other regional models except for power supply and motor figures quoted. These may slightly differ regionally for local power supply regulations etc. All other features mentioned and reviewed are universal among all CT Mini regionalized models.

The Festool CT Mini
Festool make numerous models of vacuum dust extractors. The CT Mini is actually their smallest (and cheapest) unit. Anyone who has been in the woodworking field long enough will know that Festool products are among the most expensive, but they are also among the most reliable, and have features that are often first-to-market in their products. Festool have a reputation for quality, long lasting products, so many existing customers don't regard the higher cost as a major issue, and having personally used many Festool products previously, I agree with this philosophy. The company's motto is "No Compromises", and this certainly seems to hold true with most of their products.

Before we go on, I will make note of the fact that vacuum extractors are designed for low volume, high speed extraction, which makes them most suitable for hookup to smaller power tools, i.e. hand-held sanders, routers, planers, circular saws etc. Because vacuum systems work on low volume, high speed principles, they are not suitable for hookup to larger diameter dust collection ports found on stationary machinery like table saws, jointers, spindle moulders or thicknessers etc. For these machines, you require the larger, upright dust extraction systems.

Tech Specs and Discussion
I will list the quoted technical figures first and then discuss each with relevance to general workshop/worksite use.

Technical Data

Power consumption: 400-1200 W
Max. suction capacity: 2800 l/min
Max. vacuum: 20000 Pa
Filter surface area: 5000 cm2
Rubber-insulated mains connection cable: 7.5 m
Container/Filter bag capacity: 10 / 7.5 L
Dimensions (LxBxH): 440 x 340 x 420 mm
Maximum appliance socket connected load: 2400 W
Weight: 9.5 kg

Motor/Power Features
The CT Mini utilizes a 1200W max output motor to generate the vacuum. Many standard home and workshop vacuum systems are rated to 1200W max. Some go higher, but I have found 1200W to be plenty for workshop extraction and cleaning tasks. Power consumption is variable between 400-1200W. Why?
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 'sticking' to an object through excess suction force. Some power tools may not require full suction force either, however, it depends on the size and effectiveness of the dust collection features on the tool itself. With regular maintenance of filters and ensuring the vacuum is not used with a full collection bag, you should have more than enough vacuum power for all your general woodworking needs.

Inbuilt into the unit is a temperature fuse which can automatically switch off the extractor if its reaches a critical temperature, ensuring the unit cannot overheat and cause damage to itself. It has never triggered in use for me, and I have used it on very warm days and had it on for a fair amount of time during particular woodworking sessions, so I'd imagine it would have to see some pretty hot or extreme conditions to trigger the cutoff, and its good to know that the unit will protect itself from damage should these situations arise.

Vacuum suction (and capacity) is not as strong as its larger brother, the CT22E which rates at 23,000 Pa and 3800 L/min compared to just 20,000 Pa and 2800 L/min on the CT Mini, but as described above, I did not see any adverse effects of these lower figures during normal use. Filter surface area on the CT22E is much larger however at 14,000 cm2 compared to 5,000 cm2 on the CT Mini, because the CT Mini has only one filter compared to two larger filters on the CT22E. This means a little more frequent filter checking and cleaning on the CT Mini as opposed to its bigger brother, but also less cost as only 1 filter needs to be replaced down the track. The CT Mini is also capable of wet extraction which we will mention further below.

The whole unit is German made, so you are buying a well-engineered and quality-built motor in this extractor. On average it will likely last much longer than your cheaper units made in China that use less expensive motors and parts. Of all the Festool extractor owners I have come across, very few have been dissatisfied with their purchase and have indicated long service from their Festool extractor.

Control Adjustments
Variable power/output on the CT Mini is accomplished by a small green turn knob on the main control panel at the front of the unit. Festool have color coded any feature on their tool that serves an adjustment purpose, so whenever you see a green switch or component on a Festool product, you know it serves a particular function. The power consumption knob is labeled with a hare and tortoise scale, just like the fairy tale. Naturally, turning the knob in the direction of the hare results in higher power/output, and turning to the tortoise end reduces power/output. Unlike the fairy tale however, in most cases, the hare end wins! There are no hard settings in the dial range, so you can set power to "infinitely variable" amounts within the range.

To the right of the power setting knob is the main ON/OFF switch, although it is more than just a 2-switch selector. When the knob is in the neutral (vertical) vertical position, the vacuum is OFF and does not function. Naturally, you turn the knob to this setting to switch off the vacuum after use. The other two settings, one to either side of the OFF position, are labeled "MAN" and "AUTO". MAN mode is the same as a basic ON switch. Turn the dial to MAN and the vacuum turns on and runs normally. The AUTO option is used in conjunction with the onboard power outlet. Yes, like the CT22E and other Festool extractors, the CT Mini sports an onboard appliance socket, allowing you to connect a power tool (up to 1200W maximum capacity) to the outlet and automate the dust extraction process. When a power tool is connected to the CT Mini, when you power up that tool, the dust extractor will automatically turn on and off with the cycle of your tool. It will power on automatically a few seconds after you activate the connected tool (to ensure there is no power spike/surge etc) and turn off roughly 1-2 seconds after your power tool is switched off (to ensure all debris and dust is cleared from the vacuum hose). I am a big fan of integrated power tool outlets on vacuum extractor. They make dust collection during woodworking tasks much more user friendly, and if something is easy to do, it will improve user compliance. Without power tool integration and auto ON/OFF function, you need to undertake twice as many actions, which is also time consuming. Most higher-end vacuum extractors will feature an integrated tool socket, and this is partly why these extractors cost more than your run-of-the-mill home vacuum system. The most important thing to remember is not to exceed your power supply's recommended maximum outlet rating. In Australia, it is 2400W for a standard 10 amp power outlet, i.e. 1200W vacuum + 1200W connected tool would be at maximum recommended limit (2400W). It will likely be different in your country, so check locally before continuing. Here are the listed maximum connected tool ratings for use with the CT Mini in other parts of the world:

  • EC - 2400W

  • CH, DK - 1100W

  • GB - 1800W

  • AUS - 1200W

Power Cord
The CT Mini features a 7.5m rubber-insulated mains power cord. 7.5m is about average for a vacuum cord, and certainly better than the 1 or 2 meter cords found on most power tools (I never understand why they make them so short and impractical - perhaps to save money?). It seems pretty durable, because I stepped on it a few times and have rolled the compressor over it accidentally a few more and it took the beating with no visible damage.

Container Capacity
The CT Mini earns its name because of the size of its container capacity. It has a working capacity of 10 liters when used as a wet vac, but in dry vacuum mode, the internal paper collection bags have a capacity of 7.5 liters. In terms of the competition, 7.5 liters is nothing to write home about, however, the product was designed to be small and portable, hence the smaller capacity. If you want larger, you can buy larger in the form of the CT22E or CT33E. Depending on how often you use the vacuum, and for what tasks, will determine how quickly you fill up a 7.5L collection bag. I can't give a time frame, or even a good estimate, as there are so many variables involved (what size dust particle you collect, or whether you are collecting shavings (which take up more physical space) as opposed to dust particles - a portable power planer, for example, will create more space consuming debris than a router or sander. I have used the vacuum for about 4-5 weeks in moderate use (say 2-3 hours per week of actual running time) and have only filled one bag to about 3/4 capacity. 7.5L is actually a fair amount of fine dust if you are using it with a router or circular saw, as opposed to something that gives off larger debris. But, you buy an extractor partly based on capacity, so if you don't need a large capacity bag, or do not wish to spend extra on a larger vacuum extractor that has that larger capacity, then the CT mini offers the smaller size unit with capacity that suits your needs. It's a personal choice I guess.

Often woodworkers who have smaller capacity vacuum systems set up an in-line collection container between the vacuum and the power tool or dust source. These collection systems, which often feature the use of cyclone-style separator lid attachments and use containers of many types (from garbage bins to modified buckets) catch most of the heavier material in their own collection container and allow only the lightest and smallest particles to actually reach the vacuum's collection system. This method helps save on consumable paper collection bag costs for the system, and can often extend filter life too. These setups are handy if you do not plan to move your vacuum system around a lot. It's another option to consider at least if you have capacity concerns but still want a quality vacuum with onboard, automatically triggered tool functionality. When it comes time to replace the bag, there is a small cardboard flip cover built into the bags that allow you to cover up the opening so dust/debris will not escape from the bag during disposal - another basic but well thought out design.

Vacuum Weight
Weighing in at 9.5kg, the Festool CT Mini is not what you would call a "carry around" vacuum, but few vacuums are, except for the small, often underpowered units designed to be carried in one hand, and for very light duty vacuuming tasks. It is lighter than its larger counterparts, and its four wheels (two fixed at the rear and two pivoting at the front) offer good maneuverability. It is designed to be "dragged" around the workshop or worksite surface, for want of a better term. I have come across other extractors that have all-pivoting wheels and admittedly, these do maneuver in tight spaces a little better, but the Festool CT Mini's maneuverability is still very good. The wheels roll smoothly and surely, even over rough surfaces.

An added feature found just below the stop plate is a pull out stand/brake. By lifting the front of the unit and lowering the stand, the extractor's front wheels are now lifted off the surface and the unit rests on the back wheels and the lowered stand. The unit can no longer roll away or move during use. It's a handy feature if you are using the unit on a non-level surface, and is the equivalent of having breaks on the front two wheels, but provides better braking in my opinion. Sometime the little flip latch brake systems on castors are not terribly good. The large green "STOP" button above the stand retracts the stand and allows the unit to again roll around on all four wheels.

At 9.5kg, it is still light enough to be carried around from point A to point B, and so on with relative ease, and features a molded plastic handle up top for this very task. It is large enough to do the job, but also light enough for ease of mobility, via hand, or wheels. A pretty good balance of size/weight vs performance in my opinion.

Noise
We all know vacuums can be noisy creatures. The CT Mini tips the scale at 72 decibels at its maximum power output. This is not overly bad. In fact, for a vacuum, it is perhaps slightly less than average. Few vacuums are quiet and powerful! I have used some vacuums that rate in the mid-high 60's for noise emission, and some in the mid to high 80's. To be honest, I cannot tell the difference between say 68 decibels and 72 decibels, but you certainly can hear a 80+ decibel screamer when you power it on. Thankfully, the Festool unit is not that loud. I use hearing protection almost religiously when working with power tools, so I'm getting 35 decibel reduction in noise anyway with my earmuffs on. Noise was not a factor for me.

Other Features, Use, and Opinions
Apart from the features and specifications listed and discussed above, there are a number of other functions and features worthy of note. Firstly, the included collection hose measures 3.5 meters in length and has a 22mm diameter rubber end. The hose will readily connect to dust collection ports on most Festool power tools. You may need adaptors or sleeves to have the hose fit to dust outlets of other brand tools. The Festool suction hose also has an anti-static design, meaning no more nasty electric shocks from buildup of static in use that can occur with regular suction hose.

A nice feature of the CT Mini is that both the hose and the power cord can be wrapped around the unit's handle, which is inset into the top of the machine. This means the hose and power cord do not protrude outside of the unit keeping things nice and compact, and flat on top. The feature also provides the means for the next feature, and that is the option to stack and secure Festool 'Systainers' to the top of the unit. Festool Systainers are basically a plastic modular storage box system that can readily attach to Festool extractors, and to each other via a hook/latch type system. If you have other Festool products in their own Systainers, you can readily join each Systainer together for efficient storage or portability. The Systainer on the CT Mini holds all the upright vacuum 'wand' and vacuum head components, allowing you to use the CT Mini just like you would with a standard home vacuum cleaner, and for a variety of tasks.

To access the internal parts of the unit (filter and paper collection bag etc), you simple release the two outside latches on the sides of the extractor and lift the entire top half of the unit off via the handle. You will see the paper collection bag remains in the bottom half of the unit (if one is installed) and the filter and motor are contained in the top half you just lifted off. Inserting or removing paper collection bags is easy, as the bags secure into place over 'clips' that hold it securely in place. You really cannot get it wrong! Removing the filter is also very easy. Simply raise the handle on the filter unit caddy to unlock it and pull it out. To replace, do the opposite - put filter caddy in place, then push to secure the handle back down to the unit. Changing collection bags and cleaning/replacing filters is about the only maintenance you need to do on a regular basis with this extractor. An occasional clean of the whole unit, including around the operating controls wont hurt either. I usually blast it off with some compressed air whenever I have a tank of air at my disposal.

If you need to use the tool for vacuuming wet materials, the dry filter needs to be replaced with a wet filter. The wet filter is a special foam filter designed for vacuuming liquids. It is generally sold separately, although the retailer we sourced our unit from (Ideal Tools Australia - www.idealtools.com.au ) supplies it free with the purchase. The dry dust collection bag is also removed for wet vacuuming tasks. Liquid is collected directly into the collection container and a special trip switch will cease all vacuum function if the liquid level reaches a maximum height (so no liquid can enter the motor housing). It is important to note that combustible liquids should not be extracted using this unit!

Whether you are vacuuming wet or dry materials, the flow of air remains the same. Air (and debris) is sucked up through the hose and passes directly into the paper collection bag (or directly into the plastic collection container if wet vacuuming). Air then passes through the bag (or from the collection container) through the installed filter, and then is exhausted out of the unit via the vents along each side of the machine. The collection bag catches most of the large debris and dust particles when dry vacuuming. Any finer particles not caught by the collection bag are generally trapped by the filter, resulting in "clean" air being exhausted from the unit. In fact, air filtering is achieved right down to 0.2 microns with the filter installed which is very impressive.

Documentation
The CT Mini comes with a standard printed black and white operating manual, registration cards, a list of global service centers and contacts and a few other bits and pieces. The printed manual is basic but easy to understand. The CT Mini is fairly intuitive, but you should read all supplied information for safety's sake and to familiarize yourself with all features and functions of the tool. With the unit I received, one of the pages of the manual was printed twice, resulting in the following page being missing. No great drama, and I am sure it was just a one-off event. A quick visit to the Festool website, and I had downloaded the manual for the CT Mini in PDF format in no time at all. Problem solved. But as mentioned, the instructions are very straight forward and line-art diagrams are well labeled and easy to decipher.

Warranty
Festool products come with the company's standard "1+2" warranty. Mathematically, this adds up to 3 of course, and that is the warranty period you receive with the tool (in years). The 3 Year warranty covers full repair costs and cost of replacement parts (if needed), as long as the tool has been used in accordance with correct operating procedures and you have submitted your warranty forms. The 3-year warranty is one of the better warranty's offered in the tool industry today, but, to be honest, I haven't heard many warranty stories from owners of Festool tools in the past, a testament to the build quality and manufacturing of the products. I do know from those that have needed to implement a warranty claim that Festool honor their terms without major hassle or problem, and that's very reassuring for a customer considering purchasing one of these tools.

Overall Opinion
You can see from the outset that this tool is built with quality processes and oozes German engineering and ingenuity. The tool is very user-friendly and its features have been designed from a practical viewpoint. Obviously, the folks in the Festool R&D department know what users want in an extraction system, or are woodworkers themselves, and they have delivered. It's very mobile and portable. I have been dragging it around my workshop for the last 5 weeks frustration free, and that can be quite a feat in my often cluttered workshop that very much resembles an obstacle course at times.

I've had no problem at all extracting dust and debris from all my portable power tools. Some I have had to make special sleeves to allow the hose to fit properly, others fit right out of the box. And after tool time has ended and the dust has settled, just hook up your wand attachments and you can readily vacuum down your floors, benches, and in the nooks and crevices of your tools themselves (although I do tend to favor compressed air to clean out hard to reach places). Naturally there are some cases where sucking the dust out is better than blowing the dust in, especially into motor casings and the like).

The Festool CT Mini has met my expectations for a small workshop extractor. I had used the larger Festool CT22E extractor previously and the CT Mini performed just as well, albeit with smaller collection capacity. Considering the CT Mini is more affordable than the CT22E, it might be a more viable option for those on a tighter budget. In my opinion, you pay perhaps 40% more for this extractor than others in the market, but the difference in quality and features is 100% more than the competitors. For latest and up to date pricing, please contact the suppliers listed below directly.

In Australia, Festool products are available for purchase from
Ideal Tools Australia
www.idealtools.com.au

Phone (in Australia): 1300 769 258

Direct link to Festool CT Mini Product Page
http://www.idealtools.com.au/category2658_1.htm

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Festool CT Mini Dust Extractor Festool CT Mini Dust Extractor
The most compact of the Festool vacuums, the CT MINI is a breeze to transport and is perfect for small shops. Features excellent suction and exceptionally quiet operation - only 72 db! Tool-triggered ..

Festool CT Mini Dust Extractor

 
 

For more information on Festool Products or availability in other parts of the world, you can visit the Festool global website at www.festool.com

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Festool CT Mini Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


Festool CT Mini extractor with Systainer secured on top.


The Systainer's stack securely via four latch points.


Both the hose and power cord can be neatly


Main operating controls and integrated power tool socket.


Main start control (right) and variable power knob (left).


The black drop down stand prevents the unit from rolling around on sloping surfaces. The green Stop button retracts the stand to return to free rolling mobility.


Both the fixed wheels at rear and pivot wheels at the front of the unit move smoothly, allowing good portability and control.


At the rear of the unit is a small pocket, handy for holding spare collection bags.


To access the internals of the unit, simply pull the securing latches out on each side and lift the top up.


The top half is now removed, showing the collection container with paper collection bag inserted.


Filters are very easy to remove,  clean, or reinsert thanks to this locking handle filter caddy.


For wet vacuuming, you need this special blue wet filter.


The anti-static dust hose will fit Festool power tools, and other brand tools as well (may require special fittings or sleeves).


The vacuum wand and various attachments for standard vacuuming tasks inside the Systainer.


The Festool CT Mini hooked up to my power planer keeps everything clean and tidy...

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