Review By Bill Esposito  Festool Website - http://www.festoolusa.com


Festool Trion PS/PSB 300 EQ Jigsaws

 Review

By Bill Esposito

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While my 30 year old Craftsman jigsaw isn't the most used tool in my woodshop now it has received quite a workout over the years as a home improvement/repair tool. When I took up woodworking as a hobby a few years ago, splintering and blade wandering caused both by the saw's design and the use of cheap blades relegated the saw to its storage drawer for all but the most rough cutting needs.

One of the newest jigsaws to hit the US market is the Trion by Festool. The Trion is available in both D-handle and barrel grip styles and thanks to
Bob Marino of FESTOOL I was able to evaluate both versions.

Like always my main intent is to try to provide the reader with all the information they need to make an informed purchase. There will be plenty of photo's, some very close up, which I hope will give you a feel for the tool. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

What's in the box?

Let's begin with the barrel grip version. Each saw comes packed in a case which FESTOOL calls a Systainer. The contents include the saw, a dust port adapter, removable power cord, chip guard, splinter guard, instruction manual and warranty cards and a pair of blades.

Not just any old case!

The Systainer is a high impact plastic case designed not only to hold the tool, but also to be stackable with other Systainers as well as on FESTOOL's line of vacuum cleaners. At right you can see two Systainers stacked and secured together. You will notice that the latches normally used to latch the lid have been repositioned to latch the Systainer above. Repositioning is accomplished by simply sliding the latch up and then snapping it to latch the Systainer.
A closer look at the Saws and their Features:

Here's the specs on the Trion saws PS 300 EQ/PSB 300 EQ. Of note are the 6 amp power, Pendulum (orbital) action, and 5 pound weight:
 
  • Power Consumption 720 W/6 A 120 v AC
  • Stroke rate - 1" (2.54 cm) 1000-2900 spm
  • Pendulum stroke adjustment 4 stages
  • Bevel adjustment 0-45°
  • Cutting depth wood 4 3/4" (120.65 mm)
  • Cutting depth non-ferrous metal 3/4" (20 mm)
  • Cutting depth soft steel 3/8" (10 mm)
  • Weight 5.06 lbs/ 5.29 lbs (2.3 kg/2.4 kg)

The list of features is long so let's get to it.

Power, motor and speed control

The motor is a strong 6 amps which is on par with the other new jigsaws on the market. The Trion features electronic speed control or what FESTOOL refers to as Multi-Material-Control electronics. What this means is that the saw will adjust for changing loads and keep the cutting speed constant. This is actually a necessary feature since neither model of the Trion feature trigger controlled speed (photo's left and right).

If you are paying attention you noticed that there isn't a power cord in the above pictures. The Trion's power cord is detachable via twist lock. This is a great feature for storage and greatly improves the ease of handling of the generous 13 foot, extremely flexible power cord.

The barrel grip Trion has a slide switch (right) which applies power. For me it was a bit awkward to adjust the speed while gripping the saw. The D-handle (seen behind the barrel grip at right) does have a trigger and a trigger lock but the trigger is not variable speed. The speed is still selected by the thumbwheel.
Pendulum action

The pendulum or orbital action is engaged by moving the lever (left) near the blade mechanism. There are three different levels of action (1,2,3) plus off (0). The difference in speed and ease of cutting, especially in thick hardwood is amazing. Using one of FESTOOL's exclusive FSG blades, which are thicker than the normal blade, and the pendulum action and you can cut through 4" posts like they were butter. The blade application chart suggests that for some blade/cutting applications it's better to turn off pendulum to achieve the splinter free cut. My tests confirmed that as well.

Blade Change Mechanism

Changing blades on the Trion is a snap. At right you can see the only motion required and that is to lift a spring loaded lever .

It is literally as easy as lifting the lever and inserting the blade and letting go of the lever to lock the blade into place.

Click here to see a short video of a
blade change.
Blade Guide

The next innovative feature is the blade guide system. Much like a band saw the Trion captures the blade between a pair of carbide guides. The collage of pictures at left show (clockwise from upper left) the guide and adjustment hex screw, the guide front on, the guide from below, and the guide adjusted for the blade. The photo at right shows the included allen wrench being used to adjust the guide. The wrench conveniently stows right in the base plate of the saw.


The manual instructs you to adjust the guide until it "almost touches" the blade and that the blade must move freely. In the photo at left I adjusted it to where I thought it should be. The blade did move freely and because you actually draw the right guide to the blade while the left guide stays almost stationary, I thought this was correct. Well it is correct if you leave pendulum mode off but in this case, I cut about 6" of wood with the pendulum mode on 3. The result can be seen in the photo of the overheated blade at right. When I noticed this the blade would no longer move freely. Apparently the pendulum mode requires more clearance than "almost". In my subsequent tests I adjusted the guide with more clearance for times when I used the pendulum mode and did not have another problem. I did however have the guide adjusted for a fine cutter blade and forgot to re-adjust it for the thicker blade and had the same overheating happen.

My recommendation is that unless you need the guide for a specific cut, adjust it to give the blades plenty of clearance so you don't overheat and ruin a blade. The fine and scroll blades seem to benefit the most from the guide.

Base Runner

The base runner is constructed from what appears to be cast aluminum and has a plastic skid plate attached to its bottom. The runner is an integral part of the Trion's dust extraction system. I'm not sure of the purpose of the rear ducts on the runner in the photo at left.

As well as housing the dust ports and the allen wrench, the base runner also has 0°, 15°, 30° and 45° angle indexes although only 0° has a positive stop. It is difficult to see in the photo at right but even though the base is cast, the angle index lines up perfectly. To adjust the angle, loosen the screw with the large end of the allen wrench and push the base runner forward about 1/4". That will move it out of its 0° indexing position and allow you to change the angle. Set the angle and tighten the locking screw. The chip guard cannot be used when the saw is at anything other than 0° so it must be removed before you adjust the angle.

The base runner can be adjusted either forward or back from its default position. With the runner in the front position (left) you can even make pilot-less plunge cuts. More on that later. The instructions refer to the runner in the front position meaning that the locking screw is towards the front of the adjustment slot. In reality the runner is to the rear and the blade is to the front. The clear plastic piece around the blade is the chip guard.

Dust Extraction

You can't say FESTOOL without thinking about their line of quiet vacuums. All of FESTOOL's tools are designed to integrate with their vacs. As mentioned earlier the dust extractor adapter plugs into the base runner. For best efficiency you should also install the chip guard.

I did try the dust extraction and it worked pretty well but my Shop Vac© is so noisy that I stopped using it. If you want to keep your sanity (and hearing) while using a shop vacuum cleaner to catch dust from portable saws and sanders, I suggest you look at the quieter vaccums on the market. Of course Festool has a variety of vacs which should work great.
Chip and Splinter Guards

At left is the chip guard and at right is the splinter guard. The chip guard is used to aid the dust collection effort and the splinter guard will enable you to make fine, finish cuts (with the right blade) The use of these guards does obscure your sight of the cut line especially after they get dusty.


 

PRODUCT TIP

Here's two tips which will help you keep a bead on that cut line.

First Tip: Wipe both the Chip and Splinter Guards with a fabric softener sheet. This will help keep dust from sticking to them. Re-apply as necessary.

Second Tip: Take a Sharpie(tm) marker and color the point of the guard. The clear guard is difficult to see and this will help make it stand out.
 


Different Strokes for Different Folks

Alright, I know, that's an corny old cliche but I needed a lead in for this next section. As I mentioned above, the Trion comes in two styles. The conventional D-handle and the barrel grip. I'm going to be honest and tell you that I still don't know which one I prefer since each has its own merits. Below is a set of photos of the two styles:




 

What I like about the D-handle is the sure grip. It is the style that I've used all my life and it is the most comfortable for me. It is certainly better suited for home improvement work where you might be using it in awkward positions. For fine work however the higher grip can cause some stability and control issues.


For accuracy in following a line I prefer the barrel grip version. It's lower center of gravity makes it easier to follow the line and easier to keep the saw planted flat on the work. I find the grip is unsure when I'm carrying it but once it is on the work it feels secure. I prefer having the crotch of my thumb-forefinger up against the front of the saw (left) This seems to give me the best control and the surest grip. If need be you can grab the top knob with your other hand to stabilize the saw.

If I had my druthers I'd have one of each style.

Warranty

This caused me a little confusion because the owners manual states that the Trion comes with a 1 year warranty. In reality the Trion comes with a 3 year warranty. Included with the documentation is a warranty card which entitles the owner to a 1+2 year warranty....that's 3 years.

The Trion is warranted for defects in materials and workmanship for a period of 3 years and there is no exclusion for commercial use. If a problem occurs within the first year, Festool will pay for shipping BOTH ways. If the problem occurs during year 2 or 3, Festool will pay for return shipping to you only. I don't think I've ever seen any product where the manufacturer payed for shipping both ways.

Oh yea, if you are disappointed it will probably be because you bought the barrel grip and don't like the feel or bought the D-handle and subsequently decided you wanted a barrel grip. Not to worry, the Trion comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. You can either return it for a refund or swap it for a different grip style within the first 30 days.

Performance

I've put both saws through a variety of tests and they do both work well. I used Festool blades for these tests and the blades are substantially responsible for the quality of the cut. The Trion can also use Bosch blades and I've put a cross reference column in the
blade chart I made. I tried to get some good photos of the cuts but was unable to get the quality of photos I had hoped for.

Effect of Blade Guide on accuracy of cut

The results of these tests were mixed. With some wood thickness/blade types the results were excellent while with others they were disappointing. The blade guide did perform very well with wood which was less than 1" thick and excellent with 3/4" plywood as I expected it to. It also performed well with the thicker wood if I used the heavier duty blades like the S 75-4 FS (left).

It did not perform as well with the thicker  wood when I used the finish blades like the S 75/2,5 (right). The disappointment here is that the fine tooth blades do make a great, almost ready to finish cut but since they are thin they were not accurate in the thicker wood during my tests.  In order to get the accuracy I had to use the S 75/4 FS blade. This blade, while good, does not give the finish quality of the fine toothed blade and therefore the cut will require more prep work before the surface is ready to finish. Is it really a big deal in the scheme of things? No, but it does not live up to Festool's unqualified claim of "No refinishing work".


Tilting the saw to 30 degrees, setting the pendulum to 1 and utilizing the S 75/4 FS blade in the same 2" thick white oak the results were impressive. If you look closely at the photo on the left you can see that there is a very slight bowing at the bottom of the cut although in reality, it is nothing that a little sanding wont fix (right). I would consider the accuracy of this angled cut in some very hard wood to be very good.

Quality of Cut

Now If you want to see a flawless cut take a look at the photo at left. I used the same fine cut blade, S 75/2,5, as above with excellent results. The combination of the blade guide, splinter guard and fine toothed blade produced a ready to finish result in this 3/4" birch plywood. You can't tell from the photo but that cut is burnished similar to the way a good 10" table saw blade such as the Freud LU85 would.

At right is some scroll work performed with the S 50/1,4 K blade on a piece of 3/4 cherry. I did not use the splinter guard. The angle of the cut was accurate and what I hope you can see is the smoothness of the cut as indicated by the gloss of the wood.

I did learn that the Trion has variable speed for a reason. At left (top) you can see a scroll cut I made with the speed on high...burned the wood pretty good. I slowed the blade speed down to "3" and the results were much better. Here's where the dial type speed control has the advantage over the trigger. With the dial once you have found the correct speed and set it, it's stays at that speed until you select another. If you have a variable speed trigger you would be hard pressed to keep it the same speed through the entire cut, let alone the next cut.

Following a line

I found that the Trion was very easy to keep to the line and didn't tend to wander at all. There are a couple of gotchas though. If you use the splinter guard you will have a hard time following a curve because you can't use the pointer on the guard...it's a half inch ahead of the blade. You actually have to use the blade to follow the line for the most accurate cut. With the guard as it builds up with dust seeing the line is a problem.
I also discovered that the point on the splinter guard did not always line up with the blade. I'm not sure why although I believe it is because the blade is not always exactly centered in the runner opening. I could loosen the runner locking screw and make the alignment more accurate. In any case it was sometimes about the thickness of the line off to one side or the other. Once you know this it's easy to align the pointer in relation to the line to get adequate accuracy but for exacting cuts, you should use the blade as the guide..

Plunge Cutting

This method intrigued me. I was curious how a jigsaw could plunge cut without a pilot hole and not bounce all over the place. The secret is in the pendulum action. Simply set the pendulum to 3 and move the shoe all the way back so that the blade is as close to the front of the shoe as it can go. Then resting on the front of the shoe, slowly tilt the saw into the wood. Once you have it through like the vertical cut at right, you can then use the saw normally to finish the cut. In this case I have to cut downward toward the horizontal cut and then turn the saw around and cut up to the other side of the opening. The results were rather good as you can see in the photo at right where I was cutting out a drawer opening in some luan plywood. These cuts was made with the S 75/2,5 fine toothed blade.

Power and speed control

Here's another area where the Trion really shines. My last test was to use the S 105/4 FSG Festool unique blade which is rated to cut wood up to 4 3/4" thick. This blade is extra long and thick. I wanted to see how the power and electronic speed control handled the arduous task of cutting some 4 1/2" thick maple. I setup the saw for a pendulum of 3 and a speed of 6. The piece of wood was a chunk of 8" wide 4 1/2" thick maple which had only been air dried for about a year. While making the cut I at times let the saw do all the work and at other times forcefully pushed the saw into the work in an effort to change the load on the motor and see how the speed control reacted. I did not attach the vacuum because I wanted to be able to hear the saw's motor.

I captured this test in a 25 second mpeg clip. It's about 6 mebabytes in size so it may take a bit of time to get started. What I want you to do is listen to the saw....the motor pitch stays pretty constant throughout the clip even when you can visually see me forcing the saw. I was very impressed with both the power and speed control of the Trion. I also think the speed of the cut was exceptional for a jigsaw.

mpeg clip of test cut


Conclusion

The Trion is a great saw. It has exceptional power, handles great, has very good dust collection, can be combined with the correct blade to provide almost ready to finish cuts as well as accurate cuts and it comes with a superior case. The blade change mechanism is extremely simple to use and secures the blade solid as a rock. The three year warranty is exceptional as well. For me, the Trion elevates the jigsaw to a finish tool.

The biggest drawback of the Trion to some will be it's cost. At a retail of $250 it will be out of the reach of some woodworkers. The case while very well made is also overkill for many woodworkers who will just pile it on top of the other cases for their portable power tools. Perhaps Festool could offer a version without a case and save the purchaser $10. On the up side Festool does run periodic specials and the Trion has been sold for as little as $195 which is not much more than the Metabo or new Makita. Lastly, you have to understand that you will not be able to get ready to finish cuts in every case. The quality and accuracy of the cut is material and blade dependent but even at worst case the accuracy should surpass that of an unsupported (no guide) blade.

Should you buy the Trion? All I will say is that if you do buy it you wont be disappointed.

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Festool Trion Jigsaws at Hartville Tools (USA)
 
 

Copyright © 2003 , Bill Esposito
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