The Festool Carvex finally made its way across the pond, and we’re long overdue for a review. I don’t think there’s ever been more hype / expectation for a jigsaw, and it’s inevitable that the Carvex has found both fervent fans and disgruntled detractors. Festool sent us their PS 420 (Corded) Carvex along with their optional accessory kit for a review and we’re pleased to finally add our opinions to the chorus. Since the Carvex has more bells and whistles than a racy bell choir with an audience of lecherous construction workers, we also thought we’d provide both a video overview on the tool and accessory kit, along with our written thoughts and photos. Read on for all the carve-tastic details!
If you think reading is for sissies (or you just like watching videos), be sure to check out our video overview on the Carvex. Despite promising to talk about dust collection at the start of video, I totally forgot. So be sure to read the full review below for not only my missing thoughts on dust collection, but a few more details we didn’t squeeze into the video:
Go Disco with the Carvex Strobe Lights
Jigsaws haven’t exactly been a bastion of outside-the-box thinking. Modern day jigsaws don’t look and function all that differently from models more than a decade old. In what might be the most creative innovation to jigsaw design since the bevel adjustment, Festool has equipped the Carvex line with strobe lights. I assume the idea came to a party-happy Festool engineer while burning up the dance floor at a hot Berlin nightclub. Wherever the inspiration came from, the strobe is a very cool feature.
The four LED’s (which Festool encourages you NOT to stare into), are tucked away under the housing just above the blade. These LED’s are magically synchronized with the blade using a carefully-guarded, top-secret, Germanic algorithm tracing its roots back to the aforementioned Berlin nightclub. The result: power up the jigsaw and the blade actually appears to be holding still even though it’s moving up and down at up to 3800 strokes per minute. While this may seem more gimmick than feature to some, the stroboscopic effect really provides an unprecedented view of the blade in relation to your work piece, and excellent accuracy.
There are occasions when you might not want a disco party by your blade, and for those cases, Festool gives you the option to either set the LED’s to continuous on, or turn them off altogether. Check out the video above for more detail on how the strobe and LED’s are adjusted.
I think I still have my first jig saw somewhere. It was a bare-bones Black & Decker that had a large slotted set screw to hold blades in place. We’ve come a long way baby! The Festool Carvex has a plastic arm that you slide forward to eject the blade. And, when I say “eject”, I mean it. The blade shoots right out, saving you from making the foolish error I have in the past – grabbing a searing hot blade. Very handy feature, although I would have liked to have seen the eject lever itself with a more robust design. Anytime I see relatively thin plastic pushing against metal, I get a little worried.
Reinserting the blade couldn’t be much easier. You simply push the blade in and give it a slight twist. The Carvex then locks the blade in place until you decide fire it out with the eject lever again. One thing to keep in mind is that because of the twisting action of the blade lock, you’ll likely want to remove the base you’re using, especially if you’re using the clear zero-clearance, anti-slinter guards. More details on those below.
To Pendulate or Not to Pendulate, That is the Question
Back in the day, jigsaw blades did two things: they moved up and they moved down. The Festool Carvex throws a little motion in the ocean with four pendulum settings. Zero means the blade goes straight up and down (ideal for cutting through tile with an abrasive blade). Settings 1-3 get progressively more aggressive with how far the blade is pushed forward on the up / cut stroke. For most usage I found the 1-2 setting at the sweet spot.
Despite a more aggressive, efficient cut, the saw still produced a remarkably smooth cut. Don’t expect to do a lot of touch-up sanding when using the Festool Carvex. For more thoughts on the pendulum settings, be sure to check out the video overview at the top of the review.
If there’s one common downfall to jigsaws (actually there are a couple), it’s that their cuts are highly prone to splintering. Although you can certainly operate without it in place, the splinterguards that are available for the Carvex makes massacred plywood a thing of the past. The splinterguard gets a custom fit by actually being cut into place. Keep in mind, if you’re swapping out different blade sizes, you may need to cut a new splinterguard for a true, zero-clearance fit. Despite the hassle of cutting, swapping (and purchasing) the splinterguards, I think they’re well worth it in terms of performance. We found they reduced and in some cases eliminated splintering. Even if you need a bunch of these, you’ll be reassured to know that a pack of 20 replacement splinterguards will only set you back $20 on Amazon. This, by the way, marks the first and likely last time I’ve ever seen a single Festool product available at a cost of $1!
While we’re discussing the business end of the tool, we definitely need to talk about the blade guide. Old jigsaws didn’t have blade guides at all, and the result was poor accuracy with blades that did more wandering than a nomadic tribe fueled by Starbucks. The blade guide on the Festool Carvex gets both our praise and our disdain. We’ll start with the disdain. The Carvex relies on an included allen wrench for blade guide adjustment. Having to make regular adjustments to any power tool via a separate allen wrench is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I think that all started with the original Fein Multimaster, as well as those chuck keys that used to be the norm for bit changes on power drills.
The point is, anytime you’re changing blade thicknesses, you’ll want to dig out that hex key (it stowes in the Systainer, not on the tool itself), and adjust the blade guide so it’s right up to the blade sides, but not actually squeezing the blade. In a perfect universe, we’d love to see this guide adjustment be automatic and not require user intervention. While that may seem like a tall order, we think it’s perfectly reasonable given a $350-$550 jigsaw that can freeze blade motion stroboscopically.
Circling back to the praise portion of this blade guide, it performs very well. Thanks in part to its very low position, we can’t really imagine blade deflection being any more minimized with the Carvex, short of turning it into a bandsaw. So, while I didn’t dig the allen wrench manual adjustments, the blade guide itself is great.
As with many Festool products, dust collection is taken pretty seriously. The Carvex sports a curved “windscreen” which not only isolates the blade area, but it also makes for more efficient dust collection. A dust collection tube slides and snaps easily into place, but be aware that it is not compatible with the bevel base for the Carvex. We paired the Carvex with our Festool CT 26 Dust Collector, and together they did a nice job of keeping the cut area clear of dust and debris.
Keep in mind that since a jigsaw has a blade protruding out the bottom of the workpiece, no amount of suction from the top of the cut is likely to catch all the debris. Factor in some sweeping / floor vacuuming and don’t expect a 99% capture rate. On more intricate and curved cuts, I actually preferred leaving the dust collection off to keep the tool more maneuverable. If you’re using a cordless Carvex you might find yourself even less inclined to be tethered to a dust collector hose. Either way, make sure you take precautions to protect your lungs.
More Shoes Than Imelda Marcos
If you’re looking to do anything more than the most basic cuts, you’ll quickly find yourself at the limits of the basic base/shoe that comes with the Carvex. That’s especially true since you can’t make bevel cuts with the included base/shoe. This is where the Festool Accessory Kit comes into play. It features, among other things, four specialized shoes:
Great for rough surfaces, the dimpled shoe glides easily and also gives sawdust a place to go, particularly if you’re running without the dust collection.
Phenolic / Hard Resin
This smooth base has minimal friction and won’t attract dust and debris readily. Used mainly on wood and similar materials.
This metal base is designed for, you guessed it, cutting metal! Very smooth and flat to provide a great connection between tool and workpiece, the metal base also resists scratches from metal shavings 1000 times better than plastic. (1000 X is our estimate, not Festool’s)
Cutting a pre-finished material you can’t stand to see scratched? The StickFix base lets you apply a felt pad and glide over your precious surface with far less risk of damaging it.
Tons of Crazy Bevel Cuts and One You Can’t Do
Like the other accessories mentioned here, you can buy this separately, or as part of the Accessory Kit. The Bevel Base lets you make some crazy cuts that would be a real challenge on just about all other jigsaws. Need to cut a 45 degree angle on an INSIDE corner? No problem! How about a 45 on the outside edge of a board? No sweat! What about beautifully smooth beveled curves? Carvex to the rescue again!
Where the bevel base fails to shine is in back beveling along a scribe line. Since you can only use 1/2 of the base when beveling, trying to back bevel / scribe something like a countertop is close to impossible with the Carvex. We dive into this a bit more in our video overview above, but if this usage is critical to you, then the Carvex is not the tool to reach for. One other feature we’d love to see is some sort of positive detent or top for key bevel angles. While the base does indicate angles, it’s hard to know when you’re at the exact angle you want.
So, depending on your typical usage, the bevel base for the Carvex can open up new realms of creativity or be a frustrating shortcoming. If the back bevel / scribe usage isn’t common for you, the bevel base should delight you with its flexibility.
Jigsaw Circle Cutting Prowess
Circle cutting has always been a pain to do accurately. The Circle Cutting Set (which also includes a Guiderail base that can be used with Festool Guiderails), is a brilliant accessory. It’s relatively intuitive to use and can handle 8 cm diameter circles on up to 10 foot diameters! While you likely won’t be cutting out 10 foot circles, the extended lengths of the cutter can come in very handy for cutting smooth arches. The Cutter can be used either clockwise or counter-clockwise. I found myself wishing I was using the cordless Carvex when it came to circle cutting, but regardless, the Circle Cutter accessory is really fantastic and highly recommended. It will save you scouring the shop or jobsite for some random bottle that meets your circle sizing needs. And, you’ll get a perfect circle compared to trying to follow a circular cut line free-hand.
Carvex Jigsaw Performance
Having used mostly D Handle jigsaws in the past (which the Carvex is available as too), I found the tool took some getting used to. At 4.2 pounds the Carvex is a bit lighter than many of its 5 pound+ competitors. This is in part due to its brushless motor, a first in the world of jigsaws. The tool has nice contours on the top and back end to make two handed control feasible. The “A” automatic speed setting made starting cuts easy, and the motor quickly ramps up to a blazing pace once engaged with the workpiece. Of course you can also designate a set speed from 1-5 if you don’t want the automatic feature. If you’re used to slow-cutting jigsaws of years gone past, the Carvex can be a little surprising. The Carvex cuts so smoothly and effortlessly, you really have to carefully manage its progress. I got the feeling if I let go of the tool it might decide to continue on delighting me with an abstract cut design of its own choosing (autonomous operation not recommended). Overall, the performance of the Carvex is smooth and solid.
The Festool Carvex is a powerful tool with great features balanced with some real trade-offs. For simple bevel cuts, and particularly back-bevel scribing, I’d much rather use my Bosch jigsaw. Setting a bevel with the Carvex not only requires changing bases to a specialized base not included with the tool itself, but it also takes more time than on many jig saws with an integrated bevel function. The lack of an included, basic bevel functionality is our biggest gripe with the tool. As mentioned earlier, we’re also not big fans of the allen wrench blade guide adjustment. We ARE nonetheless big fans of the blade guide’s fantastic performance resulting in very square cuts. We’re also big fans of the amazingly smooth cut quality the Carvex delivers.
If you’re cutting on a variety of surfaces, cutting bevels, and/or cutting circles, the optional accessory kit becomes more of a necessity kit. You can buy some of the accessories separately, but when you look at what’s included in the accessory kit I think it makes more sense to buy the full kit. Suddenly, an already expensive tool at $350 (or $550 cordless) is closer to $550 ($750 cordless) with the accessories. With very well-respected jigsaws from Bosch and other brands coming in at well under $300, we think the Festool premium will mainly still be palatable to the most demanding, specialized, professional users and well-heeled woodworkers. Of course, that demographic often describes buyers of Festool products. If I could only buy one jigsaw and my budget didn’t allow much extravagance, then the Carvex is not a saw I would purchase. For those seeking precision, specialized accessories, glass-smooth cuts and maximum performance, the Festool Carvex has a lot to offer pro’s and enthusiasts with deeper pockets.
Pricing Where to Buy the Festool Carvex JigSaw & Accessories
Festool 561593 Carvex PS 420 EBQ (Corded) Jigsaw – $350 on Amazon
Festool 561608 CARVEX PSB 420 EBQ D-Handle (Corded) Jigsaw – $350 on Amazon
Festool 561668 Carvex PSC 420 EBQ Lithium Ion Cordless Jigsaw – $550 on Amazon
Festool 497709 Carvex Accessory Kit – $200 on Amazon