Best Tools / Mafell KSS 40 18M BL Overview

Yes it is expensive. No it is not for everyone. Now that that is out of the way….

I suspect many of you have had a similar journey with tools. Starting out, we could not afford or justify the cost of tools made by Festool, Mafell, Lamello, etc and so we purchased other brands. Then, after learning to use the tools we have at our disposal and accept (or are ignorant of the compromises we are making), we write those brands off as unnecessary and overpriced. Now I am in a place where I have revisited and used many of these brand’s offerings and realized in the long haul, I have spent more money and time, and my work quality has, at times, suffered. I am not ashamed to say looking back, I regret not investing in the best tool.

The above isn’t isolated to just tools. I can draw similar parallels to when I started playing paintball. I purchased what I could and, along the way, ended up spending more than having just invested in the best available Paintball marker. Perhaps this is unique to me, but I’m confident this will resonate with all of you.

So why am I saying this? Well, I recently reached a period of peak frustration on a walk-in closet installation in early 2022. Having been aware of the Mafell product line for some time and what their offerings were and recognizing how the Mafell KSS 40 18M BL would simplify and improve the quality of my work; while improving the quality of my life (more below) - in the long term I would’ve made more money and been happier had I purchased this saw sooner.

The Mafell KSS 40 18M BL is one of a kind. Festool’s HKC 55 has similar features, but having used it, it is not the same. To name a few differences, the HKC 55 is larger and doesn’t fit in a systainer… As with the Mafell, it is a quality, top-notch tool. Where the Mafell excels is that it is the right size, weight, compactness, and power to complete 90% of the work I do.

Further, the fact that Mafell is on the CAS platform means the battery Is compatible across hundreds of brands. The cutting capacity is sufficient to cut 2x material while on the guide rail. Splinter-free cuts in hardwoods and softwoods relieves stresses and concerns with tear-out on expensive materials. Time-saving features include a simplified blade-changing process and one dial miter cuts for speed and accuracy. As everything fits in a single box, all the necessary accessories are always within reach. Further efficiency is achieved on angle cuts by the turn and slide of a dial.

Will all that, the compactness and completeness of the package in itself would be stand-out features; it’s not until you pull out the Flexi-rail and cut down a door or large panel that TRUE appreciation of the engineering and design of this tool is experienced.

Allow me to get back to the improvement this tool brings to my quality of life. Jobs are less stressful; the cutting saw, guides, battery, chargers, etc, are in a single box. This equates to less stress over forgetting tools behind, and fewer trips in and out of a job means I finish my work sooner. The lighter form factor results in less fatigue, and better dust collection equals less cleanup and a safer working environment. The combined results are that I am more energetic when I get home and in a much better state of mind to enjoy my friends and family. It also means that over time I am more productive. Productivity = money

And these are the peripherals of buying this tool.

Some are going to argue that the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits. I’m not going to argue. Some may argue that the cutting depth creates limitations. Again, I am not going to argue. All tools, and life, comes with sacrifices. Some are going to argue that the saw can only through 2x material while on the guide rail. A 7-1/4” blade is overkill for cutting 2x and sheet goods and cannot cut 4x or 6x materials in a single pass (most aren’t cutting those sizes regularly anyway). As the saying goes, “the best saw is the one large enough to get the job done”.

I am not telling a DIY or homeowner that they cannot get tremendous results from their existing tools and methods. I am, however, advocating that as DIY’ers and homeowners tackle projects, they would be better off having the best quality tools and avoiding the compromises and pitfalls associated with “less expensive tools”. I am avoiding calling tool brands ‘inferior’ for a specific reason - most brands make the tools they feel reach their customer base. Ryobi, which I proudly use, knows that most people aren’t going to walk into a store and plop down $1,500 for a saw. As a result, they conduct the necessary engineering, research, and development to produce a quality product for their customer base.

As always, I purchased the KSS 40 18M BL with my own money and have not been compensated in any way. This is my opinion based on my experiences with this tool.

I’ve thought about buying a few lamello tools vs spending the money on the domino device. that it appears everyone uses or says you should use.

did you also have to buy new guide rails for it or did it come all together?

I couldn’t agree more about your comment regarding how having the best tool for the job ultimately saves a lot of time and money in the long run, and that often times purchasing a “starter” tool instead is a false economy. Ironically, I learned this the exact opposite way. I started out learning on fancy tools only to find how much it sucks to work without them.

When I was a kid we didn’t have much in the way of tools at home. My father had a corded drill, a Workmate, and a variety of hand tools but that was all in our garage. Where I learned to work with tools was at the maintenance workshop of the company my father worked for. He was a chemical engineer who worked in an office, but he had access to the maintenance facilities for their production plant and would often go there to work on his personal hobby projects. Consequently, the very first drill press I ever ran was a monstrous gear-head Wilton just like this one:

Imagine my disappointment the first time I went to use the good 'ol made-in-china belt drive specials that everyone has these days.
The first time I did any woodworking beyond boy scout projects or helping my dad with little fix-its around the house was my senior year in high school where as part of the FIRST program I got to work with NASA JSC. Their “model shop” had amazing equipment. Not too much later I was in college, and as luck would have it my roommate’s father was a very serious woodworker in his spare time and I was able to borrow his workshop for projects. The first table saw I ever used was an old 5HP Delta built into a table 8 feet square. He had a big jointer, planer, tilting-spindle shaper, dust collection plumbed all over the shop, a wall of clamps, and so on. Having started out learning with tools like that it was utter torture to go back to my meager assortment of homeowner tools when I moved out on my own.

Since then I try to follow a simple rule: I try and buy as few things as possible, but those things I do buy are high quality. Trying to squeak by with an inadequate tool for the job costs time and productivity at best, and it can cause damage to the work or even injury at worst. It’s just not worthwhile.

I think the advice many people give about “starting out cheap” has the unstated underlying assumption that you might not use whatever it is in the future, therefore why spend a lot on it? That’s a valid concern for some things, but if you know you want or need to use that tool (or toy) in the future then I completely agree, skip the intro model and get a serious one from the get-go. In some cases this is especially true for beginners. Some low-end products are honestly difficult to use making learning harder. And as you said, a beginner may not even be aware of a problem or may teach themselves to accept a defect in the tool or the work as normal.

The base KSS 40 comes with the base rail, cutting up to a 2x12 at 90 degrees. It ships in an xxl t lock Systainer which includes the rip guide (which attaches at the front and back of the saw). This retails for just over $1,000 - so if you’re on the Metabo (not Hitachi branded Metabo) battery platform, you don’t need to buy a battery and charger.

The 4-1/2’ Flexi-rail is an ‘add-on’ to the package.

If you get the full kit with two 5ah batteries, charger and Flexi-rail the cost is around $1,300. Again these batteries would work with any CAS alliance tool (Metabo included).

The similar festool HKC 55, with different cutting capacities in both depth and length, is around $800. For apples to apples on the full kit- you’d have to add the 4-1/2’foot rail which costs $99 for the 55”. Of course you’re probably gonna wanna add a protective bag for both rails (remember everything fits in the Mafell Systainer) which costs ~ $100.

So there is a roughly $300 difference in similarly outfitted full kits.

Mecha

I like how you summed up the concept of investing in a tool versus buying a tool for use. I’ve learned, at a greater expense, that the investment over time more than pays off.

@Napalm

After spending decades cutting mortise and tenon joints - trying out hand saws and chisels, router jigs then settling on using my table saw and dedicated mortising machine - I thought why in Heaven’s name would I want to buy a Dominio machine. Then I had a project to create some big exterior doors. My first thought was routed grooves and splines to strengthen the glue up. I had experience with doing that before - but it is a time consuming and sometimes finicky process to insure flatness of the slab. Then I saw that the Domino XL had just been released. I bought one - built the doors and never looked back. By and large I’ve retired my Dowelmax jig, Dewalt biscuit joiner, table saw tenoning jig and Delta mortiser, When I found out about Seneca Woodworking’s add-ons to extend the size range of the XL machine to cover all domino sizes - I thought that I was pretty much set. Domino’s became my go-to for most of my casework and much of my furniture building (except where only dowels or solid tenons will do). The Festool machine is precise and fast - and aftermarket additions make it even better.
As an alternative - I might have tried a Mafell Duo-Dowel machine had it been available at the time. I hear good things about it - but I once owned a Freud (FDW710K V0) version of that tool that was so imprecise as to make it worthless.

Then - more recently I was asked to build some take-apart furniture that could easily be transported back and forth for a college student. I looked at the options and decided that Lamello offered what I wanted. Next thing was the purchase of a Lamello Zeta P2. So far so good with the knockdown furniture thus created that is now on its second round trip. Compared to what I had thought was a decent biscuit joiner (old Dewalt DW682) the Lamello cuts regular slots with not a hint of slop - and their proprietary slide-in slots for their Clamex and Tenso connectors. Considering my stage of life, I will probably never pay off the Lamello’s cost in terms of dollars and cents - but building things for family member adds benefits beyond monetary ones.

Indeed. At the moment and I only really do work at home, I use a custom made jig for my circular saw (bought some al extrusion and put it on 1/2 ply with some rubber mat on the bottom - made a poor mans tracksaw setup.

that lammelo device is the thing I was considering - I also looked at the triton dowel device as a domino replacement. Might try one one day but the lammelo thing got my attention with the hardware that ikea and others use. I like the idea - seems to have multiple uses.

For years I used a Porter Cable 4-1/2 inch worm gear trim saw and a homemade “track” for breaking down sheet goods ahead of final cutting on my table saw. My homemade track consisted of a length of maple stock with a true straight edge - glued down to some masonite.