Festool C15 14.4V 3Ah Li-ion Drill Set

Bloody marvelous, vexingly expensive

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Festool C15 14.4V 3Ah Li-ion Drill Set



The Festool line of power tools has become synonymous with premium quality and innovative design. Festool is part of the TTS Tooltechnic family, which also owns Tanos, the company that manufactures the Systainer tool storage boxes that come with most Festool products.
 
Systainers are portable, stackable boxes designed to facilitate tool storage, transportation, and organization. There are about a dozen models available from Festool - you can also use them to store tools from other manufacturers, and to store accessories and hardware. I've always preferred hard shell cases to canvas tool bags - they provide better tool protection and are more convenient to move from shop to job site. If you like the systainer concept there is even a much wider range of Tanos systainer boxes available from Systainerworld.
 
The Festool C15 14.4V 3Ah Li-ion Drill Set (C15SET) comes in the new 'T-Loc systainer' - model SYS 1. This box is made of the same high impact, moisture resistant ABS plastic as the older 'latch style' systainers, and is the identical width and length. Festool is doing away with the latch style models - all future Festool products (except the Kapex miter saw and multifunction tables) come in T-Loc systainers.
 
The SYS 1 T-Loc weighs just over 3 pounds, and measures 4-1/8" high. It has a centrally located, oversized 'T' handle that enables you to open and lock the box with one hand - hence the 'T-Loc' moniker. One of the advantages of the new T-Loc handle is that you can open stacked systainers without having to separate them - which was a minor drawback with the latch style boxes. And yes, you can attach latch style systainers to the newer boxes - but only on the bottom of the T-LOCs.


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T-Loc Systainer
     
There are slots on the T-Loc (two on the front, one on each side) in which you can insert cards to label the box contents, or business cards to identify ownership. A study handle with comfortably rounded edges folds flat against the top. One thing to note is the beveled corners, which makes it less likely to damage not only the box but more importantly walls, doors, or millwork when working on-site.


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New T-Loc systainer sitting atop older style systainer
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Identity box contents or personalize your systainer
Everything packs away neatly, if somewhat snugly, in the T-Loc - there really isn't any space to store additional accessories, with the exception, perhaps, of a few extra drill bits. There is no way to lock the new T-Loc. Still, it's a welcome upgrade to the latch style systainer.

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The drill and it's accessories store neatly
       
The Festool C15 is powered by a 14.4V, 3 Ah lithium-ion battery (BPC 15). It's a good thing the kit comes with two batteries - a replacement battery cost $104. At 1.2 pounds the battery accounts for almost 35% of the overall tool weight. Though bear in mind that the C15 itself is not overly heavy - with battery installed it weighs a trim 3-1/2 pounds. Lighter tools are easier and less tiring to use, particularly if holding the tool at arms length when working on a ladder or having to reach overhead.


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BPC 15 post-type battery
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Battery fuel gauge
The post-type battery mounts on the bottom of the drill and provides a stable base. You can quickly set the drill down without concern that it might tip over.
 
The fuel gauge is located on the tool, not the battery. The gauge illuminates for five seconds whenever you press the trigger. One illuminated window would indicate about 33% of the charge left - I prefer a four-window gauge that shows remaining run time in quartiles.


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Easily removable belt clip
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TRC 3 Smart Charger
The 1-5/16" long removable belt clip, which is attached to the battery and not the tool, is one of the best that I've used. It hooks quickly onto a tool belt. Removing the clip is a simple matter of twisting a small tab underneath the battery - no tools are required.
 
The C15 includes a 'smart charger' (TRC 3) that can charge any 12, 15 or 18 volt Festool BPS or BPC battery. A full recharge takes up to 70 minutes. Circuitry in the charger monitors the charging process and when the battery reaches a full charge it switches over to maintenance mode, which keeps the battery fully charged. For regular use, you can store the spare battery right on the charger so it's ready to go when needed. However, when you won't be using the batteries for more than a week or so, don't leave them in the charger.


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EC-TEC motor
(Image courtesy of Rick Christopherson)
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EC-TEC controller
(Image courtesy of Rick Christopherson)
What sets the C15 (in fact all Festool drills) apart from other drills on the market (at least for now), is the EC-TEC (Electronically Commutated – Technology) brushless motor and controller. For a thorough explanation of this technology, I recommend that you read Rick Christopherson's "Technical Review of Festool's EC-TEC Cordless Drills", from which the following quotations are taken.
 
The EC-TEC motor design is a "permanent magnet, remotely commutated, 3-phase, AC motor" operated by a DC battery. The result is a motor that has higher efficiency, better reliability, runs smoother and quieter, and has a longer service life than a conventional brushed motor. With only a few moving parts - primarily the motor shaft and gear train - there are fewer things to wear out. This design "is what allows the motor to develop maximum torque at any speed without risk of damaging the motor."
 
The EC-TEC controller "monitors the electrical power to the motor to ensure that the motor operates within safe parameters." No matter how heavy the load, you can't burn out a EC-TEC motor.
 
What this means to the user is "more efficiently converted energy at the driver tip." In practical terms you'll get a longer run time with maximum power.


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Top mounted controls: (A) speed selector switch, (B) mode selector switch
     
The C15 uses a 3-stage planetary gear train that "is the same type of gear set used in automotive transmissions for its strength and versatility." The two-speed gear selector and mode selector (drilling, driving) switches are located on the top of the tool - out of the way yet easy to reach. You can select between two speeds - 0 to 450 RPM and 0 to 1500 RPM. This is a fairly standard speed range that can handle just about any drilling or driving task. Manipulation of the switches is made easier by the inclusion of a finger depression on the gear selector switch and the ribbed surface on the mode selector switch.


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Large trigger and forward/reverse switch
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Torque adjustment wheel is easy to see and quick to rotate
The C15 has a super-sized 1-1/4" long trigger, and you can easily manipulate the  forward/reverse switch with thumb and forefinger. The torque adjustment wheel is located just below and in front of the trigger, making it easy to see and quick to rotate. The 25 torque settings range from 4.4 to 70.8 in-lbs. In drilling mode the maximum torque is 221.8 in-lbs in wood and 354 in-lbs in metal - more than adequate for most applications.
 
The electronic slip clutch on the C15 is very sensitive, and engages almost instantaneously when the preset torque level is reached, shutting off the motor (which means far less wear and tear on the motor and bearings.)


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Magnetic holder stores up to 4 bits
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Bit removal is a breeze
The magnet bit holder is just great. It holds up to four insert bits, or two power bits and two insert bits. Bit removal is made easy by the slanted ends on both ends of each holder - simply push the bit toward the end of the holder and it slides out.

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LED work light
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Bright, focused illumination
I've been a fan of LED work lights since they first hit the market. They're particularly useful when working in confined spaces that aren't well illuminated, such as under countertops and in closets. The trigger-activated LED work light on the C15 produces a super bright, tightly focused beam that provides excellent illumination. It stays on while the trigger is depressed, and goes out about two seconds after you release the trigger. It would be nice to have the option of turning the light off when not needed. Fortunately, LED lights consume very little power.

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Output shaft (A) and the metal locking flange (B) 
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You can insert a bit directly into the output shaft
The C15 has a unique integral shaft lock that enables the motor to rotate the output shaft, but the shaft can't rotate the motor. With a hex bit mounted directly in the output shaft the T15 measures about 6-3/4" from the back of the drill to the tip of the bit - which makes it great for working in small spaces.

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Left to right: Centrotec chuck(WH-CE), and the three FastFix chucks - 1/2" keyless (BF-FX), eccentric (DD-ES) and right angle (DD-AS)    
    
A second unique feature of the C15 is its interchangeable chuck system. Exclusive to Festool drills are the FastFix and Centrotec chuck systems. The FastFix system consists of four chucks - right angle, eccentric, and keyless chucks that come with the C15 kit, and the depth stop chuck (which is an optional accessory).
 
The right angle and eccentric chucks attach to the locking flange on the C15 with a simple twist of the gray ring on the bottom of the chucks. They can be rotated 360° and locked in at any of 16 different preset positions - every 22.5°. Both of these are 'special purpose' chucks. What's neat about both these chucks is that the body of the chuck doesn't rotate (so it won't mar your work surface) - just the bit rotates.
 
The eccentric chuck, which has its bit attachment point offset from the center, is unbeatable for drilling flush to sides and corners - I could easily drill holes 1/4" from the inside corner of a cabinet. It has a 1/4" hex 3-ball detent bit holder.
 
The right angle chuck makes quick work of drilling in tight, constrained spots - just about any place where a conventional orientation won't work. It has a 1/4" hex wire ring bit holder.
 
The keyless, three-jaw 1/2" chuck is the same type as found on most drill drivers. The Festool keyless chuck has a spring loaded collar that quickly attaches to the output shaft of the drill, or onto the right angle chuck. You can tighten the chuck with one hand. While most of the chuck is made of a some kind of high impact ABS plastic, the crucial part, the nose, is steel.


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The Centrotec chuck is hollow... 

 
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Allowing the bit/driver shaft to pass through the chuck and attach directly to the output shaft
The Centrotec chuck is unique to Festool. At slightly over 1 ounce in weight it's certainly the lightest chuck on the market, and at just under 1-1/2" long it's the shortest. Which means you can get up close and personal to your work. With the Centrotec chuck attached, the C15 weighs a paltry 3 lbs 10 oz, and measures only 6-3/4" from the back of the drill to the front of the chuck.
 
Unlike conventional three-jaw chucks, the Centrotec chuck is hollow. This allows the bit or driver shaft to mount directly onto the output shaft of the C15, which virtually eliminates run-out with the bit or driver. Virtually none of the drill's torque is lost with this connection plus there is reduced runout.


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The 'black' quick release collar makes for super fast chuck installation and removal
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The 'green' quick release collar on the front of the chuck also makes for quick bit installation
There are two quick release collars on the Centrotec chuck - one for installing the chuck onto the output shaft of the C15, and the other for installing the drill or driver bit onto the Centrotec chuck. This is, by far, the quickest mounting system I've ever used.

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1/4" Centrotec hex magnetic bit holder        

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4.0 mm Centrotec bit holder with 4.0 mm spiral bit 
 
One thing to bear in mind, is that you can't mount a standard 1/4" hex bit into the Centrotec chuck. It only accepts Festool's proprietary range of Centrotec bits and drivers - if you look really closely at the Centrotec shanks you'll see that they have 12 facets (6 wide and 6 very narrow), as opposed to the six sides you'll find on a standard 1/4" hex shank.
 
However, Festool does provide a 1/4" Centrotec hex magnetic bit holder so you can use all your standard hex accessories with the Centrotec chuck.
 
There is a fairly wide range of Centrotec bits and drivers available. Festool includes one reusable 4.0 mm Centrotec bit holder and a corresponding 4.0 mm spiral bit (plus Allen key) with the C15SET. And yes, you can use all the Centrotec accessories in the other Festool chucks.


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The C15 has ample power to sink 3" screws
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Eccentric chuck makes it easy to drill holes or set screws in tight spots
So how does the Festool C15 perform in a shop environment? In a word - fabulous. The C15 made short work of drilling 7/8" holes through 1-1/2" ash with a Forstner bit without bogging down in the least, and easily set 3-1/2" #10 screws in dimensional lumber without predrilling. And, the 3 Ah battery provided a healthy run-time.
 
But where I found the C15 really shines is in the 'bread and butter' drilling and driving tasks that take place throughout the work day. With the Centrotec chuck installed, bit changing couldn't be any faster. Swapping the chuck out for the three-jaw chuck when using a larger diameter bit or hole saw takes seconds. When assembling cabinets and installing hardware there is a constant repetitive motion of picking the drill up, using it, and putting it down. The ergonomic design of the C15 makes it feel much lighter than its actual weight, and enhances its maneuverability. While no power tool can claim to be perfect, the C15 comes pretty darn close. You'll be hard pressed to find a more versatile drill driver with leading edge technology, outstanding performance, and a rich feature set.
 
All this cutting edge technology isn't inexpensive - the C15SET will cost you $664 CDN ($575 US), making it a hefty up-front investment in your power tool inventory. However, if you depreciate the investment over a three to five year period, it becomes more affordable.
 
There is an alternate version of the C15SET - the C15PLUS ($519 CA, $450 US), which includes the C15 drill, two 3 Ah batteries, the keyless three-jaw and Centrotec chucks, a Centrotec bit holder, charger, and T-Loc systainer.
 
And if that isn't enough, Festool also has a T-style handle version of the C15, the 'T 15+3'. Along with a more traditional style handle that some users will prefer, it's outfitted the same as the C15SET, except that it comes with two 2.6 Ah batteries.


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KEY FEATURES:

  • Brushless EC-TEC motor
  • 14.4V, 3Ah lithium-ion power source
  • Dual Speeds: 0-450 & 0-1500 RPM
  • Maximum torque: 221.8 in-lbs (25Nm) in wood; 354 in-lbs (40Nm) in metal
  • Electronic torque setting
  • FastFix interchangeable chucks
  • High-intensity LED light
  • Battery fuel gauge
  • On-board bit storage
  • Belt clip
  • 3 lb 8 oz weight (with battery)
  • 3-year warranty
  • Includes: Centrotec (WH-CE), keyless drill (BF-FX), eccentric (DD-ES) and right angle (DD-AS) chucks; (2) 3 Ah batteries (BCP 15); charger (TRC 3); 1/4" hex magnetic bit holder; 4.0 mm Centrotec bit holder; 4.0 mm spiral bit; Phillips #2 bit; Torx 25mm bit; Allen key; T-Loc systainer

MANUFACTURER:Festool
AVAILABLE FROM:Dealer Locator
RETAIL PRICE:$664
MODEL #:C15SET
MADE IN:Germany
March 2012

Author: 
Carl Duguay
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