Festool CT22e Vacuum Review


Festool is a maker of high end portable power tools.  While superficially many of their products resemble some of the more widely known brands woodworkers associate with performance and quality, I've found Festool to be a cut above.

The CT22 is one of several models of vacuums made by Festool, this particular model is the second from the smallest.  The CT22 like all Festool products is a component in an integrated design philosophy.  Unlike other makers, Festool uses each tool in its product line to support others in the lineup and increases the capability further through the use of several cleverly designed accessories.

Festool CT22e
My first impression of the CT22 is its incredibly low noise output. Until you've heard how much noise it DOESN'T make it's hard to believe.  The CT22 is made mostly of molded plastic but it appears to very durable.  In fact the look and feel of the whole unit is one of precision and quality; the more you look at it the more thoughtful and clever the design seems to be.

The CT22 is quite compact, but its capacity is a useable 5.3 gallons.   Many vacuums are tall and "tippy", the CT22 definitely is not.  This unit is quite low which keeps it's center of gravity low (like it should be).  It also has a pretty wide wheel base with reasonable sized wheels.  I've not had any problems rolling the unit around in my shop, in fact it rolls better than the two Delta mobile machine bases I have.  There is a carrying handle molded into the top, since the CT22 weighs only 26.4 pounds empty it would be easy to carry into a job site. 

The CT22 comes in a single large cardboard box, aside from putting the cord holder on there is no real assembly involved.  It comes with one filter bag and a collection hose.  The 24 foot long power cord terminates in a 20 amp plug but a 15 amp plug adapter is also included.

My first shop-vac was a Craftsman unit that I absolutely loathed.  The suction of the unit was good but the noise was incredible - even with hearing protection.  Although that unit may have been an extreme example I believe there are lots of other makes of vacuums out there that are just as loud.  This makes them stand in contrast to the Festool units all the more distinctly.  When I first powered the unit on low speed, I was simply amazed at how much noise the machine DOESN'T make; even on high speed the noise isn't that bad.  On low speed the CT22 is by far the quietest power tool I have.

In Use
One less immediately obvious feature of the CT22 is its' use of an anti-static hose.  This is another example of "getting what you pay for".  All the cheap vacuums I've used will build up a static charge from the air moving through the plastic hose which inevitably leads to some on-site electro-shock therapy sessions.  Festool instead uses a very durable looking anti-static hose that does not build up an electrical charge.  The hose is a little stiff but not so much that it causes a problem.

There are a few other unobtrusive aspects of the tool that typify the careful attention to detail the Festool engineers bestow upon their products.   For example, when I powered up my old Craftsman it immediately blew up a cloud of dust into the air.  Even with its low profile the CT22 does not do this.  The exhaust air is so diffused that without closer inspection you cannot tell there is any air coming out of it at all.

I've used the CT for a number of shop tasks including a bit of drywall sanding.  In each case I've found it to be easier and more enjoyable to use than the Craftsman, Fein, or Shop-Vac brands I've used before.  In the sanding tasks I usually run the CT22 near it's lowest speed setting, this seems more than adequate and guarantees that it is always the lower volume tool in operation.  The only time I've needed the highest speed setting is when connected to a circular saw, router, or for cleanup.  The CT22 is also equipped with a blower port.  If you don't have a compressed air supply this could be useful in the shop for some cleanup tasks.

Festool CT22e Open None of my other vacuums have an outlet for a work tool and I was keen to see how well this feature worked on the CT22.  With the power switch in "auto" mode and the work tool plugged into the designated outlet, when the tool is turned on the vacuum turns on automatically.  When the work tool is turned off, the vacuum turns off 3 seconds later.  The turn off delay ensures the hose is empty.  It doesn't take very long to get addicted to this feature.

This is a view of the CT22 opened up.  There is a little green colored prop inside that keeps the lid open.  Changing the bag and filters is easy to do.  The large green square on the back of the unit is an integrated cleaning device to shake dust off of the main filters in the top of the unit.

There are two small wheel locks for the large wheels in the back to keep the unit stationary if needed.  The cord is wrapped around the two big lugs shown in the back here.

As mentioned earlier, Festool uses each tool in its product line to support others in the lineup.  This increases the overall usefulness of all their tools.  This view shows an example of this.  Most if not all the Festool power tools either ship in or can be put into plastic boxes they have designed called "Systainers".  These are just boxes but they are specially configured to clip together to form larger more easily moved units and they can be clipped onto the tops of their vacuums as well.

Small green latches built into the top of the CT22 secure the Systainer boxes to its top.  You can even use the handle in the Systainer itself to lift the CT22 if needed.  Attaching the Systainers to the CT22 allows it to be used as a work site dolly.

Festool CT22e Front
This view also shows the collection hose with its flexible rubber end, the main switch, the work tool outlet, and the speed control.  One way or another I've been able to fit the hose end to all my tools I've tried it on.

Having used a vacuum with an automatic control now I can certainly see the great appeal of this feature.  The basic functionality, power, and convenience of the CT22 is top-notch.  The intelligently engineered and clever integration features also adds to the appeal of the unit.  However, the feature that stands head and shoulders above all this to me is the incredibly low noise output.  I actually look forward to using a vacuum now, in the past I dreaded using them.

Due to all the reasons listed above, I highly recommend the Festool Vacuums.  If you really need something more portable, the next size down (the CT11) would be a good choice.  For general work in the shop or job site the CT22 is as big as you would need unless you really want more capacity.  For contractors or those that do a lot off site work I think the CT33 would be a better choice.

In the interest of full disclosure Festool provided this product to facilitate this review.

I would also like to thank my friend Bob Marino for putting me onto the Festool line of tools.