Tool Talk #14: My Shop Vacuum Setup (ShopVac vs Festool CT26)

Well over half of the emails sent to me are on the subject of tools. I have no objections to responding to them but I thought it would be beneficial to start a video library of sorts to briefly touch on what I think of a particular tool or set of tools. These won’t be in depth tool reviews as I know very few people are interested in that kind of thing and I really don’t want to go over all the details. Instead I’ll just focus on the things I like about the tool, things I don’t like about the tool, and would I buy it again. I have a huge list of “episodes” that can be made and plan on releasing one per week. Hopefully this will be helpful to some people.

Shop Vacuums

I first purchased this 12 gallon ShopVac from Lowes locally while it was on sale. I don’t recall my purchase price but it currently retails for $109.99 with attachments on at the time of this article. I purchased the Festool CT 26 E in a package deal so I don’t know the exact price paid for it individually. The Festool CT26 retails for $573.75 on at the time of this article. Comparing these two machines side by side is a little silly. The Festool vac is the overall winner by a long shot, and should be due to it’s price, but does that mean it’s the right one for you or for me?

What I like:

  • Festool CT 26 E
    • Auto start and stop activated by the tool you have the vac hooked up to. This is nice but really it’s just saving you from flipping another switch.
    • HEPA certified filtration. Breathe easy my friend.
    • Suction control. I haven’t found much use for this while it is in use with another tool but it is nice to lower the suction and reduce the motor noise when you are using the vac in a stand alone operation such as cleaning up a pile of sawdust on the floor. Even at the lower suction setting it does have enough suction to complete the task.
    • Easy to move around
  • ShopVac
    • MUCH easier on the budget.
    • larger waste volume. This isn’t really a concern one way or the other with me as I use them both with a cyclone pre-separator so the vast majority of the waste never reaches the machine.
    • Lesser expensive filter bags.
  • Both
    • They both perform well and do the job nicely.

What I don’t like:

  • Festool CT 26 E
    • Expensive. REALLY expensive for a vacuum.
  • ShopVac
    • Not HEPA filtration from factory.

Would I buy either one again if I had to do it over?

I’m sure the majority of people know the outcome of this tool talk before I wrote it as it really is a common sense situation. This is a comparison of apples to oranges. The Festool CT 26 is a great machine with great filtering capabilities but in my opinion isn’t a good value based purchase for anyone in a similar situation as I’m in. It’s also not marketed toward people like me. It’s made for people who work onsite and are often responsible for the environmental hazards that they create in client’s houses or buildings. For the regular weekend woodworker I personally think it would be a much greater value based purchase to go with a regular ShopVac and use the other money elsewhere in the shop. I purchased my Festool vac with another machine and if I had to do it over again I would not have purchased it. I cringe knowing how much I spent on it while also knowing that my regular shopvac would do the job just fine for me. If I had to start over tomorrow I’d buy a regular ShopVac. That being said, the CT 26 is great and because I have it I’m going to use it.



  1. Jay I am beginning wood worker and my question is should I purchase a bandsaw or a planer first. Thank you

  2. Thanks for the review of your vacs. Almost bought the Festool unit you have a few months ago but didn’t. I did buy a Bosch hose which is almost identical to the Festool hose except a lot less $ and it fits in my shop vac and the other end fits all my portable electric tools just fine. Thanks for the verification about the Festool. Glad to see you are back in the groove again and hope your family is doing well.

  3. I ended up buying a Festool vac and a sander, only because Amazon let’s me pay monthly without interest but mostly is I have a huge amount of sanding to do inside this Summer. I like your cart! I’m still pushing mine around with my foot! That gives me yet another project! Thanks for all you share with us!

  4. Jay, nice job as always. I still would have liked to see you turn on each of the vacs. Noise is an issue for me. I have a very old ShopVac that makes so much noise it hurts. It also has a broken switch (in the on position) so I have it connected to a remote wireless switch. I have it in a cabinet with very long hoses that don’t quite reach everywhere I need them to. And, as it would seem, the hoses and adapters don’t fit anything.

  5. HI Jay I agree with you on the Festool too pricey for what it does. If you can afford it great, otherwise do the best you can with a regular shop vac. Love the beam out at the end Star Trek woodworking.

  6. Hy Jay, got e few shopvacs, dedicated each to a specific machine, and I have to say they do a great job. I’m using them since here in Europe you can get the smallest one for 39€ which would be about 44 dollars. So here you get really good value for quite a good price

  7. Thanks Jay for your input. You verified my original ideas. I have 2 small vacs with 1 set up like your vac station on a cart. I took your advice and built it up and not out. That saved space in my shop/garage. I have recently built another garage in which I am setting up a shop, and I am trying to stretch my funds as most people do. I have looked at Festool and cringe at the cost. I enjoy your ideas and your frankness about tools. Thanks again. Hope to see you in Green Bay.

  8. Thanks for the review Jay. I purchased the Festool track saw for a project I was planning to do with my grandson. I was in a hurry to get started and I didn’t want to build jigs to accomplish the tasks of breaking down the plywood sheets.

    Long story short, I like the saw and find reasons to use it again and again, but the price.

    Thanks again for the SV vs FT, Dennis

    • Thanks, Dennis. The track saw is one thing I haven’t tried but want to. I hate the lack of convenient dust collection on my circular saws.

  9. I agree with your opinions about these two vacs. I have each and mostly use the Festool with the Festool Track Saw and have used it with other brands of sanders. The only benefit I can see with the Festool off the shelf is the quietness of the motor and the auto on/off and the changeable suction. Some may say that those functions make this vac worth the much extra cost, but for several hundred dollars less I can put up without them. However, for my 16 gal Shop Vac I bought an aftermarket rheostat to adjust the rpm and therefore the suction and that comes in very handy when working with some sanders as too much suction will slow them down. I also have a pedal switch to turn it on and off so for an extra $50.00 combined, it works about the same as the FT. As for the noise level, there was a time when manufacturers of shop vacs said that people associated loud with power, however most of the newer model vacs are quieter and for some you can buy mufflers. As for the peak HP, many years ago I read an article about how they came up with those numbers but I can’t remember it well enough to explain it, but if someone wants to know, the info is out there, and, you are correct, those numbers are crap. If you really want to know how much suction power a vac has, you need to find out its water lift capacity, which is so much water so many inches high, but not all makers make that knowledge available. On a side note as far as the Shop Vac filter bags are concerned, the yellow ones which are made for drywall are the better ones. I have sanded 300 sheets of drywall using a Porter Cable drywall sander and my 16 gal vac and it never had blowby or and I couldn’t see any loss of suction either, although the vac probably weighed 50 or more pounds, so, those bags can be filled extremely full.

    • Thanks for all of your input, Keith. The peak power rating of the shopvac’s is determined by it’s theoretical peak at no load. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the way the machine operates under normal use. It’s about the same as trying to sell a Prius based upon it’s max speed number.

  10. G’day Jay,

    In the land Downunder, retail for the festool is $1200 odd dollars, that is insane for your average home woodworker, for that money you could buy a top notch 3hp dust extractor and enough pvc pipe to install a house worth of bustbunny hunting fun! A Rockler adapter vacuum adaptor kit and a shop vac with an inline cyclone does the job for me, I made a muffler with a pvc elbow, a section of pipe, endcap and bunch of rags stuffed in the pipe, sucks as hard as ever and noise is reduced.

    Totally agree on your comment regardingnworking in a clients house or premisses or as Narnia mentioned, a hole lot of indoor sanding to do would this be concievable.

    Thanks for the honest no bs opinion

  11. Great straightforward review. Without a lottery win I probably will never be able to afford anything made by Festool. Their products get rave reviews, but for a hobbyist like me I can’t justify the costs. My current shop vac is a Craftsman wet/dry I purchased for $49 in 1998, and an added 5-gallon cyclone cart system built from your plans.

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