Sander Skittering and Vacuum Suction

Reported control problems with some sanders may be solvable by adjusting dust collection vacuum settings. July 16, 2008

I want a new, cleaner way of sanding. I will be sanding mostly sheet goods and face frames.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
The Festool 150/3 has a smaller orbit and finishes a little finer. The drawback is that it is less aggressive if you are trying to sand flat. The 150/5 is more for solid wood sanding and leveling. I have both and they are wonderful machines. We also have three RO 150 dual action sanders that are capable of serious grinding as well as finish sanding. If you just need an orbital I would go with the 150/3 if you plan on sanding veneer. Buy now since Festool increases their prices across the board by 15% on April 1st. We use the CT mini vacuum for dust collection. It makes an awesome cleaning tool as well. My wife and mother are always borrowing one to clean the house since it outperforms any residential vacuum available today.

From contributor B:
I use mainly Pneumatics in my shop. About a year ago a neighboring one man shop was selling their 150/3 because they wanted the 150/5. I was hesitant until I used it. That is an awesome sander. I have a widebelt sander for flatness, but if we need to sand something by hand quickly my guys grab the Festool over the Pneumatics. If you are only buying one of them I would by the 150/3.

From contributor C:
I, too, am looking for a new, cleaner way of sanding. I have an RO125 and CT22 vac on order that will be here any day. I have high hopes and expectations. I went with the RO sander for a little more versatility. My thought is that I'll add a 150/3 later if the finish isn't good enough. I looked at the RO150, and it was too big for extended use. The RO125 was more comfortable.

From contributor D:
The sander you ordered has been plagued with problems. I bought one last year and found it impossible to sand with. It skates across the work piece and was virtually impossible to control. No amount of tweaking or changing of pads etc. improved the issue. They changed the sander out for me and the new one didn't work any better. It left horrible swirl marks in the wood. Festool even admitted they'd had lots of issues with it and ultimately convinced me to go with a 5" orbital. (I think it's the ETS 125 but don't hold me to it.) This sander works fine but is underpowered. I'd suggest the 150/3 instead. It's much better for what we do. The big RO 150 is great for work that you'd ordinarily do with a belt sander but pretty much useless for sanding cabinets or frames.

With all of that said, you can go to my shop right now and my guys will be sanding with the old Porter Cable orbitals while the Festools sit on the shelf. In my opinion, Festool has a long way to go in the sander business. The Festool Vacs work great with the PC sanders. I don't mean to burst your bubble. I like new tools as well as anybody, but those sanders were a disappointment.

From contributor E:
I agree with contributor D. If you're looking for a "one hand" finish sander, the Festool ETS 125 is the only model that is that size. However, it skitters all over the workpiece, and leaves swirl marks. I have many Festool items and love most of them, but their sanders don't measure up. My $55 DeWalt 5" variable speed sander from Home Depot works better. It works fine with my Festool vac.

From contributor F:
Festool sanders are generally considered to be very good. However, "skittering around" is one problem that people have reported. This is typically caused by the vacuum suction sucking the sander to the workpiece. When you press harder, it releases suddenly. With a high power vac like a Festool CT or a Fein, it can be especially bad.

The standard solution is to simply dial down the suction to about 50%. I've turned down the suction on my Festool CT22 to almost it lowest setting and still had very good dust control. With the vac turned way down and the speed set to 6 (highest), I can easily control my RO150 with one hand in RO mode. You need two hands in Rotex mode though. Skittering is not an issue with other sanders because the dust collection isn't that good. With my old PC random orbital, dust collection is pathetic. Which means not much air is going through it. Hence, you won't get skittering no matter how high you set the vac.