Lately I’ve been surprised at how much I don’t know about stuff I thought I knew a lot about. And I mean some pretty simple stupid stuff—at least, I thought it was simple. That’s one reason you’ll be seeing some new “Tool Tips” articles on TiC, and they’ll be in our Tips department. This is the first article in the series.
Some of the articles will be written by carpenters, but some will be written by manufacturer’s reps and trainers—after all, who knows more about a product than the people that make it and sell it.
A Note from the Publisher:
WARNING: POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST!
If you are sensitive about articles that seem to favor a particular manufacturer, then DON’T read this one! It’s written about techniques demonstrated by a Festool sales rep! After years of experience, I’ve found that some manufacturers know more about their products than anyone else; if a carpenter wants to learn the best way to install a product, sometimes the best source of information is the manufacturer. In the future, look for more carefully-screened articles from manufacturers.
For more than four years, while demonstrating finish carpentry techniques at Katz Roadshow events all over America, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) a lot, too. One of the people I’ve learned the most from at Roadshows is Larry Smith—undoubtedly the best manufacturer’s tool representative I’ve ever met.
One demonstration that Larry repeats at every Roadshow is how to use a powered hand sander properly. Right. You wouldn’t think anyone would need training on sanding. In fact, we always pass that chore off to the lowest guy on the totem pole. And what a mistake.
Sanding requires a lot more attention and know-how than most of us realize. After putting countless hours into a nice piece of casework or furniture, in addition to the cost of the materials, it’s pretty silly to hand that investment to the lowest paid and least experienced worker on the crew.
If you’ve never made it to a Roadshow, watch this video and you’ll see the same presentation Larry demonstrates at lumberyards. And if you’ve been to a show and seen Larry’s presentation, I bet you’ll learn something new from watching it again. I know I did! The video is a little lengthy—just over 13 minutes. And I shot it on the fly, so please excuse odd cuts and transitions. But trust me, it’s worth every second (if you don’t see the video below, click on this link!).
Great video, some very useful information and nice slap upside the head review!
I still hate sanding.
I used to leave sanding to the low man on the totem pole (my brother) armed with only a 5-inch random orbit sander. Now, he still sands but has a half dozen specialized Festool sanders to choose from. It really does make a difference in time savings and improved results.
Don’t get a video on my iPad.
Sorry about that. There’s a new linking procedure I think we need to correct on TiC for videos. We’re looking into that. In the meantime, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZZyypf-Qqk
Very inspirative, I like this video. But what about the soft woods, like european spruce? How to sand theese to get the best finish?
From what I’ve tried with pine, the same procedure works, and I’m using an RO125. It’s all about the pressure you apply and working through the grits and not using the sander like you would a sanding pad.
I’ve been sanding for just over 40 years—primarily with 4×24 belt sanders….until I bought my Rotex. This article and the video are excellent. Please continue with this series regardless of any potential conflicts of interest. Real people using real products are one of the best ways to learn.
Thank you very much.
Ed Latson Danby VT
So, what is it I’m supposed to be doing with my ES150-3? Is it best used in conjunction with the Rotex or is it just slower than the Rotex but able to produce a higher finish? Just a bit confused over the best use/role for each …
I continue to use my ES125. It’s MUCH MUCH lighter and easier on my wrist, and I can use it one-handed. But I’m very careful now to let the sander do all the work–I don’t press on it at all, I move it slowly. So when I use that sander, I’m sanding in slow motion. It’s MUCH MUCH slower. I always thought the Rotex sander and Rotex mode was causing swirls, but that’s not true. You get swirls especially in heavier grits with the ES sander. And check your pad frequently, too. Be sure there isn’t ANY grit or sawdust between the paper and the pad!! And check your vacuum pressure. Your dust collector show never be set at full power for sanding in Random Orbit. Even the suction of the vacuum can pull the sander too hard against the wood.
Where would you use a ETS sander over a Rotex sander. It seems like the Rotex is the best of both worlds.
Exactly what I’m figuring out…
Having used both sanders quite a bit, the Rotex shines for rough sanding, and prep of material. I have used the Rotex for sanding out snipe from planing, and it works great. My ETS 150/3 is my go to finish sander everytime. I usually have it set on 3-4, with the vac set on low. I would never use the Rotex on fine sanding vs. using the ETS. There is no comparison in comfort, control, and results.
Yes, I used to feel the same way!
I’ve seen polishing video’s and instructions for paint/gelcoat that use a slightly different process than what was demonstrated here. Granted, with polishing paint/gelcoat, one doesn’t necessarily use sandpaper, but when applying polishes with the sponge or sheepskin, I always thought the sheepskin was the most abrasive, so you’d use that prior to the sponge. Is this different due to it being wood? Or perhaps this particular sponge was a coarser material than the sheepskin?
The sponge bad is meant for applying the polish–sponges are good for that they handle moisture well and don’t try out. The sheepskin is for buffing, same as it is on my grinding wheel.
Some days you learn a lot of things new. Larry, well done!!!! Great information and technique. I must have picked up 6 or 7 tips and reminders.
You would use an ETS over a Rotex when you wanted the smaller stroke, which can make a big difference in fine sanding. I don’t have personal experience with the 150 mm sizes, but I imagine that the difference between a 3 mm and a 5 mm stroke is pretty dramatic. Another thing the consider is the difference in weight. It can get tiring moving a Rotex around for a few hours!
Hi Larry, thanks for the lesson. I have owned the RO150 for 6 years now and it has paid for itself several times over. I do still get swirl marks once in a while whether its with the Rotex or one of our company’s other dumpy sanders. I’m sure its my technique but it pronounces itself more on flat sawn lumber rather than quarter sawn. My question is should I not even use the random orbital/fine setting at all? Your video shows a great finish by just using the rotary/coarse mode but my research up till now suggested that the rotary was only used up to say 80 grit and then after 320 for polishing. In between you would switch to random orbital for the fine sanding. This video was the first time I’ve been told not to use random orbit? Thanks again
I didn’t include Larry’s email in this article because I didn’t want a torrent of email unleashed on the guy. He’s a Festool sales rep and I don’t think it’s fair for us to ask even more of him.
But I can answer your question. I’ve watched Larry do this demonstration more times than I can remember and each time I’ve said to myself: why do I keep using Random Orbit mode on my Rotex sanders? Like you and most other woodworkers/carpenters, I always always thought/felt that Rotext Mode was like disc sanding–you use that only for rough sanding. What a MISTAKE. So you use 80# in Rotex mode then try to remove the scratches with 100# in Random Orbit mode… Duh. I guess it takes me a long time to learn some things, a lot of repetition. I remember watching David Collins use a Collins Coping Foot for YEARS before I figured it out!
Thanks Gary I’m going to give the random orbit mode a rest for a while and see what happens. Dec 2008 I attended my first seminar of yours at JLC Seattle where you gave the heads up on TIC and it has been a great resource to improve my/our craft. Thanks again and keep it up
As far as I’m concerned the RO 150 or 125 is the best of both worlds but once you hold an ETS then you know why people use them. It’s way lighter and easier to maneuver than the Rotex versions. Kind of like having a larger framing hammer that you “could” do anything with but it’s nice to have that little 4oz hammer sometimes especially when you have to swing it around a bunch… gets it’s job done with a lot less fatigue.
GREAT analogy. Yes, it’s like a 4oz hammer. Very slow if you’re pounding a lot of nails, especially nails over say 4d. :)
Where is the link to the video?
Sorry for that problem. We’re figuring that wrinkle out. In the meantime, here’s the link:
Any good painter can tell you that trim carpenters don’t know much about sanding :)
way to shine the light….good video
Good techniques. Old dog learned something, although it is highly likely that it will soon be forgotten.
Techniques should work with a superior sander, such as a Cerros, shouldn’t they?
I knew how to sand, at least I thought I did. But I never really knew how the random orbit worked. I think the rotex is on my wish list now
So, you go through the whole process and you don’t hold up the final product for inspection? Where’s the payoff? Did the process fail?
Oh jeez, I didn’t even think of that. I wish you’d been there to help direct! I was trying to do so many things–check the sound, remember which cutaways to shoot closer, zooming in and out and trying to do it smoothly as Larry moved quickly, and it was all a gorilla shoot–no preparation, no planning…we just did it, with very few re-takes. But there’s always SOMEONE who isn’t happy! Tell you what, Larry, I’ll ask those folks to send you the block of walnut. Get me your address. :)
I just watched the video, and am among those now enlightened, and will try fine sanding with a Rotex.
I was wondering what happened to the (expected) close-up of the finished piece, and even my wife listening on the couch came over to have a look at the end and wondered what happened!
Please cut the piece in half and give Larry one half and my wife the other! (just kidding)
Thanks, as always!
I’ll see if i can get a photo from Larry or Brian at Festool.
Thanks so much! I learned quite a bit today! I never knew that sanding grit was as high as 1,500.
I’m about to sand my floors in a refinished home, and I was going to skip grits on the low end. Not any more! Thanks so much for your insight!
Tried to watch your video. Sounds like a 78 playing at 33-1/3.
Didn’t know you could do that on a computer.
I’m not sure what that’s all about! 2500 people have watched it with no problem. Maybe it’s on your end?
Once again you produced a great article. I too would have liked to see the finished product. Perhaps a follow up in the next issue? I think I m gonna have to give Festool a closer look in the future. Thanks again for a great video
(And everyone else who asked!!),
Here’s a photo of the finished piece of walnut!
Good article. Although I have the sanders like others I’ve usually left the sanding to helpers, I may have to put more training into the sanding part. The one problem I have is I think there may be a problem with my dust collection.
I love your web site (thisiscarpentry.com). I look at it on a regular basis and learn allot. Keep up the good work! The thing I notice when Larry was sanding he was moving the sander rather quickly.I read online that the best way to use the Rotex sander was at 1 inch per second for best results. How do you feel about that? And what would be the advantage of using the ETS/150. I have been thinking of buying one. I own a ES125 and the Rotex150 and love them both. Thanks.
Larry was moving pretty slowly, really, letting the speed of the sander dictate his movement. I’m not sure about the i inch per second rule. I have a hard time keeping my mind on anything while I’m sanding, let alone counting 1 inch per second!!:) All I know is, DON’T use the power sander as a sanding block–move slowly, sand small areas at a time, go in both directions. The whole point of Larry’s demonstration is to help people understand the difference between ‘random’ orbit and ‘gear-driven’ orbit. In the former, you can get swirls if you press too hard and slow or stop the orbital movement; in the latter you can’t press hard enough to stop the orbit.
Like most people, I’ll continue using my ETS125. It’s so much lighter and more comfortable to use–especially with one hand, but I’ll be very very careful with it in the future, and use it for ONLY fine grit sanding. For everything else, I’ll be using the larger Rotex, and not in random orbit mode!
Just some observations while watching the video. Did you notice how much sanding dust was on the work piece, the sandpaper backing and the sanding pad when Larry made such large jumps in sanding grit from 180 to 360 and from 360 to 1500? This is only a guess, but after years of using the ETS and RO hooked up to the CT and any of the Festool abrasives, I never had that much sanding dust remain on a flat surface, so I’m guessing the large jumps in sanding grit force the sandpaper to work harder to remove the previous sandpaper scratches and overpower the dust collection pick up design of the paper and pad.
That’s also the first time I’ve seen a Festool employee use their polishing materials with the blue backing pad instead of the green that they state is firmer and meant for polishing. Maybe the pads are the same material and the green just doesn’t have the dust collection holes? Not having used their polishing stuff, I don’t have any experience or insight into what the difference would be.
Still, this was an informative video and article and depending on the viewer/reader, you’ll gain a little or a lot of helpful information. I would also recommend viewing this video from 3M, even though it’s competitive products, some of the information is quite helpful for sanding and easily crosses over to carpentry and woodworking applications. Three of the major points made in the video are, reduce the speed setting on the sander, don’t over use sandpaper when it becomes worn or loaded up and don’t change sandpaper over your work surface to keep from dropping debris and grit particles back into the finish.
The only time there was ANY dust on the workpiece surface was when Larry removed the hose to demonstrate how much dust the sander generates and how much is picked up by the dust collector. Otherwise, I never noticed any dust on the workpiece.And I was looking pretty closely. I’m not nearly as familiar as you seem to be with all the polishing pads and materials–I’ve never used them. I’m not really sure when I would–I don’t even sand anything to that fine a grit–except when I’m turning. But I do know that holes are necessary–there’s no dust collection needed during polishing. But you probably already knew that, too.
What a great video. Do you know which line of Abrasives he was using? Was it granat, rubin, saphir, titan, or a different one? Thanks.
I’m working with maple plywood edged with solid maple. If I sanded that much on maple plywood I’d eat through all the veneer and glue as well. Also, sanding above 180 closes the grain and doesn’t allow the stain to bite into the wood. Sanding to the grits shown in this video would leave the grain so tight it’d be like saying a piece of glass.
Any advice on how to get a swirl free finish with and not sand above 150 or 180??
Ive had a rotex for a while and I started using the surfix system for finishing. I have had swirl marks sanding between coats and have moved to hand sanding between coats. Is there a way to prevent this? The only thing different is i have a shopvac instead of a festool dust extractor. Wondering if this could be the issue. Any insight will be helpful.
Preston, Wish I could help but I have the same problem with my Rotex. Can’t seem to sand without getting swirl marks, especially in soft/hard wood like Douglas Fir–swirl marks in the softer summer growth and none in the more dense winter growth. I quit using that sander for finishing, only for roughing stuff out.