Paint Contractor Tools: Sanders and Dust Collection

Sanders for paint preparation.

Not About Tools, but How Work is Done…

So, what do you do with sanders and vacuums that are disappointing you in the field?

Well, tools are to be assessed on performance. I’ve been somewhat vocal about the fact that our current sanders and vacuums are showing signs of not being the ideal mode for delivery of quality and production in the shop and field for us at this time. Since we are in the business of quality and production, we take that pretty seriously. Don’t get me wrong. Our old tools are adequate. But, who wants that?

What do we do?

What we do is take things up a notch and research the heck out of it, consult professional colleagues from around the country, talk to our most wood finish savvy friends, and commit to finding better systems that will work for us.

And so we stopped complaining and over the past couple of months looked into the best manufacturers of sanders and dust collection for paint contractors that we could find. On the planet. Imagine if there was reason to believe that the same manufacturer had both and they were designed for each other?

Yah, our old sanders would hook up to vacuums, but what a jallopy of a set up, and a pure distraction from focusing on working with wood. Yes, occasionaly we needed duct tape. So, we are pretty much over that, moving forward, and a big thank you to Festool for agreeing to work with us to determine how their abrasives, sanders and extractors might work for painters, through our testing and feedback. We will be sharing the footage and findings of our testing, which will result in a full Festool review in American Painting Contractor when we sort it all out.

As a wood snob, I do not like the insecurity of having to look at one end of the hose and then the other while working. And I would prefer that the tool lead me through the process, with me not trailing behind to inspect what we did together, me and the tool. Its only as good as me. And I want to be better.

These things won’t be sitting around the shop much. We will be sharing lots of feedback and footage as we integrate this technology upgrade during testing and as always, let the tools and materials drive the process.

If anyone has any questions on how we were disappointed by our previous systems or why we now choose to take what we feel is a bazooka to a gun fight (we are just painters), please leave a COMMENT!

Scott Burt

Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine (www.paintmag.com) since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. This site is an extension of Scott's publication work, and he encourages readers to leave comments and questions about articles published here. Hope to hear from you!

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  1. Bill Bender says:

    We’ve been using the Festool set up for a couple years now and will never look back. The dust extraction is incredible and everything just runs and goes together smoothly. We use the RTS 400, LS 130 and the ETS 150. Most of our work is repaint so there is normally alot of patching with joint compound which is where the dust collection shines. The brilliant II paper works great on existing finishes. We just finished a large water stain repair job in a log home, I was amazed as to how little dust there was even on a rounded surface. The customer thought he would be hiring a cleaning Co. after we were done, no need. Everything involved is a bit pricey but in the end, well worth it.

    • Bill,

      Thanks so much for the feedback. Its great to hear how the tools perform for paint contractors. Your results are exactly what I am hoping to discover in our program and to hear from others who have done or are doing the same. Which dust extractors are you running?

      • Bill Bender says:

        I’ve got the CT22 which has been replaced by the CT26 I believe. On the log home 2 guys were working in the same area so we put a Y pipe on the vac and ran 2 hoses, the vac had no problem at all keeping up. We work out of a box truck and keep the setup toward the back as we use it often and when everything is stacked it is somewhat heavy. The bags are expensive so we do not use the machine as a shop vac, We have a small rigid for general clean up. The cords on the tools are ok, they will not take much abuse, so you need to keep that in mind when you have the urge to drag the machine by the hose or cord.

  2. Tim Raleigh says:

    Before I got my Festool sanders I had a Makita that I thought did a good job of collecting dust, but the Festool sanders are far and away the best. I also tried Bosch sanders, connecting them to a dust collector (Airsweep) works but the fixtures for converting the sander to the vacuum are terrible quality.
    Tim

    • Same here, Tim. Years of cobbing together sanders and vacuums that were not designed to work together have led us to this leap of faith. Which Festool sanders are you using the most?

  3. Dan Frost says:

    From what I hear, the Festool systemt is the “elite” sanding/dust protection system. I have not used it personally, but leaning towards a demo.

    • Dan, we are going wholeheartedly in that direction after a bunch of sander/vac combo disappointments this year. I will most definitely be keeping you posted on the transition.

  4. Too bad Festool doesn’t have a 4″ in. square palm sander…. When I was looking for one outside the box stores, I found Festool and was disappointed they didn’t have what I wanted. Back to HD for that 4″ palm sander…. I hate shopping at HD…

    Great article! 🙂

    • Thanks Jason. Hope you are having a good summer. I think you are right about the 4″ square. The RO90DX came out in March. It is one of the ones we just got. 3.5″ round and has a delta attachment for corner and detail work. I am thinking this might eliminate alot of our 1/4 sheet (square) sander work. We have a bunch of old 4.5″ vibrators that are not always ideal performance wise.

      • Mike says:

        Scott, Have you used the RO90? Specifically on removing paint from window sills? I live in Hawaii where we have a lot of wood rot and such. BTW a little tangent here; be careful when fixing wood to use stainless fasteners. I’ve got it pretty well narrowed down to the wood rot being facilitated by galvanized fasteners. I believe they react with the tannins in certain wood, leading to the rot. OK, back to my question… I hate sanding in the corners around where the Uprights meet the sills, creating little areas that are a real pain to sand. I’m wondering if the RO90 would be a good choice for that, since it has the triangle pad as well as the round one? Or would it not be aggressive enough?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Hi Mike, yes, the RO90 gets a lot of use around here. This is our review of it: http://topcoatreview.com/2013/01/festool-ro90/
          In the delta (triangle) mode, in low grit it is quite capable and aggressive enough for that application. Also a real time saver on sanding spindles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VClRgNHvEHc

          • Mike says:

            Scott,
            Thanks so much for your reply and help. Your article’s mention of “what something is not…” being a good way to classify a tool was right on! My local Festool rep is always trying to push me towards the 6″ Rotex (he’s a carpenter…) so it is super helpful to have your hands-on experience with something we painters actually use. It occurred to me (being the cheapskate that I am) that I could use the inside part of the paper from my larger discs to put on the RO90 because it is usually only the outer edge that tends to get used (at least on the Random orbitals I use). Of coarse, one would have to either sacrifice suction or punch new holes in the paper to do this (sometimes cheap is not always smart 🙂 but in non critical dust extraction, it is a way to conserve. At any rate, this sounds like the perfect tool for me to start off with. Thanks again for all your input.

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