Reducing Labor with a Festool DTS400 Sander and Extraction System
For much of my painting career I struggled with the antiquated mind set that performing a task in an environmentally friendly manner meant doing it by hand. Traditional painting tasks seemed to have always been done manually – on a planet historically ﬂush with resources, blue skies, and clean oceans. We didn’t think so much about smog, endangered species or a giant vortex of plastic trash stretching miles long out in the ocean – much less the immediate working conditions on our jobs.
Until recently, this was my approach to sanding and surface prep practices as part the Harmony Haus philosophy. Everything was done by hand. It was painful, tedious, exhausting and messy. I thought painting was just a labor of love. Everything was hand sanded, from simple drywall repairs, to cabinet reﬁnishing to smoothing out skim coats on entire walls. It sounds ridiculous to me even now as I’m writing this. What an inefﬁcient backwards way of working! But I will only run an environmentally conscious painting company so was there any other way?
Power tools seemed out of the question.
But then I began to develop pain in my wrist and elbow from all this grueling manual work. After only ﬁve years working at my dream job as a self-employed painter, was I washed up already? If so, what would I do now?! Two years ago I had taken a ﬁne woodworking class for fun: eight weeks of working with wood. Next to painting day in and day out, this was heaven. While we primarily worked with hand tools, again an old fashioned way to go about building something to all but the serious ﬁne wood craftsman, I believe you have to start with the basics and know how to create a dovetail joint or mitered joint by hand before moving onto mechanical tools. Anyhow, after weeks of working on our projects, we did the ﬁnishing work with electric sanders hooked up to a vac. For these steps we used Festool equipment.
While I loved the quality and ease of use of these top notch tools, it somehow didn’t click at the time that I could take this technology and apply it to my painting practices. It wouldn’t be until a bit later that my “lightbulb moment” would happen! As my hands and joints continued to grumble over manual work, I began doing some research around the same time that Festool introduced their sanders and extractors to the professional paint market. This was when I made the connection, and it clicked for me.
I realized I could use Festool in my business! I already knew they were the best woodworking tools because of my previous experience. But now, my mind made the connection that my body was calling for, and I was immediately sold. I was preparing for an upcoming project that included reﬁnishing two dressers, three bookcases, two bathroom vanities and a row of kitchen cabinets in addition to all the repair and painting of the walls. It was a turning point for me to realize that there was no way I was going to be able to accomplish this in a feasible time frame for a reasonable price using my outdated and painful manual methods.
How I Started to Integrate Power Prep Gear
I placed my ﬁrst Festool order of a CT Mini Hepa Vac, DTS 400 EQ Delta Sander and a whole slew of Granat abrasives post-haste! My order arrived just days later and I broke it in on this big job. After day one on the site when I was able to sand and prime all of the previously mentioned items, I was astonished by the speed and cleanliness that my new set up allowed. Also, the simple organizational nature of how the tools relate to each other was a first, and an improvement to not only my cleanliness, but my efficiency. I couldn’t imagine living without my Festool products in the future. My own work conditions, and the experience for my customers would be changed profoundly.
The high quality of craftsmanship that goes into the production of these tools in tandem with their comfort, ease of use and the results they deliver is absolutely amazing. I have the smallest of the Hepa extractors which is just the perfect size for me to be able to comfortably maneuver and haul when I’m working that third ﬂoor walk-up. I almost never pick up a sanding block these days but for the smallest of repairs. It took a little ﬁguring out on my part ﬁnding the sweet spot between sander speed and vacuum suction, but once I got the hang of it I was off! After hours of sanding, one piece to the next, I didn’t encounter a single pang of hand fatigue. The DTS sander was perfect for open planes as well as getting tight into corners.
Granat: Icing on my Prep Cake
The Granat sandpaper is also a marvel in itself. I think I went through maybe two pads to reﬁnish all of those items on that ﬁrst job. It didn’t load up with dust at all and I probably had to switch to the second one because I tore the heck out of the point on the ﬁrst sheet from sheer enthusiasm and not wanting to stop. It seems that the combination of sander and extractor reduce friction at the surface, which helps the Granat to remain effective longer than I was used to. Again, a tribute to a well thought out system.
The Customer Experience
The speed with which I was able to reﬁnish all that furniture along with the time alone I didn’t have to spend on draping every single thing in the open ﬂoor plan unit I was working in followed by countless hours of particulate clean up on that ﬁrst big job with my new tools more than paid for my initial up front cost. And now I can truly offer an environmentally friendly service because my sanding is actually dust free. It’s clean, quick, relatively quiet and I’m not coating the home owner’s belongings in a ﬁne mist of dust, and then charging them to clean up the mess I made. I’m still building my business and don’t have a workshop as of yet, so when I’m working on this type of reﬁnishing work, it’s absolutely essential that I am able to do so within the client’s home without creating a huge mess. More often than not the homeowner is curious and drawn to my tools as I wheel them in, they just look cool and look like they mean business!
So what have I learned?
It took me ﬁve years to come around to Festool and now just months later I’m already planning on what to purchase next to grow my collection. Since my initial purchases, I have also ordered and received Granat soft roll pads so that the rare hand sanding I do is easier, and I purchased the Fakir wallpaper perforator to make the tedious task of stripping faster and easier. I have another big project coming up that entails the painting of hundreds of feet of baseboards, crown molding, window trim and doors currently coated in oil-based paint. It looks like the Linear Sander will soon be mine and it’s the perfect next addition to my collection and will make this RRP job a breeze!
Latest posts by Nichole Lovett (see all)
- A Festool DTS400 Sander Reduces Labor in My Love of Painting - April 28, 2013