Sometimes evolution is slow, but right at the end takes a big leap. Drywall sanding is one of those fortunate beneficiaries of the “finally!” phenomenon. We have seen it all in the past three decades – the sanding sponge, the pole sander, the cool variations on the pole sander – and in the past couple of years, the Festool Planex took drywall sanding off the hook.
With a price tag of just over a grand, the Planex may not appeal to the frugal, but to those who still value efficiency, cleanliness and quality results, it is the pretty new girl at the dance.
If it wasn’t enough to drag the dream of just about dust free drywall power sanding into existence, Festool rolled the Planex out with practical amenities that would make it equally effective in tight spaces – such as closets, narrow hallways or powder rooms – as it is on the open road of big walls or cathedral ceilings.
In typical Festool fashion, the Planex comes with multiple personalities.
The Planex travels in a larger than average systainer that is well padded to house the essential three sections that easily snap together to form the basic configuration of the tool. The middle section can be removed to shorten the tool for use in tighter quarters. In it’s full three piece setup, the Planex can be comfortably used on up to 8 foot ceilings. For higher ceilings, Festool also offers a harness which makes overhead work physically much easier. For extended wall sanding, we found it best to run the Planex without the middle section.
In addition to the harness, Festool also offers extension sections that quickly and easily snap into the stock sections of the unit, to increase length in 20″ increments.
We strongly recommend that the Planex be used in tandem with the Festool CT36 Autoclean extractor. This is one of those cases where, sure, the Planex is compatible with the full line of CT HEPA dust extractors, but the CT36 Autoclean is made specifically for use with the Planex.
There are several reasons why this is the best combo…at 9.5 gal container capacity/8.9 gal bag capacity, the CT36 is the desired size for large scale drywall sanding, because you do not want to have to stop and open your extractor very frequently. We have observed 20-30 hours of drywall sanding per bag. With 137 cfm of suction in such a well designed system, the amount of drywall dust contained in the dust extractor is astounding.
The AutoClean feature on the CT36 AC is set by the user to periodically “pop” the internal filter to prevent dust from caking up, and to preserve ideal airflow and suction. The convenience of this feature is beyond words, compared to the now unthinkable act of having to manually clean a filter loaded with drywall dust. The AutoClean feature can be completely disabled with the simple turn of a dial when you are using this extractor for non drywall sanding purposes, which is a nice option to have. The CT36AC is the only Festool extractor with the AutoClean feature, and it costs $775. The lightweight and super flexible hose is also noteworthy as a critical ergonomic component of the Planex/CT36AC combo.
For the Record
We have killed other high end vacuum/dust extractors by either sanding or vacuuming drywall dust. We are pretty sure that drywall dust is the Achilles heel of even some of the best vac/extractors, such as the Fein Turbo series. Drywall sanding creates such fine dust that it can easily infiltrate the motor housing and wreak enough havoc on the bearings to slowly deteriorate the entire attitude and functionality of a lessor sander or vacuum.
As usual, Festool has designed the Planex and CT36AC to handle the most extreme adversity – in this case, drywall sanding dust – with effortlessly. We say this with confidence after 18 months of using the Planex and the CT36AC only in the act of creating and containing drywall dust, in our contracting business and paint training program. We appreciate Festool bringing this tool duo to our attention and providing it to us for testing and functional analysis.
Grits and Control Settings
Between the Brilliant 2 and Saphir abrasive lines, a grit range of 24 to 240 is available for the Planex. The lower grits would be desired for more aggressive removal tasks, such as popcorn ceiling removal. For typical drywall or plaster finish sanding, we recommend the 220/240 end of the spectrum.
In addition to the standard 3 position mode switch that allows you to select manual, auto or off, the CT36AC has two extraction related settings. One controls the amount of suction, and should be turned all the way up. The other controls the frequency of the AutoClean “pop”, which is up to you, based on the rate at which you are sucking dust. We found it best between 25-50% on the AC dial.
The Planex has controls on it for extraction and motor speed. Keep the extraction rate cranked up, and the motor speed between 2-4, which is the mid-range of it’s powerband for typical drywall sanding tasks, higher motor speed for more aggressive tasks.