Working with Rotex Sanders

Written by on December 27, 2015 in Sanding and Dust Collection with 0 Comments
rotex sanders

Work differently.

Smart Sanders seek Smarter Users

Rotex sanders learn how we work as much as we learn how they work. I’m talking after hours of regular use.

If we pay attention, we learn how the sander wants to move, and it begins to recognize the repetitive patterns in our work. An understanding develops between tool and user.

When users wonder about a “break-in period” with Rotex sanders, this is what it means to me. You figure out each others’ tendencies, and it doesn’t happen in the first 10 minutes, I promise.

It’s a relationship.

Related: Basic Psychology of Low Grit Sanding

For example, there is a directionality to extended passes with Rotex sanders. If you go against that directionality, you lose. It’s not even a random pattern, it is a completely unpredictable one. The term “eccentric” fits. So, maybe you need to be more eccentric about your work to better work with Rotex sanders.

At the same time, there are moments in extended use when you feel the sander sigh and submit to the repetitive moves that your work calls for – moves that maybe no one else does, and no other sander is required to do.

Out of the box, the tool has no idea what you want from it…

We are always asking the tool: can you do this with us? Other sanders have not been happy doing this task. Can you team with me to make a fun conquest of some Friday afternoon ridiculous but necessary task? Oh, by the way, it has to happen fast, clean and ONCE, which is why we are having this discussion.

Tools have to be up for this. Not all are.

Festool

Not a beast in low grits, but…

Let’s crank out some low grit quickly, then pull in a small cruiser for some orbital mid grit range work.

You can do all of your sanding with an orbital (such as a DTS) if you’d like, but it’s going to be slow in low grits and not economical on abrasives.

Remember, less powerful sanders are generally most comfortable in higher grits. And power is often well reflected by the stroke rating of the tool, measured in millimeters. (For example, RO150 specs)

Ultimately, extended rough work overwhelms small orbital sanders over time. They are designed to run clean and fine. So half the battle is figuring out what grit most of your sanding is in and matching the best sander and abrasive to that range and the size of tasks you sand.

If I only needed a sander a half hour a week, it’d be a Rotex. Done.

Related: Understanding Mid-Grit Range Power Band

If you sand more than a half hour a week, you may need more. Sanding sometimes 32 hours a week, I am active across a broad range of grits – from 60 to 320, with frequency. I have to select the combination of tools that can cover my whole range of work.

Can you live with just one pair of shoes in your life?

If sanding is a daily, or even weekly thing for you, more than one sander may be desirable. That is, unless you are comfortable doing a bunch of hand sanding. That way lies madness, dust and inefficiency.

rotex sanders

Control from the tail end.

Best Rotex-ing happens when the operator knows how to steer the tool from both ends – from the head and the tail. That shows understanding of the tool’s directionality. There’s a lot of  interaction between user and tool when working with Rotex sanders.

Click for a “Rotex by the Tail” video demo.

Rotex sanders can become a more selective delicacy if there are better suited orbitals around to glide on surfaces and clean them up in the middle and higher grits. (Ec Tec sanders, for example)

Efficiency has to be considered when selecting combinations of tools to create the look and feel you need in the types of projects you do the most. If you’re pulling out tools for a project and all you need is 80 grit then you grab one sander. If there’s a need to also be able to smooth off a cabinet face frame nice and square, you may not enjoy Rotex sanders as much as you’d love an RTS or DTS.

Festool

Size doesn’t always mean power.

It bears repeating, you can do all of your sanding (including low grit) with an orbital, but in the long run the time and money it will cost in abrasives will make you wish you’d complemented your orbital with a Rotex.

The most extreme example of this is guys who ask me if it would be a good idea to sand their deck with an RS2. While certainly big enough to be appealing, there are too many downsides for the tool in that application.

Mostly, it is underpowered for the job. It’s not happy on surfaces that aren’t totally flat (decks never are, they cup). And, where it will hurt the most is in the cost of abrasives that result from selecting the wrong tool for the job.

The larger the sander, the more expensive the abrasives. If large, pricier abrasives are ineffective on the task (because the tool is underpowered for the task), its the wrong choice. And that is on the user, not the manufacturer.

The 80 to 120 grit step is where prep shifts from rough form to finish time.

rotex sanders

Choose the right sander and abrasive for the task.

Rotex sanders cover perhaps the broadest range of grits.

You can be in 80 grit or 8000 grit polishing in the same day with a single Rotex. But if much of your sanding is over 100 grit and vertical, there are better handling options for those who pursue the best result.

It comes down to this:

I’d rather sand with one sander for 20 minutes and another for 45 than 2 hours with either one.

It is about time, sometimes.

Time really is money, whether it is professional “on the clock” time or free, hobby time. To me, my free time is more valuable to me than my professional time. Better combinations of tools keep us from wasting any of our time. Those of us who grew up on cheaper, disposable power sanders are probably realizing this more every day.

An $80 big box sander can chew up hundreds of dollars in cheap abrasives before you realize it – with poor results, and slowing you down in the process.

Some tools look to be generally able to do all tasks and others excel in higher quality and efficiency. Finding the sander or combo of sanders (and abrasives) that doesn’t waste your time is important.

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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