Which Festool Sander?

Written by on March 5, 2017 in Power Sanders with 6 Comments

Choosing the best tools for tasks is one way great craftspeople break away from the pack. Festool is well known for being the unmatched surface prep solution for efficiency and the most convenient customer experience. No one wants 80 labor hours of dirty prep in the kitchen when it could be done clean in 12.

Sometimes the biggest decision is which Festool sander to get started with.

Which Festool sander should you get?

What kind of work do you do the most?

The Festool system combines sanders, abrasives and dust extractors that are designed to work together. These three components in the right hands create the clean, efficient process that makes work easier.

There are more than a dozen Festool sanders to consider. Here’s a look at what they are and what they do best.

Compact Orbitals: Cabinets/Trim/Doors/Wall Patch Sanding

Relatively low powered and smooth compact finish sanders with excellent dust extraction. These are best on mid to high grit interior prep of all flavors and in between coat sanding tasks. Grit range you would most commonly put on them is probably 120-320. This is the line for folks who are wondering which Festool sander is just a good all around orbital. 

The compact orbitals work with 2mm strokes and are easy on abrasives because they generally are not on the rougher sanding tasks where things get torn up. Lightweight enough for use on overhead tasks, and user friendly for people of all experience levels. There is also a very high quality optional dust bag to fit this line for users who don’t yet have an extractor or get into situations where it is not practical to use one. 

[Festool ORBITAL sanders in detail]

Larger Orbitals: Mixed Bag of Mostly Interior Solutions

which festool sander

The old and new ETS 6″

It is sometimes amazing the production difference when you move up from a 5″ to a 6″ sander. That is the way to look at the ETS150 options from Festool. While the smaller orbitals have 2mm strokes, the 6″ round ETS sanders are available in 3 and 5mm options.

The 150/3 is good for large cabinet grade work in higher grits. The 150/5 can actually go low grit sanding on exteriors. The downside to this group is that they are a bit cumbersome.

ETS150/3 ($360): #571903 A 6″ finish sander with a 3mm stroke. The 150/3 is handy on interior and shop based tasks. It does drywall patch sanding and also large flatwork such as table tops and panel work with ease. Most effective in the mid to higher grit range, this one will seem underpowered in low grits. That said, it does flawless swirl-free work in its wheelhouse.

ETS150/5 ($360): #571916 The 5mm stroke ETS packs more bang for the buck because it can cross over from interior to exterior tasks. Throw some 80 on and sand a deck, stick 320 on it and do a countertop. Solid all around 6″ tool.

which festool sanderRS2 ($410): #567696 Weighing in at about 5 lbs, the RS2 is the gentle giant of the Festool family. 4 1/2″x9″ and 2.5mm stroke. This one excels in horizontal interior work at high grits:

  • sheet goods
  • table tops
  • countertops
  • doors
  • panel work

[ALL about the RS2]

Brushless (ec-tec): European Automotive Styling

The brushless trio is lighter, shorter and more powerful than their brushed ETS (above) counterparts. Really, a different world of sanding because the styling, electronics and motors are entirely current generation. They make the old ETS line seem…dated and awkward.


ETS EC 125/3 ($385): #571897 A 5″ mid grit range generalist for both interior and exterior work. If you have it, you’ll grab it all the time and it will make you money on a wide variety of tasks.

[2016 Scouting Report of the ETS EC 125/3].

which festool sander

The brushless ETS150 is over 2″ shorter than the brushed.

ETS EC 150/3 ($485): #571880 6″ with 3mm stroke makes this a good all around interior grade sander for everything from small scale wall patches to cabinet grade work.

ETS EC 150/5 ($485): #571892 6″ with 5mm stroke for a broad range of both interior and exterior tasks. Good across the full range of abrasive grits, and especially handy on exterior for such tasks as deck prep and sanding.

“The lower profile design of the Festool brushless sanders puts the user closer to the surface being sanded, so feedback from the sander is instant. More importantly, the tool is likely to restore balance before the user needs to.

The electronics in the EC-TEC sanders sense vibration and automatically adjust speed to “dampen” the sense of turbulence at the surface, making for not only a better user experience, but a more efficient path to a smooth, quality result…” [READ MORE]

Rotex: Multiple Sanders in One

which festool sanderRotex sanders are the most all around robust exterior sanders that Festool offers.

Each has a powerful gear driven mode that is exceptional for quick and clean paint removal in low grits, with excellent dust extraction when attached to a Festool extractor.

All 3 versions also have an orbital sanding mode, and the RO90 also has the capability of receiving a triangular attachment for detail work in corners.

If you haven’t experienced gear driven sanding before, it is a powerful feeling.

RO150 ($595): #571810 6″ dual mode sander that is best suited for exterior paint prep work on larger surfaces. A low grit specialist. The 60-100 grit range is where it will blow your mind, and beat your labor estimate for prep work.

RO125 ($490): #571782 5″ dual mode sander. Very similar to the RO150, just smaller.

RO90 ($440): #571823 The 3.5″ round pad easily swaps out (without tools) to a triangular delta pad for corner work. For years, we have referred to the 90 as the “ultimate generalist” because it solves so many prep problems. Often, if we are carrying just one sander, it will be this one because it has all 3 modes (gear driven, orbital and detail). [Full Review of the RO90]

Linear: Straight Shooter

which festool sanderLS130 ($410): #567852 This is the stair master. Ok, make that stairs and architectural moldings, both interior and exterior. Because the LS is a linear sander, its pad just goes back and forth in a straight pattern. It is powerful enough to cover a wide range of grits effectively. We run it as low as 80 grit for exterior removal on fascia details, like crown, bed and cove moldings.

It also excels in higher grits on interior stair systems. Yet another example of eliminating hand sanding on items we were never able to power sand previously. Worth noting, the pad and abrasive size are identical to the RTS400. [About the LS130]

Modular Drywall

which festool sanderPlanex ($1150): #571579 The Planex is a drywall specialist. Although you may be tempted to try putting it on a deck or floor! By drywall specialist, we mean large scale new construction and remodeling style raw drywall mud sanding.

This is overkill for small patches or in between coat sanding on walls, although it can certainly do those things. Worth noting, this tool has its own specially designed dust extractor that is capable of handling the absurd amounts of insidious drywall dust it generates. The vac is called the CT36AC (auto clean) and is sold separately. [P2F on the Planex]

Rotary: the Beast of the Bunch

RAS115 ($340): #570789 The RAS is the low, low grit solution for heavy exterior removal and stripping. When you think of reaching for a grinder or paint eater, this is the Festool option. 500 watts of power radiating from a 4.5″ pad.

Now, which Festool sander are you thinking of getting next?

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. steven hsieh says:

    How do you like the ETS 125 compared to ETS EC 125/3? If you would have to choose one which one would you get?

  2. Jason E says:

    I’m blown away by the RO 150 feq even with 180 grit Granat on pine tongue and groove soffit boards with bad planer marks. Rotex mode then regular orbital mode with the same grit prior to installation.

  3. Ron Ramsden says:

    Scott, once again another informative blog. The Festools have been in our arsenal of tools for a few years and having a blog like this which we will print and post it for all the crews to see will be very helpful.
    Thanks again

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