If you are a woodworker, then you know how Festool owns the woodworking market. I can't think of another manufacturer that even comes close. Now before we started reviewing Festool, I didn't have much experience with their products. I could only go by what people told me over the years. One after another told me how great their tools were. After starting to use some of these tools, I realized what all the big hoopla was about. In my own comparison, I look at what Hilti is to concrete, Festool is to woodworking. Yes, you will pay more with both brands, but you get a much better tool for the job. Well as you can image the Rotex RO 150 FEQ Sander (571810) is no different. The Rotex is a multi-mode sander which not only sands, but it can polish. So let's jump in and check out this bad boy.
Before we get started I just wanted to mention when I first saw this tool, I was a little taken back. I thought by the size of it, it would be heavy and awkward to use. After using this sander for some time, I was dead wrong. The balance is great, the control is awesome and the sander only weighs around 5 lbs. Okay let's get started. Festool products are known for their durability and this sander doesn't look any different. First, Festool designed this sander with an enclosed gear system. This type of design prevents dust from entering into the gearing and bearing unit. The lack of dust means this tool should last much longer because of the lack of foreign objects. This unit is 6 amps and has a speed rotary motion of 320-660rpm, with a speed eccentric motion of 3,300 to 6,800 opm. So this has plenty of power for the tougher applications, but accurate enough for the finer applications. The unit has a 6″ pad diameter that uses stickfix hook and loop design for easy changes. The Fastfix Pad changes means this unit is tool-less and allows the user to transition between pads.
The unit comes in a Systainer that allows you to easily store and transport the unit. One nice thing about the Systainer is everything has a place and you can even store extra pads. Plus, there is even a diagram that shows you exactly where everything goes, so no more guessing on how to put the unit back. Picking up the unit, I was surprised how light it was, I thought it would be much heavier. This power supply is designed like the Milwaukee Quick connect where you plug the cord in the back of the unit and twist to lock it into place. When starting the unit, the first thing you notice is the soft start, so it doesn't jerk your arm. I always like soft start systems. I hate turning on a tool and trying to fight it right off the bat. Festool uses MMC electronics to perform this task and the same electronics also provide overload protection. Not only that, this is a variable speed and with the MMC electronics, you have the step-less speed control, but it also provides constant speed under different loads.
Okay, now the best part of this sander. On the top you will see a switch which allows the user to match the sander to the application. With the dual mode option the user can chose the aggressive mode for rapid removal of material. They can also switch it over to random orbital mode for fine sanding. I love this option because now I won't always have to reach for my belt sander. I can do everything with this sander. Will this replace my belt sander? No, but it's not meant to. However there are plenty of times where you need to remove a lot of material and it's always a pain to keep moving from one tool to another. With the dual mode, there will be plenty of times you can use this tool and eliminate the need for switching tools constantly.
With the rotary orbital mode the motion is a combination of two movement patterns. The pad both rotates and has an eccentric/orbital pattern at the same time. The aggressiveness results from the fact that the pad is gear-driven and forced to spin as opposed to the random orbital motion where the pad spins due to centripetal forces. With that said it is very aggressive, but has one up on a belt sander. A belt sander leaves deep linear scratches. With the rotary orbital mode it basically erases itself during sanding making it a much better finish and easier to move up pads. This is also great for polishing applications.
Regarding the random orbital action the main pattern is an eccentric pattern. In addition, the centripetal force resultant from the crankshaft offset causes the pad to spin. This is a weak force and pad rotation can be stopped if too much hand pressure is exerted on the sander. Due to the eccentric motion and the rotation, the tiny orbits are stretched into long curved loops, which, when interlaced, tend to eliminate any signs of swirl marks.
A couple of features of this sander is that you can use it in conjunction with a dust extraction system. On the bottom back of the sander, there is a port to attach your system. Not only does removing the dust keep a cleaner environment, it also helps prolong the life of the pads and creates a better finished product. However if you are in the mode and you are polishing, you can remove the extractor, which is a nice option. I am sure we have all done this before. You're doing some final touch up sanding application and what happens? You bump into a side and put marks on the wood. Now you have to go back and sand that again. Well with this sander, Festool also includes an edge protector basically eliminating this problem. It's up to the user, you can easily attach this accessory or remove it when not needed. One final item on this tool is the side handle. You can attach the included side hand to help provide even more control.
Overall I love this sander. Yes, it is bigger than most, but for the trade off and what you get, I will take a little bit bigger tool. The dual action sanding is awesome and I love the idea of having one tool do most of the work instead of switching off from sander to sander. The soft start is also another great feature. Bottom line this is another quality tool from Festool and anyone who is into sanding and looking for a system that is out of the box, this is a great sander.