Festool ES150/3 EQ Random Orbital Sander Review
By Jack A. Loganbill
We use a variety of random orbital sanders in our shop including a Bosch 3283 and a DeWALT 421. They are both good sanders, but neither would be considered a top-of-the-line, "professional" sander. Festool offered us the opportunity to try the Festool 150/3 random orbital sander and we have found it to be a significant improvement compared to our less-expensive sanders.
Sanders like the Dynabrade, Fein, Festool, and Metabo run hundreds of dollars more than typical homeshop sanders. What you get in return is a better-made tool that results in a closer to ideal scratch-free sanded surface, higher rate of material removal, lower vibration, superior dust collection, and longer tool life. Sanding is not the most enjoyable workshop task but as we found with the Festool ES 150, a high-quality sander makes the job a lot more tolerable.
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Physically, the ES 150/3 is taller and larger than the typical homeshop sander. The ES 150/3 has a six inch sanding pad, which according to my math, provides 30% more sanding area than a five inch disk. In fact, the disks of our other sanders seem puny in comparison.
The large handle is comfortable and is angled in a way that allows you to use the sander one-handed quite comfortably, however, we generally use two hands when operating it. The motor housing is nicely shaped for one's hand, though I wouldn't use it as a "palm" sander unless you have the hands of Michael Jordan.
Though more powerful than our other sanders (70+ watts more powerful than the Bosch), it runs quieter and with less vibration. In fact, vibration is virtually non-existent.
I have found that dust collection is a primary design feature of Festool tools, and the ES 150/3 is no exception.
The ES 150/3 provides an excellent built-in dust collection port. It's not a flimsy plastic port that can fall off, it's an integral part of the sander's lower casting. The ports of our other sanders are not as well designed. Our DeWALT's port is not intended to accept a hose, and though we added a port that accepts one, it's not the best arrangement. The Bosch provides a round plastic port but it's diameter does not accept our vac hoses and it exits directly out the sander's right side which isn't the best location for a hose.
The ES 150/3 employs a unique nine-hole pattern in its pad and sanding disks. Eight holes are placed around the circumference similar to other sanders. A larger ninth hole is placed in the center that acts as a vent to prevents vacuum lock-up. For dust extraction or vacuum cleaning to work, you have to have airflow. A principle I demonstrated when selling vacs as a teenager. If you stop the airflow of a vac, you'll have suction but not dust collection.|
Try it: Turn on your shop vac and place the end of the vac nozzle flat on your workbench top. Depending on the power of your vac, you may have trouble breaking the nozzle loose! However, even though the vac motor is screaming away providing maximum suction, you'll notice no debris is actually being sucked into the vac--suction without collection. I assume this is the principle behind Festool's ninth-hole. It ensures air flow to/through the other eight holes, even when the sanding pad is making flat contact with the work piece surface. Consequently, the Festool sander should pick up more dust than conventional sanders and since the disk does not load up as fast, it should last longer.
|The ES 150/3 comes equipped with a very effective paper dust / filter bag (and plastic frame for support) for those who prefer a bag rather than a vacuum and hose. The bags are not reusable--once they're full you discard them. Festool wants the user to avoid breathing dust, both when using the tool and during disposal of the dust. Anyone who has dumped the contents of a cloth filter bag, especially the small bags associated with sanders, can appreciate the Festool philosophy of discarding rather than dumping. By the way, a pack of 5 Festool Turbo bags costs less than $5.00. A pack of 25 costs about $20.00.|
|Electronic Speed Control|
The ES 150/3 provides step-less variable speed (8,000 to 21,000 strokes per minute) controlled by a dial located on the front of the sander. Our Bosch is also variable speed, but the speed is controlled by the trigger position. I prefer the on/off trigger and separate speed control dial of the ES150/3. With the Bosch-style variable trigger, it is too easy to apply more speed than is desired, and though you can "preset it", the dial is inconveniently attached to the trigger.
The ES 150/3 is equipped with an effective and easily replaceable brake. The ES 150/3 takes 4 seconds to come to a complete stop from maximum RPM. In comparison, our DW 421 takes about 6 seconds and the Bosch takes a whopping 17 seconds to stop from its maximum RPM. Also, either the brake or the electronics (or both) keep the ES 150/3 from spinning beyond a certain RPM--our Bosch will happily run away with itself without a load.
|Sanding Pads and Disks|
The sanding pad is easily removable using the provided hex key, stored on the sander itself. Festool offers an array of optional sanding pads (very soft, soft, hard) and polishing pads. Since the pad is so easily removed, you're more apt to select/use the right pad for any particular job.
The Festool branded Stickfix (Velcro-backed) sanding disks hold up well and are very reasonably priced (approximately $15.00 per 50). We pay that much for our 5", 8-hole disks. You can also purchase the Festool (a.k.a., Festo) nine-hole disks through the major outlets (i.e., Klingspor carries them for approximately $16.00 per 50, which is the same price they charge for their other 6" disks).
|Removable Power Cord|
The power cord is four meters (approximately 12 feet) long, a good five feet longer than the cords of our other sanders. Plus, the cord twist-locks on and off the handle. This allows you to easily replace the cord if damaged or to quickly switch sanders in a production environment where perhaps you have multiple sanders setup with different sanding grits but don't want the mess of multiple cords.
|Systainer Carrying Case|
The ES 150/3 is delivered in a fitted Festool Systainer. The Systainer's latches and design allow you to connect it to other Systainers and to the CT line of Festool dust extractors. The ES 150/3 Systainer provides storage for the sander, the dust/filter bag and frame, and approximately 50 6" sanding disks.
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Swirl Free Finish
Low Vibration - Comfortable to Use
Speed Control - Braking
Six Inch Sanding Disks
Dust Filter Frame
The Festool ES 150/3 produces a great sanded finish, what you would expect from a sander in this price range. The sander is a pleasure to use--the vibration and noise levels are less than our other sanders and the dust collection is remarkable. Health concerns aside, it's just downright annoying to work in an environment where dust is being exhausted from a sander. Cost of ownership should be lower than other sanders due to the extended life of the sanding disks and long expected life of the sander itself (three year warranty, 30-day money back). Not having used a Fein or a Dynabrade with dust collection, I can honestly say that I have not used a better sander than the ES 150/3, and thus give the ES 150/3 a FIVE.
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