Tool Focus: Rotary Sander

10 . 01 . 14

Once all of the component pieces of one of our hollow wooden surfboards have been prepared, the building and shaping process is done largely using hand tools.  The exception to this rule, however, is the use of an orbital sander in the final stages of shaping.  Without such a tool the final 5% of producing a surfboard would more than likely account for at least 20% of the overall build time and the production of each surfboard would certainly stretch out.  We received an early Christmas present back in November, when German power tool manufacturer Festool sent us a new Rotex RO150 geared eccentric sander to test drive for an industry publication.

The Rotex RO150 features three speeds and sanding patterns, for coarse sanding, fine sanding and polishing, which makes it perfect for the range of processes that we put our sanders through.  Essentially, all that any electrical sander does is remove material faster than you could by hand.  The main deciding factor in just how much material you remove depends on the grade of abrasive pad that you have fitted, just the same as using the appropriate grade of abrasive paper when sanding by hand.  We still use fairing boards and sanding blocks to fine tune the rails and intricate areas such as the nose and tail of each of our boards, but to achieve the high level of surface finish that we demand on the deck and bottom of each board in an achievable time scale we use an electrical sander.  By working up through the grades of abrasive pad we can quickly remove any scratches and polish the raw timber to an incredibly smooth, tactile, finish.  The other benefit is that we can plug the sander directly into our dust extraction system which makes for a much cleaner workshop – because the less sweeping up that we have to do late on a Friday evening, the better.

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