We love our random orbit sanders. Like hand-held circular saws, they’re on our essential list of basic home woodworking tools. Now Makita, in service to the never-ending quest to expand cordless lines, offers a battery-powered model. On one hand, this seems pretty impressive, considering the amp draw most sanders produce. But is it worth your cash? And will it stand up to the corded models? We haven’t tried one in person, but we take a close look at the specs and the above video to find out. Read on for our take, and don’t forget to share yours with us (and other Toolmongers) in comments.
We don’t need to hash over most of the Makita’s specs because they’re not significantly different from their corded model specs — or, for that matter, the specs of most other standard corded models. A few stand out, though, as they affect cordless use and performance. For example, instead of the variable speed control we’ve come to expect on the Bosch models we have around the Toolmonger shop, Makita’s cordless gives you three selectable speeds — 7,000, 9,500, and 11,000 RPM — which you select with a button. This, we suppose, ties to that other key cordless spec, runtime. Keep in mind that runtime is seriously damn difficult to measure because it varies dramatically with how you use the tool. Lean in hard on a sander and you’ll increase the motor’s power requirements significantly, which will reduce runtime. Change the speed setting, and you’ll change runtime as well. Makita claims a 40-minute run time sanding on the lowest speed setting, so that’s probably the setting that draws the least current.
We also noticed the model’s weight — around 3.6 pounds — which is heavy for a sander, but makes sense as it’s pretty much exactly the weight of a corded model plus the battery. Speaking of batteries, this model accepts Makita’s 18V lithium-ion cells and includes one of the newer (and better-ventilated) 30-minute chargers. Though we haven’t tried one of these out in person yet, we did notice that Makita placed the battery pretty much even with the motor, which tells us that though the tool might be heavier, it’s probably not too unbalanced. Still, we’d hate to use it in a vertical plane for any serious time.
The real question here, though, is do you need a cordless sander? We debated this around the office for about a week before writing this, and our final conclusion is that unless you’re a specialty user, probably not. Whereas cordless drills prove handy and helpful for most all users, we feel the cordless sander falls pretty much in the same category as cordless circular saws: they’re awesome when you need to make a couple of quick cuts or when you want to complete a very small project out somewhere far away from power outlets. The question you have to ask yourself is how often do you find yourself in those situations? If your answer is like ours (not often), then you’re probably better off with a corded model which will keep you from worrying about whether you have charged batteries on hand or not.
Also, you’ll pay about $290 for the kit with charger compared to about $100 for the best corded models on the market (which include variable speed control). Basically, you can buy almost three corded models — or one plus enough pre-cut sandpaper for an imperial crap-ton of projects — for the same price.