It’s funny when you witness yourself becoming a supporter of the horse and buggy when you see an automobile go zipping by. When Makita sent us their LXOB01 18v cordless sander, I let it sit for a while because I “knew” it would be a dud. This was not the case.
The cordless sander does have limitations that a corded one doesn’t: it’s heavier, and the battery eventually runs down. What Makita rightly pointed out is that the drill also went through this process as well and seems to have come through stronger. In fact, more cordless drills are sold today than corded, and the palm sander has the advantage of better battery technology in third-gen Li-Ion packs. The press material claims anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of sanding per battery charge, which we confirmed in our testing. It’s easy to quote figures, but in real project time, what does that 20 -40 mins mean?
The three-speed selector may seem like a bit of downer if you’re used to a wheel that dials in whatever speed you want on a more traditional palm sander, but this wasn’t an issue with the Makita. We put it through several different projects, from a dresser rebuild to a set of 8′ x 8′ Hungarian shelves like the ones Chuck installed a while back, plus a few others in between. In almost every case, they performed admirably with virtually no difference between a corded unit vs. a cordless.
The resulting complaints were very minor — more like niggles than real complaints. The first was the dust bag: it falls off. It doesn’t happen often and normally only when it’s full, but the resulting dust plume when it hits the ground is curse-inspiring. A simple catch or clip of any kind would solve the issue completely. The other issue is one of process, not function. The simple truth is: you will have to change batteries. In our case, under hard load (sanding nine 8′ boards top to bottom for the Hungarian shelves) we needed to change the batteries every 30 minutes or so. The four hours of sanding never left us without a sander as the other battery would indeed last that long. The sander did slow down noticeably before it stopped, which we took as a warning to change up. After a few weeks of operation, that really is the most we could find wrong with the thing.
There are many things just flat right with the LXOB01, too: slinging the battery center mass vertically works out great for balance. It takes standard 8-hole, 5-inch hook-and-loop paper discs, and it is nice not to have to bother with a cord. Plus the 18v power pack motor combo delivers enough grunt to get the job done.
Does it vibrate? Yes, of course — it’s a random orbit sander; they all do. However, it doesn’t shake you up more than any other machine of its type, and looking for better than that might just be wishful thinking.
But is the LXOB01 worth $300? That’s a tough question. If you’re already invested in the Makita 18v Li-Ion line, sure. It’s a no-brainer as the tool itself is only $105 without the pack, bag and charger. If you’re looking for an entry into the system it might be a little steep but no one thinks twice about shelling out extra cash for a Li-Ion cordless drill over a corded one, either. Regardless of my personal viewpoints at the outset, the LXOB01 does work as advertised for run time, function, and durability. It’s a solid tool currently ahead of its time compared to the rest of the market.