3M - Random Orbital Sander - Elite Series 28498, Air-Powered, Non-Vacuum, 5 Inch (Rating: 4)

Most of the time I write a review of a product after I give it a period of time to break or at least after a couple of extensive projects. I've decided to review this one after about two hours of use. Just wanted to as I was impressed. I'll be back if things should go south over time.

My Bosch sander, which I really liked, bit the dust a bit to soon for my tastes. It was a really good electric sander that had low vibration and worked well over the past three years.

Since I've got a 60 gallon two piston air compressor downstairs of the shop in the garage I thought, why not try a pneumatic one this time. There are lots to choose from and the really good ones are very expensive. In fact apart from some that are very inexpensive most are in the $100-$300 range. After doing a lot of research and trying to find one that was somehow midway between the expensive ones and those cheapies, I settled on a 3m brand. I never expected to go this route. 3m makes tape right?

The sander is hefty and feels quality. The grey metallic looking surface is actually a thick tough rubbery substance. Hence, I was very surprised at the almost lack of sound and vibration. So much so that when I started it, I thought it might not sand very good.

The sander feels pretty balanced and good in the hand. The back end is advertised as a 'wrist rest'. Odd but I guess it might be a good thing. The switch on the top is metal and touches a small plunger switch beneath it. The only thing I don't care about it is the small rotating thumb wheel on the side has three settings. 1, 2, 3. Not much adjustment for slow to fast. I understand that it is more difficult to do with an air sander. My electric had multiple settings that adjusted from a crawl to very fast. I most often used it on high so it's not a huge problem for me but may be for some people.

It doesn't come with a connection nipple. I have a bunch in a drawer so not a problem. But you'd have to get one. They're not expensive.

I had just finished a fairly large puppet theater for my niece. I filled the compressor and plugged it into the sander. Like I said before, very smooth with negligible vibration and just a low whirring sound. No earmuffs required.

Now, I learned something while owning an electric for three years. I purposely didn't get an air sander that had holes in the bottom to suck up sawdust. These are the reasons. One, I never bothered to hook up my old sander to suction much before anyway. Two, Getting an air sander with dust removal really ups the price on them. Three, and the most important reason. I found that having a sander with holes in the bottom to suck up the dust, although convenient as it keeps things cleaner and helps to unclog the paper, it can ruin hook and loop pads. This is how:

I am very careful with my sanders. Applying too much pressure can heat up the plastic hooks on the pads and melt them…. so…just sander weight pressure. Running them without sandpaper can… well, sand the hooks off. But who runs a sander without sandpaper? We all do sometimes. Here's how. Sometimes the paper will turn a bit or slide off. You can catch it quick before the paper actually falls off, so no problem but…. While it's sliding off the six or eight holes will, for a short period of time, not be over the holes. They will swirl around the pad exposing the hooks to the surface being sanded. After a few times of doing this, the hooks will wear out and the paper will fly off the pad when you use it finishing off the hooks.

So, I got a sander without suction, and hence no holes in the pad and no holes in the sandpaper. Still, I obtained a hook and loop intermediary pad just to make it last longer as they all wear out eventually. See it above.

Why hook and loop instead of stick-on. Well, stick-on is okay if you're going to sand a car all day. In the shop, I start of with one grit and change it up from about 100-440 on many projects with about 4 progressive grits all together. Stick on paper is made to stick once. So, I purchased the 3m hook and loop pad and changed out the rubber stick on one. Interestingly the hook and loop one has a more tapered edge so it bends a little more at the rim. I think this would be better for the wood shop.

Sanding… Yes it works well. The Wobble (Random offset) as it rotates, isn't as pronounced as my electric was but the first sanding project I used it on I was very satisfied with it's performance. Not all sanders are the same but most of them work and get the job done. This one is one of them. Looking forward to a long friendship with it. If things change I'll be back with an "addendum:" at the top.

4 stars for limited speed control

Price: $139 (sale) amazon as of Dec. 2016. Pictures above are from the company.