I'll never forget the first time I used a random orbit sander. What a dream come true! Especially when coupled with a decent dust vac.
Power sanders are another part of what makes it possible for me to enjoy woodworking. That first random orbit sander was a Bosch, and it was the first higher quality power tool I purchased. Because of that good experience, I turned to Bosch several more times as I filled out my selection of sanders.
Random orbit sanders
I use the Swiss-made Bosch 3725DVS 3 Amp 5″ (back left) for heavier work. This is my second generation of Bosch's 5″ random orbit sander. I used the first one a lot. It didn't wear out; I gave it away when I purchased this one for its new features, which I expect to last equally as long.
Random orbit palm sanders
Recently, I replaced the Bosch 1295DVSK (back right) that I used for finer work with the newer Bosch ROS20VSK 2.5 Amp 5″ sander (front), and I really like it. It's a bit beefier (2.5 amps compared to 2.2 for the older model), with a nicer palm grip and a direct connect for the dust collection hose (finally!).
4″ Belt sander
I had a cheap belt sander years ago, hated it, and got rid of it. More recently, I picked up the Bosch 1276DVS 4″ x 24″ 10.5 Amp belt sander in anticipation of a kitchen/entryway remodeling project for which I intend to put down a wooden floor. But we got tired of the constant state of remodeling and decided to take a break and put off that project for a couple years.
Fortunately I've been finding other good uses for this big, heavy-duty, 13½ pound machine, enough to know that it's a well-tuned, easy-to-adjust, very robust sander. I attached it to my vac and was impressed that most of the dust gets sucked away (don't know if it would do very well with just a dust bag attached). The only bad thing I've read about this sander is that the platen wears out fairly quickly, but since they're inexpensive to replace, I'm not concerned about that.
3″ Belt sander
Belt sanders are aggressive machines, and the 4″ is just too big for a lot of the work I do, but using it has made me realize how much I appreciate this tool. So I started looking around for a 3″ belt sander. There are a bewildering array of machines in this size!
The first thing I needed to do is figure out whether to get a 21″ or 24″ model. After poking around for awhile, I learned that the 21″ size is more common, so I decided to focus my search there.
The second thing I needed to do was wade through reviews that were all over the map. Of all the woodworking tools I've researched, this is the one that has the least amount of agreement in terms of reviews. In fact, I was just about to get a different machine when I took a look at a considerable number of end-user reviews that were in disagreement with the glowing review it had received in one of the finer online woodworking magazines.
So I sat back and thought carefully about what I wanted. First, I have a heavier-duty belt sander, so I don't need the smaller one to be a brute. Second, I want a machine that is much lighter and easier to maneuver. Third, I want, as usual, reliability. Finally, I want versatility. When I put those four factors together, the choice was surprisingly easy and brought me back to Bosch.
The Bosch 1274DVS 3″ × 21″ variable speed 6.6 amp belt sander weighs only 7.1 pounds, just a bit over half of what the 1276DVS weighs. It has an inline motor, which makes it possible to have a flat top and low profile. Just as with the 1276DVS, it has three optional accessories: a fence, a sanding frame, and a bench-mounting stand that is well designed to enable clamping to a surface using the included clamps either on its back horizontally or standing up vertically (there are some good photos of the stand in use in this FineHomebuilding.com review⩘ . I ended up permanently mounting the stand to a leftover piece of maple using 5/16″ bolts in place of the clamps, and then I clamp the wood to my workbench with hold downs.
I've used the sander several times now to sand maple, both freehand and on its stand with the fence. It worked really well to flatten the face of some glued-up maple. I didn't use the sanding frame, but still found it very easy to control, especially with the variable speed option. I also used it to sand some ¾″ edges, something I would've had a difficult time doing with the bigger belt sander, and again found it easy to control. It's quite amazing how much faster it is to use a belt sander and then finish with a palm sander!
The belts track well—in fact I haven't had to do any adjustment yet, even after swapping in a different grit—and they are easy to change. It's a bit noisy (94 db), so I wore earplugs, something I don't do when I'm using palm or random orbit sanders. My Bosch vacuum hose fits directly to the sander and vacuums away almost all of the dust. Very effective! I don't know how well the passive bag does. It has a nice long 13' cord. The front handle comes off to enable close-in sanding.
This Swiss-made tool has been around for more than a dozen years, so I think it's probably going to be as reliable as I'm hoping for. All in all, a really fine addition to my shop!
I had the Bosch 1294VSK sander in my shop for more than two years before I began to use it a lot. I picked it up to do corner sanding, but when I really began using it was when I made the Happy Chewers⩘ maple chew toys (to sand the insides), and more recently when I refinished the saw handle on my Pax rip saw.
The pad that makes this tool invaluable for this kind of work is the sanding finger oval. It's long, narrow, and rounded, to you can get at the inside surfaces of tight curves. Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to find the sandpaper to fit this (it comes in 120 and 240 grit; part #: SDNR120 and SDNR240) as well as the pads (since they're hook & loop, they'll need replacing on a regular basis; part #: 2608000198).
The sander itself, a robust Swiss-made tool, is somewhat tiring to use, as it's a bit heavy and you must hold it far back from the center of gravity, especially when using the fingers. It also runs a bit hot and it vibrates a lot. But it's all worth it for what it makes possible. I think it would be much easier to handle for standard detail and corner sanding with the triangle pad.
You can attach a vacuum hose directly to the sander, which is nice, though of course it doesn't help much with the fingers.