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Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander
Variable speed and a built-in cyclone?
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 12-10-2010
There are few woodworking projects that do not benefit from the massaging of a random orbital sander. (ROS) Since its inception the ROS has become a staple in most woodworking shops, proving its worth even more. That also makes buying a good ROS the first time around well worth the money. The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander shown in this review fits that criteria and it even comes with a new twist – literally.
The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander weighs in at a trim 3.1-lbs yet features a 2.8-Amp motor that generates 5000 to 12000 OPM (oscillations per minute) with an overall oscillation pattern of 5-3/32”. The sanding pad accepts the very common 5”-diameter hook and loop type disks with 8 dust collection holes so you are never farther than the next big box store from a disk supply.
The grip area encompasses most of the top of the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander and gives the operator a good feeling of security and comfort. The shape of the grip area is ergonomically designed as is the trend in the industry these days. The grip area sports a rubber over mold that increases comfort, grip and offers a bit of isolation from the surprisingly low level of vibrations generated by the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander.
The grip area also serves as the home for the dust-shielded ON/OFF rocker switch. Located on the front edge of the grip the ON/OFF switch is easy to reach and operate. The speed control dial is also located in the grip area but to the side and well back. The speed dial is recessed but remains easy to use when needed.
The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander kit (#RK4246K) comes with the sander itself, a nice carry case, instruction manual and a couple abrasive disks to get you started. Also included are the “dust box” and an adaptor that allows using a shop-vac or dust collector with a 2-1/2”-diameter hose.
The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander has a speed control operated with a dial built into the grip surface. The dial has positive detents and numerals for positions 1 through 6. The detents are aggressive enough to prevent “bumping” a change in speed accidentally. If you are not sure what speeds are for what, the instruction manual has a chart with suggested speed control settings for common materials. Between that chart and a bit of experience setting the speed control right for the job quickly becomes a no-brainer.
Here is where the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander veers away from the pack. The “dust box” is not a simple container to catch dust as we find on so many ROS these days. Rockwell employs a few aerodynamic properties to enhance performance of this system, calling it a CDS or Cyclonic Dust/Air Separator.
The air is driven by an internal fan/pump that inhales through the 8 holes in the pad and sanding disk (if you take the time to align them!) and directs that air flow into a pair of venturi in the “dust box” that spin the air. The relatively high-speed rotation is designed to throw the heavier-than-air dust outwards so it falls out of suspension and into the dust box. The now dust free air exits the CDS through ports near the inlet.
To empty the CDS you simply pop open a spring-loaded door on the rear and dump it out! If that is not simple enough for you there is a good chance that woodworking is not for you. I must admit having my doubts about this cyclonic deal but was pleasantly surprised the first time I used the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander. See more on this in the video below!
In the Shop
The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander functions better than I would expect of a sander in this price range. The power is more than adequate and the speed control gives you plenty of options for varying materials and jobs. Turning the speed control down to 1 or 2 with a 220-grit disk in place let me sand between coats of polyurethane quickly without fear of breaking through the finish. Crank up the speed control with a more aggressive grit in place and the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander removes material quickly.
The dust collection on the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander deserves a special mention. While the cyclonic description offered by Rockwell sounds like a prime candidate for marketing overstatement it actually works! Believe me, nobody was more shocked than I was when I first used the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander. I fully expected dust to be forced out of the forward-facing exhaust ports on the dust box but not so. I sanded and sanded and no dust on the outside. Then I popped open the door at the rear and out came a bunch of dust! See the video for some poor camera work left unedited so you can see what I saw the first time I emptied the dust box. I repeated this process a few times just to be sure with the exact same results. All of the dust stayed inside!
The Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander is a well-made machine with a remarkable dust collection system. With a street price of just $59.99 (12-10-2010) this is a very good value. If you are looking for a new sander check out the Rockwell 5” Random Orbital Sander - and that cyclonic thing! It really does work!
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