Festool ETS EC 125 EQ Review

A professional grade, general purpose sander with exceptional dust extraction.

Festool ETS EC 125 EQ

Festool ETS EC 125 EQ Brushless Random Orbital Sander



If I was to have only one sander in my workshop it would be a random orbital sander. Equipped with the right abrasive, it's as effective for aggressively sanding large surfaces as it is for delivering an ultra smooth finish. And, the irregular scratch pattern of swirl marks it produces can be quickly removed by hand sanding or scraping before applying a finish. It's no wonder these are the most popular sanders on the market.

Festool recently introduced a new line of ETS EC random orbital sanders, consisting of three models. The sanders are basically the same, apart from the pad and orbit (or stroke) size:

ModelPart #Pad SizeOrbit Size
ETS EC125/35718975"/125mm1/8"/3mm
ETS EC150/35718806"/150mm1/8"/3mm
ETS EC150/55718926"/150mm3/16"/5mm

These sanders share six significant features that together, combine to make them an ideal choice for the woodworker who wants optimal, sustained performance, and long-term durability:
 
  1. Low-Profile Design
  2. EC-TEC Brushless Motor
  3. Active Electronic Vibration Control  
  4. Carbide Pad-Braking  
  5. Jetstream Dust Extracation
  6. Electronic Extractor Detection
The sanders are also equipped with NFC (near field communication) capabilities. However, at this time Festool has not made the app that supports this feature available in North America. When available it would enable the user to access usage data from the sander, such as hours used and last date of use, via a mobile device.

LOW-PROFILE DESIGN

Festool_ETS-EC-125_19

You can distinguish these sanders easily from other Festool sanders because of their low profile design and D-style (or enclosed) handle, which makes them somewhat similar in appearance to pneumatic sanders. At 4-3/4" high the ETS EC is one of the shortest sanders on the market. What I like about this design is the low center of gravity, which makes it very stable in use, easy to control, and less prone to tipping.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_21

The long handle is downright comfortable, allowing you to vary your grip to suit different working positions. You'll appreciate the compact design, and 2.6 pound weight, if you ever have to do any overhead sanding. 

EC-TEC BRUSHLESS MOTOR
 
Festool_ETS-EC-125_3

Brushless motors are now becoming much more common on power tools, and most manufacturers are dispensing with conventional brushed motors. If you're not sure what all the fuss is about, read our short introduction to brushless motors.

On the ETS EC electronics (digital circuitry) control the amount of energy delivered to the sander in order to save energy while at the same time maximizing battery run-time. Integrated sensors work with a series of magnetic poles in the motor to
 send positional information on the rotor – this enables the motor to regulate rotational speed precisely with minimal vibration. And, the absence of carbon brushes means less heat, less friction, and less wear – for a longer motor life and better return on your investment.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_22

The dust-sealed, rocker-style, electronic power button is flush mounted on the front of the sander and can be easily activated with a forefinger. If power is inadvertently cut to the motor, the switch automatically reverts to the 'off' position so that it doesn't restart until you press the button again – a nice safety precaution. 

The speed-setting dial is located in a less prominent position, below the D-handle. Not much of an issue unless you're constantly changing sanding speed. The 6-step dial provides speeds from 6,000 to 10,000 RPM.

ACTIVE ELECTRONIC VIBRATION CONTROL

The electronic control system on the ETS EC provides a number of functions. It provides a smooth start-up (soft start); delivers constant speed under load – which helps ensure a uniform sanding speed for optimal surface quality; and monitors the temperature of the motor, shutting down the tool if it overheats to prevent damage.
 
The electronic system also constantly monitors the speed and vibration of the sander to protect both the tool and the user. For example, on a typical sander, if you don't center the sanding disc on the backing pad, the sander will vibrate, making the tool harder to control and potentially damaging the work surface. On the ETC EC the electronic control system senses this imbalance and reduces the speed until the imbalance is corrected. 

CARBIDE PAD BRAKING

Festool_ETS-EC-125_20

When you turn the sander off, the rotating disc comes to a complete stop in about half a second – the fastest shut down I've seen on any sander (possibly on any power tool). This means you can set the sander down almost immediately after turning it off without the risk of damaging a work surface, or in order to quickly change sanding discs and get right back to work. 

The ETS EC accomplishes this by means of eight small carbide discs embedded in the sander brake (left side, photo above) that press up against the bottom of the sanding pad (right side, photo above), which is made of a hard, durable plastic. The sanding pad itself is likely to wear out long before the sander brake does.

JETSTREAM DUST EXTRACTION

Festool_ETS-EC-125_7

This is the feature that I find most significant on the ETS EC. The Jetstream system reduces heat build-up on the sanding disc, reduces disc clogging, prolongs disc life, and does a great job of removing dust from the work surface. It works by increasing the volume and direction of air that moves dust from the sanding disc to the exhaust port on the sander.

In a non-Jetstream sander air draws dust from the face of the pad through the base holes (B), and if there is a center hole (C) it only provides access to a retaining bolt that enables you to remove the backing pad from the sander. On the ETS EC the center hole (C), which also enables you to remove the backing pad, serves as an air intake port, drawing outside air in through two side holes (A) – the air moves across the surface of the pad and exits through the base holes (B). 

It's this movement of air across the surface of the pad that reduces dust accumulation on the sanding disc – particularly in the center of the disc. You want as much dust removed as possible. Dust that isn't removed continues to abrade the work surface and also causes premature loading of the disc. And, according to Festool, your sanding discs should last about 30 percent longer – which means better value for each dollar you spend on sanding accessories.
 
Festool_ETS-EC-125_25

The photos above give you a vivid impression of how effective the EST EC. I sanded a walnut board for 1 minute with the both the ETS EC and a Mirka DEROS equipped with an 80-grit disc and connected to a dust extractor. In the top of the photo you can see that there is hardly any dust on the ETS EC backing pad or the sanding disc – what dust you can see is around the extraction holes around the rim of the sanding disc. The DEROS pad and disk, on the other hand, are covered with a fine film of dust. 

Festool_ETS-EC-125_26

In the photo above you can see the disks I used to sand the walnut board – the disc from the ETS EC on the left, the one from the DEROS on the right. As you can see there is virtually no dust on the disc from the ETS EC. I wiped each board with a clean cloth, and the results were as I expected – the board sanded with the ETS EC had noticeably less dust on it than the one sanded by the DEROS.
 
ELECTRONIC EXTRACTOR DETECTION

Festool_ETS-EC-125_24

Anyone who does a lot of sanding knows that you'll have less dust on your work surface, and in the air around you, if the sander is connected to a dust extractor. Which is one of the reasons why the ETS EC is designed not to be used with dust bags and only with an extractor. In fact, it doesn't ship with a dust bag and none of the Festool bags will fit the dust port. The other reason has to do with the design of the brushless motor, which does away with the secondary fan used to facilitate dust extraction.

The ETS EC has a built-in electronic extractor sensor. 
The sander is shipped with the extractor signal turned off. You manually activate (and deactivate) the signal following a somewhat awkward series of steps, turning the sander on and off while holding down the power button and turning the speed control dial. It took me several tries to get the darn thing activated. Once activated an indicator light on the side of the sander (photo above) will illuminate when the sander is in use and connected to a dust extractor. Otherwise it will flash if the hose is not connected (in which case the sander will not start).

Festool_ETS-EC-125_13

For the extractor detection system to work, you need to attach a detector connecting sleeve (right side, photo above) that is supplied with the ETS EC, to your dust hose. If you have a Festool dust hose (left side, photo above) you can use it with the ETS EC.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_23

I simply slip the reducing sleeve on the end of the hose into the end of the detector connecting sleeve and then attach the whole thing to the sander. Alternately you can remove the reducing sleeve from the hose and replace it with the detector connecting sleeve – however if you do this, you won't be able to connect the hose to any other Festool power tools.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_12

Festool offers a new sleeved combo hose and power cord for the ETS EC. The sleeve makes it easier to manipulate the hose and power cord as you're sanding and it helps protect your work surface from damage, especially when dragging the sleeve over the edges of your work. It's available in both 11-1/2'/3.5m (#500276) and 32.8'/10m (#500940) lengths.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_16

I find that the setup I use to connect the hose to the sander works well – the connection is secure and slip-proof, and the rotating reducer sleeve prevents the hose from twisting. However, the weight of the cord and hose pulls the front of the sander upwards in use so that you have to put a tab extra pressure on the front end of the sander. This is most evident when you sit the sander on a workbench (photo above). This issue may be less apparent with Festool's sleeved combo hose and power cord.

Festool_ETS-EC-125_11

After using the ETS EC 125/3 extensively for the better part of a month, I'm very pleased with it's performance. There certainly are some very good random orbital sanders on the market – the Mirka DEROS is definately one – but none are as effective at dust control, in my view, as the ETS EC. 
 
You get a light weight, easy-to-control sander that isn't overly loud – I measured a 67dB level at minimum speed and 81dB level at maximum speed – and that delivers a great finished surface in no time flat. If you do a lot of sanding, then this is one sander you'll seriously want to consider.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Motor: Brushless, 3.3-amps
  • Speed: 6.000 - 10,000 RPM
  • Pad Size: 5"
  • Sanding Stroke: 1/8"
  • Soft Start
  • Pad Brake
  • Electronic Vibration Control
  • Electronic Hose Detector
  • Power Cord: 13' 
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes: Systainer

COMPANY:Festool
MODEL:ETS-EC-125 (571897)
PRICE:$545
MADE IN:Germany
SOURCE:Dealer Locator


Author: 
Carl Duguay
Discover more great woodworking reviews!
Subscribe Now and get instance online access to our library filled with exciting woodworking information.
Continue to stay connected to the latest tool reviews with our bi-monthly woodworking magazines!