Festool ETSC 125 Cordless Eccentric Sander Review

A hybrid sander that offers light weight, exceptional balance, practically no vibration, and superb dust pickup.

Festool ETSC 125

Festool ETSC 125 Cordless/Corded Eccentric Sander



With the advent of brushless motors and the improvements in battery technology, the boundaries between the cordless and corded power tools are closer than ever. But, while we all love the convenience that cordless tools provide, there are times when a corded tool has a distinct advantage. Forget to charge your spare batteries, or neglect to bring spares with you to the job site, and you'll be 'power-less'.

When it comes to sanding, Festool has taken care of this predicament with the introduction of three hybrid power sanders. You can operate these tools cordlessly or corded.

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The three sanders consist of the ETSC 125 5" random orbit sander with a 5" (125mm) backing pad, the DTSC 400 orbital delta sander with a 4" x 6" (100mm x 150mm) backing pad, and the RTSC 400 orbital sander with a 3" x 5" (80mm x 133mm) backing pad.

They all run off the same new18V 3.1Ah ERGO battery pack, and ERGO power adapter with a standard Plug-It power cord.

All three of these hybrid sanders feature brushless motors, which are pretty well standard now on all new power tools. If you're not sure what all the fuss is about, read our short introduction to brushless motors.

The ETSC 125, which I review here, comes in three formats, as shown in the following table. I don't recommend you purchase the Basic format, as it doesn't include a battery. You can only use the new ERGO batteries with these sanders – Festool's 18V slide-in batteries are not compatible with these sanders. Instead, choose the Plus format if you only want to use the sander with batteries, and the Set format if you want the option of using the sander with BOTH batteries and AC power – the Set comes with an ERGO power adapter and power cord. Of course, you can always purchase the AC adapter (#202502, $162) and Plug-It cord (490656, $66) at a later time.

ModelPart #PriceIncludes
ETSC 125 Basic575384$276Protector, Dust Bag, Systainer
ETSC 125 Plus201530$564Protector, Dust Bag, Systainer, 2 BP18 ERGO Batteries, TCL6 Rapid Charger
ETSC 125 Set201531$754Protector, Dust Bag, Systainer, 2 BP18 ERGO Batteries, TCL6 Rapid Charger, ACA 18V ERGO Power Adapter, Power Cord

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As with virtually all Festool power tools, the ETSC 125 comes with a systainer. In this particular version there is the usual top compartment – in which you can store the sander, protector, dust bag, and batteries – and a bottom drawer that houses the power cord, AC adapter, and space to store a generous supply of sanding discs, or the 2nd battery.

It's a very nice set-up that keeps everything you need organized and at hand.

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I'm pretty sure there will be some complaints about Festool's decision to change the battery pack for these new sanders. The reason, I think, has less to do with weight, as both the new 3.1 Ah ERGO battery and Festool's standard 3.1 Ah slide-in battery weigh the same – .88 lbs/0.4kg. Rather, the change likely has more to do with the design of the ERGO AC adapter and its impact on weight distribution and ergonomics.

I can confirm that the ERGO batteries do provide about 25 minutes of run-time – almost an hour of sanding with the two batteries. And, since it only takes 30 minutes to recharge a battery (using the TCL 6 charger), you really won't run out of battery power unless you're sanding non-stop for long periods of time (in which case you'd likely want to switch to the ERGO AC adapter anyway). 
Happily the ERGO batteries are also compatible with Festool's other chargers – the TCL 3 and SCA 8.

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The ERGO AC adapter looks just like an ERGO battery but it's a substantial 24 percent lighter. It uses the standard Plug It power cord that is compatible with all Festool power tools.

Switching between an ERGO battery and ERGO AC adapter is pretty quick – it'll take you longer to retrieve the battery or adapter from the Systainer. 

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The long life dust bag supplied with the ETSC attaches easily onto the back bottom of the sander and works quite well. A plastic hood on the front of the bag opens up to facilitate emptying.  

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In the top photo above I've sanded a section of cedar, about 6" x 12". As you can see in the bottom photos almost all of the dust was deposited in the dust bag. I found that, in general, with the dust bag installed, the ETSC was very effective at removing most of the dust until the bag was about 3/4 full. At that point dust pick-up seems to drop off, though not dramatically.

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But, if you want to sand virtually dust-free, then connect the ETSC to a dust extractor. It really is the optimal way to sand. In my shop I use the sander connected to a Festool CT SYS compact dust extractor almost all the time. Dust collection is so good I don't bother using a respirator. You can, of course, use any dust extractor, as long as it has a 27mm hose, or suitable adapter. The key is to keep the pad flat on the work surface and let the sander do the work. 

You do want to be careful not to apply too much downward pressure; otherwise you can stop the backing pad from rotating, and end up with unwanted swirl marks.
 
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The superior dust extraction on the ETSC is due to Festool's Jetstream dust extraction system. It works by increasing the volume and direction of air that moves dust from the sanding disc to the exhaust port on the sander. The center hole in the backing pad (bottom photo) serves as an air intake port, drawing outside air in through two side holes (top photo), and moving air across the surface of the pads. Dust moves out through the eight rim holes (and the four bolt holes that secure the pad to the sander). This 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. According to Festool, your abrasive discs should last about 30 percent longer – saving you money by extending the service life of the discs.

Another feature that you'll likely appreciate on the ETSC is the carbide pad braking system (which is also on the Festool ETS corded sanders). When you turn the sander off, the rotating disc comes to a complete stop in about half a second, enabling you to 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. 

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One thing you need to know is that you'll completely defeat the Jetstream dust extraction system if you use conventional abrasive discs (left in the photo above), as they lack a center hole, and the layout of dust holes on the discs won't match the holes on the ETSC backing pad. Instead, you'll need to purchase Festool abrasives (right side of photo). You'll pay more for these premium discs – .84¢ per disc, compared to about .40¢ for Mirka Gold or Klingspor – but remember you'll get a longer service life, so things will likely even out over the long run. 

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The ETSC comes with a plastic protector that slips over the sanding pad. It's meant to prevent damage to adjacent finished work when you're sanding, and to prevent damage to the pad itself. Once installed I barely noticed it was there, and leave it attached all the time.

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I find the ETSC very well balanced whether in cordless or corded mode. With a battery or the AC adapter installed it weighs just over 3 pounds – nice and light when you need to sand vertically or overhead.

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The ETSC has a lot going for it – light weight, exceptional balance, practically no vibration, electronic brake, superb dust pickup, and, of course the dual power option. The short 5/64"/2.0mm sanding stroke makes it ideal for producing a nearly swirl-free finish. A product I can confidently recommend.


KEY FEATURES:

  • Motor: Brushless
  • Power Source: 18V 3.1Ah ERGO battery or 120V (using ACA 18V ERGO Power Adapter)
  • Speed: 6.000 - 10,000 RPM
  • Pad Size: 5"
  • Sanding Stroke: 5/64" (2.0mm)
  • Soft Start
  • Pad Brake
  • Electronic Vibration Control
  • Power Cord: 13' 
  • Weight: 3.08 pounds (battery installed)
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes: Protector, Dust Bag, Systainer, 2 BP18 ERGO Batteries, TCL6 Rapid Charger, ACA 18V ERGO Power Adapter, Power Cord

COMPANY:Festool
MODEL:ETSC 125 Set
PRICE:Set: $754
MADE IN:Germany
SOURCE:Dealer Locator

Author: 
Carl Duguay
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