Here I am presenting a review of the Festool RO 125 FEQ "ROTEX", Rotary and ROS sander. It is the smaller of the two Rotary/Orbital style sanders in the Festool lineup. With a pad diameter of 125mm (~ 5") this is a very versatile tool for projects of any size. It is exceptional at rapid stock removal and can be used all the way up through finish sanding. Like (almost) all Festool tools, dust collection is at its heart. This is particularly important for a sander that removes material as fast as the Rotex!
So, let's have a look at the Rotex 125 FEQ:
The RO 125 comes packed in a Systainer 2, with plenty of extra room. It comes standard with:
- The RO 125 FEQ sander tool
- One 125mm soft sanding pad
- One removable plastic edge guard
- One 18g power cord. This cord will work on all Festool tools, with the exception of the OF1400, TS55, TS75 (which require 16g cords), and any tools which do not have the modular Plug-It cords (DX93, OF2200, Kapex, RS2E, RAS115 and both planers have integrated cords in the current tool line-up).
- A few sheets of 150mm sandpaper in an assortment of grits.
The RO125 has a relatively small footprint, with the following exterior measurements:
125mm / ~5" in diameter at the head
~12" long from the fore of the sanding pad to the rear of the dust port
The controls on the RO125 look much the same as most sanders....
The power switch is very conveniently located on the head of the sander, ideal for either right or left handed users.
But, there is also a mode selection switch! This sets the sander to either rotary mode (the large circles on the right) or random orbital mode (the small circles on the left).
The sander is remarkably easy to switch modes, modify the speed and to change sanding pads. The instructions inform the user to set the 1) mode to rotary, 2) depress the spindle lock, and 3) rotate the pad by hand counter-clockwise.
There are graphical directions printed on the bottom of the sander, to remind users how to change the sanding pad.
pic of bottom with directions
But, there is actually a very subtle "trick" to the pad removal.
What the directions do not clearly disclose is that the spindle lock has a slight edge and offset to it. So, when attempting to depress the spindle lock button, it sometimes won't budge! There is a barely visible arrow printed on the button showing that it has to be pushed towards the side of the tool, and then it can be depressed. This is very good design, to prevent accidental activation of the spindle lock while the tool is running, but it is a frustrating process to change pads if you don't know about this feature.
As shown, press the spindle lock button towards the side and then it can be pushed into the body, after which the pad can be remove.
With the pad removed you can see the interior of the sanding head. I couldn't find a single piece of plastic in here. All solid metal, heavy duty parts that will hold up to hours and hours of continuous use.
Here is the sander with the edge protector removed.
In general the edge protector is worth leaving on for any project. It's main value is that you can power-off the sander and set it down immediately on its side, while the motor spins down. The edge protector keeps the sanding pad and paper off your workbench.
Ok, enough blah blah blah... How well does this sander work in its two modes?!
Here I have a piece of American cherry that is rough, from the mill, and even has some water staining (my fault). My plan to use the Rotex 125, and this tool alone to prep the surface for finishing.
This tool can be a lot to handle in rotary mode with just one hand. The power and back-lash from the heavy material removal can give you a pretty wild ride. That is not to say it can't be done, as I'm sanding one-hand here.
However, this takes a decent amount of effort to control, and someone will smaller hands would probably have a tough time.
The good news is, the Rotex is very easy to control with two hands, especially holding the head, and the very end of the body, by the dust port. With this grip you can easily move the sander with one hand and control its lateral position with the rear hand.
Here is the same board after ONE (yes, 1) minute of sanding in rotary mode, using 50 grit Rubin paper.
I switch to 80 grit Rubin and commenced with two minutes in rotary mode at the same speed. I've wet the surface here with mineral spirits.
You can see that all signs of the water stain are gone; the mill marks are obliterated and the surface is very nice. The rotary cross-scratches are pretty visible here.
I then switched to random orbit mode, keeping the 80 grit and speed the same, sanding for 1 minute.
As you can see here, the RO125 is much easier to control one handed in ROS mode, though it still takes some effort and attention.
After 1 minute of 80 grit, I switched to 120 grit and sanded for one more minute.
Here is the result of only five
minutes of sanding this board, from completely rough to finish ready.
Here's another picture at a more extreme angle to the wood.
I find the Rotex *astounding*. It is my go-to sander for most projects, particularly anything in the refinishing area. It simply cannot be beat for controlled material removal, cleanup of the wood, and even to final sanding. It might not be the right choice for all fine furniture projects, but it certainly has a prime position in my workshop.
As with all Festool sanders, the dust collection is very good. The RO125's dust collection does drop off rapidly when the sanding pad is not engaged with your workpiece. Sanding 'off the edge' creates a small mess (see prior pictures.. dust sprinkles on the workbench), but absolutely nothing compared to any other sander on the market. Keeping the pad fully engaged on your workpiece results in about 99% of the dust being controlled.