Decorators of my generation or older were probably not as aware of some of the potential damage done to our bodies, what with the lead in paint or worse chemicals or solvents emitting toxic fumes. Then there were textured coatings and other substrates containing asbestos powder. All of which used to be abraded by hand atomizing a contaminated dust into the atmosphere we were working amongst. Dust free sanders can help combat these concerns.
I have mentioned before about me being a bit of a decorative dinosaur, in many aspects I still try to keep alive traditional skills where ever I can. This does not however mean I also do not embrace new techniques or ideas. For the last five years I have encouraged us to become totally water based on internal jobs and within the next couple of years I believe exterior jobs will evolve naturally along the same route.
Health and safety is an integral part of any business no matter how big or small we happen to be, of course it used to be called common sense which sadly met its demise. Modern decorative apprentices are taught varying amounts of health and safety depending on what college they attend. In my personal experiences most of it suits site work or industrial scenarios more than the domestic market I tend to focus 85% of my business on.
Yes it’s important to learn how to lift correctly, but funny how lifting a ladder isn’t taught, also it’s not often a fire extinguisher and warning signs are located in most domestic households. Obviously courses have to cover all aspects but I think there are some areas many colleges miss out on.
Personal health is very important in this day and age, anything that could make your job more productive, improve the finish or most importantly produce longer term health benefits is definitely worth looking at. Having employed various apprentices I have seen some of the course work they need to complete. Some of it is very dated when it speaks of manual sanding or scraping of old lead based paints and recommends the use of a paper dust mask I think times have moved on.
Due to a rise in respiratory system diseases we need to reduce the amount of dust and debris ingested into our lungs and bodies as we carry out our work, one of the best ways to achieve this is to remove as much of the contaminates as possible through a dust extraction system.
Over the last few years there has been a rapid rise in the availability of dust free sanders with some very good systems being introduced from names such as Festool & Mirka. Both these manufacturers have top of the range sanders and dust extraction systems, although with the exception of the Mirka handy, a manual sander and hose for any vacuum cleaner predominantly their systems are fairly expensive.
I therefore set about seeing if I could organize a backup system for my own Mirka for a fraction of the cost. Alright I cheated as I already owned the extractor I was going to use on my budget system, good old faithful Henry.
But contrary to popular belief as despite contributing to a review site where you might expect I’m given things for free to receive favorable reviews, I researched and purchased the items without anyone’s knowledge of my purpose.
It did take several nights of reading various retailers review threads to decide which was going to be a suitable test subject. After a bit of deliberation I choose not one but two sanders from Screwfix for just under £50 which I thought was very reasonable.
Having owned and used these sanders for almost six weeks now I am pleasantly surprised by what you get for your money. Admittedly you need to fabricate a bit of an adapter to make the extraction work but there is a little short pipe that Henry comes with that serves this purpose, even if you wrap a bit of insulating tape around for added tightness.
Both sanders seem fairly powerful, the orbital one has five speed setting which can be useful. They are both a little heavier and probably noisier than their more well know rivals, but for occasional use it’s not to laborious. I have tried using both for various tasks many decorators will encounter to gain a broad spectrum of their capabilities.
Having initially used the orbital to abrade coatings of two oak tables for restoration and subsequently the detailed sander on the more intricate areas, they performed well on the first outing. Since then I have done various walls and woodwork areas.
As they both have the hook and loop fastening system a variety of abrasive papers can be used from standard Flexovit in the usual grades right through to Mirka Abranet which can be cut into shape for the detailed sander and purchased in the correct 125mm size for the orbital.
Very cheap entry machines for almost dust free sanding
Ability to attach various abrasive papers
Quite powerful considering cost
Variable speed on Orbital
Bit heavier or noisier than established brands
No dedicated Hoover attachment as standard
For the sixth of the price or either a Mirka or Festool “head unit” I managed to purchase both these useful sanders, if you can overlook their short comings of being a bit heavier to hold and manoeuvre and the additional noise, which isn’t to obtrusive theses are certainly worth a look as a step towards healthier sanding . I will continue to use mine perhaps a couple of times a week and test the longevity of both sanders but if they are connected up to a half decent hoover such as a Henry they are certainly better than nothing. Fifty pounds investment to the future of your lungs can’t be bad thing really.
Since writing this article the little Titan detailed sander eventually gave up the ghost, at first it was under guarantee and replaced with no quibble from Screwfix, on the second occasion I upgraded to this Erbauer.
Certainly powerful enough for many jobs and as before can use a variety of abrasives. Only minus point is there is not facility to attached it to a hoover, which makes it rather obsolete in this test, although I actually use it for externals and occasionally fine sanding internally to perhaps key a surface, where there isn’t going to be as much dust, just a quick run over with a hoover afterwards.
There are now many ways to achieve a “dust free” sanding set up, even on a budget, I focused intentionally on machines under £40 to see what they are capable of. Having done so I would not disregard any of the machines I have tried as good entry level tools.