About two years ago I bought a Festool ETS 150/5 random orbit sander along with a Festool CT MIDI Dust Extractor. The two together make sanding so much better an experience that I almost enjoy sanding now. Since that time, my Festool/Festool-like collection of tools has grown a little to include some serious dust makers. The MIDI has done great when I use it with the ETS 150 but that tool doesn’t generate a large volume of sawdust. A year or so ago, I picked up the Makita SP6000K tracksaw which is very similar to the Festool tracksaws. It can use the same rails and it easily connects to a Festool dust extractor. A couple of months ago, in preparation for some sculpted chair projects I’m going to be working on, I picked up the Festool RAS 115.04 rotary sander. This guy is much more aggresive that the ETS 150 and consequently makes a much larger dust cloud. The MIDI can handle the dust fine, but the bags for it are a little pricey and I don’t like filling them up really fast. An easy alternative would be to just get one of Festool’s larger dust extractors like the new CT 26 or 36. But have you seen the price tag on those? Very pricey. Also, very cool, but in this instance price wins out over cool.
Well, a few months ago I was looking for alternatives to deal with these dusty tools when I came across an idea from Todd Clippinger in a post he did on Lumberjocks where he mentioned an attachment kit that Ridgid sells that allows you to connect a Festool hose to a Ridgid shopvac. I was very interested. I already had a 12 gallon Ridgid shopvac out in the shop. So this week I set out to make my FesRidgid Frankenstein dust extractor.
First I needed to pick up the parts. Here’s what I started out with:
- Festool 3.5m non antistatic hose from Woodcraft
- Ridgid Premium Hose
- Ridgid Fine Dust Filter
- Ridgid Vacuum bags (Total price, about $120)
So let’s take a look at my choices in components. First, the Ridgid upgrade hose. The reason for this choice was simple – this was what Todd used to connect his Ridgid vac to a Festool hose. Next, the Festool hose. Why the non-antistatic hose? Well, for one, money. The antistatic hose, which I have on my MIDI costs nearly double what the non-antistatic costs. The cost/benefit ratio just wasn’t there to justify it. Now the finer filter. Well, for me this was a no-brainer. My initial reason for getting a Festool sander/dc combo was because I’m already paranoid when it comes to dust exposure. Most of my family is asthmatic which I’ve heard that makes me susceptible to adult onset asthma. Is it true? Old wives’ tale? I don’t know, but I’m not taking any chances. Anyway, this filter is rated to 1 micron just like my dust collector. Besides that, the old filter was due to be replaced anyway.
Lastly, we have the bags. This turned out to be a gamble, a gamble which I lost – at least for now. The idea was to mimic as many of the positives about my existing Festool setup. While a little pricey, I like removing the dust bag, tossing it in the dumpster, then installing a new one. Less mess and the dust I went through so much trouble to contain stays contained. These bags do fit Ridgid vacs, just not my older vac as it turns out. If you’re wondering if the bags will fit your Ridgid vac look at where the hose connects to the unit. If the hose connects to the motor housing/lid, as mine does, they will not fit. If, instead, the hose connects to the tub, then they will probably work. Well, all is not lost. When I was at Home Depot today for a separate project, I noticed one of the compatible vacs is on clearance. As soon as toy, I mean tool funds allow, I’ll pick one up and phase one of my FesRidgid dust extractor project will be complete. Phase two will entail building a rolling cabinet for it to live in (to deaden the noise), make a boom arm, and add one of those auto-on outlets so the vac comes on when I power up the sander/saw/router that is attached to this mess.
There is one feature of the Festool dust extractor that I like that my alternative does not have – adjustable suction. This is a feature of the MIDI that comes in very handy in reducing swirl marks so common when using a random orbit sander. Well, given its intended application, I don’t think it really matters in this case. My frankenvac is being used with my Makita tracksaw (no swirl marks here) and with my RAS sander. As aggressive as the RAS is you’re always going to be following it up with something else anyway, so again, no concern about swirls…but I don’t think you’d get swirls from a rotary sander – especially when it’s using 24-grit sanding disks. Gouges and claw marks, sure but no swirlies. Eventually I want to add a Festool router to my bag of tricks and that is going to make use of this vac instead of the MIDI.
Before we get too far into what’s coming next, let’s finish taking a look at what is done and how it came together.
First, the filter upgrade. This is a simple process. There is a plastic retaining nut you have to remove, then a round plate and then the filter slides right off. Slide the new filter in place, return the round plate and tighten the plastic nut, and it’s ready to go.
Now the magical part. Connect the Ridgid hose to the Festool hose. Actually, this is far less dramatic than you might think. The end of the Ridgid hose is just the right size to connect to the Festool Hose.
From here we’re ready to try this baddy out. To make sure it can keep up with it’s worst case scenario, I connected it to my RAS sander with some 24-grit sandpaper. This is the same setup Charles Brock uses in his Maloof inspired chair videos. Let me just say, this tool is badass. Even compared to other Festools. It’s still badass. I devised a little test to see how well this setup works. First I ran the sander against some alder scrap with no dust extraction. Then I connected it to the CT/MIDI and did it again. Lastly, I connected it to the FesRidgid setup and ran it again. I setup a raking light behind the table to make it easier to see the dust not being collected. I also shot the video at 60 fps instead of 30 to hopefully make it a little more clear. See for yourself.
This isn’t exactly a scientific comparison. The angle of the sander makes a difference as does the pressure I applied and I had no way to quantify the amount of dust the vacuum missed. It’s important to note that a rotary sander is far more aggressive than a random orbit sander and if I were to do this same test with my ETS 150 you’d see a lot less dust, even without dust extraction. Bottom line, the Ridgid makes a big improvement over no dust extraction at all and will work fine for what I need it for once this project is complete.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – auto-on when the sander is activated, dust bag, and a noise reduction cabinet for it to live in as well as the boom arm.