Random Orbital & Palm Sander Technique Questions

I've used both of these power tools for years with no idea if my technique is proper or most efficient. Is there actually a proper technique? Does anyone know it? Are most of you like me, in that you simply do what seems to provide the best and fastest results? And is what we've come up with *actually* the best technique?
Do you keep a light hand, go slow, and let the vibration do the work? Do you keep a heavy hand, move fast as if you're hand sanding, and just use a vibrating sander because it doesn't produce sanding marks? Do you do a combination of the above or something totally different?
Opinions based on actual experience will be given extra credit. :-)
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-MIKE-

"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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Use good quality paper and make sure it fits your Festool sander. ;) Seriously, though, the paper is critical and better paper makes a big difference. Dust collection is the other biggie - the more dust you can pull away faster, the faster the paper will cut and the longer it will last. Other than that, I just keep a light pressure on the sander and let the tool do the work. I find that when I start trying to hurry things along that I get more swirl marks, and with the finer grit papers you won't see the swirls easily...until you put the finish on.
R
PS I love me my Festool. I bought a used 850 planer on eBay and there was an issue with snipe. I put a straight edge on the bottom and the front foot was dipping down towards the blade. No obvious, or even not obvious way to adjust the foot angle, so I called Festool tech support to find out how to adjust the foot. My heart sank as the guy told me that there was no way to adjust the foot...then it soared when he said he'd send me out a new foot for free! I'm not the original owner, the tool is past the three year warranty date, and I explained all of this to the guy, and I still got the foot in the mail three days later - and it's a $40 part.
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I don't know if there's a proper technique, but the Bosch manual recommended a light touch and letting the sander do the work. Do not press down hard at all.
I believe it's best to press down a little bit, just to keep the sander firmly on the material. Now that I've got a sander with dust collection, I run the sander back and forth so the holes go over the sanded surface to allow the dust collection to work.
Puckdropper
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The quality of the sander will yield different results. Good paper is a must. IMHO there is no such thing as a finish ROS, it should also remove a lot of wood, fast. Any sander that does not work fast is a toy.
Having said that, My first sanders were B&D's 20+ yeears ago, I hated sanding.
I finally broke down and bought the PC right angle ROS, the one that looked like an angle grinder, It gave my B&D belt sander a run for its money. Although I could use fine grits on that sander I never used it to finish sand.
I also quickly there after bought my first PC SpeedBloc finish sander. It gave my all of my B&D sanders a run for their money, and raised a heavy cloud of dust. This was no toy. It lasted about 15 years and I bought another to replace it.
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that if you have a quality sander you don't have to inquire as to which technique works best. I suspect your sander may be marginal at best if you can not figure out how best to get it to do an acceptable job.
A few years ago I replaced both above units with Festool units, I simply got tired of breathing in all that dust. Both the Festool sanders work very very well but take a bit of getting use to when you don't see any dust to judge progress.
FWIW I tried every technique in the book to get the B&D vibrators to do more work, no luck.
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On 1/11/11 11:54 AM, Leon wrote:

I know it's marginal? It does a pretty good job with good paper and its dust port does a much better job than expected from a cheap tool. The only thing I wonder about is if there is an optimum technique. If I could sum up your post, it's the sander, not the sanding; the tool, not the technique. A great sander negates technique. So, I think I may look into a better sander. They don't look to be that expensive... I'm not looking to spend $170 for the Festool.
So, even with your kick-ass Festool, do you go heavy or light? Fast and sweeping, or slow like a street sweeper?
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-MIKE-

"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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wrote in message

That has been my experience.

Seriousely, the PC SpeedBlock is such a good sander it is still available today and predates the 70's IIRC, it is a finish sander but it will out perform many ROS as far as agressive is concerned with rough grit paper. You will need a mask or do as I did, stand beween the sander and a fan blowing at your back. You can get one for less than $100.

With the Rotex, I let the weight of the sander do the work and keep it flat, if I apply uneven pressure I could easily dig a deep gouge in a matter of moments, like a belt sander would do. I basically use it to make a mis-fit conform or for initial sanding at 120-150 grits.
The Festool 400 series finish sander simply has the weight of my hand on it. I move it at about 1" per second.
The Festool sanders start in the $200 range and they do have a ROS that you can turn on and not hold, it can be guided with the tip of your finger, you don't have to hold the sander. I cannot attest to whether it works well or not but I have pushed one around a piece of wood with my finger. ;~)
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On 1/11/11 1:35 PM, Leon wrote:

thanks for the great info.
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-MIKE-

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