ETS EC 125/3EQ Sander
Festool ETS EC 125/3EQ Sander

I have owned Festool sanders for more than 10 years, starting with the larger ETS 150 with 6” diameter. I then added a smaller, 5” pad model. The combination of excellent ergonomics and vibration reduction that puts other sanders to shame makes these sanders “must haves” for any type of finishing operation.

Earlier this year, I was invited to try the new ETS EC 125/3EQ coupled with the CT Mini dust extractor. As usual, both pieces of equipment were built with the user in mind, with convenient storage for accessories, cords, hoses, and sandpaper. The Systainer system ability to carry a powerful vacuum and a sander (or more) with everything needed in one hand is a very nice bonus. I actually added a second sander to the setup—which added to the weight a bit—and I had everything needed for two workers to complete a big sanding job.

The sander is powerful, thanks to the EC-TEC brushless motor, but it remains very smooth and vibration free. I often restore and repair high-end cabinetry and paneling, and some of that work is in the field. When coupled with the dust extractor, the sander sands without creating almost any dust whatsoever, which is a real plus.

The lower profile of this newer version compared with that of my older ETS 125 3 allowed me to get into some smaller spaces. The pad clears the handle a bit more, too, which makes it possible to sand right to the edge of work, no matter the position of my hand. The sander accepts all Festool abrasives, including GRANAT and RUBIN. I use the GRANAT paper for most of my work on unfinished wood, or when I am refinishing. The paper is long-lasting; I get very little if any loss of abrasive particles from the paper, and it rarely clogs up if the finish being sanded is cured.

On this particular job, I was working on a master-suite closet system comprised of cabinets made of soft maple cases and paint-grade faceframes, drawer fronts, and doors. Here I used #180 to remove pencil lines, smudges, and milling marks. The sander performed well, yielding a smooth surface ready for paint. I used #220 to smooth the primer coat and #400 between finish coats. On these older barn doors made of heart pine, I needed a more aggressive removal, and the sander didn’t disappoint. After Infra-red paint removal, we needed to produce a surface prepared for clear finish as part of this historic restoration. The #100 really made quick work of leveling the wood to a uniform appearance and texture. Subsequent sanding with #120 then #150 smoothed it perfectly without visible sanding marks. Newer pine that is much softer would have needed another sequence of #180 or #220, especially if you were staining it.

The only drawback I found to the sander is the balance when fitted with the vac hose. With the sander's lightweight design (surely a good thing), the hose tended to pull down on the rear port area a bit when sanding on a horizontal surface, which can cause the pad edge to create a swirl. Likewise, when I do overhead work, the hose pulls on the port, and the front edge of the pad may become pressured. To alleviate this, I simply work the tool with both hands, and the issue is solved.

Cost: $385

Dust Extraction Port27 mm
Motor TypeEC–TEC Brushless Motor
Pad Size5" Diameter (125 mm)
Power Consumption400 watts (3.3 amps, 120 V AC)
Sanding Stroke1/8" (3.0 mm)
Speed6,000 - 10,000 RPM
SystainerSYS 2 TL
Weight2.6 lbs. (1.2 kg)