Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review of the Festool RAS-115 Rotary-Action Sander

If you saw my Sculpted Mahogany Vanity series, I used the RAS-115 a lot for shaping the surfaces into very tactile undulating waves.  That's not a normal thing to do, but shows how the RAS combines rapid stock removal, excellent control, and (most important!) dust collection!

As the name suggests, the RAS is a rotary-action sander with no eccentricity (other than any caffeine-induced shakes from the operator trying to finish the vanity late at night).

What makes this Festool different than the others is this is the only one I own that is a go-to tool when you don't expect it; if you have it around, you'll find it in your hands an awful lot.

In this review, I talk about the parts and an optional FiberFix pad used for fiber wheels and polishing heads (for stone, not your car). We'll take it apart so you see the components because not all of them are needed when you use the RAS: you can remove the dust shroud for polishing (this time, your car).

At the end, I'll do a demo of dust collection and shaping similar to what I did to the vanity surfaces; while you won't be doing projects like that, it demonstrates much of the dust collection concepts explained earlier.  Some close-up slo-mo clearly shows how even with the dust shroud in the wrong position, the RAS collects a lot of dust.

In the video, I list some uses; here they are listed in case you didn't have a pencil handy:

  • Paint and varnish stripping; use Cristal papers for durability, no loading, and speed
  • Shaping wood; use Rubin or Cristal papers.
  • Coping; to me this is shaping, but in case you skipped that item
  • Honing natural stone tile edges nearly dust free; needs FiberFix pad
  • Scuffing or leveling concrete/thin-set; use Saphir paper.
  • Cleaning metal including for priming; use Vlies pads (an abrasive pad).
  • Coarse sanding of metal; use Saphir
  • Smoothing cut metal edges; use fiber disc with FiberFix pad and optional metal dust collection brushes and a spark trap on your dust extractor.
  • Polishing using Shinex pads.
There are no polishing heads specifically made for the RAS-115, but the now available Shinex has a number of larger 150mm (6") pads.  They also have an M14 arbor like the RAS pads.  Now the RAS runs from 1,400-4,000 rpm whereas the Shinex runs from 400-2,100 rpm; that means the RAS speeds 1-3 will somewhat match the Shinex speeds 3-6.  Is it as good as having a separate Shinex?  Likely not.  But if you have a RAS-115, you have the option of popping a Shinex pad on it for some polishing situations.  Note that this isn't outlined in the RAS manual as it predates the Shinex and Festool would likely only recommend polishing with the Shinex, not the RAS.  So, your mileage will vary.

Just as a reminder, the RAS-115 comes with a normal power cable (very long one at that!) and not a Plug-It tail like I have; I got that from one of my moles in the UK :) (thanks, mole!)  

Okay, popcorn is ready by now... cue up techno music...


  • ChrisHasFlair said...

    Nice review. When I used one, I was impressed at how quickly it was able to remove stock.

    PS: Nice ending!


  • rrooster said...

    Thx for the review Paul-Marcel, I will soon own all the Festool tools thx to you. Now I just need to find the time to use them — any ideas?

    I have two "feature" requests: Will you please review the MFS 400? It looks to be a very interesting "jig", and speaking of jigs, will you also show how to make a secret mitre dovetail joint with the Festool dovetail Jig? (Dovetail hidden behind a 45º joint)

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Rooster...

    No project idea for the moment... hey! maybe make a vanity and sculpt it all up?! or make a cabinet shaped like a diamond! actually the bevels on that one are awkward with the TS-75...

    I don't have an MFS 400 or 700 system so can't really review it; otherwise I would have most likely. Think I've reviewed all the Festools I have except the CT-22 dust extractor, which was discontinued when I started doing videos so it seems silly to review.

    I also don't have the Festool dovetail jig. I should have added that joint to the series of hand-cut dovetails. I think I'll go back and do that, although that doesn't really answer your question.


  • rrooster said...

    Sounds like you need more tools! (consumer advocate speaking)

    thx anyway... (perhaps a bee for later.)



  • rrooster said...

    (I'm catching up on your videos)... just watched your English-Polish videos... good job!

    You just sparked an idea... Going back to the secret mitre dovetail joint... Can you bury some small Domino's @ 45º, creating the same end result?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Kinda... if the material to be joined is relatively thin, you may not be able to fit a Domino in there; if anything, you'll be really close to the inside surface (which is fine; just sayin').

    The 4mm Dominos can be useful for small stock like that. If they fit, go for it! Test on scrap to make sure you don't poke out the front :)

  • Tony said...

    You have no more Festools that are not yet reviewed??? With your habit, surely not! :).
    As I've said in emails we've exchanged, you are the reason I have so many Festools - and I am very grateful!

    Looking forward to the next review/project - maybe the cutting of dominoes Ian. Curved rail like drew discussed for bed design mk1?

    Have fun

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Have a feeling you're right, Tony, but I don't know if doing a review of Festool promo pencils is gonna be that interesting :)

    Next project is somewhat in progress right now, except work interrupted it greatly. The problem is I need to build a mock-up of part of it to prove the angles work. Bit odd to film as I want to film parts of making the mock up, but I want to introduce the project showing the mock-up. I'll figure it out... it's a hairy mess of compound angles (I count only seven 90º angles in this), some veneering, some "mixed media", and probably a whole lot of cussing off camera due to the angles! But I've needed this one done for a couple years now.

  • Garnet70 said...


    It looks like you have fashioned a special dust extractor hose with your RAS similar to what Cliff demonstrates on his website ( where he connects a short length of 27mm host from the sander to the larger 36 mm hose (which can be directly connected to the plunge saw and other tools). Is this what you did? I like what Cliff has done but hope you or someone else has figured out a way to achieve the same result without cutting up a pricy hose.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Garnet,

    Actually that short snippet of hose can be purchased as a unit from Tom Bellemere (D36->D27 hose adapter). Basically he takes a standard D27 hose and cuts it up into short lengths and pops two tool port ends on it. Per Festool pricing rules, he charges for the port ends and a fraction of the original hose. Works out well.

    What you saw in the video was my D36 hose on the boom arm; very nice when you are routing since you want the larger hose. But, the D36-AS hose isn't very flexible... it will constantly fight you. You'll also notice that when you remove this 'pigtail' of sorts, you now have a lot of power cord off the boom arm. That hooks into things, which defeats the purpose of the boom arm.

    That said, last weekend, I removed the D36 from the boom arm and went back to just the D27, but I have added another hook to the boom arm so when I swap in the D36 hose, I can at least easily hook it up off the arm.

  • Garnet70 said...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Garnet70 said...


    Thank you for your thoughtful response. The pigtail adapter sounds like a workable solution, but your experience points out several downsides that I wouldn't have considered. First there is the issue of matching the length of the hose (once the adapter is removed) with the power cord and boom arm that so many owners like to use. This seems to further underscore the need for Festool to offer a short, simple D36 to D27 adapter rather than a lengthy pigtail. But your second point about the inflexibility of the D36 hose may be the answer to why Festool doesn't produce it. It sounds like the D36 is really the wrong hose to use when sanding.

    Perhaps rather than be frustrated at why Festool doesn't produce such an "obvious" adapter, I missed the point that it was probably considered and rejected because it would encourage improper use of their tools. Maybe it's just a case of poor Festool communications - which anyone who has ever read a Festool manual can understand. Thank you again for your great feedback and considered opinions. Keep up the good work, Paul.


  • Tony said...

    Fantastic, once again a great review - best out there.
    I was convinced enough to buy one and love it. try the 24 grit paper :)

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Ah, Tony, you're back :) Yeah P24 on the RAS shreds! I used it on some of the vanity where I didn't "pre-sculpt" with the router. With soft Mahogany, P50 or the occasional P36 was plenty fast at shaping.

    Glad you like it; guarantee you'll be grabbing it for things you didn't think of initially...