As part of our old farmhouse renovation, we’re replacing all the baseboards and trim with 3/4” oak. It’s pretty labor-intensive, but my wife and I have worked out a system that makes it a bit less painful: She sands, stains and polyurethanes all the trim, and I cut and assemble and install everything. Yes, I definitely got the sweeter end of the deal; don’t tell her. To cut down on sawdust inhalation and cleanup, most of the sanding is done outdoors. This works well, except for the hassle of finding and untangling an extension cord, and trying to avoid tripping over it and getting it tangled up in the lumber or the sawhorses. My wife’s end of the deal may have just gotten a whole lot less complicated, thanks to the arrival of a new Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander.
For our evaluation, Milwaukee sent us the bare-tool version of the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander, the Milwaukee 2648-20. Included with the sander are a dust canister, a universal hose adapter, an extension adapter, and two disks of 80-grit sandpaper. The sander is also available in kit form, as the Milwaukee 2648-21, with all of the above plus an Extended Capacity 3.0 Ah battery, a multi-voltage charger, and a contractor bag to schlep everything around in.
And don’t underestimate how handy it is to have that little contractor bag. Without a place to corral all the sanding disks, dust canister parts, and battery, it’s only a matter of time before pieces start going walkabout. Speaking as someone who typically spends as much time searching for the tool or accessory I need to do a particular job as I do using it, having all the pertinent pieces together is a huge time saver. You can pick up a generic contractor bag at most home centers. I like to try and get a brand-specific bag, though, and I found and bought one online.
Like most Milwaukee tools, the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander has the look and heft of a pro-quality tool. The dust collection system is sturdy and fits together well, and when the sanding disks go on, they stay firmly attached. To provide maximum versatility, the electronic speed control lets the user dial in the optimal speed for the project, from 7,000 to 12,000 OPM.
Here’s the full spec list on the Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander (2648-20)
Pad Size: 5”
Oscillations Per Minute (No-Load): 7,000 – 12,000 OPM
Orbit Diameter: 3/32”
More Material Removed Per Charge
Variable Speed Settings
Pad Type: Hook and Loop
Universal hose adapter included
Dust canister with filter included
Weight (w/o battery): 2.7 lbs.
The Nitty Gritty On The Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander
We’ve been using a 1/4 sheet sander for many years, and it still works pretty well. It came with a plastic template to punch dust-extraction holes in the sandpaper, and a small dust bag. The dust extraction never worked particularly well, though, and since
we she mainly uses it outdoors, the dust bag rarely gets used.
Dust collection on the Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander is through eight larger holes. The sander takes standard eight-hole sanding pads, and actually does a pretty good job sucking the fine dust up and into the canister. A paper filter inside the canister helps contain the dust.
Getting some fresh grit onto the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander is a whole lot faster and less annoying than fussing with the clamps on most sheet sanders. Just peel off the worn-out disk, grab a fresh one, line up the holes, and press it in place. The 5” disks are readily available at any home center or hardware store.
The 5” hook & loop disks are a little more expensive than buying sandpaper by the sheet, but if you shop around, the cost can be very reasonable. I got a 60-pack with six different grits for $12 on Amazon. In my opinion, the convenience and time savings make the extra cost money well spent. The Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander comes with two 80-grit disks, but when you get the sander you’ll want to pick up a variety of disks to have on hand, either at the store or online.
The Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander Gets Some Fiber
As I may have mentioned, our future plans involve a fair bit of quality time introducing oak to sandpaper. I have some other projects in the pipeline, including fabricating some custom cabinets to go over our washer and dryer, and a mantel for our fireplace.
To give the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander a little workout, I set up shop in the great outdoors. The beauty of going cordless meant we were no longer tethered to the house or garage outlets, and I used various shady spots on different days to get some smoothing done. For one session, I chose a location where I could monitor the burning of some scrap wood and branches in our fire pit. Hey – it’s all about the multitasking!
I lined up the holes, and stuck on a sanding disk. What a treat – so fast and easy, compared to the quarter-sheet process. I attached the dust canister, along with the included extension, which was needed to get past the largish battery. Everything fits very snugly, and it’s all shaped so it will only go on one way. I slid in the battery, set the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander onto my first piece, and got ready to make some dust.
The controls are well laid out, and easy to use. Turning the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander on and off is accomplished with a push-through switch. It’s easy to operate, and positioned so you won’t accidentally bump it off. The variable-speed control dial is slightly recessed, but also easy to adjust while using the tool. The shape of the tool fits well in the hand, and it’s very comfortable to use.
The sander was quieter than I expected. The noise didn’t shatter the tranquility of the setting (much), although it was enough to keep the groundhogs in their burrows. Maybe I’ll keep it running all the time…The vibration wasn’t bad at all, and the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander was very easy to control. It moves around very smoothly, and did a very good job of smoothing, both on flat surfaces and edges. After finishing up with 180-grit disks, the finish was perfect.
The Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander also did a good job collecting the dust it generated. The canister is easy to empty, and the dust filter cleans up nicely by tapping it against a hard surface, preferably the inside of your waste bin. The sander comes with an adapter, so it can be connected to a shop vac or dust extractor. This would probably do a fantastic job of collecting dust, but it sort of eliminates the benefits of being cordless…It’s nice to have it as an option, anyhow.
Random Observations On The Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander
The Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander will work using any M18 battery. When I got ready to start testing, the closest battery was a 9.0 Ah High Demand battery. Milwaukee says the sander will run for about 35 minutes on a 3.0 Ah battery, so I figured I’d be set for life with the big boss battery. I was right – the battery lasted through several 10 – 12’ lengths of oak trim and a sheet of finish plywood, and still had two out of four bars left. And although the big battery is heavy, the sander is resting on the wood the entire time, and the weight wasn’t an issue at all.
Sanding doesn’t sound like a particularly dangerous endeavor. But there are some hazards you should be aware of. As anyone who has done a lot of sanding can tell you, sanding produces a LOT of fine dust. If you’d prefer not to wear a coat of that fine dust on your lungs, wear a mask. Sanding dust can also be flammable or even explosive, so do your sanding in a well-ventilated area, free of flammable items and appliances with pilot lights. And stay a respectable distance from the fire pit!
One other item to be aware of: If you’re used to doing your sanding with a sheet sander, like we were, you’ll want to modify your start-up technique. With a sheet sander, the normal routine is to power up the sander, and wait ‘til it’s up to full speed before setting it on your work piece. Doing that with a random-orbit sander has the potential to reward you with a gouge. Set the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander on your work surface before hitting the power switch.
A Fine Finish
Milwaukee designed the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander to serve as a replacement for a corded sander. I think they accomplished their mission. The sander is smooth, fast, powerful, and rugged, and it works great. Not having to mess with an extension cord is a HUGE benefit, and this sander beats our sheet sander hands-down in terms of speed and amount of material removed.
For anyone who enjoys (or is coerced into) doing woodworking projects, the Milwaukee M18 random orbit sander would be a huge help in getting your finish sanding FINISHED. It’s hard to overstate how nice it is not to have that cord constantly in your way. It vibrates much less than our old sheet sander, and it’s easy to control, even for my wife’s small hands. She is almost looking forward now to sanding hundreds of board feet of oak! Almost being the key word.
The fact that the Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander will run on any M18 battery is a plus for anyone already on the M18 platform, which now has over 150 tools. For anyone without an M18 battery and charger, the kit, with its 3.0 Ah battery, rapid charger, and contractor bag, makes a nice entry into the M18 family for about $199. Milwaukee backs the sander with a five-year limited warranty, and a 90-day return policy gives you a risk-free opportunity to experience the joys of free-range sanding.
Bare tool from Home Depot for $99:
Kit from Home Depot for $199:
Bare tool from Ohio Power Tool:
Kit from Ohio Power Tool: