March 27, 2007

Skil Octo Multi-Finishing Sander - Review

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Sanding is a very zen experience. It's the woodworker's moment of contemplation; the cutting, gluing, and fitting are all done and the piece is almost finished. The only thing left is to apply some stain and your hand-crafted piece of art is complete. It's a time to run your hands over the wood, to consider the process that got you here, to experience a communion with the piece, and to gently work out any small imperfections in the hope of achieving something that is without fault. A peaceful last breath before it is all over.

Garbage.

Pure garbage. And anyone who has ever done a woodworking project knows it. Sanding is a tedious, and at times, frustrating process. Orbital sanders take some of the pain out of the procedure, but there are always areas, little rabbets, nooks, and cut-outs, that you simply can't get to, not even with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a pencil or taped to a stick (we know you've done it, we have too). If you're like us, you look forward to, and actively seek out, anything that makes sanding easier.

This is where the Octo Multi-Finishing Sander comes in. With this tool, Skil has created an innovative, interesting, and versatile sander that is capable of getting in places that, not only your orbital can't get to, but also places where hand sanding fails.

The Skil Octo comes with eight different sanding attachments, each able to tackle a different surface contour. The primary delta attachment sits in plane with the bottom of the tool to complete a Velcro pad that is in the shape of a clothes iron, essentially turning the tool into an orbital sander with the capability of getting right into a corner.

octo_combo.jpgTo use the other attachments, the primary delta is removed with a press of a button found on the nose of the tool, and is replaced by a fitting piece, using the same tool-free button. Once this piece is in place, the remaining attachments are clicked into it in one of three positions. This is true of all of the attachments except for the delta extension, which is clicked directly to the tool, without the use of the three-position fitting piece.

We tested all of the attachments and quickly discovered how useful the Octo is. Each one nicely sanded its particular contour. The inside and outside corner attachments worked far better than we expected, barely even touching the corner edge, but at the same time, adequately sanding the two faces. As far as the others go, the convex, delta extension, and the slot were all solid, but it is the finger attachment and the flex attachment where the tool really distinguishes itself.

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The finger attachment is 1-3/16" wide by 3-1/2" long and with a sanding pad it's only 3/16" thick. With those dimensions in mind, think of all the places it could be useful. Sanding shutters just got a whole lot easier, as did getting those tight spots around stair ballisters,

octo_flex.jpgThe Velcro pad on the flex attachment is supported from the sides but not in the middle, so it is capable of contouring to small curved surfaces, like bull noses and ballisters. In fact, we routered a full bull nose into a foot long piece of poplar and tested the flex on it. In less than a minute it was smooth as glass. The process was far less strenuous than hand sanding.

Using the tool, particularly with the primary attachment, where the entire bottom of the tool is sanding, we were surprised at how aggressive the power was. The motor is only 0.8 amps (contractor grade orbitals are usually around 2 amps), but it worked away at softwoods much better than we had expected. When we switched over to oak, we noticed the power limitations, but the tool still got the job done. After all it's only meant for finish work.

The tool is rounded out with a soft-grip body and a built-in work light.

There were a few things that we didn't like about the Octo. First, the dust collection system is not compatible with a shop vac. It's our experience that those little dust bags work alright, but are far from perfect. We're in the habit of always hooking our orbital directly to a vacuum to ensure a dust-free environment. It is also worth noting that the dust collection system only functions with the primary delta attachment.

At first changing out the attachments was difficult and stiff. We experimented for a bit and soon got the hang of it. We found it is necessary to really press the attachment into the nose of the tool before trying to bring the back end around and into one of the three position slots. Once we did it a few times, it became no problem, but on the first couple tries, we were worried that we were going to force it too much and break the attachment.

octo_full2.jpgocto_sanding_pads.jpg

These are all very minor issues when compared to the benefits of this tool. Honestly, we were a bit worried that it was going to be a gimmick, but we're happy to report that it's not. For the occasional user, this might be the only sander you'll ever need. For the contractor or the serious DIYer, the Octo won't be replacing your trusty orbital, but it will become a very useful addition to the repertoire. And with a price somewhere between $40 to $50, how can you lose?

The Octo comes with an assortment of sanding pads in both 60 and 120 grit and a compact tool bag that has plenty of room for the tool, the attachments, and sandpaper. Extra sandpaper sells for under $10.

At Amazon.com

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at March 27, 2007 7:12 AM

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Recent Comments

The Skill Octo Sander in very versitile. I used one most of yesterday while refinishing our front door. It was able to fit into most of the small and large spaces I needed to sand.

It is constructed mostly of good grades of plastic. Sadly the 'finger' attachment was popping out of the holder by the end of the day.

But, I still think it is good value for the price. I need to find a parts supplier to replace the 'finger'.

Rob Franklin


Posted by: Rob Franklin at August 31, 2009 4:12 PM
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