Fein MSx 636-1 Detail Sander


Fein Detail SanderThe Fein detail sander is, arguably, the ultimate detail sander. It sands aggressively (almost too aggressively), operates very smoothly, and is built like a Sherman tank. It comes with a nice moulded carrying case large enough to fit the sander and plenty of supplies. Although the price has come down within the past year or so, it is still not an inexpensive tool. The question is, is it worth the price?

The answer to that question depends on how often you would use such a tool. The Fein is adapted from an industrial saw, used to cut plaster and the like. The mean time between failure rate of this tool puts it in the heavy industrial category. That is what you are paying for. I think a better question might be, do you actually need a detail sander? I thought I did, but for a couple of reasons, I find I don't use it for the tasks I thought I would. I have found tasks for which it excels and I wouldn't be without it.

So then, this review, rather than being strictly about the Fein sander (which I can find absolutely no fault with) addresses the decision about whether to buy a detail sander in the first place.

I thought a detail sander would be ideal for those hard-to-reach corners after a piece of furniture is assembled. Well, it can reach those spots, but it isn't ideal. The Fein operates by moving its pad in a very small arc. Wherever you place this pad, you impart the small arc of the sander and a cross-grain scratch pattern results. It seems that no matter how fine a grit you use, you wind up with a scratch pattern that is unacceptable. I've learned to assemble a piece in such a fashion as to not need that type of sanding in the first place.

I thought that a detail sander with a buffing pad attached to its head would be ideal for reaching those hard-to-get-at spots after a finish has been applied to a piece. Well, it can do that, but again, I've found that other techniques are better suited. I chose the finish to suit the accessibility of a piece. I will often, for instance, finish the interior of a lacquered piece with oil. Oil doesn't need the buffing out that lacquer requires hence the detail sander doesn't get used.

I've found that I do reach for the detail sander when refinishing a piece of furniture, though. It is ideal for sanding off finish in hard-to-reach areas. I know of no other tool which handles sanding shutters as well as a triangle sander. I reach for the Fein when rebuilding a damaged area with epoxy.

The Fein, with its saw blade attachment, is great for cutting out small areas of plaster for mounting old-work electrical boxes. It accomplishes this task with much less dust than other methods. With its scraper attachment, the Fein makes short work out of readying old windows for reglazing. In short, the detail sander turned out to be my tool of choice for much rougher work than I had imagined.

Before you spend the type of money which the Fein goes for, you need to ask yourself exactly what you expect a detail sander to accomplish. If, like me, you thought it was ideal for finish sanding, I believe you need to think again. If you don't do the types of tasks for which I've found the sander ideal, you may be better of spending your money on another tool. There are other, cheaper, detail sanders on the market but none touch the Fein.


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© 2003 by Ellis Walentine by special arrangement with Wayne Miller of Badger Pond. All rights reserved.
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