Random orbit sanders are fairly mundane tools, so when my friend Ken insisted I come see his newly acquired sander, I figured it must be pretty special. It was.
“Look at this thing,” he said excitedly. “It’s as small and powerful as the most comfortable air sander, but it’s electric. No air hose; just a cord. And it’s got adjustable speeds you can set and a switch that converts to a trigger. Go on, try it.”
He handed me the new Mirka CEROS (Compact Electric Random Orbit Sander), and I must admit, I was impressed. Imagine an electric
sander as small and comfortable as the best commercial air sanders and capable of producing all of their power, but generating just a fraction of their noise.
Lightweight, low profile, and small enough to be comfortable to even small hands, the Mirka CEROS
offers quiet power with a wealth of clever perks. The long-life brushless motor allows for electronic speed control from 4,000 to 10,000 rpm, and a paddle style trigger can be quickly converted from on/off mode to variable speed control.
This little sander is quiet, comfortable, powerful, and half the weight of its competitors. It’s offered in three-inch, five-inch, and six-inch sanding pad configurations, with a variety of replaceable backing pads for a wide range of applications. Of course, Mirka also offers a range of pneumatic sanders for those who prefer those.
Seeing the CEROS inspired me to find out more, so I called Jeff Fabian, the vice president of marketing at Mirka
. In the course of our conversation, I learned that long before they offered this sweet sander, Mirka was a major player in sanding media, including some rather unusual products.
Often recognized by their bulldog logo, Mirka was founded in 1943 in Helsinki, Finland by engineer Onni Aulo. They are currently owned by the KWH Group with their main facilities near Jeppo, Finland.
From the beginning, Mirka concentrated on making high-end abrasive media
, what we generically call sandpaper, aimed at professionals and serious hobby woodworkers. They soon started exporting products, and by the 1960s, the U.S., Great Britain, and Iceland were some of their major sales markets. However, because only a few large companies here used their abrasives, most of us hobby woodworkers did not hear about Mirka until after they opened a U.S. subsidiary in 1985. At the end of 2013, Mirka had 995 employees in 15 subsidiaries worldwide, and exported to more than 90 countries.
“We’re most concerned with bringing value and innovation to the field,” explained Fabian. In 1986, they introduced the American market to Mirka Bulldog Gold, a solid stearated paper that was perfect for sanding both solvent and water-based coatings. It was only the first of many.
“Our products are broken down into three categories by performance,” Fabian continued. “Basecut is an aluminum oxide paper for both raw wood and finish. Gold is a stearated aluminum oxide for both wood and finish, but one that will give a more uniform scratch pattern and will outlast Basecut. Then comes Abranet, our strongest seller, which is a decidedly different approach to sanding media that offers three to five times the life of a paper product. But that’s just the beginning.
“With Abranet, instead of the sanding grit being attached to a piece of paper or Mylar, the abrasive is attached to an open fabric net that looks rather like a screen. Unlike paper with a number of holes cut in it, the Abranet allows dust to go through the entire sheet, making it extraordinary at dust collection. Because the entire sheet allows dust to pass through, it will work on any sander, no matter what the hole pattern is, and you don’t have to line up the paper with holes. Just stick it on and go. When it comes to dust-free sanding, you can’t beat Abranet.
“Last year we launched Abranet Ace, with a heavier backing and a ceramic grit. The advantage is that you’ll get even longer life of the product, and more aggressive sanding, especially in the coarser grits.”
Mirka also offers cloth-backed sanding belts, called Hiolit, and hand sanding sheets in several formats including Goldflex-soft, which has a foam backing, and Gold Proflex, with a latex coating that makes it more flexible than plain paper. In addition, the same Abranet people love on their ROS machines is also available in rolls.
For finer wet sanding going all the way up to 4,000, there’s Abralon, a foam-backed abrasive meant for ultimate smoothing, even on curves. Once Abralon landed, it quickly became the darling of guitar makers everywhere, a group notoriously concerned with ultra-fine, high gloss finishes. Guitar finishers, turners, and other fanatics of high shine routinely sing the praises of Abralon, insisting that nothing else will get them so quickly to that holy grail of coating achievement, the deeply reflective gloss finish.
Once the sanding is done, you can switch to Mirka’s line of Polarshine rubbing and polishing compounds, going from the coarsest Polarshine 35 to the finest Polarshine 3. All are liquids, so they’re easy to use both with buffing machines and by hand, and they are all water-based, so they clean up easily and don’t leave any oily residue.
Having chosen your favored sanding discs, you can pair your sander with Mirka’s MV-912 vacuum for dust collection. Like the sanders, it boasts quieter operation than many of its competitors. Plug the sander into the integrated outlet and the vacuum turns on and off automatically as you start and stop sanding. The MV-912 sports replaceable fleece filter bags and a push-and-clean system that flushes out the filter at the touch of a button.
Combine the vacuum, Mirka’s new CEROS random orbit sander, and their Abranet abrasives and you very well may have the ultimate dust-free sanding system in your hands.