The AW300DS from Axminster Tools Is a 300 mm disc sander with a 750W induction motor, cast-iron table and clever dual-face mitre fence. I was recently manufacturing a big batch of very small wooden parts and needed to sand the faces and edges to accurate squares and bevels. A few minutes with the old Record combination sander and I decided I wanted something more accurate, quieter and safer. The old record had a tendency to self-destruct as its bolts vibrated loose, and one occurrence of a sanding disc assembly flying from the machine at over a thousand revolutions per minute is quite enough.
Without the budget for a trade machine, I was pleased to find a 300 mm disc sander in Axminster’s latest ‘Workshop’ range. It seems the company is returning to this branding after using the ‘Craft’ name for several years. The AW300DS appears to be a rebrand of the similar Craft model and a reproduction of an older model with a few small changes.
I found references to the old AW300DS going back to 2009. It offers a lot for the money (roughly £260 GBP) and is based around a heavy cast-iron base to which is mounted an equally substantial 445 x 155 mm cast-iron table which tilts downwards to 45 degrees and upwards to slightly beyond square. The table can be locked in any position and is locked from both sides by metal lever handles.
The table service is reasonably well ground and flat to within 0.2 mm. It’s not a finely-ground surface but it doesn’t need to be for sanding operations. It has a t slot machined across its length to take the included dual-face mitre fence, which allows both left and right-hand 45-degree mitres to be sanded without repositioning. The fence of the garage is cast metal and is accurately machined; a lot better than the plastic gauge you get with cheaper combination sanders. There is some play though in the fit of the mitre bar to the table slot as with most relatively inexpensive machinery, which amounts to about half a millimetre of movement. Sadly it’s not a standard size. Masking tape works as a cheap fix to take up the play, but a modification to add adjustable side bearings is on the cards.
The table is secured by four Philips-head bolts and can be adjusted to increase or decrease the gap between the table and the sanding disc. This is especially useful if you fit a PSA conversion pad (more on that in a moment) but also allows you to square the mitre slot to the sanding disc, which mine was not from the factory. There’s a metal guard on the upper right-hand side of the disc which is also adjustable to fit in either of 2 positions, either covering a substantial portion of the disc or exposing roughly a quarter of the disc for use. Getting those bolts loosened for adjustment was a challenge as the heads were stripped out of the box, so I replaced them with some Allen-head bolts that aren’t as soft. I encountered this issue with most of the Philips-head bolts on my aC216 table saw too.
The disc beneath the table is shrouded by a plastic guard which facilitates dust extraction through a 63 mm dust port on the right of the machine. A pathetically short 450 mm hose is included for this purpose which I doubt would be of much use to anybody.
The sander takes standard 300 mm PSA (pressure-sensitive adhesive) discs. These are available in most grits ranging from course (P40) to fine (P120 and up) from Axminster and many other brands. They are, however, a design that should have been abandoned long ago. The machine comes with a course disc pre-applied, but I’d imagine most users will want a medium or fine disc. Thus the course disc need to be removed, and with it the adhesive. Prepare to spend a frustrating amount of time scraping, picking, spraying and heating to get this stuff off. The platen has a grooved machined surface to help the discs adhere, so the adhesive Is an absolute bitch to remove.
When heating and scraping didn’t work I tried multiple different solvents. The only solvent that worked was Acetone, which dissolved the adhesive and left behind dry blobs which were easy to scrape and vacuum away. I’m told lacquer thinner also works, but I didn’t have any to hand. General-purpose adhesive dissolving products like C-Tec’s Multisolve and white spirit just turned the adhesive into a slimy sticky mess. Ultimately acetone (the purer the better) is the way to go, and I scraped away the most stubborn deposits using a wire brush and a scribe tool with a knife point.
I bought a Hermes disc with the sander to finish my parts, but the adhesive on that disc refused to stick at all even after thoroughly cleaning the platen surface and letting it completely dry. I ended up sourcing a PSA conversion pad from an eBay seller, careful to choose one manufactured as a complete disc rather than strips of velcro bonded to a backing.
These pads allow you to use hook and loop discs with the sander which is a godsend if you change discs often. Frankly a hook and loop pad should be fitted as standard, or at least supplied in the box instead of the useless extraction hose. I can’t think why anyone with a disc sander would prefer adhesive discs over a hook and loop fixture and therefore it baffles me why these aren’t standard fitment on bench sanding machines. Axminster themselves don’t sell PSA pads at the time of writing.
The platen appears to be steel or cast iron, not aluminium as quoted in the product specs as it is a ferrous metal. It’s nicely balanced and spins at 1420RPM which is a happy medium between quick material removal and control over the workpiece and the amount of material removed.
Putting aside my criticisms the machine is fantastic, and a godsend to anyone struggling with the wobbly tables and small discs of the average combination machine. The machine is extremely quiet and never stalls, and the top disc brake (essentially a spring-loaded lever that grabs the back of the disc to stop it quickly) is a nice feature. The machine also has an NVR switch for safety and adjustable feet. There are no mounting holes to secure it to the bench without removing the feet, but it’s heavy enough at 30KG to stay put and the bulk of the weight is centred in the frame, so it’s actually a very nicely balanced design.
In summary this is a fantastic addition to the workshop. It’s a solid well-built machine that should give decades of reliable service. It should come without a pre-applied disc and with a medium disc in the box. Ditch the useless hose and provide a PSA conversion pad in its place and it is an ideal machine for home or light trade use.