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http://www.projectguitar.com/forums/topic/49058-guitar-of-the-month-september-2017/

 

Triton TSPS450 Oscillating Spindle Sander

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Triton are a distinctly budget-end brand, producing many of the basic power tools and machines a guitar-maker could take advantage of at a very reasonable price point. Their thicknessers, routers, cordless hand tools, etc. all sit within very tempting price ranges that makes one consider whether the saving is worth a potential lack of quality, cheesy looks, performance and end results.

Triton is a sub-brand of Powerbox International Ltd. who also control Silverline, GMC and several other brands. The TSPS450 is your typical Far East mass-produced import, not specifically a Triton design; they are simply bought in under the orange livery and branded "Triton". A casual search turns up the same unit branded in several different branded guises....

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The list of brands this machine appears under is almost unending. We've got Sheppach, Draper, Performax, Harbor Freight, Grizzly and Shop Fox in there along with Triton and some random in-house or "online only" brands. The only commonality between these brands is their target market; the home gamer.

Triton is actively levering itself into the tool-buyer's consciousness as a more mainstream alternative to real name brands than some generic obvious-import fringe company....even to the point of them heavily sponsoring YouTubers, furnishing them with masses of cheap orange and black plastic tools, or putting their tools into the hands of prominent reviewers for free....nothing generates biased positive reviews, glosses over low quality and rounds over the rough edges as much as sponsorship or free stuff, right?

At €230 this wasn't the most expensive or cheapest unit out there, but on paper it seems the most likely "go-to" machine. Unlike sponsored reviews, we can honestly tell you if this hurts or not. On some levels it did, however Triton seem to thrive at this price point; there is little else at this one. The alternative of course is paying a lot more or not having a spindle sander at all.

What it all comes down to is whether the unit performs as expected, that the underlying design is good and that the value is there. Are you getting a good enough machine for the money? Underneath it all, one has to bear in mind that these are produced in numbers that have flooded the spindle sander market and are primarily built down to a price, not up to a spec. Everything that can be made cheaper generally is, and they are often engineered for disposability on some level that isn't necessarily covered as an issue of failure under warranty, or fail just beyond your warranty period. Welcome to the 21st century.

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What is an oscillating spindle sander?

Oscillating spindle sanders are a simple machine from the cheapest to the most expensive. A spindle centred in a flat work bed rotates at a few thousand RPM (in this case, 2000RPM) whilst simultaneously oscillating vertically. A sanding sleeve fits over a (usually rubber) drum which is in turn fitted to the spindle. Unlike a simple single-action spindle, the oscillating motion hugely reduces scoring lines from waste buildup on the drum, recycles a larger area of the abrasive media and produces a cleaner, more uniform result. More advanced units have tilting tables, several sizes of spindle, flush-fit inserts, more powerful motors and highly durable drive mechanisms with precise concentric action.

For guitar-makers, a spindle sander is an ideal tool for any number of operations. Most apparent is their ability to shape and refine the edges of a workpiece such as inside the cutaways of a body or headstock profile. Equally, they are adept at shaping your routing templates, dialling in contours around the back of the neck, sanding in tummy cuts or working within any other sort of light profile.

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Description

The Triton TSPS450 is a light-duty benchtop spindle sander. It features a 450w fixed-speed brushed motor driving a single spindle and its oscillation motion through a dual belt drive. Five drum sizes are included; 19mm, 26mm, 38mm, 51mm and 76mm. Six corresponding sizes of sanding sleeve are supplied, including a small 13mm sleeve designed to run directly on the spindle without a drum. Each of the six sizes have a matching plastic table insert allowing for fine work up to the drum itself. An extraction port at the rear allows the unit to be hooked up to a shop vac or central extraction system. Controls comprise a single covered magnetic safety power switch at the front. The working area is a 370mm x 295mm cast iron bed, whilst the body of the unit is a large moulded plastic shell. Drums, inserts and tools can be stored around the unit for easy access.

Setup of the unit is very straightforward. Fit a sanding sleeve over the correct drum, drop it onto the spindle, add the top washer and crank down the nut until the rubber compresses slightly, gripping the sleeve. Drop on the appropriate table insert for the drum size, and you're away.

Internally, the unit is simple. The mains lead hooks up directly to the front power switch. The power supply circuitry appears to be a simple full-wave "AC to almost DC" rectifier with basic noise suppression to prevent it pushing dirt back into your local supply. Nothing amazing by any means.

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Breakdown

450w is powerful enough for most needs, however it easily labours with the larger drums when defining deep contours and sanding larger surface contact areas. Its stock removal capability is adequate, but it must be borne in mind that 450w is still on the low side for this kind of work and sanders are not really stock removal tools. This is definitely a machine more suited to refining and light shaping. Taking a neck blank from square and dialling in a contour around the back soon pushes the motor to its limit. Within those limits however, the machine operates admirably. The spindle is concentric enough that it doesn't vibrate or chatter against the workpiece and doesn't easily deflect if you get heavy-handed with pressure.

The magnetic on/off power switch is a nice simple safety feature that I appreciate fully. Should the unit experience a loss of power (breaker going, power cut, etc) the switch automatically defaults to its off position, ensuring the unit does not restart unexpectedly when power returns. The power cable itself is permanently attached with no provision for it to be stowed in the unit when not in use. The best you can hope for is to weave it around the drums at the back of the unit or over and around the spindle....neither of which is ideal. The unit is recommended as being mounted to a benchtop via the bolt holes in the base, however a detachable/replaceable power cable would be a very welcome feature. Rubber feet under the bolt holes keep the unit in place if not secured and reduce vibrations through to the bench if it is.

Extraction is as adequate as it can be; when working on pieces any thicker than a couple of inches, or sanding anywhere above the table dust escapes rather than being drawn down through the perforated inserts. This is common to any machine that offers 360° access around the spindle; only an extraction shroud could guarantee 100% waste removal, but these restrict freedom of work and reduce machine usefulness.

The plastic table inserts aren't entirely flush with the table surface, and simply sit in place with no magnetic retention or securing mechanism. For the most part this is of little issue, however working small components using narrower diameter drums can leave you hunting for a good 90° reference; if the workpiece is not firmly seated on the iron work surface, the plastic inserts leave little guarantee that your work will be presented to the drum evenly. In the long term I would opt for making a set of specifically-thicknessed inserts (possibly with epoxied magnets to better secure them in place) that fit flush.

 

Analysis

You can't make any bones about this; the unit is LOUD. As to the cause of this excessive noise, I'm unsure. Certainly, having the rotary and oscillation action driven by two toothed belts doesn't help matters, and neither does having an enormous plastic echo chamber. Under no load the machine measured 84dB at 1m. Considering that extraction and sanding add their own noise factors, plus closer proximity than 1m during work....you need to be wearing proper ear protection around this machine. No joke.

The internal design demonstrates directly how it's built down to a price and not up to a standard. Important parts such as bearings for the main spindle are housed in plastic; thankfully one that appears to be more appropriate for the task even though any plastic is far from ideal in this context. No markings were visible, however glass fibre reinforcement could be felt when scored with a blade and guessed at by how worn out the moulds look from the finish.

Another clue on how cut the corners are is material choice; common reinforced engineering plastics such as glass fibre reinforced polyamides (PA6-GF30 for example) are not expensive of themselves, however they wear moulds out in no time. Replacing those is a very real cost factor and significant manufacturing choices are often made off the back of this. Even when reinforced plastics are used, it is common to see moulds being pushed beyond their best with poor quality moulded parts as a result. The main housing and its bottom plate are manufactured from cheap polypropylene with zero structural reinforcement; roughly half the material cost of stiffer and far more durable reinforced polyamides and cheap to mould. PP has a comparatively-low melting point and below freezing, becomes tough and brittle. It looks and feels cheap, mostly because it is. Only the crucial parts that require a good quality plastic seem to receive it, and even then I presume that conversations were had around the cooler in Mao's Dollar Store as to whether these could be made even cheaper.

The real coffin nail is that the review unit developed an electrical fault in use. Lightly edge sanding a small piece of 20mm Birch, a loud arcing was heard along with the ozone smell and an immediate reduction in motor speed. How damaging this was is unknown; it seemed to work after powering down and back up again. No magic smoke seemed to have been let out of the power supply board so it can only be assumed that the fault occurred in the commutator. Damaged insulation on the windings? Needless to say, the unit went straight for return.

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Conclusion

An electrical fault wasn't the failure mode I would have expected based on initial examination, and I didn't expect a failure this soon either. Whilst I went into this review with expectations of mediocre performance and long-term durability issues, I was surprised that the opposite was more or less true. In use, the machine performs wonderfully within its range of capability but shit the bed with less than a couple of hours on the clock. Would it suit a weekend or occasional builder? Yes, I think it would if this fault isn't a common one. Beyond that - occasional light use - its reliability from basic build quality really needs to be called into question. Bearings and drive mechanisms that see significant vibration and sideload retained and aligned by plastics is a bad sign, even when engineering plastics such as a PA66-GF30 are used. Occasional use will see it through the three-year warranty, and PowerBox can wash their hands of it. Any reasonably demanding expectations will call the strength of that warranty into question. This machine demonstrably costs a tiny fraction of its retail price to manufacture, and a failure in the field is easy to soak up through a straight replacement over repair. Whether your warranty is honoured without it costing you money for returns is a different matter altogether, especially with online or big box store warranties having obstructive procedures. Often that alone is enough to discourage customers chasing a warranty claim.

If you're an occasional hobby builder, it's a good purchase whichever guise you find it in, Triton, Sheppach, or whatever. It is recommended that you establish the conditions of the warranty and returns process prior to purchase wherever you buy it. Fire an email and get it in writing, or buy it from a brick and mortar store who will personally handle a returns procedure if required. Beyond these recommendations, you will more than likely find this machine running through its warranty period with little real issue. Keep your eyes open for vibrations developing in the spindle, that kind of thing. Given the right circumstances this should be a champ, but it might just crap out from being churned out in thousands with no appreciate QA/QC.

note: The "Triton Guarantee" of 3yrs is only valid for 30 days from the day of purchase unless the product is registered with Triton directly! This of course does not necessarily affect your statutory consumer rights....

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edit 1: In preparation for this review, contact was made with Triton/PowerBox International's media relations over the problem experienced with this unit. ProjectGuitar.com's policy is to allow manufacturers to have a voice in the event of us intending to publish negative comments as part of a review. It makes sense to clarify any potential misunderstandings and relate as factual a review to you guys as is possible. Electrical issues however cannot be subject to simple misunderstanding. Even if a machine seems to operate correctly after a fault occurs. Straight out, it needs sorting. Triton/PowerBox have refused to engage meaningfully, so we can only report what is seen in front of us as this is what you would see in front of you. The machine is out for return to the local supplier who have graciously agreed a replacement with no questions asked. Props to our supplier.

edit 2: Unpackaging the replacement unit, we found the 1,5" sanding drum to be missing.


Creative Commons Licence

Triton TSPS450 Oscillating Spindle Sander by Carl Maltby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You are free to:

  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

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  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

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