Another week, another sander. This week the Hitachi SV13YA random orbit sander makes an appearance on the Hingmy test bench. This one looks like the rest of them, except that it is green. Let take a look what the SV13YA can bring to the random orbit sander market, and if it should have a spot in your tool chest.
The Hitachi SV13YA Random Orbit Sander
The SV13YA is a 5" random orbit sander from Hitachi. It follows a generic design and is void of innovative features. Its specs make it a general purpose random orbit sander in the woodshop with very little ability to do anything else.
Build quality is good, but Hitachi chose to save money in a few places. Black rubber covers the green hard plastic shell on the top and the front; the areas the user is going to wrap his or her hands around. The contours of both grips feel good in your hand and offer great control. The knob is held back from the outer edge of the sanding disk on both sides to leave room for your fingers when sanding an interior corner.
The SV13YA's lack of a complete dust collection solution and its average performance make it a poor choice in a field of excellent sanders.
The pad installed on the SV13YA is of the 8-hole, hook&loop variety. It performs well, but is totally unremarkable. The 8 ft power cord is made from plastic. Getting it to lie flat without kinks is going to be much harder than doing so with the rubber cords of the competition.
The sander's 2.4 amp motor places it on the lower end of the power draw chart. Its top end speed of 12,000 rpm, on the other hand, is right up there with the best of them. Combined these two specs give the SV13YA good performance when doing generic sanding tasks, but below average power when the work gets tough.
The power switch of the SV13YA is not covered with a rubber membrane to keep the dust out. This makes it easier to actuate, but also shortens its service life. The speed selector dial in the rear of the sander sits in its own recesses. Moving it while wearing gloves is very difficult. When it does turn the dial produces accurate and meaningful changes. Motor power drops as the sander slows down, but remains high enough to complete the typical sanding tasks at any given motor speed.
Dust collection performance of the SV13YA is very poor in every configuration. The cloth bag suffers from all the limitations solutions of this kind exhibit. The sander picks up most dust when the bag is clean, but efficiency drops rabidly as the bag and the pores of the filter cloth fill up. Even when the bag is clean its ability to filter out the finest dust, the most dangerous kind, is questionable.
At the time of writing connecting a vacuum hose to the dust port of the SV13YA is impossible. The port is oval and Hitachi does not sell an adapter for it. This issues alone disqualifies the SV13YA from contention for anyone who cares about a clean shop. This sander leaves you with no other option than to clean your shop every time you use the sander.
In the woodshop the SV13YA turns in a good performance. It gets work done just as fast the competition, but without ever challenging for the title of "fastest in the land". Finish quality is beyond reproach, if you take your time to progress through the grits.
The only time you'll run into issues is when using the SV13YA as a rapid stock removal tool. This sander gets its work done by spinning fast, not by taking large bites. The SV13YA will stall more readily than the more powerful competition does when too much down force is applied. Doing so overlaps with the list of things you should never do when using a random orbit sander, so this dynamic should hardly be considered a flaw.
The soft start feature is a very welcome addition. It keeps the sander stable during startup. Vibrations are noticeable, but not a problem when working for a few hours at a time. Heavy users, who work with their sander all day long, should look elsewhere.
The SV13YA, like most sanders at this price point, is a very simple machine. It'll last a good while in a professional environment, even when used throughout the workday on a regular schedule. Eventually its bearings will wear out. When that happens you will likely have received your money's worth of performance out of the SV13YA. This is a disposable sander that will not be with you a decade down the road.
The kit comes with a vacuum-formed, double-walled case. It protects the sander from impact quite well, but is of questionable durability itself. Instead of properly formed hinges, Hitachi chose to use a single strip of pliable plastic as the main case hinge. The locking mechanism is made from plastic instead of the metal the competition uses.
If you look past the durability issues, the case performs about as well as cases of this type do. Any accessories you place in the case are going to share the only available compartment with the sander. The case can be stacked lying flat, but is not a part of a storage system like some cases of the competition are.
If you do not care for the variable speed feature, you can go with the SV13YB instead. It is identical to the SV13YA in both looks and specifications, but saves you a good amount of money by eliminating the variable speed control.
The Hitachi SV13YA can only be described as an opportunity lost. The good engineering of the motor and sanding system cannot overcome the sander's abysmal dust collection performance. There is simply no reason to purchase a sander you can't connect to your dust collection system.
For those of use that do not care about dust collection, the SV13YA's poor power cord and sub-standard case don't make the decision any less clear cut. As it stands there are random orbit sanders on the market that cost about the same and do everything as well or better than the SV13YA. This sander is only a good buy, if you can find it in the bargain bin.