Milwaukee AP12e sander polisher

Milwaukee AP12e sander polisher

Hi everyone

Just in the process of laminating my second board. Bought myself a Milwaukee AP12e variable speed sander to sand the hotcoat.

Just received it and it lacks a variable speed trigger! Only variable on the rotary adjuster. Will this still do the job or should I sell it and buy a Makita? The Milwaukee has a locking trigger mechanism too…


Learn to ‘‘feather’’ the trigger.      That sander will work just fine.

Thanks for the super quick reply!

I seem to be struggling with the feathering. The trigger has a weird lock out system, the little grey trigger needs to be pressed otherwise the machine won’t run. Went you press the trigger it ‘clicks’ and then the machine runs. But in doing so the trigger locks into place. i.e. it permanently runs if you press the trigger in.

See if there is a trigger available, that DOES NOT have the locking feature.       Simply install a new trigger.

Never seen a stock Milwaukee with a speed adjustment on the trigger.  Not saying they don’t make one;  just saying that after having been in lots of glass shops between Hawaii and the West Coast(California) I have never seen one in use.  The type you have with the speed adjustment on the back of the handle for thumb adjustment is all I have ever seen in use.  You wouldn’t want one on the trigger as it would be  easier to burn thru cloth.  Get used to holding or locking the trigger and adjusting speed with your thumb.  That’s the way it’s done.  I guess using your finger and thumb at the same time is a little like walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Although I have never heard anyone say they couldn’t do it.  Feathering the trigger is the old school way it was done before thumb speed dials came along.  Milwaukee Sanders are great, but they do have some negatives.  They are heavy.  Sand 5 or 6 boaerds a day and you will know why that is a negative. Their brushes and triggers don’t have the life expectancy they should have for the high $$ paid.  Feathering the trigger is most likely hard on the trigger and brushes.   With all that said; I have owned a few and own one now.  The one I own now is down.  Brushes or trigger?  Maybe both?   A $40 sander/polisher from Harbor Freight is all a guy who does the occasional board needs.   Other options are Makita, Dewault or  Metalbo(Hitachi).   My opinion is the Makita is the best.

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(imaginary 12-step group) 

Hi, I’m Doc and I’m a tool-a-holic

Hi Doc…

 Okay, what you’ve got is a 230V polisher with a variable speed wheel but a single speed off-on switch trigger, They made ( both discontinued) a similar sander, the AS12E. Both use the same switch and I’m not seeing a slightly different model that uses a variable speed trigger. So, you’re kinda nailed there. That lock-on trigger, I’m not crazy about those at all. Had an angle grinder get stuck ‘on’ and out of balance and I had to kick the plug out of the wall. 

As a polisher, probably a real nice tool. For a lot of coarse sanding/grinding, likewise. The Milwaukee they make (in 120V) that has a variable trigger and a thumb wheel to set the max speed is a great tool and unfortunately ( having looked up the parts) it doesn’t look like you can cob one of those triggers into your tool. 

So, what you gonna do? If you can get a decent enough price for the thing, unload it. Myself, for the amount of work you’re gonna be doing with it, and because I don’t much like Makitas, I’d be looking at either the Chinese sander/grinders or simply a good random orbit sander. They work fine, maybe not as fast but early on that’s a Good Thing, much less chance of doing serious damage while you learn the tool. And believe me, you can do a lot of damage with a moment’s inattention. And I have the scars to prove it. 

Random orbit sanders- the palm type suck, they tend to die young and overheat often, some geniuses put the vents for cooling air right where you put your hand. The ones that seem to be made from angle grinders are a lot better, more controllable and longer lived. If you can find one of the older Porter Cables, great tool. Also good for ding repairs and the oddf bit of woodworking.


hope that’s of use


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Thanks for this! I did a bit of reading and have been trying to get a used Makita cheap in the UK. Stumbled across the Milwaukee for a decent price so snapped it up. I can easily make my money back and could buy a cheap £28 Chinese sander/polisher. 

From what you said I think I’d either sell the Milwaukee or see if I can DIY away with the locking mechanism. 

It does weigh a fair chunk. I also thought constantly on/off with the trigger could cause premature wear.

It may need servicing too as it ‘sparks’ which I’ve read is common but a sign something could be wrong?


De nada, wasn’t sure if you were in the UK or Oz. Though the nom de Sways of ‘sheffy’ should have given me a hint. 

Back when, doing boat work, I got really good at ‘blipping’ the trigger when sanding hulls and feathering out this and that with a 7" sander/grinder. But that was dozens of hours in if not hundreds, and some ugly stuff happened before that. . 

Now, you could probably drill and pin the trigger on your Milwaukee somehow to deactivate the lock. I’d say ‘locking feature’ but it’s not a feature, it’s a bug*. But you might not get it right and there you’d be. Plus you say in another post that it’s sparking - brushes ( still available, unlike many of the parts for this model) may be a weak spot in this thing. I’d unload it, go with the China special (similar to Harbor Freight Polisher )and call it a day. Do make sure it has 5/8"-11 spindle threads, otherwise what you can use on it is real limited. 

Don’t be put off by a bit of weight. Tends to make the tool less likely to jump around. 

Hope that’s of use


*Back when, I was for a while a tech writer/tech support guy in the software biz, briefly. When something horrible ( a bug)  appeared in said software, one of the customer support phrases in use was ‘Ah, it’s supposed to do that. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature’. 

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Again, much appreciated.

I have seen a ‘vintage’ (sellers words not mine) Makita 9207SPB. Would that be a better fit?

Or just go with the harbor freight equivalent?

Uhmmm- good question. In this case vintage looks like it means was left in a dark, damp cellar for years like a fine old wine.  Probably not ideal storage. And I have seen better looking tools in the local tip. I would want to see and hear it running before I gave the guy ten pence. 

In addition, the specs on this thing ( Makita specs ) are telling me it’s two-speeds only, not variable speed and no indication yea or nay about  a variable trigger.  To double-check…

You know how you can tell you’re getting old? The first thing you do isn’t throwing the manual away, instead you read the damn thing . Apparently, I’m old.

And this tells me that the 9027SPB is, if anything, less of what you want than the Milwaukee you have already ( it has a variable speed, the Makita does not, neither has a variable speed trigger). In addition to looking like it was beat on. 

Right now, the China Special is looking pretty good. 

That help any?


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Haha good assessment of the vintage sander. Very helpful again, thanks doc!

Ive listed the Milwaukee for sale and should (fingers crossed) turn a profit. Once I’ve sold it I’ll buy a cheap chinese one from the auction site. If that’s bad I’m sure I’ll be back for more advice.  :wink:

Perhaps I should have stuck to my original plan of hand sanding the board?

Y’know, these various projects get in the way of the real goal, which is getting more tools…

But- I should mention that the bigger sander/grinder/polishers like these are really a tool for a production shop/small factory. Sanding surfboards is a very underappreciated specialty, you’re expected to do a lot of production and make no mistakes and yeah, a moment’s inattention can completely ruin a board. The guys who do it, well, they are fast and masters of their tool and the care and feeding of it. 

For doing a few boards a year, especially as this is early on in your board building life, is this the tool you want?  They’re ferocious things, with sharp sanding discs you can chew through glass and well into the foam in the blink of an eye, with dull discs the heat buildup can cook the glass right off the foam in a sort of instant delam. No prizes for guessing how I know this. 

I got my brute of a Milwaukee when I found myself doing a lot of busted boards, a lot of heavy cloth to sand, feathering the edges before the next band around the board. And at the time I already had a few hundred hours with a similar big production tool grinding boat hulls. I was hoping to have a life, so something that saved that much time was worth the investment. It paid for itself pretty quickly.

On the other hand, I found myself sometime later working at this little surf camp on the edge of nowhere. And on the side I was fixing boards for the customers. There was a disc sander, of sorts, but the electricity there was from a few anaemic solar panels and car batteries, I had at best a few minutes of power. So, I did a lot of hand sanding. Which was surprisingly effective and fast. That, and I did my work in such a manner that I wasn’t sanding nearly as much as I did back home.

So- a middle ground. Random orbital sanders. Less money, a bit slower, but it’s a lot harder to do major damage. And they are great for those ding repairs you wind up doing either as favors or  to make a little pocket money. And they double as polishers quite nicely. There are good and bad versions, I’d suggest something relatively industrial. 

hope that’s of use


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So very true.       One of my axioms is that ‘‘Sanding a surfboard, after it is glassed, is the final step in the shaping process.’’   Doc has taken the time to give you some very sound advice.     I think you should really pay attention to it.

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Appreciate both of your inputs greatly.

Doc, honestly, thanks a bunch for taking the time to explain that. You’ve given me plenty to think about. It’s a shame I’ve rushed in and bought the tool, backing pads and paper. But better to learn before I take the tool to the board.

My brother used a random orbital on his laps and it seemed to work reasonably well. 

The reason I plumped for the sander polisher is that is what greenlight’s guide recommends and seemed well reflected on here too. 

I have someone interested in the Milwaukee already so I’m sure it will sell easily. 

I think I’ll head your advice about the random orbital as it seems a safer, less aggressive option. I’ll keep you posted.

Hello; I use that model of Makita that you posted since 35 years ago. It have 2 speeds as mentioned by Doc, higher speed is not used on surfboards, No doubt that is better a variable speed tool in this case; no variable speed when I bought it but I use “triggering” to sand or polish the boards. Yes; the brushes will be eaten faster but if you only sands a few boards will be no problem in years. Yes; years.

Regarding the weight; weight is a very important factor to obtain a good final surface; even for buffing the resin. You cannot obtain the same results with a light orbital or palm sander etc.

I am not a hobbyist.

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Thanks reverb. Is that a recommendation as such? 

I saw the variable (newer) Makita 9227? being well regarded on here too.

First off, well, there are those who took a lot of time to make sure I understood things. This is my revenge. 

Ummm- yeah, you bought all the goodies to go with the Milwaukee. So now you can sell it as a complete setup, for more money. 

As well, yeah, practice with the more powerful tool is a good move. For instance, taking a big sander grinder to a piece of plywood and sanding off just one lamination, one layer, no more.I’m sure you can think of more. Do the same thing with the RO sander, they tend to be slower but a lot more controllable.

If you can find an older heavy duty Porter Cable, that’s what I have, I like them. No idea if they made them in 230V, but at least that gives you an idea what the better ones look like

Yeah, you see a lot of reccommendations for the full on industrial stuff. Well, every car guide suggests that you buy a Ferrari, even if what you’re doing with it is driving down to the shop for a loaf of bread. The thing is, a Hyundai or for that matter a bicycle will do the job just fine. 

As well, if you ask a professional mechanic about wrenches, he’s going to say he loves his Snap Ons. As well he should, he is using them all day every day, the tiny incremental ways they are better matter to him and he only buys one, they are guaranteed forever. But for the price of one of those 10mm combination wrenches he has, I can get a complete set of wrenches that are only less good and are more than adequate for my infrequent motorcycle and small engine fixes.

Some woodworkers love their Festool tools. Yeah, but you have to be using them a lot ( at good wages) to pay for the things. Me, I get a lot of older stuff and fix it. 

It’s hard for them, too,  to take a step back and remember what they started with. 


hope that’s of use


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Love the analogies you used. 

I too like fixing and ‘saving’ things: cars, tools, tech, etc. Anything that can be fixed to avoid the landfil I try to do so. Hence why I like that old battered looking Makita and why I drive bangers. 

As you imply, everyone has to start somewhere. I do agree with some folks that buy cheap, buy twice. Or rather, buy the right tool for the job as is the case. But sometimes building up to the right tool for a complete novice is a more sensible approach. 

Also, I’m not doing this for speed or money. I’m doing it as an enjoyable hobby and a good way to spend my time. If it takes a bit longer, that is actually a good thing in a way!

Lots to think about. But I am going to sell the Milwaukee, that’s for sure. Shame as it feels a decent tool but I fear I will damage the board or myself far too quickly. 

Tjanks again Doc. You’ve been a great help.