Review: Milwaukee 6021-21 Random Orbit Palm Sander W/Bag

January 17, 2009 | by Fred (email) |

Last week I picked up a Milwaukee 6021-21 Random Orbit Sander to assist us with sanding down the stipped ceiling in our kitchen.  Painted stipple is entirely too resistant to hand sanding, and even a 1/4 sheet palm sander didn’t give us enough action to do the job as quickly as we wanted.

I’m happy to say that the Milwaukee performed great.  I chose the sander for its variable speed motor (7000-12000 orbits per minute (OPM)), reasonably large dust bag, and sturdy carrying case.   After using this sander for about an hour, here’s my synopsis of the pros and cons:

Pros of the Milwaukee Random Orbit Sander

  • Rubber grip design is easy on the hands, even when used overhead as I did.
  • Hook and loop pad held the sand paper like it was duct-taped in place.  We experienced no slipping of pads in over an hour’s worth of work.
  • Dust bag actually stays on during work.
  • Very long cord (8 feet) eliminates the need for an extension cord in many spaces.
  • Sturdy case includes space for extra discs.
  • Includes a pressure-sensitive adhesive pad as an alternative (not tested).


  • Comes with only two 80 grit sandpaper discs out of the box.
  • Switch wore out quickly, then the unit stopped working. (See May, 2011 update below).

Price and Where to Buy

I bought the Milwaukee at our local Home Depot for $69.99.

Overall Evaluation

Original Evaluation: Needless to say, I’m really happy with this tool.  Milwaukee has hit a solid shot into the deep outfield.  After a few months of use on other projects, I’ll follow this review up with a long-term test and hopefully we’ll find that they’ve hit a home run.

Update: May, 2011: The switch on the tool slowly wore out to where it was difficult to turn it off an on. Eventually, in April, 2011, the unit stopped working altogether. Milwaukee replaced the unit for us after some back-and-forth with one of their online retail representatives. Originally, they had talked of repairing the unit, but after considering the shipping costs, that just didn’t make sense. The model we received appears to be slightly upgraded. We will post an updated review when we can. As with all tools, our experience with reliability is only one data point. However, we hope to see the switch issue improved on future models from Milwaukee.

What do you think? Do you have experience with Milwaukee tools?  What’s your experience been over the long haul?

12 Responses
  1. Steve says:

    Just be aware that Milwaukee (as well as other power tool brands sold at Home Depot) makes a “Home Depot” edition version of its tools which allows the latter to undersell the competition. I discovered this the hard way when the Milwaukee demolition saw I bought from HD died after a year. I took it to a local franchised Milwaukee repair dealer who opened it up and said, “Oh, a Home Depot model”. He showed me the plastic parts which are metal in the standard model. He also gave me a $77 repair bill that otherwise would have been covered by Milwaukee (although it was one of those HD plastic parts that failed).

  2. Amalie says:

    I am a great fan of the random orbital palm sander, in general. We have a super cheap Black and Decker Firestorm model, which does not have a variable speed motor and cost around $40. We’ve used the hell out of it for almost everything, and it’s still kicking– we even did a large portion of our floors with it, both edging and tackling some uneven boards.

    They are truly an indispensable DIY tool.

  3. Fred says:

    Steve – Wow! I had no idea this happened, although it makes perfect sense. Home Depot wants to rake in a little more profit, meet a price point, etc. I am surprised that manufacturers will sell-out their quality targets to HD, though. But, I guess HD has a LOT of buying power. I’d be real interested in an article with pictures. If you write one on your site, let me know and I’ll link back to it here.

    Amalie – no doubt. Orbit sanders are a truly indispensable tool.

  4. Steve says:

    Here’s some support:

    You’ll find similar issues with other name brand products, like faucets. In some cases, there will be a slightly different model number, like a ‘T’, denoting that it’s private labeled for HD. But in the case of my Super Sawzall, it was the same model number that I’d get from a local tool house. But I was clearly able to see at that franchised tool place that they weren’t the same tool internally. The piece that broke in mine was plastic. Worse, it took two weeks to get it fixed because they couldn’t use the standard metal replacement piece they had in stock because it had to mate with a plastic gear, which is also metal in the standard tool.

    A former Bosch district manager confirmed this for me at a NJ woodworking show a couple of years ago.

  5. Harley says:

    Home Depot is now the Home Center exclusive distributor for Milwaukee Tools. The tools will still be available at other retail outlets such as piping supply outlets and plumbing supply outlets.
    If Steve had returned the saw to Home Depot it could have been sent in and repaired at no cost to him. The Milwaukee tools have a Five year warranty.
    The company that manufacturers Milwaukee tools is Techtronics, Inc.(TTI) who also produces the Ridgid, Ryobi, Craftsman, Homelite & Hoover branded items.

  6. Steve says:

    I would have except Home Depot’s Tool Crib manager told me that the turn-around for repairs was four to six weeks. I was in the middle of a construction project so that was unacceptable.

    I have a non-HD Milwaukee hammer drill and
    a franchised repair outfit, Coney Island Tools, fixed its broken switch and replaced the sticky chuck by the next afternoon.

  7. Harley says:

    They must have a real sloooooooow shop then, our HD turns repairs around in 10 – 14 days. Only time it takes longer if parts are backordered.
    Should have done like everyone else, purchased another and used it while yours was being repaired and return it when yours comes back in. There is a 90 day no questions asked return policy. Just save the receipt and you’ll not have a problem.
    The old “Buy to rent” scheme. Happens all of the time.

  8. Steve says:

    What I should have done is never buy power tools from a box store. It’s really not worth saving a few bucks if it means that the tool has been dumbed down from its designed specs, is less reliable and is going to stop a job just when I need it or, just as bad, be impossible to align accurately because of cheap plastic internals.

    Now I buy all my power tools at tool shows, locally from AW Meyer or online through reputable dealers like Woodcraft. If I’m paying for a name brand, I expect name brand performance. Otherwise I might as well purchase a generic from Harbor Freight, which is even cheaper.

  9. Paul says:

    The thread above sounds fishy to me. If you go to the Milwaukee website, the 6021-21 is the ONLY 5″ orbital sander they make. Of course, the posters above will probably claim there is a secret website for the good Milwaukee tools.

  10. Mark Zip says:

    Had the same problem with the switch. The repair center is only 20 miles away so i took back to Farm and Fleet where i purchased it and they dropped it of at the repair center a mile down the road. I have only used it for 5 months about 40 hour of use or less. I bought on sale 9 month ago for 59.95. Farm and Fleet covers it for 30 days
    and Milwaukee he said for 1 year. After looking at there site I noticed the disclaimers for defective tools. They only warranty the tool if it was defectively manufactered. They don’t cover use or misuse from what I can understand. We will see what they do when I get it back. The tool worked well but started also making a noise that I didn’t care for awhile ago. I have used Miwaukee tools for 40 years and will be disappointed if it is not covered or poorly built.

  11. HANDYMAN51 says:

    The average ” Joe Homeowner” like myself would PRESUME that all same brand/ model tools would be created equal. These will be good points to keep in mind for future purposes. Thank you.

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