General Int.’l 15-220M1 With its all-sheet-metal base, heavy cast-iron tilting table and powerful motor, the General International 15-220M1 is the heavy hitter in this group. At 81 pounds, its hefty weight makes it more of a stationary machine lacking a floor stand than a portable benchtop machine. Unfortunately, its price also sets it apart from the other four sanders in this group: It’s $122 more than the next-closest-in-price Delta.
Another thing that distinguishes the General from other OSS machines is its spindle setup: To change to a sanding drum of a different diameter, you remove and replace the entire spindle/drum assembly. Each assembly has a threaded end just below a short tapered section (centering the spindle) that screws into a socket atop the motor/gearbox assembly. The good news is that spindle changes don’t take any more time than drum changes do on other OSS models. Plus, if you should be unlucky enough to bend a spindle (it happened to me once when I was sanding inside a curved cutout, and the drum caught the part and slung it around violently) you simply replace the spindle, instead of having to send the entire machine out for repair.
In keeping with its serious machine character, the General’s spindles are 1″ to 1-1⁄2″ longer than the other four models. These longer spindles are most useful if you plan to sand thick workpieces, especially with the table tilted (when sanding thinner parts with all OSS machines, reversing the sandpaper sleeve on the spindle lets you get twice as much life out of it). The smallest of the General’s five standard spindles is only 1/4″ in diameter, which I found very useful for cleaning up tight curves on delicate fretwork and scroll-sawn parts. I wish that the other spindle/drums were more evenly spaced in regard to diameter: There’s too small a difference between the 1/2″ and 5/8″ drums and too big a jump between the 5/8″ and 1-1⁄2″ diameter drums. Also, the biggest drum is only 2″ in diameter, which I didn’t find as useful for sanding larger-diameter curves as the 3″ diameter drums supplied with other OSS models.
When it comes to sanding performance, the 15-220M1 simply leaves the other four models in the dust. Its large 7.5-amp induction motor and oscillating mechanism’s sealed gearbox deliver tons of silky-smooth power that makes the machine a pleasure to use even when sanding the thickest, hardest workpieces with gusto. I liked the General’s oversized paddle On/Off switch, which allows you to turn it off with a quick bump of a fist — no searching for a tiny off switch when something goes wrong and you need to turn the tool off in a hurry. My only disappointments were with the General’s table. Although the table surface is beautifully finished, at 14-1⁄2″ square it felt a bit undersized when I was sanding larger workpieces. The tilt mechanism worked fine, and I liked the adjustable stop for setting the table square. However, the handles and locking hardware felt just a bit undersized for the machine’s otherwise heavy-duty nature.