If you’re an old hand at woodworking, you’ve probably seen brands come and go and new ones come taking their place. In this case, we’re referencing Rikon and how new and mysterious the brand is.
Some woodworkers speculate that Rikon’s founders left Delta a few years ago. It’s why, they say, so many of Rikon’s power tools appear inspired by the builds Delta made 3 decades ago.
The rumors swirling around the Billerica, Massachusetts-based company comes from the quality of the tools they manufacture. Rikon is fairly young as Billerica Tool Works trademarked the name in 2014.
Rikon’s power tools get their pedigree from the Billerica itself as the town serves as a major manufacturing hub. Billerica hosts the factories of Raytheon, GE Measurement & Control, Avay Inc, and Pan Am Railways.
Today, we’ll be setting our sights on two of Rikon’s belt and disc sanders the RIKON 50-151 and the RIKON 50-161VS. Both of these models offer a 2-in-1 combination of a belt sander and a disc sander for woodworkers who want to sand projects either vertically or horizontally.
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Let’s Compare RIKON 50-151 vs RIKON 50-161VS Belt Sander
The RIKON 50-151 works on a single 2.3 amp 1/3 horsepower motor. It offers fixed-speeds of 3,270 surface feet per minute (SFPM) on the belt sander side and 3,450 revolutions per minute (RPM) on the disc sander.
Although the RIKON 50-151 lacks the power of the more expensive machines in the market, it gets most of the buffing, sharpening, and sanding jobs done. Too bad about it giving us only a fixed speed though but if your requirements are simple, it’ll sand or sharpen just fine.
The 50-161VS works off a 4 AMP 3/4 horsepower motor. It offers variable speeds of 1,909 to 3,248 SFPM on the belt sander and 2,000 to 3,400 RPM on the disc sander. Now you can select the perfect speed for your buffing or sanding tasks.
The RIKON 50-161VS outpaces the RIKON 50-151 in terms of performance and power. It’s not unexpected as the RIKON 50-151 appears to be an entry-level product for belt and disc sanders while the RIKON 50-161VS serves as an advanced model for the product line.
The RIKON 50-151 possesses two dust ports, one for the belt sander and one for the disc sander. Both ports collect around 80 to 90 percent of the dust so it’s all good from the performance perspective. The dual port setup might just be a small turnoff for woodworkers who want their wood dust collection in one place.
The RIKON 50-161VS has two dust ports but each one is differently sized from the other. One side has 1-3/4 of an inch while the other measures 1-1/2 of an inch. This means the buyer will have to buy two different kinds of shop vac adapters.
Both sanders have two dust ports each and both perform dust collection well. If we’re going to rate it on convenience, the smaller RIKON 50-151 gains the advantage since its dust ports are both 1-3/4 inches, meaning you can get two similar adapters for this one.
Newer portable belt sanders in the market offer tool-less belt removal and replacement. We have no such luck with this model. If you want to replace your belts, you’ll have to remove three screws and two knobs.
The power switch also presents a challenge to use since a soft plastic cover blocks access to it as a precaution for sawdust. RIKON could have made more sound usability decisions as far as that button is concerned. If this should be a bother to you, you should add an external power switch.
Unfortunately, the aluminum disc that guards and mounts the sanding disc presents a safety concern. The distance from the sanding belt platen to the aluminum disc may be too small. If you’re sharpening a knife on the belt sander, the knife’s handle may hit the disc and jolt the user’s fingers hand onto the other sander.
The RIKON 50-161VS also delivers almost the same features as the entry product in its line and also the same flaws. Again, the aluminum disc may end up blocking the ends of projects and compromise safety. Some woodworkers resorted to laying the sander on its side so they can sharpen knives without this worry.
Both products need improvement on their user-friendliness. The only advantage the smaller RIKON 50-151 sander has it weighs only 15 lbs compared to the RIKON 50-161VS’s 30 lbs.
Build and Form Factor
Measuring only 15 x 12.5. x 14.6 inches, the RIKON 50-151 is compact and will save you storage headaches in your workshop. Despite it being small, RIKON made this 2-in-1 sander out of pure alloy
What we like about the build are the bells and whistles on it like the back plate on the belt side that allows you to work your project against it. There’s also the sanding belt table that allows you to tilt it in case you want to buff those inner corners.
The brush-less induction motor is a great bonus and guarantees the sander has a long life.
RIKON encased this unit’s base and frame in tough cast metal for extra durability and rigidity. Although the build quality appears good, certain flaws compromise the overall impression of the product like the way the belt cannot be moved to the center or how the pulley easily overheats after 5 minutes of continuous use.
The RIKON 50-151 may be a smaller sander but its smaller design makes it more efficient in certain aspects like cooling. RIKON must look at the RIKON 50-161VS and rework the cooling aspect f the product.
Value for Money
Based on its reliable performance and its solid build quality, you’ll actually be getting fair value for your investment with this one. Just be aware that the unit may be too small for larger projects. If you manage your expectations, the RIKON 50-151 is a good buy for its price point.
The RIKON 50-161VS offers variable speed and a powerful motor. Woodworkers will have to make adjustments because of certain issues like overheating, the difficulty in adjusting the position of the belt, or the rigidity of the platen.
If you’re okay working with a fixed speed, the RIKON 50-151 is the better buy since it has less issues than the variable speed sander. You’ll also be saving yourself some money while minimizing inconveniences arising from the product flaws of the bigger sander.
RIKON is offering a 5 year warranty for this product. This long warranty period signals RIKON’s confidence in their sander and gives a good incentive to buy.
Like its smaller, more compact brethren, the RIKON 50-161VS comes with a 5-year warranty. It’s a good deal considering that you’ll be shelling out a pretty penny for this rig.
RIKON serves consumers who buy these products the same 5-year limited warranty so both products are equal in this regard.
RIKON 50-151 vs RIKON 50-161VS: Which is Better
Variable speed and a stronger motor make woodworkers desire the RIKON 50-161VS at first glance. But throughout the many reviews we’ve read of the product, this sander does not offer a solidly good experience. The saying “too big to fail” may not hold water in this case.
The RIKON 50-15’s smaller motor and light weight probably save it from the technical problems of the larger unit. If you can do with fixed speed until RIKON works out the kinks on the 50-161VS, you might as well settle for this one.
In this case, small is better since you get to save money in the interim.