The sander is an important tool that is used to smooth surfaces (typically wood) by using a combination of sandpaper and speed. Depending on the size and power rating they can remove quite a bit of material in a short amount of time. Here we will focus primarily on woodworking sanders and while there are many other types that aren’t mentioned here, these are 5 of the most popular choices that both professionals and hobbyists will choose. Let’s rundown our top 5 list to help you find the best tool for your next project.
1) Random Orbital Sander
The random orbital sander is arguably the most popular type of wood sanders you can find today. The name comes from the way it operates in that it spins the sanding disk in a circular or “orbital” motion while at the same time the entire disk moves in an elliptical and “random” direction. This is designed to keep the rough particles from contacting the same spots of the surface over and over, resulting in a uniform finish.
It’s so popular because it is easy to use and produces great results on a lot of different types of projects. They are quite affordable, versatile, and small enough to use in awkward places. The one thing they don’t do well is large removal of heavier material but for those you will want to look at the larger sanders listed below.
Here are some tips for success using a random orbit sander:
- When starting, let the sander spin fully up to speed before you first make contact with the surface
- Try to go with the direction of the wood grain, especially if doing more finishing type work
- DO NOT apply much pressure, let the spinning of the disk do the work
- Random orbital sanders work best when used flat on the surface, not on the side
- Pay attention to the dust collection design whether it is a bag, filter, or even a hose connected to a separate system
One of the best and most affordable options is the DEWALT DWE6421K. It has a powerful 3 amp motor and a small, compact design. The secure locking dust bag collects the smallest of particles or you can attach it directly to one of their dust collectors. For more information and customer reviews, click here to visit our recommended online store.
2) Belt Sander
Belt sanders are powerful tools that are generally used to strip and sand wood in a quick manner. They are comprised of two same sized ‘drums’ that turn a continuous loop or belt of sandpaper around them. This is done at a high rate of speed to produce a large amount of power, much more than could be done by hand. A belt sander is a highly effective tool which is why it is so popular today.
They come in a variety of sizes, either handheld or mounted to a work table. The larger mounted models usually have sandpaper that is at least 3 inches wide so it can cover a large area. A belt sander works best on large or uneven areas as it can really smooth out and even a surface quickly. While not ideal for most finishing jobs it definitely has its’ place in the workshop.
To recap, belt sanders are ideal for:
- Removing large amounts of material quickly
- Evening out surfaces without taking too much time or energy
- Handheld models are versatile enough to handle some finishing work
There are a lot of great brands and models to choose from but one of the most popular (and affordable) belt sanders is the SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat. It comes with their Pressure Control Technology which will issue a warning if you are applying too much pressure. This not only can save your project but can also save the sander from unnecessary wear and tear.
Other features include micro filtration to trap dust particles, auto belt alignment, a lock on/off switch, and a relatively light weight of just over 8 pounds. Click here to visit our recommended supplier for more features and current pricing.
3) Disc Sander
The disc sander has a circular shaped piece of sandpaper attached to the round disc that is spun at a high rate of speed. Sometimes it is clamped directly to a table in a stationary configuration, where you will bring the piece of wood to sand right to the machine rather than vice versa. You can usually adjust the angle of the disc to suit whatever your needs are.
If you are looking to finish your wood project or prepare the surface for paint or primer then a disc sander is a logical choice. And not only does it work well on wooden surfaces but you can also use it on such materials as aluminum, plastic, and other softer surfaces that won’t damage the machine. It typically has a dust extraction attachment or unit as well so cleanup is not as involved as other types of sanders.
Quick tip for use:
- When you put your disc sander to use you should make sure the guard is firmly in place. This will help you to NOT make the mistake of using the wrong part of the rotating disk.
One of the best current models you will find today is the Makita GV5010 5 inch disc sander. It delivers over 4 amps of power, spinning at 4500 RPMs to provide a long and continuous amount of sanding for your wood projects. It is lightweight and extremely well built so it will provide years of use for a modest purchase price. Click here to read more about this popular Makita and check current pricing at our favorite e-commerce tool store.
4) Palm Sander
The palm or finish sander is probably the most popular of sanders for beginners to use. Not only are they easy to use but they work great on a lot of different sanding jobs from rough preparation to fine sanding. It’s small, lightweight, and can be operated with just one hand if needed so it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get the wood surface prepared for paint or stain.
Palm sanders work by vibrating the sandpaper in a slightly circular pattern which smooths the surface quite effectively. They usually use normal sheets of paper with loops or an adhesive backing to hold them securely in place. This is important because you don’t want any slipping when it is moving under the power of the machine.
Like most types of modern wood sanders they can be outfitted with a dust collection bag to capture those fine particles that are left behind during use. This saves cleanup time and effort, allowing you to focus more on your project.
The motion makes the difference
- Move the sander along the surface in a long, even motion trying to go along the grain. This helps you create a smooth and fine surface with the least amount of effort.
The SKIL 7292-02 is a 2 amp model with pressure control for even more precision when a lot of pressure is needed. It comes with their micro filtration system to trap a lot of dust with a clear view collection chamber so you know when to empty. It’s affordable and highly rated, making it one of the best choices you can find today. For current pricing and more specifications, click here to visit our recommended store.
5) Detail Sander
The detail sander is an ideal choice for those small, delicate projects where precision is more important than power. Due to its’ small size it can fit into much tighter spaces than larger options like drum or belt sanders. This is important for those craft type projects where you don’t want to damage or remove too much material.
The design is typically triangular with the sandpaper oscillating at a high rate of speed. The angles lend themselves to fitting into small spaces and around corners where you need to be careful what you are contacting. Sometimes they are even referred to as “thumb sanders” because of this ability to work in tight quarters. This quality is the biggest reason they are so popular today.
Tips for using these finishing sanders
- Work slowly to take away a minimal amount of material with each pass, and inspect closely as you work
- Do not apply extra pressure as their motor is not designed to handle the load, let the sander do the work
- Find the right oscillating speed for the job, experiment on extra wood before you get into your project
One of the best choices you can find today is the Black and Decker BDEMS600 Mouse model. It has an ultra compact design that suits its’ name perfectly. The Mouse also comes with ample power for those smaller, finishing jobs while the high performance dust collection makes sure you aren’t leaving behind a big mess in your work area. It is highly rated and highly affordable, and for more information including shipping options click here.