Sander Buying Guide

A Sander is an essential piece of equipment that will get used in almost all do-it-yourself projects that involve wood. Sanders can be used to remove large amounts of wood or finishing material quickly and easily, as well as being able to put a smooth surface on your finished projects. But there are many types of sanders available, and most can only be used for certain applications. The key to buying a sander is to get the one that will fill your needs best. Here are the types of sanders to consider:

Belt Sanders
Belt sanders are good for use in the initial phases of large rough sanding jobs and for the initial phases of large refinishing jobs. Belt sanders remove a lot of material quickly, so care must be used to avoid gouging the material being sanded. Belt sanders also tend to be rather heavy. Look for one that has a variable speed control and a button which allows the speed to be locked so that you can place your hands in the most comfortable position possible when using the sander; this will help reduce user fatigue when using your belt sander.

Detail Sanders
Detail sanders are small sanders used to sand around odd shapes and in small nooks and crannies such as grooves, carvings, curves, and slats. Detail sanders are often used for craft projects and on millwork like window and door casings. To get the most usage out of your detail sander, look for one with a lot of attachments as this will increase the flexibility of your sander and make it usable in more shapes and locations.

Disc Sanders
Disc sanders come in both hand-held and bench-mounted models. The hand-held versions are most useful to do-it-yourselfers while the bench-mounted disc sanders are most often used by those who need to perform sanding on a more industrial scale. But there are some smaller bench-mounted options that are still cheap enough to be useful to the occasional user. Disc sanders are great for finishing the end grain of boards and for sanding angled edges. If you are looking at a bench-mounted disc sander, additional features you will want to look for include: a belt sander somewhere on the frame; a tilting table; and a sliding miter gauge.

Random-Orbit Sanders
Random-orbit sanders have round pads that move/vibrate in a circle with a random pattern. The random motion lets the user move the sander in any direction, even across the grain, without scarring the surface of the material being sanded. This is the “safest” type of sander to use and it is one of the best multi-purposes sanders available, so it is an excellent choice for the occasional user. Most random-orbit sanders require the use of special sand paper specific to the brand/model of the sander being used.

Sheet Sanders
Sheet sanders come in models that use 1/4 or 1/3-sheets of standard-sized sheet sandpaper. Some models of sheet sanders make use of specialized sand paper with velcro or adhesive to attach the sand paper to the sander. Other models are able to use any type of sheet sand paper. Obviously, the latter type of sheet sander is more flexible for the everyday user. Unlike the random-orbit sander, the sheet sander vibrates the sand paper along the axis of the tool, so sheet sanders must be moved in the direction of the grain of the material being sanded to avoid scarring the surface. Sheet sanders are very versatile and, like the random-orbit sander, they can be used on a wide variety of projects.

Spindle Sanders
Spindle sanders are great for edge sanding, especially on curves. Spindle sanders are bench-mounted tools with a cylindrical spindle located in the center of a large worktable. There are no hand-held spindle sanders. As such, these tend to be used by more industrial users. If considering a spindle sander, look for one with the oscillating feature; the oscillations increases the rate at which the sander removes stock and reduce the chance of gouging the material being sanded.

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