Selecting the Right Power Sander for the Job Selecting the Right Power Sander for the Job

Do you know your sanders? This guide will help you choose the right one for your next project.

Sander Safety Tips

  • Always wear eye and ear protection when operating power sanders.
  • Always wear respiratory protection. Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry and put up long hair.
  • Always use adequate ventilation when using a sander. Recommend using appropriate dust collection systems.
  • Never force a sander. The weight of the tool should provide adequate pressure on the workpiece. Forcing can cause overheating, kickback, stalling or burning of the workpiece.
  • Always clamp the workpiece securely before using a portable electric sander ands using a continuous belt or abrasive material.

unused sander belt

Belt Sander

  • Used for aggressive removal of stock.
  • Uses two pulleys, a drive pulley that drives the belt and an idler pulley that guides it.
  • Two handles allow the user to push or pull the machine with little effort.
  • Comes in sizes of 2-1/2” to 4” wide belts; 3” wide is the most common size.
  • Some models have dust collection systems to help control the dust from sanding.
  • Most models have an adjustment feature that automatically maintains the belt in the center of the pulley during operation to eliminate belts that wander off the pulleys.
  • When using, take care not to gouge or ripple a soft wood surface. This sander can remove material rapidly.
  • Use open-coat sandpaper as it is less likely to clog.

narrow sander belt

Narrow Belt Sander

  • Has a belt that is narrower than a typical belt sander, making it ideal for sanding in tight places.
  • Easy to maneuver. With a bench stand accessory, it can mount on a table top and is good for sanding smaller pieces.

unused sander disc

Disc Sander

  • Used mostly for metal sanding or grinding, but also capable of removing stock in plastics, wood or concrete when used with the proper accessory stone, disc or wheel.
  • Aggressively removes stock but leaves scratches in the material.
  • Available in two styles: the angle head where the disc runs parallel to the motor, and the vertical style where the disc runs in a plane perpendicular to the motor.
  • Polishers are another variation of this sander, but they operate at much lower speeds than the sander. A sander should not be used for polishing as the high speed could burn the paint.

random orbit sander

Random Orbit Sander

  • Uses a round disc of sandpaper to sand in both a circular and back-and-forth motion, which reduces swirl marks.
  • Common sizes are 5” and 6”, but smaller and larger sizes are available.
  • Sands in all directions, both against and with the grain.
  • One of the biggest differences in these sanders is the grip style a manufacturer may use. Some have grips at the front of the sander, while others have handlebars that can be attached at either side of the sander.
  • Another important feature is variable speed for slower, delicate work or faster, heavy work.
  • Most use a dust bag to collect sanding dust

sander palm

Palm Sander

  • Also known as a finish sander.
  • Sandpaper attaches to a rectangular pad on the bottom of the sander. The motor moves the pad in small, circular orbits. Easy to handle.
  • Can use regular sandpaper, and measures its size by the portion of a standard 9” x 11” sheet of sandpaper it uses. A 1/4 size uses a 1/4 of a regular sheet, a 1/3 uses a 1/3 sheet and a 1/2 uses a 1/2 sheet.
  • The holes on the bottom of the sander help to remove the dust from the material as you are sanding.
  • Some models have a sandpaper piercing plate that allows you to transform a standard sheet of sandpaper into one with holes designed to fit on the bottom of the sander.
  • Good for sanding corners and finish work. However, it may leave some scratches as is sands both with and against the grain.
  • Some models incorporate a triangular pad extension for sanding in tight corners.

detail sander with cord

Detail Sander

  • Used for sanding detail work and in tight spots.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Can accept a variety of attachments for particular applications.
  • Some models have orbital action sanding, while others use a pivot drive that moves the pad in a small arc.

sander profile

Profile Sander

  • Used for sanding details and profiles, not general sanding tasks.
  • The head can accept a variety of attachments for a variety of tasks.
  • Good for sanding moldings, shaped wood edges and panels

rotary sander

Rotary Tool

  • Often called a Dremel, after a manufacturer of a popular version of the tool.
  • Available in corded or cordless versions. Some have variable speed settings.
  • Small tool that is highly versatile and can be used with a variety of attachments.
  • Attachments can be used to sand, drill, grind, cut and carve on a small scale.
  • Bits used with these tools include a variety of grinders, sanders, cutters, routers, cleaners and polishers.

belt for sander

Sanding Belt

  • Used with belt sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • Good quality belts should resist tearing and stretching

sanding disc

Sanding Disc

  • Most often used with disc sanders and random orbit sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • One style is PSA. PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, so sandpapers of this type have a sticky backing. Generally, this type is used for sanding jobs where you will use the sandpaper until it is worn out. Not for tasks where you will be changing sandpaper frequently.
  • Another style is hook and loop, which attaches to the sander like Velcro. It is removable and good for jobs that require frequent changing of the sandpaper.
  • Holes in the sandpaper enable dust extraction to reduce buildup of dust on the abrasive.

sheets for sander

Sanding Sheets

  • Most often used with orbital sanders and other types of profile and finishing sanders.
  • Square or triangular in shape, depending on the type of sander they are to be used with.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • One style is PSA. PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, so sandpapers of this type have a sticky backing. Generally, this type is used for sanding jobs where you will use the sandpaper until it is worn out. Not for tasks where you will be changing sandpaper frequently.
  • Another style is hook and loop, which attaches to the sander like Velcro. It is removable and good for jobs that require frequent changing of the sandpaper.
  • Another, more economical alternative to PSA and hook and loop sandpaper are sanders that use clamps to hold the sandpaper to the sanding pad. In this style, standard sheet sandpaper can be used. A paper punch tool is usually included with the sander to poke the holes in the paper to aid in dust extraction.

Looking to purchase a new sander? Check out our Sanders Buyer's Guide.

Courtesy of NRHA.org

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