4 Different Types Of Wood Sanders


Sanding Wood Projects Really Suck

Yes it does but wood sanders make it easier and a lot more bearable plus it’s a necessary evil if you want your finished wood project to really shine. I was a sophomore in high school when I found that out. I, like most people find sanding wood to be a very boring and tedious job. Back and forth and back and forth with the grain we go.

My school had a very and I mean VERY limited supply of electrical wood sanders. Matter of fact I remember having to sand my entire project by hand because everybody got to the sanders before I even had a chance to. Thank God the project that I chose to build was a very simple gun rack.

It didn’t have a whole lot of pieces that went into it. It also didn’t have any tight corners that would have made it difficult to sand by hand. I remember it taking a bit of time to get all of the pieces done. Each piece had to be run through a series of different grits of sandpaper starting with a course grit and ending with a very fine grit.

It made the shop class feel like hours when it was only one hour a day. Finally the day came when all of the sanding was complete and when the wood stain was applied, all the work was worth it. Nowadays there are many types of wood sanders to choose from and most of them are at an affordable price. That’s a good thing because if you’re into doing different types of wood projects you’ll probably need several wood sanders that do different things starting with the belt sader.

How To Use A Belt Sander

As far as wood sanders go, the belt sander can be considered the work horse because of the power that it has. The belt sander has a tendency of over sanding if you’re not paying attention. The way that a belt sander is designed is by having a continuous loop of sandpaper placed over a two pulley system driven loop that has two round drums that the sandpaper rides on.

Changing out the sander belts is a snap due to the tension relief lever built into the sander. This makes nice it because you don’t have to fiddle with any tools you just flip the relief lever which gives you the slack you need to change out a worn belt or go to a different grit of sandpaper.

To use the belt sander is pretty easy really. Just remember to squeeze the trigger before you touch the sander to the wood and go back and forth with the grain. Do this so you don’t make swirl or circular marks in the wood. The belt sander has a nice amount of weight to it so use that to your advantage by not applying any down pressure, let the wood sander do all of the work.

One thing to I would do is don’t start out with a really course grit sandpaper if this is your first time using a belt sander. Remember 80 grit sandpaper is the roughest grit you can get. Consider starting with a 120 grit sandpaper until you get the hang of sanding wood.

The belt sander won’t get your project sanded down to where you can apply your wood stain or other finish but it will get you close enough to where another sander can get it to the desired smoothness that you’re looking for without too much work.

The front drum or roller is free spinning while the back roller does all the work which is powered by a motor. The belt sanders’ are the right choice when wood projects have a lot of surface that needs to be sanded. Some of these examples are doors, tabletops and cabinets. Here’s a nice little tip to cut down on your wood sanding. If you can, run your wood pieces through a wood jointer and planer to get nice clean surfaces. This will give you a good starting point before sanding.

How To Use An Orbital Sander

An orbital sander isn’t near as aggressive as the belt sander and it’s also smaller in size. This wood sander is the one that most people want. This wood sander is the one I use for getting a very smooth surface before applying a wood finish such as paint. The orbital sander also does a very good job of removing any unwanted putty and rounds out sharp corners without tearing up the wood.

Even though the orbital sander is a better option for delivering a really nice smooth surface, it will still leave unwanted sanding marks in the wood and will show up if you use a finish such as stain or a clear lacquer. So be sure aware of that and inspect your wood pieces carefully to make sure there aren’t any unwanted scratches because the finish that you use could magnify those pesky unwanted scratches.

The way that the orbital sander works is the sanding pad vibrates in a circular or as the name implies orbital motion that moves across the grain. The motion of the sander is always random so that major scratching will be avoided.

The sanding pads that are used on the orbital sander can be bought ( which costs more money ) or the better option is to cut your own from a 9″ X 11″ sheet of paper. The sandpaper is place on the sanders pad and held in place by two spring loaded clamps. Due to the square shape of the sander it’s well suited for getting into corners that you can’t normally get with a belt sander which is handy.

Where does the orbital wood sander excel then? I’ts great for refinishing wood floors because it can get right up against baseboards and will fit right in the corners where a belt sander can’t get. It also works well for stripping off old paint from a project that you may want to redo like an old table or something like that.

How To Use A Random Orbit Sander

When it comes to sanding wood and getting that nice smooth surface the random orbital sander is the way to go. The random orbital sander is even better than the sheet sander because it won’t leave any kind of scratch marks on the surface of the wood.

The sanding motion of this sander is always changing, with each revolution the next path made by the sand paper is completely different from the last. The sander itself is very easy to work and control all by the use of the palm of your hand. Very little downward pressure is needed when sanding.

The random orbital sander comes in two sizes which are 5 and 6 inches in diameter. These wood sanders have a round pad that you attach a round sanding disc to. The most popular of the two sanders is the five inch sander because it offers a little more maneuverability.

The random orbital sander can do almost anything that the sheet sander can do. The one task that it can’t do is sand in corners such as floors or raised corners in wood projects. But hey that the trade you have to make to ensure that there won’t be any unwanted scratches left behind by your wood sander.

The Table Sander Or Bench Sander

For all you of you woodworkers out there and newcomers who like to use the bandsaw or are into woodturning, this wood sander is right up your alley. When curves are cut out using the bandsaw it also leaves behind a challenge when it comes to sanding those curve.

All the belt sanders that have been mentioned here can’t fit into some of awkward curves which leaves you with two choices. One, do it old school and sand by hand or use a different kind of wood sander. That one being a table sander. All table sanders or also known as benchtop sanders come with TWO sanding surfaces.

The first one is a round rotating platform with a round sanding pad that you can attach to it. This works well for all kinds of things like rounding corners of small wood projects.

The second sanding surface is a built in belt sander that has the capability of tilting from a horizontal position all the way to a vertical position and any degree in between. I wish I could have used this part for sanding down the curves in the gun rack i built.

The benchtop sander has other uses besides wood sanding. It does a really nice job of sharpening tools such as spindle gouges and bowl gouges. Just like any other sander, changing grits or wore out sand paper is easy to do with a table top sander.

Some Things Not To Do With Wood Sanders

It doesn’t matter what type or size of wood sander or sanders that you buy, there’s some things that you shouldn’t do and this pertains to all of them. First off don’t apply so much down pressure that you hear the sander slow down. This causes the sander to be counter productive and there’s a good chance that if you do this enough times that you’ll end up burning the motor out.

The next thing is if you have a spot on the wood that won’t come out or smooth out easily, don’t turn the sander on its side thinking that concentrated part of the sandpaper will remove or smooth out faster because it won’t. In the end all you’ll do is leave a gouge in the wood that could ruin all your hard work. Just let the sander do its job and be a little patient.

What To Look For In Wood Sanders

Like any one these wood sanders that have been mentioned, you don’t have to pay a ton of money for one. So shop smart and look for sales. With all my wood sanders there are some things that I require and the first being is I want a variable speed control so that I that have more control.

For instance if i’m running 80 grit sandpaper on my belt sander i’m gonna want to turn the speed down so that the wood sander isn’t so aggressive and leave dips in the wood and at the same time remove all those rough spots quickly.

Another thing to look for is a dust collection system that you can hook up to a vacuum. This does two thing for you, it keeps you from breathing in all that fine sawdust. Plus it keeps your work piece free of sawdust for better visibility. Not to mention it’s less clean up at the end of the day.

When your shopping for wood sanders try make sure that you can plug them in and turn them on before you buy so you can get a good comparison between brands and sizes. See how much vibration it’s giving off because too much vibration will be uncomfortable for long periods of sanding.

Also something I like having on my wood sanders is the button to lock the trigger in the ON position so I don’t have to keep exerting energy by continually squeezing the trigger.