Smooth surfaces are essential for too many reasons to count. A smooth surface makes painting, staining and finishing easier. A smooth surface helps pieces fit together better. A smooth surface makes things look better. As an added bonus, a smooth surface prevents you from being riddled with slivers.
Sanders use sandpaper, attached in various ways depending on the type of sander, to rapidly and evenly smooth wood and metal surfaces and to remove paint and finishes. The power tools are far superior to hand-held sandpaper, as they’re much more efficient and also give you a flat surface, whereas your hand, particularly when fatigued from all the sanding, is less likely to leave an even surface.
Random Orbital Sanders spin a sanding disk in a circle while moving the entire head in an ellipse. The dual movements prevent the sandpaper from ever moving in the same path twice, creating smooth, swirl-free finishes. These sanders are powerful, excellent for fine finishes and can handle any direction of wood grain.
Orbital sanders vibrate in small circles, and are typically used for fine sanding. These sanders usually have more power than other sanders and can sand more in less time. Fans of random orbital sanders may criticize orbital sanders because of the possibility of leaving swirl marks in the wood or behaving differently depending on the wood grain.
Pad sanders are versatile - they can smooth surfaces in open areas along with tight spots and corners. They are easy to control and have a number of uses.
Detail sanders are meant for detail work. With a small vibrating head and triangular sandpaper, detail sanders get into corners and small spaces better than any other sander. For all intricate sanding, grab a detail sander.
Belt sanders sand a lot of material in a short period of time. Because of this, they’re great for removing rough cuts and excess material. They are not efficient when working with thin pieces or when when in need of a completely even surface. Belt sanders are best as a first sanding stage to get difficult work finished before moving into more controllable sanders to finish the job.
Pipe belt sanders are specially designed for sanding pipes. The belt has an open back—that is, there’s nothing behind the belt, thus allowing you to use an adjustable handle to contort the belt to easily wrap around pipes. Depending on the tool, you can wrap up to 180 degrees.
Shop sanders are any type of large sander that is intended to sit in your shop at all times. These include large drum sanders and belt sanders. While not portable, these are beneficial for people who frequently sand aggressively.
It’s generally a good idea to own several sanders specific to certain applications. While you could theoretically use a single sander for everything, your results will be much better using the appropriate sander. How do you know which sander is right for you? Ask yourself:
Every sander is great for the job it’s meant to do. Do-it-yourselfers may need just one sander. But if you’re going to be taking on large projects or seeing projects through from beginning to end, get specialized sanders for each stage of your projects.
The amount of power typically coincides with the type of sander you choose. Belt sanders and shop sanders are extremely powerful. Random orbital sanders and orbital sanders are also powerful; surprising, due to their small size. Some sanders, like detail sanders, wouldn’t be as effective if they had more power. Although they won't have as much power, cordless sanders are convenient compared to those with a power cord.
Sanders are usually used for an extended period of time. Make sure to choose a sander you can comfortably handle. A heavier sander may work for you if you won’t be sanding for long periods of time. A lighter sander will be more manageable for vertical sanding jobs.
Dust can cause health problems. It’s important you get a saw or attachment with adequate dust control to keep your work area clean and the air around you less dusty.
Easily accessible controls are great, but do they affect the comfort of using the tool? How easy is it to change sand paper? Handle a few sanders to ensure the best fit for you.
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