A Simplified Guide to a Sander and Buyers Guide


A sander is crucial for many woodworking projects. Scouring the internet reveals very scanty information on a sander. The article below will explain to you all that you need to know about these sanding tools. You will discover what a sander is, types of sanders, and a buying guide for a superb sander.

What Is A Sander?

Sanders are hand-held manual or powered tools used in smoothening surfaces through the abrasive action of the attached sandpaper. The sandpaper grinds continuously against the rough surface that you want to smoothen. Sanders vary in sizes, and some are mounted on benches to meet various smoothening needs.

More details will emerge on sanders as you look into the various types that are available in the market.

Types of Sanders

As mentioned, there are several types of sanders. What you choose depends on the project that you are undertaking. They range from the simplest hand-held sanders for intricate carving to heavy-duty electric-powered sanders for sanding large surfaces. We have arranged them into manual and powered tools for ease of classification.

A) Manual Sander

The manual sanders are simple smoothening tools that you can make yourself. You will have to use your hands and energy for the tools to achieve the best outcomes. With the manual sanders, you can sand successfully on small tasks with minor rough surfaces and edges.

Advantages of Manual Sanders

-The tools sand at a slower speed, which results in very smooth surfaces.

– Working with these tools gives you ample time to rectify before making any gouges on the surface.

Disadvantages Of Manual Sanders

  • They can only be useful in small projects
  • Sanding on very rough surfaces is difficult
  • They are tiring as they involve the expenditure of personal energy
  • They lack dust ports, denying you the luxury of automatic cleanliness.

Some of the manual sanders include;

1. The Sandpaper

You can buy sandpapers in any tools store near you. They come in several sizes ranging from standard to fractional sizes. Besides, you will realize that the sandpapers have grits on one side. The grits are the sharp edges that sand the materials. If you want more excellent sanding, select the sandpaper with small grits. However, for heavy sanding, choose the coarse sandpaper.

2. Strip Sander

This sander is similar to a hand-held wood planer. It has two handles for pushing the tool through as you sand. If you have ever used a hand plane, then this sander operates similarly. The handles allow you to sand a larger surface with ease.

3. Hand Sander

A hand sander has one handle that runs from the front to the back that holds the sanding surface. The grip makes the sanding easier compared to the simple sandpaper.

4. Bow Sander

Sanding on curved surfaces is much more comfortable using the bow sander. As the name suggests, it has a bow-like handle joined together by the sanding material. This formation gives you an edge when sanding contoured edges that require uniform pressure.

B) Electric Powered Sanders


The electric-powered sanders use electricity to run the rotating motor.

Advantages Of Electric Powered Sanders


  • They sand large surfaces within a short time
  • Easy to maneuver by both beginner and skilled personnel
  • Can work on very rough surfaces with ease

Disadvantages of Electric Powered Sanders


  • Require experienced staff for easy maneuvering
  • Some large electric powered sanders like the drum sander may cause damage to floors.

The most commonly used electric power sanders include;

1.      Detail Sander


This sander has a small body that resembles a cloth iron. The unique shape enables you to reach tight areas where other sanders may not access. Working with it is a breeze as it requires minimum effort, and the sanding gets done correctly.

Where to Use a Detail Sander


The detail sander is useful in sanding the hard to reach spindles of chairs and other tight corners.

Advantage of the Detail Sander

– Its lightweight and ease of use make it a darling for beginners and professionals alike.

Disadvantages Of The Detail Sander

  • Difficult to sand on very coarse stock
  • Makes some considerable noise when in operation

What to Look For When Buying a Detail Sander


When purchasing a detail sander, select the one that has different attachments for more specialized tasks and versatility.

2.  Palm Sander

The palm sander is also called finish sander for its ultra-smooth finishes. It has an oscillating square pad that produces final smooth finishes on boards and other materials.

What Makes Sanding With A Palm Sander Such A Breeze?

The palm sanders have small bodies and slides quickly on large surfaces producing very smooth edges. Working with it is quite easy. Besides, it has a comfortable grip that enables you to sand large surfaces without tiring your wrists.

Disadvantages Of A Palm Sander

-Just like the detail sander, it is unsuitable for sanding the very rough stock.

Uses of a palm sander

  • Removing varnish, paint, and unwanted plasters.
  • The square sanding pads makes it great for smoothening corners
  • Useful in sanding plywoods and veneers


3.      Orbital Sanders

Most workshops have orbital sanders for their sanding projects. These sanders are widely used for their lightweight and for the fact that you apply light pressure as you sand. They incorporate rectangular or square sanding pads that orbit on the surface of the material. Armed with an orbital sander, you can easily sand large surfaces quickly.

Uses of Orbital Sanders

  • Rounding sharp edges
  • Sanding large pieces of wood previously prepped with belt sanders

Advantages Of Orbital Sanders

  • Lightweight
  • Ease on wrists allowing you to sand for long

Disadvantages of Orbital Sanders


– Leaves swirl patterns on the surface

4.  Random Orbital Sander

The random orbital sander is similar to the orbital sanders but has circular pads. The advantage with this sander is that the pads orbit randomly and spins on the surface. The combined effect brings about a super-smooth surface with no swirls. You can select the pad size with five or six inches in diameter that suits your needs.

Uses of Random Orbital Sander

  • Suitable for ultra-smooth sanding
  • Applicable for large surfaces
  • Can be used with limitations for removing the large stock

Advantages of Random Orbital Sanders

  • Accomplish sanding for large surfaces
  • More powerful than the orbital sanders
  • It’s an all-purpose sander
  • Produces no swirls on the material

Tips for Using Random Orbital Sanders

The random orbital sander has excellent results when used in the right way. However, it can leave undesirable swirls and gouges if used otherwise. The following tips will assist you in achieving the best results.

  • Don’t add weight by leaning on the sander. Its weight is just enough to produce super-smooth surfaces
  • Before you start sanding, make light markings on the surface with a pencil. The even removal of the swirls will mean that you have covered the whole surface evenly.
  • As you sand, ensure that the strokes overlap slightly. With this movement, there is a guarantee of total surface coverage.
  • Always move the sander along the wood grains
  • When working on the edges, let off less than half of the pad to avoid rounding them
  • Buy a random orbital sander with variable speed for better control.


5.      Disc Sander

The disc sander operates on a bench allowing you to use both hands to hold the material. It has an abrasive disc that lies perpendicular to the worktable. Working with it is easy as it has a fixed abrasive disc on a rotating circular back-plate that’s connected to a motor.

How Does The Disc Sander Operate?

In operation, the circular abrasive disc rotates at high speed. You have to feed the stock against the rotating sanding disc. You can choose the disc’s diameter that suits your projects. The available diameters range from four to twelve inches.

Can You Sand At An Angle With The Disc Sander?

The disc sander allows you to sand at any angle. The trick lies with tilting the worktable to match the edge of your wood.

What Do You Need To Know When Operating A Disc Sander?

You need to gain some experience with the disc sanders before operations. The most common problem is the stock getting stuck between the worktable and the disc. Therefore, you need to maintain sufficient space between the work table and the disc.

Advantages of Disc Sander

  • It has a very high speed of operations
  • You can change the grit size to match your sanding requirements
  • It can smoothen your stock at any angle

Disadvantages of Disc Sander

  • Its design does not allow you to sand on finished furniture


6.      Belt Sander

The belt sander is a popular sanding tool in most workshops. It has handles that you push around the surface, making your finishing quiet easy. The device has two rotating drums connected with a belt-like sanding material. The back drum is powered by a motor that propels the belt as you sand. However, the front drum is free to roll with the power of the belt.

Uses of Belt Sanders

  • sanding wood and some soft metals
  • restoring the shiny look of old wooden floors
  • leveling tabletops and rough wood boards

Advantages of a Belt Sander

  • the long sandpaper wears slowly prolonging its lifespan
  • can be adjusted to work at different angles
  • works on wood and soft metals

Disadvantages of Belt Sanders

– requires some level of operation skills to avoid gouging on boards


7.      Drum Sanders

The market has two types of drum sanders

  • benchtop drum sander
  • flooring drum sander


A) Benchtop Drum Sander

As the name suggests, you place this tool on a benchtop. It has a large rotating drum in which you wind the sandpaper. For the power supply, connect the drum to a motor that provides the rotation power.

Operating the benchtop drum sander

The benchtop sander has a conveyer belt that feeds the wood into the sanding drum. You just place the material on the feeder belt. As the wood passes through the sander, it smoothens the thickness and other high points. Besides, you can adjust the height to allow the more massive stock to pass through for sanding.

Uses of a Benchtop Sander


  • To remove paint or adhesives on surfaces
  • Standardizing the thickness on boards

B) Flooring Drum Sander

These are the most extensive and most expensive types of the sander. Also, they are the most powerful and will sander large floor surfaces quickly.

How Does The Flooring Drum Sander Operate?

The sander has a long handle that you hold as you push along the floor. It requires some level of expertise as it can leave gouges on the surface. To avoid this outcome, you have to push it at a constant speed throughout the space for uniform sanding.

Uses of the Flooring Drum Sander
  • sanding large floor surfaces
  • removing paints and other unwanted substances
Advantages of Flooring Drum Sanders
  • sands large surfaces quickly
  • produces surfaces with even thickness
  • very powerful with smooth surfaces even on hardwoods
Disadvantages Of The Flooring Drum Sander
  • Requires some operation expertise as losing control over it can damage your floor
  • Its heavy-weight makes it less portable
  • It is quite expensive, and you have to rent it for your short term projects

8.       Oscillating Spindle Sander (OSS)

An OSS is a unique sander that is best suited for working on curves and straight edges. It has a central oscillating spindle that supports the rotating drum. You wind the sandpaper on the entire surface of the circular drum.

How Does The OSS Operate?

The spindle has a motor that simultaneously rotates the drum and moves it up and down. When in operation, the drum sands the curved or straight surface giving it a super-smooth finish. You can increase its versatility by buying varying drum diameters. Besides, you can use different sandpaper grit sizes to sand on differing wood species with differing sizes.

Uses of OSS

  • superfine for working on curved as well as straight surfaces
  • You can tilt the table to make angled sanding


Advantages of OSS

  • The even distribution of sanding reduces wear and tear of the sandpaper prolonging its lifespan
  • Excellent tool for curved surfaces or any irregular shape
  • Easy to operate and maintain


9. Drywall Sander

This type of sander has a sanding disc attached at the end of a long pole. The purpose of the pole is to reach the far end of the walls and on ceilings. You may also need a ladder to reach far-flung areas if the pole is shorter. However, you can also insert a shorter pole for more detailed work and better observation.

What Are The Features That Make Drywall Sanders The Right Choice?

  • The pole enables you to reach far-flung areas
  • The rotating disc produces super-smooth surfaces
  • It has a dust collector that keeps your working area clean
  • The lightweight ensures you work on large areas without tiring
  • Sands the surfaces quickly saving time and money
  • Preparing walls and ceilings joints for further finishing with paints
  • Remove paints and other adhesives on walls and ceilings


10. Multi-Tool Sander

You may realize that a multi-tool is your preferred sanding tool for its versatility. It’s a small tool that you can attach various accessories for different tasks. In comparison with the detail sander, it has a smaller body. However, with the appropriate attachment, the multi-tool can be transformed into a scrap, saw, or a sander. When using it as a sander, it incorporates a triangular-shaped pad.

Why Choose A Multi-Tool Sander?

– The small size, coupled with the triangular-shaped pads enables you to access tight corners with ease.

-Its lightweight allows you to work on with no wrists fatigue.

– The tool can sand, cut or scrape when fitted with the appropriate accessory

The above sanders are available in the market from various manufactures. At first, you can experience challenges when it comes to buying. Luckily, you don’t need to wet your palms. The following guideline will take you through on what need to know to select your catch.


Factors to Consider When Buying a Sander

The market has many types and sizes of sanders. Choosing what you need may be tricky, especially if you are a beginner. However, you may ask yourself some questions to gauge what sander to buy.

1. What Is Your Specialty?

If you mostly deal with curved surfaces, you may consider buying an oscillating spindle sander. However, if you are a professional in floor finishing, the flooring drum sander is appropriate. These two examples mean that you need to check against each tool to arrive at the final decision.

2. What Are The Sizes Of The Materials That You Mostly Plan To Work On?

Large surfaces require a sander that works quickly and has sufficient power. Consequently, smaller surfaces may require hand-held sander for sufficient smoothing.

3. How Do You Want The Final Product To Look Like?

Different sanders differ with the smoothness level that they can achieve. Ask yourself whether you need outstanding finishes, or some swirls are allowed on your surfaces.

4. Are The Specific Sanding Pads Available?

A sander is a long-lasting tool. However, the sanding pads wear out with time. Therefore, you need to check on their availability as you will be replacing them from time to time.

5. How Versatile Is The Sander?

Space and other constraints may hinder you from buying certain types of sanders. Therefore, you need to enjoy most from the tool that you choose. Consider the space in your work station and select the device that will sand most of your needs.

6. What Budget Do I Have?

When it comes to costs, consider the initial price and the maintenance cost in your final decision. Sound judgment will help you in choosing the best sander that will not have future financial constraints.

A short recap for selecting your suitable sander

  • Orbital sander- ideal for beautiful finishes on medium surfaces
  • Random orbital sander- the tool of choice for super beautiful finishes with no swirls.
  • Belt sander-suitable for large surfaces in case you don’t need a very smooth finish.
  • Multi-tool –suitable for minor sanding tasks and where you can use it for other functions with different accessories
  • Hand-held sanders- ideal for occasional small sanding jobs
  • Detail sander- useful for sanding small and hard to reach areas

Now I hope you have made an informed decision on what sander you need. However, you need to visit a tools store and consider the following factors;

1. Lifespan

How is the body build of the sander? The machine should withstand long working hours without losing integrity within a short period.

2. Motor Power

This consideration depends on the type of materials and sizes that you will be working on. Note that the higher the motor power, the higher the sander’s strength.

3. Simplicity in Use

If you are a beginner in sanding, you need a sander that is easy to use. Besides, you need a sander that you are comfortable working with and have full control.

  1. Dust port

Sanders produce a lot of fine dust that could have health implications. Therefore, a power tool with a well-placed dust port is handy. Above all, the tool kit should have a well-sized dust bag for dust collection.

5. Available Attachments

It will be foolhardy to buy a sander and before long be back at the stores for replacements. It’s advisable to buy a sander with several accessories. They may include sheets of sandpaper, sanding discs, and dust bags, among others.

6. Variable Speed Control

Different working surfaces require varying sanding speeds. A sander with variable speed control is handy in protecting your boards from possible destruction.

7. Vibration Control

A sander with high vibration makes your hands very uncomfortable and could also be dangerous. If you want to work for long and enjoy your sanding projects, check for a sander with lower vibration levels.

In Conclusion

Sanding is a very cool project. However, it can be a pain, especially if you have the wrong tool for a given task. The trick lies with your plans and the level of versatility that you need in your chosen device. Go ahead and select your most appropriate sander and welcome to the world of fantastic finishes.



I am a woodwork enthusiast who is in the Financial Industry. I come from a woodworking family and started handling woodwork tools from a young age. For me, it's not a hobby. its a way of life.

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