How to buy a sander
A sander buying guide
Sanders are a common tool among woodworkers, carpenters and crafters, and there are a lot of different types of sanders to choose from. You need to take a few basic considerations into account when learning how to buy a sander. Thinking about how you'll use the sander, the size of your typical projects, sander features and available accessories will ensure that you buy the best type of sander for your needs.
>> How will you use a sander?
How you use your sander will play an important role in determining the best sander to buy. You can use the sander to prepare unfinished wood to be stained, finished or painted. A sander can also help you give new life to old furniture by removing old finishes, including chipped paint, varnishes or stains. This prepares them for a new surface treatment and many more years of use.
>> Consider the different types of sanders
The sander comparison chart below highlights the more popular types of sander designs and their different uses.
Type of Sander
|Sandpaper ||LightweightCan be used on any type of materialComes in many degrees of coarseness ||Small projectsCan be used on plastic as well as wood |
|Dual action ||Heavy and has an attached standIdeal to use on items that can be easily turned and flipped ||Small to medium projects. Must be able to turn the project easily since the sander is stationary |
| Disc sander/Orbital ||Corded or cordlessHandle for more controlLarge rotating disc ||On medium to large projects such as doors, cabinets and furnitureCan use in awkward positions |
|Random-orbit ||Sanding disc moves in a random pattern to prevent gouging ||Most versatile type of powered sander. Different types handle everything from rough sanding to finish sanding, |
|Detail ||Interchangeable, triangular pads and finger-shaped pads ||Sand curves and profile shapes, like rounded chair legsFinger-shaped pads work well in slots and grooves |
|Finishing ||Squared-off pads ||Move sandpaper in small circles to tackle cornersGood for fine veneers and plywood |
Most craftspeople will have multiple types of sanders, since pieces rarely have a completely flat surface. Hobbyists will usually have at least different grades/grit of sandpaper on hand plus a disc sander with multiple discs, each of a different grit. Professional woodworkers might have each type of sander described above.
>> Do you need to reach odd angles when sanding?
When your project pieces have odd angles and old varnish or paint, you'll want to have a portable orbital sander on hand for them. These types of sanders are of medium weight and can be cordless for maximum ease of use. Dual action sanders are larger. They can be portable as well but will need to be connected to a power source. For intricate and delicate areas, nothing beats sandpaper for conforming to the shape of the wood.
>> Consider the size of the project pieces
When learning how to buy a sander, the size of the project can help you determine which sander to buy. Large project pieces might require a hand-held disc sander, because it would be hard or awkward to manipulate the item on a stationary sander. With smaller projects pieces, you can use a dual-action sander and regular sandpaper, with or without sanding blocks. The dual-action sanders will allow you to sand down edges more easily, and the sandpaper will allow you to get into grooves easily. Use large sanders only on large surfaces without delicate features.
>> Consider sander features
- Sawdust collection: Sanding any kind of wood creates a lot of sawdust. Look for sanders with bags to collect dust or ports that give you the ability to hook the sander up to a dust collection system or wet/dry vac to whisk away sawdust as it's created.
- Trigger lock: Trigger locks allow you to keep the unit locked in the on position without having to manually depress the trigger, freeing up your hands to focus on guiding and controlling the sander.
- Clamps: Generally used with smaller, more portable sanders, clamps allow you to lock sanders in an upside-down position to create a sanding stand. Rather than bringing the sander to the wood, clamps let you bring the wood to the sander for small, delicate items.
- Grips: Look for units with two-handed or large front grips that make it easier to guide the sander accurately.
- Pad brakes: Pad brakes allow you to lift the sander from the work surface and put it back down without gouging the material. Once in place, you might want to remove them to ensure the highest-quality performance.
- Tracking adjustment: Look for sanders that feature convenient knobs or thumbscrews to make adjusting the tracking quick and easy.
>> Think about sander accessories
When learning how to buy a sander, remember that different types of sanders require different accessories. For example, if your stationary sander fits into a space far away from an AC outlet, you'll need to pick up a heavy-duty extension cord. If you buy a cordless, rechargeable sander, you should buy an extra battery pack or two, so you can always have power on hand. If you get a dual action sander, check whether it requires a compressor to power it. If you're going to use sandpaper, you might want to invest in a sanding block to save your hands from scratches.
A small tool kit might be necessary to have as well. This will allow you to do minor repairs in case something should break on the sander. Some of the most important accessories you should have on hand are pieces of safety equipment. Use goggles, face masks and aprons while you operate any type of sanding equipment and have an eye wash kit close by. If you have long hair, remember to secure it before operating a powered sander.
Sanders are a very common tool found in many home garages and workshops. Everyone from hobbyists to professionals use a sander. When learning how to buy a sander, comparing the different types and features will ensure that you buy the right one for you.