Types of Wood Sanders, Features Fully Explained and Buying Guide

There are a number of different types of sanders that you can use to sand and finish off wood and other materials. Below we will have a look at each type and I will show you what each one does and what it is best used for.
There are generally speaking 5 types of sander.

5 Different Types of Sanders

  1. Belt Sanders
  2. Orbital Sanders, also called Finishing Sanders, 1/4 sheet sander, 1/3 sheet sander and 1/2 sheet sander
  3. Random Orbit Sanders
  4. Straight Line Sander
  5. Floor Sanders

The video below explains each one of these five sanders and what the various applications that you need each one for. These days the random orbital sander is the best all round choice. That said, it is always worth knowing exactly what is out there in the market place.

Belt Sanders

They are difficult to use but super at removing a lot of wood quickly and perfect for working on really big surfaces. Sadly most people don’t know how to properly use these and as such they get a bit of bad press.
The key to using these properly is to make sure the belt is flush on the work surface. You should then use variable speed to start slowly and work your way up.
This gives you a lot more control and stops you from inadvertently gouging into the surface. These are not great for finishing as their main purpose is to remove a lot of wood quickly. These are mostly used in the renovation of homes, or the restoration of old wooden floors and stair cases.
Many professionals use these for table tops, doors and timber flooring. A lot of carpenters use these to help do simple jobs like fix a sticking door. A few runs up the edge of a door with one of these and the job is done quickly. These work pretty simply as the sander has some rollers on the bottom, sometimes referred to as drums.
Abrasive paper is then attached over these rollers and you then have a high powered abrasive surface, which can quickly sand down the surface. These are powerful and should only really be used for the first sanding process and not as a finishing tool.
They normally come in two width sizes which are 75 mm (3″) and 100 mm (4″)
You can read more about these by clicking here.

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Orbital Sanders

  • These are called a variety of different names such as:

Finishing Sanders

  • 1/4 sheet sander
  • 1/3 sheet sander
  • 1/2 sheet sander
  • These are essentially what was used before the arrival of the random orbital. With these you would have a square base and you would attach sandpaper to the bottom of that. The motion then moved the base and helped to sand down the wood.
    They are incredibly slow and very few people will use these today. They can still be useful if you are working into a square corner, simply because of the square or rectangular shape of the base.
    People use these for projects such as smoothing out plaster or patches in drywall that have been filled. Some even use these when painting to get a really smooth finish that looks great.

    Random Orbit Sanders

    These are the sanders that most people will need to buy and use. They replaced the one I have just mentioned above and they do a super job at sanding very quickly and not leaving any swirl marks.
    Without any doubt these are the best ones to buy as they work great and leave a super finish. You can read more about orbit sanders by clicking here.
    There you will find a Top list by rating value from actual buyers along with more detailed reviews of the very best products. These are essentially a great combination of a belt sander and an orbit sander. You get a super smooth finish but it is done at speed.
    That will tick the boxes of many users and it is clearly why they are the most popular choice for trade’s people and for those who do a lot of home based projects.
    If you would like to know how to use one of these, then please click here.

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    Straight Line Sanders

    As the name would suggest these are for just doing very straight lines and are great for edging.
    This is simply because the pad is contoured and leaves a highly professional finish to edges. These are slow to remove material but that is what you want to get a nice finish.
    These are used for very specific purposes such as on edging and especially on long boards that require a nicely finished edge. They are also really good if you need to get really flat on larger surfaces. Many people also use these to work on car restoration as it is really good at working on smoothing out body filler.
    Mainly these are only bought for specialist trades and for particular jobs. The average home DIY person will never need one of these.

    Floor Sanders

    These are used by professionals and those doing large home improvement projects to quickly sand down a lot of wooden floors. Most people will rent these out if they are doing a room or two.
    For those who do interior decorating, or buy and sell homes, then they will also want to own one of these. That said these are expensive and cost anything between $2,000-3,000 depending on the brand and quality that you go for.
    These work really well for ultra fine finishing on hardwood floors. If you want something that can transform old wooden floors and make them look like new, then this is the type of sander that you will need.

    Main Features To Consider When Buying A Sander

    This is simply a quick guide to the key features to be on the look out for before making your purchase.
    Speed – You will want variable speed that puts you in control. Speed is measure in RPM or Orbits
    Power – This is measured in watts. The higher this number is the more power and the more RPM should be available
    Dust Removal – Make sure there is some form of dust extraction system available – very important
    Pad Size – 5″ and 6″ are available with the 5″ being the most popular (and cheaper)
    For most general home use, we would highly recommend a good quality random orbital sander. That will be able to handle a lot of jobs are are reasonably priced. Belt sanders are great for doing floors or large surfaces.

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