How to Choose the Right Sander for Your Project

We'll help you differentiate between seven types of sanders so you can choose the right tool for a smooth finish.

How to Make Storage Boxes sanding

Sanding is a common task involved in carpentry and woodworking projects. Although there are many ways to get the job done, specific tools can help the process go more smoothly. We'll introduce you to seven of the most common sanders on the market, including both manual sanders and power-operated sanders. Each tool has its merits and drawbacks, and can be used for a variety of projects. With our help, you'll learn not just how to use each type of sander, but when to use them, too.

Manual Sander

How to Use a Manual Sander

A manual sander is the easiest and least expensive sanding tool to use. It relies on manual labor to get a smooth, even finish. It's a good tool for small projects where the wood is already in decent shape or for touch-ups on a piece that's already been sanded.

When using a manual sander, make sure you always go with the grain. Any other direction will create nicks and splinters in the wood. It's also important to make sure you're using the right sandpaper. A too-coarse paper will create scratches, but a too-fine paper will prolong the job.

Random-Orbital Sander

orbital sander

If you're looking for a super-fine finish, look no further than a random-orbital sander. This easy-to-use sanding tool features a circular pad that rotates and buffs the material as you work. Plus, the sander is attached to a ventilation system, so there's less mess involved.

You can use a random-orbital sander for a number of projects, but it's especially useful if you plan to stain or paint the finished product. Consider a random-orbital sander when refinishing a flea market find or building shelves.

Palm Sander

How to Use a Palm Sander

If you tackle even one project a month that requires sanding, consider investing in a palm sander. This mini but mighty tool can be purchased for less than 50 dollars, and its easy-to-use mechanics are friendly to DIYers of all skill levels. The palm sander picks up most of the brute force required for sanding—you just have to guide it. It's an excellent tool for distressing furniture, removing paint, or smoothing plywood.

Keep in mind, however, that palm sanders are designed for home use. They don't have the same industrial qualities as some other sanders, so they shouldn't be used for major tasks.

Belt Sander

How to Use a Belt Sander

Gnarly piece of wood? A belt sander is up for the job. This heavy-duty tool can erase even the most severe scratches and depressions. Plus, the belt sander's efficiency makes it the perfect tool for a carpentry project that requires a lot of sanding, such as building a deck.

Before you begin, make sure you've properly attached the belt and ventilation system. Then, with even pressure, sand the boards along the wood grain until you achieve the desired results. Since it is an industrial-grade tool, belt sanders can come with a hefty price tag. If you don't own one, look to a local hardware store. Some let you rent them for a small fee.

Detail Sander

using a detail sander in tight spots

If you've ever struggled to reach a specific spot while sanding, then a detail sander is for you. This dynamic tool features a triangular head that can access hard-to-reach nooks and crannies with ease.

Detail sanders are fairly light, and you don't have to exert a lot of force to achieve results. They work best if you're buffing, polishing, or lightly sanding a material. Reach for this tool if you need to work between chair spokes, staircase balusters, or another tight area.

File Sander

Choose the Right Sander
Getty Images.

Just like a detail sander, file sanders are known for their ability to access tight spots. This tool features a handle and a finger-like belt that can reach into the smallest of spaces. Various speeds give you control over the depth and intensity of sanding.

File sanders are best for projects with narrow gaps and crevices that even a detail sander can't reach, such as children's furniture or a dollhouse. This tool is also helpful for small touch-ups on spots you may have missed.

Floor Sander

Choose the Right Sander
Getty Images.

If you've ever renovated your floors, you're likely familiar with a floor sander. This professional-grade sander makes quick work of hardwood that needs refinishing. Simply turn on the tool and work your way across the room, being careful not to gouge the floor as you turn. An attached bag collects the sawdust.

Since refinishing wood flooring is a once-in-a-lifetime project for most homeowners, it's impractical to own your own floor sander. Most home improvement centers will let you rent one for a fee.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles