How to Use a Palm Sander

For a versatile, easy-to-use sanding tool, look to a palm sander. This simple power tool makes short work of a painstaking task.

Go back to basics and discover our top tips for using a manual sander.

DIY projects are great—until the "what you need" list requires several expensive tools the average woodworker doesn't have in their workshop. Luckily, there's a cost-effective solution. Palm sanders work well for many sanding jobs, and you can buy a decent one for less than $50.

Keep in mind that though it is a power tool, a palm sander still requires manual movement and frequent paper switching. Use one for small- or medium-size projects, such as resurfacing furniture or removing paint from plywood.   

To use a palm sander, you'll first need to pick the right type of sandpaper for the job. Then, simply clamp it to the sander, secure the material to your work surface, and start sanding. Depending on the size of your material, the entire process can take as little as an hour, and will yield results much faster than a manual sanding job. Ready to get started? Follow our guide to using a palm sander, below.

Put your tool to work by learning how to strip and stain wood cabinets.

Step 1: Pick Your Paper

Decide which sandpaper is best for the job at hand. Typically, you start with a coarse grit, and then work your way up to finer papers. You'll need to examine the state of the wood to decide what grit is best. If the material is very rough, start with a coarse (40-60 grit) paper, then work up to a medium (80-120 grit) and eventually a fine (150-180 grit) paper. On the other hand if your material is already in decent shape and you're trying to get an extra- smooth finish, start with a fine paper (150-180 grit) and work up to a very fine (220-240 grit) or extra fine (280-320 grit) paper. 

Get our ultimate tool and project pairing guide.

Step 2: Measure and Attach Paper

Once you've decided on a grit, measure and cut the sandpaper to size. Insert the sandpaper by opening the sander's clamp lock, placing the paper, and tightening the clamp lock. Repeat on both sides to fully secure the sandpaper. 

Step 3: Secure Material

Secure the material you're sanding to the work surface with clamps. Then turn on the sander and bring it up to full speed. 

Editor's Tip: Now is a good time to put on safety goggles and a mask. These tools will protect you from sawdust. 

Safety tools every DIYer needs to own.

Step 4: Start to Sand

Place the sander on the surface and move it in long, even strokes. Make sure you're moving only back and forth in the direction of the sander and along the wood grain. Going against the grain knicks the material, creates splinters, and ultimately defeats the point of sanding. 

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Turn the sander off and switch sandpaper for one of a finer grit, as needed. Continue sanding and switching paper until project is finished. Wipe the wood of any sawdust with a tack cloth. 

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