How to Use a Random-Orbital Sander

Tackle woodworking projects and get an extra-smooth, professional finish with this guide to using a random-orbital sander.

If you invest in one sanding tool, make it a random-orbital sander. This gadget relies on a circular motion to give your projects an extra-fine finish. Plus, it couldn't be easier to use. All you need to do is attach a ventilation system and sandpaper (the sandpaper rounds usually come with an adhesive back) and your tool is ready to use.

The following steps will guide you through the process of using a random-orbital sander. If you're a first-time sander, don't worry. The process is super simple. In no time, you'll be sanding like a pro and extending your skills to a variety of carpentry projects!

orbital sander

Step 1: Prep Materials

Secure your material to a work surface using clamps. This prevents it from moving and possibly causing dangerous kickback. Once your material is secure, connect a ventilation system to your sander. This will collect the sawdust that accumulates as you work.

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Step 2: Attach Sandpaper

Make sure you're choosing a grit that is appropriate for your project. Coarse grits like 40 and 60 sand faster and are good for materials that need heavy sanding, such as those with a tough finish or grooves that need sanded away. However, a coarse grit can leave nicks on smooth boards that don't need much sanding. Finer grits like 180 and 220 leave a smooth finish, but it can take a long time to get the desired effect.

Once you've chosen the sandpaper with the grit amount you'd like to start with, attach it to the sander. Most random-orbital sandpaper has an adhesive back. Simply peel off the backing and press it onto your sander.

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

Step 3: Start Sanding

Turn on the sander. Let it get up to full speed before gently placing it on your material. Immediately start moving the sander along the wood grain for a smooth finish. Gently guide the saw with even pressure. Do not press too hard or you might nick or dent your material.

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Step 4: Finish Up

Sand the edges of the material by hanging a third of the sanding pad over the edge of the wood. Once the area and all edges are complete, turn off the sander. Brush away any leftover sawdust with a clean tack cloth. If desired, attach a piece of sandpaper with a finer grit and repeat the process.

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