The Different Types of Sanders and Their Uses

Last Updated: by Peter Lynn

For creating beautiful and elegant finishes on wood and metals, you will need to sand your project. Sanding can be a very stressful, and can drain you of time and energy, especially if you have to do it by hand.

Thanks to the evolution over the years, we now have power sanders, which help to save time and energy. There are different types of sanders out there. These machines are designed for different sanding purposes.

At every point, you need the right sanding tool for the right sanding task. In this article, we will introduce you to the types of sanders out there as well as their respective uses.

Belt Sander

One of the most popular and common types of sanders you will find in modern workshops is a belt sander. This sanding tool got its name from its design.

The sanding drum is wrapped around two drums – one in front and the other at the back – which is why they call it a belt sander. The sander uses an electrical motor, which powers the drum at the back while the drum at the front is on free spins.

This device comes with a tension release lever that allows for easy and quick belt changes. There are different brands and models of belt sanders on the market. Some models come with more advanced features than others do. Some models also come with a tracking adjustment knob that helps to keep the belt at the center always.

There are five different sizes of belt sanders on the market. We have 3-inch by 18-inch, 4-inch by 24-inch, 4-inch by 21-inch, 3-inch by 21-inch and 3-inch by 24-inch models.

Belt Sander Uses

If you are looking for the best sander to flatten and smoothen wood surfaces, then a belt sander is what you need. This sander is used for leveling rough wood boards, tabletops, and dressers.

They also come in handy for scribing. You can also use this sander to remove the worn-out finish from wood, for example, varnish and paint. However, the major job of this tool is to make the edges of a board smooth.

Orbital Sander

Orbital sanders help to create a very smooth wood surface with a perfect finish. They come in pretty handy for smoothing sharp edges of the board and tough abrasions.

This sander comes with a square or rectangular sanding pad that moves in orbits or tiny circular paths. Many woodworkers also refer to this sander as the 1/4-sheet sander, as it uses 1/4-sheets of sandpaper.

Orbital sanders are lightweight and they are very easy to hold. One of their major features is that they operate quietly. If you are a novice in the woodworking space, then an orbital sander should be a great start for you.

This does not mean orbital sanders are just for beginners; professionals can also use them to smooth and buff wood, paint, plaster, and other surfaces.

Orbital Sander Uses

Orbital sanders are best for rounding sharp edges. You can use them to remove hardened wood putty. They also come in handy in knocking down dried paint and varnish.

They deliver ultra-smooth polishing on the wood surface. Orbital sanders are also helpful in smoothing out hard-to-reach corners. They also do pretty well for odd surfaces.

You can also use this sander to finish a large surface that is pre-sanded with a belt sander. This sander can pretty much handle all types of finishing. However, the downside of an orbital sander is that it is not that effective when it comes to removing large-scale material.

Random Orbital Sander

Random orbital sanders are portable, lightweight, and very easy to use. These sanders are great for craftsmen, DIYers, and professionals. When using this tool, it is pretty difficult to damage the material you are sanding.

This sander type has a round sanding pad and the round pad spins and moves in circular orbits. The sanding pad of this device moves in random orbits. It delivers clean and smooth finishes.

By spinning and vibrating at the same time, this device acts like a belt sander and an orbital sander at the same time. It also does a great job of removing stock quickly.

The finished surface will also be free of swirl shapes, which is one of the downsides of an orbital sander. This device has two pad sizes, which are 5 inches or 6 inches in diameter.

Random Orbital Sander Uses

Many woodworkers and carpenters use the random orbital sander for finish sanding, as it does not leave any swirl marks behind. It is pretty powerful, and you can use it to finish large surfaces quickly.

Interestingly, this sander is highly versatile, as you can use it for virtually all sanding tasks. However, this sander does not remove wood as quickly as a belt sander. If speed is your major concern, then a belt sander should be your best bet.

In addition to being highly versatile, this sander also offers more precision controls. If you are to invest in only one sander that you can use for rough and finish sanding, your best choice is random orbit sander.

Types Of Random Orbital Sanders

Palm Grip Sander

These are portable, small, and very easy to use. You can use them to sand drywall, strip furniture, as well as other sanding tasks.

Pistol Grip Sander

These types function best as tabletop sanders. They are also a bit more powerful.

Right Angle Sander

These are for more demanding sanding tasks. They come in pretty handy for rough sanding.

Pneumatic Palm Grip

These are also designed for more demanding sanding jobs. However, they are powered by air. They are a bit complex to use, and they are great for professionals

Oscillating Spindle Sander (OSS)

The oscillating spindle sander, which is also known as OSS, is a type of drum. It comes with a sanding drum or freestanding table.

When you switch on the device, the drum rises and lower on the spindle, and this creates contact between the surface of the wood and the drum. With this, you can groove with ease, and it also prevents the surface of the drum from wearing out.

The oscillating spindle sander is a unique sander, as it does what other sanders cannot do. It is a very difficult task to use regular sanders to sand curves and other unique shapes and angles. With an oscillating spindle sander, this daunting task becomes very easy.

This sander comes in different sizes. We have benchtop and standard models.

Benchtop Models

The benchtop models come with a height of 4 inches and they have a thickness between .5 inches and 2 inches.

Standard Models

These models come with 4 inches drums with a diameter of 4 inches also. We also have some highly versatile models that allow you to change the drum to a belt sander.

Oscillating Spindle Sander Uses

Woodworkers usually use this sander to make the edges of wood smooth. Larger versions can also smooth out bevel edges at an angle of 45 degrees.

However, this is the best sander for curved surfaces. It is also a versatile sander, as you can use it to sand straight surfaces.

Drywall Sander

As we said earlier there are different types of sanders on the market, and the drywall sander is one of them. This sander looks like a metal detector. It is basically a disc sander that is hanging on a long pole.

This sander usually comes with a vac that sucks dust particles, the majority of them though. This sander is used mostly on the wall and ceiling, and it helps to get rid of too many adhesives.

It also helps to smoothen the wall and ceiling. It is very easy to use, and it can reach great heights with ease. With this tool, you do not need a ladder to reach heights.

Belt Disc Sander

A belt-disc sander is a sanding tool that combines the functionality of the belt and disc sander in one tool, just as the name implies. This sander is pretty powerful and it comes with both disc and belt sanding surfaces. This means you can use this sander for a wide range of sanding jobs.

You can use it to do virtually everything that you can do with each of the individual tools. However, belt-disc sanders are heavy tools and they are pretty large.

They generate less vibration while in use, thanks to their sturdy base. If you have extra room in your workshop or garage for a sander, then this is one sander you should consider.

Belt-Disc Sander Uses

Woodworkers usually use this sander to rid surfaces of rust and hardened glue, and smoothen rough or uneven patches, in order to prepare them for varnishing or painting.

You can use it to do practically everything a disc or belt sander would do. However, the major downside to this tool is that it occupies space.

Drum Sander

The drum sander is one of the most popular sander types out there. However many consider this tool a luxury sander. Well, that is because it is a bit more expensive than other types of sanders.

There are two major types of drum sanders. The first is the benchtop drum sander, which is used for woodworking. The second is the flooring drum sander.

Benchtop Drum Sander

The benchtop drum sander comes with a large rotating drum, and the sandpaper is wrapped around the drum. This sander does a pretty fine job of reducing the thickness of the wood.

It is also used for finishing boards. It is also very easy to use, as all you have to do is to place your material at one end, adjust your settings, and then watch it come out at the other end. This simple process shaves off inches of material at a single pass.

Nevertheless, you should know that there is a difference between a planer and a drum sander. You can check out this guide to know the difference between a drum sander and a planer.

These two tools are different, and a drum sander cannot replace a planer. Drum sanders provide better finishes while planers remove material quicker. However, this does not mean that a drum sander is slow at removing material; the planer just does it more efficiently and much faster.

Flooring Drum Sander

The flooring drum sander works in a similar way as the benchtop drum sander, but it is used for a different task. It is also more powerful and heavier. To move this machine from one place to another, you would need an additional hand.

This machine is very expensive, and many woodworkers often rent it. It is also a bit difficult to control, as it is very powerful. If you do not know how to use it, this machine can leave gouge marks on your floor.

However, it is highly efficient and it removes paints and adhesives from the floor with ease. It covers more surface area, which means more work in less time.

Drum sanders deliver consistent results when reducing the thickness of wooden boards. This sander is highly efficient and fast. You can use them to sand both small and large boards with ease. However, they are pretty heavy and pricey too.

Wood Sander

The best types of sanders for sanding wood are belt sander, random orbital sander, disc sander, and finishing sander. You can check out our best belt sanders here. Here is a link to the best disc sanders on the market. The best random orbital sanders are here.

Final Thought

Sanders are very important, as you need them to finish and prepare the surface of your woodworking project for painting or staining.

There are many different types of sanders out there, and many woodworkers often get confused about which sander is ideal for which project.

We hope that we have been able to point the different sander types out there and their different uses. You can check our homepage to see the best sanders in different categories.

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