Everyone who works with wood will need to smooth out a project at some point. Either they’ll need to sand down a board to prepare it for the finish or they’ll need to finish up detail work so that an intricate carving doesn’t look like a chainsaw was the primary means of making it. A sander is the primary tool for getting that part of the job done.
Knowing which sander is right for which job will go a long way to helping you make the right investment in building a woodworking tool inventory. We looked at a wide range of options, from handheld tools (most of which you can build yourself) to bench sanders, which are best for large pieces of wood.
Smoothing out small, intricate details calls for slow, careful movements. If you’re putting together a full inventory of sanding tools, you’ll need to start with the basics—sandpaper and hand tools.
Let’s start with the basics, sandpaper. The higher the number on the sandpaper, the finer the grit. The finer the grit, the finer the sanding job. Detailed work on carvings, or crafts that call for sanding by hand, probably demands a high number. Just be aware that fine-grit sandpaper will probably wear out pretty quickly.
If you’ve got a hand sanding job that’s big enough that it might wear out your wrists, a handled manual sander is a good option. They allow you to work slowly on a big piece of wood so that you can keep an eye on what you’re doing. That makes it a good alternative to a powered sander, which works so quickly that a split second of inattention can result in a mistake.
A twist on the one-handed manual sander, a pair of simple handles can replicate the action of a basic hand-held wood planer. Those designs stood the test of years because they worked well doing similar work. If you’ve got manual sanding, consider building one of these simple tools.
This sander allows you to apply sandpaper to a contoured edge with more consistent pressure than if you held it down by hand. This is great for smoothing out curved edges on crafts; it’s even potentially better than an electric hand-held detail sander.
Hand-held power sanders
From fine details on a carving to quickly finishing up the rough edges of a piece of cabinetry, a hand-held model is the first power sander you should look at in the market.
Built to fit comfortably into your hand, a palm sander is designed for comfort while you work on small projects. The paper you fit onto these is nice and fine, highlighting that this is intended primarily for putting the final details on something before applying the finish.
Most detail sanders have triangular heads and a motion that lends itself to smoothing out accents and crafts rather than prepping a board for furniture or cabinetry. They use very fine sandpaper to produce very fine results. The work you do with one of these is work you probably want people to admire.
An orbital sander is a good all-around sanding tool. It’s not great on the finer details of the job, but you can use it for bigger pieces of wood. The head spins around in a circle-shaped like an orbit so that it works evenly, cleanly, and doesn’t put a lot of stress on the user’s wrists.
If you aren’t careful in using an orbital sander, the circular pattern of the sander head can create flaws in the wood. Random orbital sanders address that by using a randomly created series of sanding motions to prevent the repetitiveness of pattern. They are a bit more expensive and a little bit heavier, but if you’ve got bigger jobs to do, the investment might be worthwhile.
If you work on models, taking an electric toothbrush and replacing the bristle heads with sandpaper offers a great way to smooth down burrs on plastic and light wood without wearing out your hands by doing it manually.
Rough, bigger pieces of wood call for a sanding tool designed for hard work. These sanders are built for it. They’re more powerful and run at higher speeds. They also tend to use much coarser sandpaper. The idea is that once you’ve got your wood smoothed as best as possible, you wrap the job up with something gentler.
Perfect for shaping wood rather than smoothing it, disc table sanders provide a clearly defined working edge that allows users to see what they’re working on. Because these are table tools, you can use both hands to work. Of course, you’re limited in range by the table you’re working on.
Among the heaviest duty of sanders, the drum sander is basically just a static arm rolled up in sandpaper. These table sanders allow you to adjust the height of the arm to accommodate a range of feedstocks
Similar to a disc sander, a belt sander provides a good work surface so that you can grind down wood and even soft metal projects. The strips of sandpaper are longer than with other table sanders, so they wear down slower. These have the advantage of adjustable angles for operation
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!