Power Tool Buying Guide for Sanders


Sanders are a great tool to either put the finishing touches on a project or help turn an old project into something new.  There are a lot of different sanders available and they are designed for making a smooth detailed finish to removing large amounts of stock in no time.  There are six primary types of sanders.

Type of Sander

Detail SanderDetailed Sander – As you can see by the picture above a detail sander is small and easily fits in your hand.  They are designed to fit into tight spots and to contour the work, such as banisters.

Palm SanderPalm Sander – A palm sander vibrates back and forth with a slight spin.  If using on bare wood it is designed to go with the grain of the wood.  These can also be good for stripping paint off old wood.

Orbital Sander – The orbital sander has round pads and it moves in a circle.  This way you can move the sander in any direction, while you can’t with the palm sander.  I would suggest buying a sander that has a variable speed adjustment for different types of work.  With a softwood that is all most done sanding, you would switch it to a lower speed.  While hardwood you would keep at a higher speed.

Belt SanderBelt Sander – A belt sander uses a belt that stretches across two wheels and continuously moves around.  These are great for removing large stocks of wood with a 50, 60 or 80 grit sandpaper.  I would also look for a variable speed sander as a belt sander will eat pine like nothing.  If you are sanding pine use a higher course paper with a slower speed.

Disc SanderDisc Sander – A disk sander is designed to sit on a workspace and has a large wheel and sometimes a belt sander attached.  These are nice to remove large amounts of stock since they move quickly and have some good power to them.  Some disc sander also have a belt sander.

Spindle SanderSpindle Sander – A Spindle sander is also mounted on a bench and has a spindle in the middle with a saddling pad.  These come in handy when you need to sand curves.


Using A Sander

  • Make sure your work is secure and clamped down to prevent the piece from moving around.
  •  Let the sander get up to speed before you start sanding
  • Stop the sander completely before setting it down.
  • Let the sander do the work.  You only need to apply light pressure.  If you find yourself having to apply lots of pressure, change the sandpaper.
  • Make sure the sander is level to ensure smooth work.  Only use the sander on an angle when grinding the work.


  • There are two main types of paper: Aluminum Oxide and Garnet.  Garnet is more expensive, but will last longer and is good for finishing and sanding between varnish.  Aluminum Oxide is cheaper, doesn’t last as long, but is good for general use.
  • 80 – 100 grit – Good for removing finishes and light paint.
  • 110 150 grit– For preparing wood.
  • 180 – Good for starting softwood sanding.
  • 300 – 400 grit – Good for final sanding of hardwood and sanding between varnishes.
  • 800 grit – Extremely hardwoods, the final touch