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Buyers Guide - Sanders


Power sanders can save you precious time and effort when working on a DIY project. This guide will help you choose the right sander for your work and will offer some useful additional information along the way.

  • What is a sander?

    Sanders are tools that strip and smooth down surfaces for finishing. Different types of sander offer different power capabilities and sanding granularities, and so they can be best suited to certain jobs.

  • What types of sander are available?

    There are four main types of sander: finishing sanders, random-orbit sanders, detail sanders and belt sanders.

    • Finishing Sanders
      Also known as Pad and Orbital sanders, these power tools have square or rectangular bases that move rapidly in an elliptical fashion, known as ‘orbiting’. They are best for smoothing large surfaces and removing paint and rust, whilst the base is great for sanding down inside corners.
    • Random-Orbit Sanders
      These sanders are excellent for almost scratch-free results. They use circular sanding discs that rotate as the base moves ‘randomly’ with an elliptical orbit. Random-orbit sanders are said to remove material up to 50 times faster than conventional sanders, and their versatility makes them ideal as an entry-level tool.
    • Detail Sanders
      Detail sanders, as the name suggests, are more suited to intricate work. They possess triangular bases for easy navigation around tight angles and irregular shapes. Detail sanders also feature very small orbiting heads for fine sanding.
    • Belt Sanders
      The belt sander is the most powerful of the main sander types. It utilises a belt of abrasive paper stretched taut over a motor-driven roller for improved contact with the material. Belt sanders are excellent for sanding down large areas of stock quickly, such as tabletops, floors and doors.
  • Features to look out for
    • Speed
      The speed at which the sander pads move dictates the level of control you will have over the tool and the resulting finish of the work. If it’s possible, try out a few models with differing speeds to work out which sort is best for you. Even better is to find a sander with a ‘variable speed’ function, which allows you to set and adjust the speed according to the type of material you’re working on.
    • Dust Extraction
      If you’re concerned about the amount of dust created when sanding, look for a power sander with a dustbag or vacuum cleaner already attached. It can really help reduce your cleaning up time.
    • Cordless Sanders
      Some detail sanders are cordless, giving you the opportunity to take your work outdoors. The other types of power sander are usually corded, but if you intend to work a fair distance from the mains socket, a long cord is often worth having.
    • Power
      The power of a sander’s motor, measured in Watts, can affect how efficiently the sander will perform. The motor dictates how fast the sanding pad will orbit, which itself determines the smoothness of the finish.
    • Handle
      The style of the handle can have an important effect on user comfort and control. You will need a handle with a good palm grip if you are to work on tougher, more resistant materials.
    • Sanding Pads
      Sandpaper comes in a variety of materials, the most common of which are Garnet and Emery. There are also different ways of applying sand pads to the power sanders, such as Velcro, hook-and-loop and PSA although not all are supported by every model.
    • Extras
      Many sanders come equipped with a range of accessories from carry cases to extra sanding pads of different grits, and a good set of extras will help you get the best results possible.
    Jargon Buster

    Automatic brake pads control the sanding speed automatically for optimum performance.

    Belt alignment system reduces the need for the user to adjust a belt sander’s belt alignment

    Belt release system allows the sander belt to be replaced easily and safely

    Belt sander a powerful sander using a motorised roller and a belt of abrasive sandpaper
    Counterbalance system gives user better control by reducing vibration and improving performance
    Detail sander a lightweight sander designed to work on intricate projects
    Dust extraction facility/DustBag an attachment for retaining dust created when sanding
    Finisher sander a versatile sander capable of smoothing down large areas of material
    Memory systems a feature of some belt sanders, helps keep the belt running in a straight line
    OPM’s (orbits per minute) a measurement unit for orbiting sanders, worked out as the number of times the sander pad completes a full circle in one minute
    Orbit the circular or elliptical path taken by some sanders
    PSA a sanding pad with a sticky backing for easy application onto finisher sanders
    Random-orbit sander a sander capable of very fine sanding and virtually scratch-free results
    Variable Speed a feature of some models allowing the user to control how fast the sander operates.