Sanding is not a lot of fun. But it is absolutely necessary to prepare the surface of your woodworking project for the finishing stage. Even the best of finishes can’t cover up a poor preparation job in the sanding phase, so taking your time and doing a good job sanding your woodworking project thoroughly is paramount to making your project look great after finishing.
To that end, there are a few tools, accessories and methods you can use to help sand your project.
Finding the right one for the job can a bit confusing if you don’t know benefits of the different types. Here’s a great place to start:
Random orbital sanders: Perhaps the most versatile of all power sanders is the random orbital sander. As the name implies, the sanding pads on this type of sander moves in a random orbit to avoid any scratch patterns from appearing in the sanded wood, patterns that would certainly show up when applying a stained finish to the wood. That isn’t to say that a random orbital sander will avoid all scratching. You should always work with the grain of the wood (as opposed to moving across the grain), to help minimize the potential of scratching. However, these little workhorses do a great job of smoothing out the surface of wood (and other materials, for that matter), in preparation for the finish.
Belt Sanders: A belt sander is designed to take off a lot of material at one time.Sander paper is placed around the belt which then drives in one direction. As such, they can be very aggressive, and can take down a surface very quickly. However, they do have their place, when that type of sanding is called for. Just don’t plan on doing any fine detail sanding while wrestling your belt sander.
Belt Disc sanders: This is a benchtop version of the belt sander with an added vertical spinning disc sander on the side. Some models allow the belt sander to adjusted so that it is at an angle or completely vertical, depending on your needs.
Detail sanders: A handheld tool also known as a corner, or mouse sander. These come in handy when you need to finish wood in corners or tight spaces. They have a triangular head that vibrates at high speeds to achieve a fine finish.
Spindle Sanders: A benchtop tool that can be used on wood as well as metal, depending on the brand, which makes it easier to sand curves and contours. This sander is mounted on a spindle and works by rotating and oscillating in and out or up and down along the axis of the spindle.
Electric Drywall sanders: A specialist tool designed quickly sand down drywalls and plaster. It has an oscillating head, and a long arm for easy reach. Most models have a vacuum to clear the dust and debris away.