Save time and your wrists by using the right power sander for your project. Photo Credit: cogdogblog
Power sanders are very handy tools with a wide range of uses throughout the remodeling process, from woodworking to painting. It seems there are few home repairs that couldn't do with some help from sandpaper, and thanks to power sanders we can save our wrists for other tasks.
There are a few different types of power sanders as well as different sizes of each type. Certain sanders lend themselves to certain jobs and knowing which best applies to your task at hand will help expedite the process.
Belt sanders use a continuous belt of sandpaper that runs over two pulleys at either end of the machine. The belt runs continually while in operation to offer fast sanding capabilities. Belt sanders also have a trigger or pistol design and a separate grip for the off-hand that allows you to move the sander back and forth with minimal exertion.
Belt sanders come in a variety of sizes, measured by the width of the sandpaper belt. Typical sizes range from 2 1/2 to 4 inches, with 3 inches being the most common. The four-inch sanders will be bigger and heavier duty and are geared toward commercial or larger jobs.
Orbital sanders are for lighter duty or finishing work. A piece of sandpaper attaches to a pad on the bottom of the machine which moves in a circular direction while in operation. While orbital sanders do not work very well for heavy sanding, they are lighter to hold and require less skill to operate. Heavier belt sanders will mar or gouge the surface if not used properly, there is less of a chance for accidents with an orbital sander.
These are very similar to orbital sanders but for two things: finishing sander orbit at a slower rate on average and they operate in a slightly different manner. Finishing sanders are also called straight-line sanders because -- unlike orbital sanders, which move in a circular direction -- the pad moves back and forth.
Usually orbital sanders will satisfy any sanding needs for a homeowner. Finishing sanders are only necessary in specific situations where a circular motion must be done without. To take care of any and all home sanding requirements, many manufacturers make orbital sanders that double as straight-line sanders with the flip of a switch.
Disc sanders are used more for metal, plastic, and other materials other than wood. They are most commonly used for grinding metal. They come either with the disc running parallel or perpendicular to the motor -- called angle head and vertical style respectively.
Here are the big boys. The general idea may remain the same as those sanders describe above, but industrial or commercial sanders are large, walk-behind models. These can be rented and are more accustomed to large jobs such as refinishing hardwood floors. Industrial sanders take some skill and practice to operate correctly.
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