If you have the skills to create useful and beautiful objects from a pile of bare timber, you are one of the chosen few.
All of these tasks require great finishing skills, and at the heart of good finishing is the careful preparation of surfaces. Having the right sander makes all the difference.
The Three Main Kinds of Power Sander
- Random orbital: The abrasive paper moves back and forth very rapidly in a random, elliptical way.
- Belt sander: The abrasive paper only moves in one direction, in a continuous loop.
- Rotary sander: This has a spinning, abrasive disc.
Best for Home Decoration
Palm-grip Finishing Sanders
For most kinds of home decoration work, the kind of sanders that work best are palm-grip, quarter-sheet sanders. They are light enough to use on vertical surfaces like doors, paneling and walls.
You can remove, bumps and lumps in old paintwork, strip crumbling surfaces and quickly scratch good surfaces to provide a ‘key’ for new paint.
Be wary of sanding drywall, though. The machine will quickly rip through the paper surface.
Belt sanders and the better quality half-sheet sanders are heavy. These are best used on horizontal surfaces.
Best Sander for General DIY Use in the Home?
Makita Quarter-sheet, Palm Grip Sander
I have restored many old houses and had many disappointments with power tools along the way.
Sanders used for home decoration inevitably receive a lot of rough treatment. Dust, falls, misuse and poor storage all find the weaknesses of lesser sanders.
Makita is the only maker that I could recommend.
Makita sanders are quiet, low-vibration, and powerful. Not only is the motor good, the clips on a Makita sander are durable and hold the paper tightly, even after years of use.
Vibration and noise are especially important if you are working for a long period. Inferior sanders can leave your hands numb and your ears ringing. Excess vibration, common with cheap sanders, also means slow, very tiring work as you force the abrasive to its task.
Best Sanders for Benchwork and Furniture Renovation?
The big plus of a half-sheet sander is that the large surface area allows you to achieve a flat finish more easily. But that large abrasive surface needs to be driven by a powerful motor to work effectively. Cheaper half-sheet sanders are often so under-powered it is quicker to sand by hand.
If you do not want spend too much money, a cheap palm grip machine is a far better buy than a cheap half-sheet sander. A good palm grip like the Makita above is infinitely better.
Good half-sheet sanders like the Makita BO4900V, pictured above can be found for around $150 online.
Round Random Orbital Sanders
Round sanders are easy to use on big surfaces. They sweep back and forth more smoothly than their square or rectangular cousins and many people find it easier to get a flat finish as a result.
Some sanders of this kind have a brake that automatically cuts in if you apply too much pressure. This prevents you from accidentally damaging the surface and also eases pressure on the motor, giving it a longer life.
Skil is one manufacturer that has a system of indicator lights to tell you how much pressure you are applying. This is very useful for beginners who might otherwise find it hard to get a flat finish. It gives you feedback on the best technique for steady, even sanding.