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How to choose a sander

Sanding is an art that once demanded a knowledgeable hand and keen eye in order to obtain consistent results. Now there’s a complete line of power sanders, so you can confidently tackle all the jobs on your list. Here’s a quick primer to help you find the right one for you.

Choose Right Sander 1280x522-FWT Choose Right Sander 1280x522-FWT

What are you going to use it for?

Before you start looking at the sander options that are available, you should consider what jobs you’ll be using it for. 

Do you need something that can handle heavy-duty jobs, such as removing finish from a deck or smoothing fiberglass repairs; or light jobs, like sanding small areas and furniture? You’ll also want to consider whether you’ll be using it indoors or outdoors and what it’s main function will be — either a single purpose sander or something that can be used for multiple projects. 

Random Orbit Sanders

Random orbit sanders are compact, powerful and versatile. This tool gets its name from its pads, which rotate in a random orbital manner. This saves you the trouble of following the grain of the wood in order to achieve a swirl-free finish. They are often used for removing paint and varnish, cleaning metal, and sanding before and after applying wood sealants and finishes.

Important features to shop for:

• A sturdy base with perforations for dust extraction

• Hook and loop attachments for quick sandpaper changes

• A lightweight model to reduce fatigue

• An orbital speed of approximately 12,000 OPM (oscillations per minute) for efficient sanding

• A comfortable grip to help you work longer with less hand fatigue

• Passive or active dust extraction system

• A vacuum adaptor on a passive extraction model

• A dust bag or dust box on an active extraction model 

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Sheet Sanders

Sheet or “finishing” sanders are an economical choice that can handle a variety of tasks. A sheet sander has squared-off pads that let you reach into corners. The pads oscillate in two planes — back and forth, and side to side — to prevent swirl marks. The widest varieties of sandpaper and grit are available for finishing sanders. This sander is ideal for paint and varnish removal, as well as surface preparation or refinishing.

Important features to shop for:

• A cast aluminum base with perforations for dust extraction

• Quick-release clamps to speed up sandpaper changes

• A comfortable handle for maximum sanding control

• An active dust extraction system with a dust bag included

• A sandpaper hole-punching plate that will enable you to buy standard size sheets of sandpaper, cut them into quarters or thirds, and perforate them yourself to save costs

• An oscillating speed of at least 11,000 OPM (oscillations per minute) for efficient sanding

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Detail Sanders

Detail sanders are ideal for small areas. This tool typically features a triangular-shaped pad for getting into corners and tight spots. Some models come with finger-shaped pads for sanding around slots and grooves. Detail sanders require custom-cut hook and loop sandpaper, available in a variety of grits. This sander is ideal for sanding chair spindles and mouldings.

Important features to shop for:

• A Hook and loop fastening system for quick sandpaper changes

• A lightweight model to increase comfort and reduce hand fatigue

• An ergonomic grip to give you greater confidence and control

• An orbital speed of approximately 12, 000 OPM (oscillations per minute) for efficient sanding

• A vacuum adaptor on passive extraction models 

• A dust bag on active extraction models 

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Belt Sanders

Belt sanders are heavier and more powerful than other sanders. This tool removes more material in less time but requires a higher level of skill to operate.

As its name implies, the belt sander employs a pulley-driven belt running at speeds of up to 20 km/h. The most popular belt sander size 3 x 21˝ and sanding belts come in a variety of grits, the most common being 60, 80 and 120. This tool is ideal for removing finish from a deck, trimming excess wood from bad joints, fairing boat hulls, and smoothing fibreglass repairs.

Important features to shop for: 

• Variable speed options for greater control

• A power switch with lock-on mode for continuous running

• A quick-release belt-changing system to improve efficiency

• Easily accessible belt-tracking adjustment(s)

• A dust collection system to keep your work environment cleaner

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Oscillations per minute. The higher the OPMs, the quicker the sander will remove material.

Variable Speed

Lets you choose the best speed for the type of job or material you are working with.

Handle Overmould

Absorbs vibrations, making the tool more comfortable to hold.