How to Use an Electric Sander

Everything about Electric Sander…

For many years, carpenters and even automotive painters have used sandpaper and sanding blocks for prep work. While manufacturers came up with larger blocks with better handling, sanding was still a challenging task. This was until the electric sander came about.

Perhaps, you may be new to carpentry, or you just need an electric sander for occasional use. Either way, achieving a perfectly smooth wood finish will be much more comfortable with such a powerful tool. Instead of doing everything by hand, you’ll save much more time with an electric sander.

Here are some of the essentials to understanding the types of sanders and how to use one for woodworking…

What’s an electric sander?

In essence, an electric sander is a tool that uses abrasives to smooth out different types of surfaces. Typically, it’s suitable for woodworking, but it’s also ideal for flattening metal and plastic too. Depending on the blunders and the surface’s roughness, there’s a wide range of sandpaper with a varying grit. Electric sanders can save lots of time and effort by mechanically sanding an area with the desired sandpaper.

Thanks to its versatile nature, the electric sander comes in different configurations, designs, and forms. In this regard, there are various types of electric sanders, each with its unique design and purpose. Perhaps, you want to smooth out a large flat surface or reach small crevices. Either way, these power tools will make sanding look like child’s play.

How to Use an Electric Sander


5 common types of electric sanders

As already noted, there are tons of different electric sanders to use in woodworking and other similar projects. While some of the power tools are handheld, others are stationary. Usually, they can work off of a single-drum, belt, or flat-surface concept. Depending on your project, there are 5 common types of electric sanders you can use:

Belt Sander

Arguably, the belt sander is one of the most popular sanding solutions. As the name suggests, this tool uses a sanding belt that wraps around two drums. Depending on the belt size, there are four standard belt sander sizes available. As you can imagine, the larger the power tool, the more surface it can cover. Therefore, you may need to start off with a smaller belt sander until you’ve gained some experience.

In terms of application, these sanders are suitable for removing old varnish or paint from wood. Thanks to their power and control, belt sanders are an essential tool for furniture making. Moreover, they are perfect for all types of large-scale woodworking projects. A pro tip when using a belt sander is to always follow the grain. That way, you’ll achieve a smooth finish without causing scratches.

Orbital Sander

Another popular version is the orbital sander. These machines are perfect for one-hand sanding, thanks to their compact design. Typically, they use ¼ of the standard 9×11-inch sandpaper sheet. The user uses the two spring-loaded clamps to hold the sandpaper onto the sanding surface. What’s more, such a tool is generally featherweight and provides gentle movement.

Perhaps, the most unique thing about orbital sanders is their method of work. This electric sander vibrates in circular orbits, which makes the machine suitable for finishing tasks. It’s safe to say that this is the go-to power tool for ultra-fine work. For example, you can use an orbital sander to remove putty, sharp round edges or smooth out a surface.

Detail Sander

When you take a first look at a detail sander, you may confuse it with an iron. Indeed, this power tool doesn’t look like other electric sanders. Still, it’s a variation of an orbital sander with a triangular pad. The advantage of using such a tool is that it’s small and comes with multiple attachments.

The special self-adhesive sandpaper that this machine uses makes precise work effortless. Thanks to this mouse sander, you can easily reach crevices a regular electric sander can’t. For example, you can fit it into corners and around tight spaces. What’s more, you can use it to sand odd shapes for your woodworking projects.

How to Use an Electric Sander


Oscillating Spindle Sander

This mounted electric sander works off of the drum concept. In other words, it features a sanding drum that protrudes from a benchtop. In some cases, you may use it on a freestanding table. The machine works by raising and lowering the drum on the spindle. That way, the wooden surface comes with contact with the drum, eliminating grooves through even distribution.Most of the time, people use spindle sanders to smooth board edges. Some larger models can create beveled edges of up to 45 degrees in angle. Ultimately, the vertical design of this type of electric sander allows excellent work on curved surfaces.

Random Orbital Sander

Last but not least, let’s not forget about the random orbital sander. Similar to orbital sanders, these power tools spin in circular orbits. However, the difference is that this type of mechanism has a round pad instead of a square one. What’s more, the typical orbital sander’s swirl pattern isn’t present as the entire “block” spins in circles.

In most cases, these power tools come with different pad sizes and may use PSA discs or Velcro discs. Other features may include D-handle, barrel-grip handle, or a one-handed palm grip. Overall, this type of electric sander has excellent all-around capabilities. While it’s suitable for stock removal, it’s also perfect for ultra-fine sanding.

How to use an electric sander

So far, it’s easily understandable that each type of electric sander has a different operation concept. What’s more, there’s a myriad of brands and sander models on the market. Whatever your choice, make sure you read your machine’s manual before you start using it.

Perhaps, the one thing that electric sanders have in common is the amount of effort these machines need. Indeed, no matter the grit of sandpaper, sanding is still a delicate operation. In other words, you don’t have to apply too much pressure while doing it.

While it will minimize the fatigue on your hands, using an electric sander will save you tons of time. Typically, electric sanders produce vibrations that help the user glide the machine across the wood surface. As a result, the self-propelled action reduces the amount of effort that the operator needs to put.

For satisfying results, start with more abrasive sandpaper. Work the surface by pressing the sander back and forth. Go lightly across the body and simply let your machine do the rest. Make sure you always brush off the work surface after you’ve finished sanding.

Usually, the best way to remove excess sanding dust is to use a tack cloth. That way, you’ll wipe off the unwanted dust without ending up with grit in your paint. Also, it’s essential to let the electric sander do its job. Otherwise, you may quickly get a hand cramp.

In reality, you’ll need to press harder is when you have to deal with blemishes or rough spots. After all, regular sanding may not be enough, and it’s okay to push a little harder and go deeper into the wood.

How to Use an Electric Sander


Additional tips to consider when working with an electric sander

Contrary to popular belief, accidentally touching the sandpaper while it’s moving is unlikely to harm or injure you. Still, it’s not advisable. Also, most electric sanders have switches that you must turn on once you’ve plugged them in. This feature serves as a foolproof mechanism, so you sand only the desired surface.

Another essential part of using an electric sander is the roughness, grit, and sandpaper you’re going to use. In this regard, it’s crucial to know that the lower the sandpaper grit, the rougher the sandpaper. Besides, different electric sanders use a specific shape of sandpaper, so you’ll have to choose them according to your machine.

In most cases, changing out the sandpaper is pretty straightforward because most modern sanders use Velcro pads. In such cases, you can simply peel off the old sheet and put on the fresh one. Depending on the job, you’d want to use either more abrasive or finer-grit sandpaper.

Of course, let’s not forget about all the mess that electric sanders make. Since they work faster than hand sanding, they produce much more dust in less time. Therefore, you should always wear a protective mask and goggles.

Moreover, it’s highly advisable to work with electric sanders that have dust collection systems. While they don’t collect all dust particles, they’ll catch a considerable amount of them. You must take this problem seriously, especially if you suffer from respiratory issues or allergies.

Final Thoughts

All in all, using an electric sander will make your woodworking projects a lot easier than before. As you can imagine, hand sanding is a thing of the past, and it’s only efficient when done in small areas. Even then, you can find a more precise solution in the form of an electric sander.

These power tools will ensure you achieve perfectly smooth and even finish on nearly any material, whatever the type. What’s more, the process of operation for every kind of electric sander is pretty much straightforward. Simply plug in the power tool and load a sheet of sandpaper of the desired grit. Then, you’re ready to start sanding.

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