What type of sander should I buy

1929SpanishJanuary 12, 2012

Hi. Newbie here...

I am working on a few projects and need to buy a power sander, but I'm not sure which type - belt, orbital etc.

Here are my current/future projects. Do you have any recommendations?

1. Currently refinishing an old french door, have stripped 5 coats of paint, need to sand down the base coat and paint

2. diningroom table - remove varnish (that will be a future post), sand down and wax.

3. sewing table - remove finish (type unknown), sand & paint

4. Future projects could include an antique dresser and bookshelf.

So you see the projects have large flat surfaces and smaller, more intricate work, some of which will have to be done by hand. I'd prefer something more lightweight and easier to manage but still the right tool for the job.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First, almost any sander is a less desirable way to remove finish. The paper clogs, which can cause burns and melted finishes. Once the paper clogs it is extremely difficult or impossible to clean.

A belt sander is the most aggressive type. Which means the wood can be more easily damaged.

Removing finishes is better done by stripping. Even if the job has to be done by a professional stripping company.

The best all around sander is a random orbit model. Here price is important. The less expensive the sander is, the worse job it does and the shorter useful life it has. Porter Cable, DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee, Bosch, and several mother brands are good. Skil, Craftsman, Ryobi, and no name brands are not reliable in my experience.

There are two ways to put sandpaper on a power sander. Hook and loop or adhesive. Hook and loop is by far the most convenient. There are two types of H&L paper---and several sizes. 5 hole and 8 hole---along with solid paper which does not allow dust collection(the reason for the holes).

5" and 6" diameter are the normal home shop sizes.

There are several grits as well. 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 180, 200, 220, and up. I have never used any power sander paper over 220 grit. And I seldom use under 100 grit, but I usually am sanding bare wood. And I generally stop at 150 grit when staining/dying/finishing projects.

You can buy power sandpaper in bulk far cheaper than from a home improvement or hardware store. 50 sheets per container is normal for the amount on internet sites.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 11:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Handymac - thanks so much for the information. This is what I needed.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 10:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For starters, I'd suggest that you get a 1/2 sheet pad sander. Having a collection of sanders...belt, 1/2 sheet, 1/3 sheet, 1/4 sheet & a Porter Cable round pad oscillating sander (uses round disc Velcro backed discs--I bought it almost new & really cheap at a garage sale), the one that I reach for most is the 1/2 sheet vintage Ryobi. When I have to replace it, I'll get another Ryobi (very scarce) or a Porter-Cable 505 or it's Rockwell equivalent (much more common). You'll have to shop used (eBay) because none of them--Ryobi, Rockwell or Porter Cable are being made anymore.

The 1/2 sheet sander is ideal for large surfaces--covers the area quickly & fewer stops for paper changes. With the smaller 1/4 & 1/3 sheet sanders that I have (Makitas), I seem to spend more time changing paper than I do actually sanding.

Note: I hate the sandpaper clamping on the Makitas so I will not suggest any of their sanders.

Buy aluminum oxide sandpaper. Sandpaper is sold in at least a couple of weights--Cabinet or 'C' weight and Finishing or 'A' weight. Cabinet weight is what you want for the machine. Finishing weight has lighter paper & is more flexible for hand sanding. (You can use the A weight on the sander by simply folding the sheet in half & clamping on the sander.)

Now, about the round pad oscillating sanders. They're really quite aggressive but not as much so as a belt sander. At some point, you'll probably want one but I'd stick with the 1/2 sheet sander, esp. for a newbie.

Don't be afraid of the weight. For the most part, looking at your projects, you'll be using the sander on the horizontal where the weight of the sander is an advantage. I manage it on the vertical OK & I'm just a girl. :-) You'll be needing more frequent breaks when running it vertically.

I usually start w/ 100 grit paper & work my way up w/ 150-180 wt, then 220 weight. After 220, I wet the wood to raise the grain & sand the nubs off w/ 330 or 400 weight paper, wet, sand, wet, sand. (That's for furniture--I don't go so far w/ stuff like closet doors, etc.)

Including a sandpaper source link. I've been buying from them for years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Industrial Abrasives

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm right there with Handymac. Once I got a ROS, my pad sander has been sitting on a shelf.

I recommend one with "soft start" They are much easier to control than one that you might want to move at full throttle.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 7:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The only people I see using pad sanders these days are painters, and only for sanding between coats.

ROS are the way to go. Bosch is my favorite for a budget of $100 or under. Make sure the speed goes up to at least 12,000 opm. Speed is very important. All the ones with a variable speed selector go fast enough.

Some of the $50 or under ones are crap. The speed seems to be stuck on low. The orbit action can leave swirls in the workpiece. Stay away from the cheapo's.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 11:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My first was a Bosch and I used it for a long time. I got a great deal on a Festool (my only Festool product). It works great, but I'm not sure it works 3 times as great as my Bosch to justify the price difference.

Cheap sanders and maybe cheap sandpaper can lead to "pigtails" that are ugly when the stain hits them. I had to work on a floor a few weeks ago that the owners had hired some "handymen" to refinish. It was full of pigtails.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 5:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A variable speed random orbit.

Get at least a 5 inch.

One with some type of way to attach a vacuum (not the stupid bag some come with) is very worthwhile.

While the noise of a shop vac and a sander both running can be a PITA, some ear muffs take care of that and at least some of the dust goes into the vacuum instead of all over the room and into your lungs.

For anything beyond a light touch up, a face mask (disposables with an exhale valve are about the minimum) is worth the price.
They should be less than $10 each, and can be used a couple times if stored in a zip-lock bag between uses.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The only power sander I would use for final finish under stain would be a straight-line sander. Any oscillating or ROS can leave swirls which in heavier grits are dang near impossible to erase.
Personally I use a cabinet scraper and hand block sanding for varnished work.
For floors, which are usually viewed from over 6 feet away, you can get away with some swirls, but with a dark stain even 6 feet isn't enough to obscure the worst cases.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 2:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow! I'm surprised to see this pop up a year later.

Funny because this weekend I finally started the table project. Got it stripped and sanded - just need a finish sand with 220 grit and start waxing.

I'm sure I'll be back soon with questions, but now I'm going to take three Advil with a glass of wine for my bad neck!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 8:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Look at what Festool has to offer. Unfortunately they are expensive, but the best I have run.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 7:14PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Peeling railings and windows
Hi, Around 8 months ago I put new spar varnish on my...
Ryan Tetuan
Right size tip-out tray for kitchen sink cabinet
My kitchen sink cabinet is 24" wide. I want to...
Fence construction & what to use for finish
My fence is coming along nicely! Started last fall...
Finish for mantle
We had someone make a mantle from pine and while it's...
Jennifer White Green
Can this door be repaired?
We're renovating a 1920 house and this bedroom door...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™