Regardless of the type of surface you are working on, you should never overlook sanding it before applying any paint or stain.
This important step will help you achieve the smooth and clean finish you want for your project.
While you can always do this manually using sandpaper, there are more than a few types of sanders that can get the job done in less time.
Got no idea which to use? That’s what we’re here to help you with.
Before anything else, though, let’s talk about the basics first. What are sanders, and what uses can you get out of them?
What Is a Sander?
Are you someone who enjoys taking on different DIY projects?
If any of your endeavors involve working on wood, a sander is one tool that must be in your collection.
Besides wood surfaces, you can also use sanders to polish rough metal and plastic.
Through the use of an abrasive material, this handy device helps smooth out a surface in preparation for painting or staining.
Is that all there is to it, though? What else can you use a sander for?
Uses of Sanders
So, when and where do you use a sander exactly?
To answer this question, let’s talk about the many instances where a sander will come in handy.
1. Preparing Surfaces for Painting/Varnishing/Finishing
Many home projects require the use of a sander.
Compared to manual sanding, using a power sander ensures there are no grooves and gouges and that the surface ends up ultra smooth.
As mentioned, it works on many surfaces, such as plastic, metal, and of course, wood.
You can also use sanders to make a surface appear rougher in preparation for gluing. This way, the glue holds more securely.
Removing old paint layers is also possible with the use of a sander.
2. Automotive, Nautical, and Aeronautical Industry
Besides home projects, you can also see sanders used in the automotive, nautical, and aeronautical industries.
From vehicles to hulls and outdoor structures, you would need a sander to prepare the surface for painting.
When it comes to repair and maintenance, a sanding tool will make it easier to attain your desired level of finish and get rid of discolorations.
3. Smoothening Cement Flooring
Industrial buildings almost always have cement flooring. And these floors have to be smoothened out to achieve a nice, clean finish.
Sanders get this job done. Some contemporary, minimalist homes also use this kind of flooring.
20 Different Types of Sanders and Their Uses
Again, depending on the surface you are sanding, the type of sander you use will vary.
The sandpaper or equivalent abrasive material you use with it also varies depending on the results you want to achieve.
To give you a better idea of the many choices you have, here are the top 20 most common types of sanders on the market:
Sandpaper comes in a variety of grit sizes or grades. You use finer grits if you want an ultra smooth finish.
Based on what you want to achieve, you can use sandpaper by hand or with a power tool.
The problem with using it by hand is that, eventually, it will conform to your hand’s shape.
As a result, you won’t get an even finish. For this reason, many opt to use a manual sanding block or a sheet sander.
Hand sanders are sanding tools that don’t require the use of a motorized mechanism.
It doesn’t run on electricity or compressed air but rather relies on the manual power of the user.
This simple yet functional tool is often a part of a DIYer’s and a professional handyman’s toolbox. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and hassle-free to maneuver.
With this, you simply attach a piece of sandpaper to the sanding surface, and you’re good to go. It would probably come with a handle for a more secure grip.
Manual Sanding Block
One type of hand sander is a manual sanding block.
Compared to others, this is one of the oldest sanding methods still in use across many countries today.
It is a simple piece of block that you wrap with your choice of sandpaper to achieve even results.
Confused about how you can sand irregular shapes and rounded contours? This is where a bow sander comes in.
As its name suggests, it has a bow-shaped handle that holds the two ends of a standard sanding belt cut into a narrow strip.
Those into furniture building and other woodworking projects would benefit from having a belt sander.
You use a belt sander to remove paint or get rid of old varnish from wood surfaces to get a smooth finish.
This power tool features a sanding belt wrapped around a motorized rear drum and a front drum that moves freely.
It is characterized based on the size of the belt. The smallest is 3×18 inches, perfect for beginners because they are easy to control.
The most popular size is the 3×21, offering the perfect combo of power, balance, and speed.
For larger flat surfaces, a 4×24-inch sanding belt is used. However, keep in mind that these are harder to control.
Compared to a belt sander, a strip sander features a narrower “strip” belt. Often, you will find it measuring anywhere from half an inch to one inch.
Because of this size, it is used for smaller-scale sanding tasks.
You use a strip sander to sharpen knives and scissors, sand internal cut-outs, and shape/grind metals and plastics.
Table Sander (or Bench Sander)
For removing large amounts of material in less time, most professional woodworkers use table sanders or bench sanders.
It is a type of stationary sander that features a belt (and sometimes also a disc).
Powerful and big, table sanders are often used in industrial settings and large woodworking shops.
A disc sander can be either table-mounted or come as a power drill attachment.
As the name suggests, it features a circular-shaped sandpaper attached to a motorized wheel.
It can run on compressed air or via an electric motor, depending on the model.
The handheld power drill attachment is used to give large surfaces a smooth finish.
On the other hand, the stationary, table-mounted version is powerful and stable enough to be used on wood, metal, and even plastic.
You can also adjust the slant of the disc for sanding angled edges.
The orbital sander goes by many names, including finishing sander, vibrating sander, and quarter-sheet sander.
Unlike disc sanders, it features a square-shaped sanding surface where spring-loaded clamps hold the paper securely.
From the term “orbital,” the sanding disc moves in small orbits. This leaves behind the swirl pattern we often see on sanded wood surfaces.
As a finishing sander, you will get an extra-smooth surface after you’re done with this lightweight yet powerful tool.
For sanding jobs that require precision, a detail sander is used.
This orbital sander variant features triangular-shaped self-adhesive sandpaper that you attach to the clothes iron-like device.
This shape lets you work on crevices, tight spaces, and corners that a regular sander is unable to reach.
Random Orbital Sander
This type of sander is designed almost the same as orbital sanders. One difference, however, is in the shape of the sanding surface.
Instead of a square, it uses a round sanding pad that spins and moves in tiny ellipses at the same time.
While you use an orbital sander to remove the minimal layer possible, a random orbital sander is more aggressive.
As a result, you get a finer finish without the swirl pattern.
Orbital Drywall Sander
This tool is a handheld orbital sander that you use for stripping drywall and other home improvement jobs.
Made especially for drywall, it does a great job getting rid of rust, old paint, and drywall compound.
Unfortunately, you will need to upgrade your power tool if you need to reach high places.
Portable Cable Sander
If you want something even bigger than orbital sanders, check out portable cable sanders.
Although tagged as portable, these are large and heavy machines (around eight pounds) used to sand high ceilings and walls.
They boast up to a 13-foot-long extension that allows you to work on bigger jobs.
Also called a sheet sander, these are like orbital sanders but smaller and more affordable.
The square-shaped sanding surface is perfect for hard-to-reach places and corners.
Another difference is in the way the sanding surface moves.
After feeding sandpaper into the machine, the motorized surface then moves in a back-and-forth motion as opposed to an elliptical one.
Dustless Turbo Drywall Sander
Designed for home-use, a dustless turbo drywall sander works exceptionally great for small home improvement projects.
It works the same as most other sanders but comes with a vacuum and bag to collect dust particles as you work.
There are even models with an extension so that you can work on hard-to-reach areas.
From a sander looking like an iron, here’s one that can be mistaken for a metal detector.
A drywall sander is designed with a long pole and a rectangular sanding surface used for smoothening out drywall ceilings and walls.
File Sander (or Finger Sander)
Like disc sanders, this variant can run either on electricity or compressed air.
It has an especially narrow sanding belt that you use to sand hard-to-reach crevices.
You will often find file sanders used in auto body repair and other detail work.
Floors need to be stripped, sanded, and prepped for finishing, too. For that, you use a drum sander.
Because of the large surface area you use it for, drum sanders are so powerful and heavy that one person can’t possibly transport them.
To remove paint and adhesives from the floor, you push a drum sander as you would a lawnmower.
Be careful, though, as it can be easy to lose control of because of how powerful it is.
Oscillating Spindle Sander (OSS)
Oscillating spindle sanders come as either table-mounted or freestanding versions.
Here, a sanding drum moves up and down so that the entire surface of the material you’re working on is exposed to the entire drum.
This means the edge of your board gets an even finish without any burn marks.
Depending on the model, you can even use it to create edges.
An edging sander is heavy-duty enough that it is used for floor refinishing.
You use it on areas that a drum sander cannot reach, like stairs and floor edges.
It is a kind of disk sander bigger than regular ones but smaller than drum sanders.
What Is the Difference Between a Palm Sander and an Orbital Sander?
Orbital and palm sanders are two of the most common types of sanders used for a variety of jobs.
Both are handheld and use regular sandpaper attach to the sanding surface.
They differ primarily in their size and weight.
Orbital sanders are heavier and are made for more heavy-duty tasks.
You use them for working on larger pieces because they have a larger sanding surface and will get the job done quicker.
The downside is that they are more expensive, so only buy them if you’re sure your projects will require the need for one.
More often than not, a palm sander will be able to meet your sanding requirements if you’re only going to be working on home projects.
Is an Orbital Sander Better Than a Sheet Sander?
In the end, your choice will depend on your project’s needs.
Sheet sanders (or palm sanders) are affordable tools made for working on smaller pieces.
They are more lightweight yet deliver a smoother result than orbital sanders.
What Is the Best Type of Sander?
The best type of sander is one that meets your preferences and requirements.
If you’re after versatility, you’d be better off with an orbital sander.
Changing the discs to match the grit you want is easy, but keep in mind that they are more expensive than regular sandpaper.
Even so, the fact that it’s a power tool ensures you will get smoother and more even results as compared to doing it manually.
You also won’t have to exert as much effort because the machine will handle most of the effort required.
Planning on giving new life to an otherwise boring piece of furniture?
To remove paint from wood surfaces, you would want to employ the service of power sanders.
These powerful tools make a variety of sanding jobs effortless, quick, and more professional-looking.
Make sure you get the right kind for the job at hand, though, as these sanding tools come in many different types.