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January 08, 2021
Sanding is a tedious process, but we can all agree that it is something that must be done. It is essential for any of your woodworking projects, allowing you to achieve a well-polished and refined look. Sanders are used for a variety of applications from preparing surfaces for painting or finishes, to removing unwanted materials such as old paint. It is also great for knocking off any imperfections you encounter during your build. Today let us talk about the right sander for your workspace.
There are multiple variations for the electric sander, like belt or disc sanders, but we are going to specifically talk about orbital sanders. Orbital sanders are the best way to go when it comes to everyday use in the garage or workshop. Keep in mind, they are two main types of orbital sanders in the market. First, is the standard orbital sander and second being the random orbit sander. So what are the differences between the two?.
STANDARD ORBITAL SANDER
These sanders go by different names like finishing sanders, quarter/half sheet sanders (depending on size sandpaper), or simply orbital sanders. Whatever you prefer to call them, they can be easily identified by its square base plate. To load fresh sandpaper, the clamps located on the base plate (or sanding pad) firmly bites down on the sandpaper using a unique spring lever system. The way these sanders move the sanding pad is in a quick and tight circular motion, hence the name orbital. Orbital sanders are great for sanding off material at a slow and steady rate, but what if you need to sand off a project quick?
RANDOM ORBIT SANDER
Most people will say that the absolute best way to get a sanding project done fast and efficiently is with the random orbit sander, and I must agree with that statement. Random orbit sanders are distinguished by the circular sanding pad. Loading up sandpaper is much easier that the standard counterpart. Instead of a lever mechanism, the sandpaper or sanding disc, is applied to the bottom of the sander with hook and loop, identical to Velcro. The sanding pad moves similarly in comparison, but with the addition of the base plate moving in “random” patterns as well. This design and feature gives the random orbit sander the ability to remove material quicker.
TOP 5 SANDERS
DeWALT DCW210B 20V MAX XR 5" BRUSHLESS CORDLESS VARIABLE-SPEED RANDOM ORBIT SANDER
MILWAUKEE 2648-20 M18 5" RANDOM ORBIT SANDER
DeWALT DCW200B 20V MAX XR BRUSHLESS CORDLESS 1/4 SHEET VARIABLE SPEED SANDER
MAKITA XOB01Z 18V LXT LITHIUM‑ION CORDLESS 5" RANDOM ORBIT SANDER
BLACK AND DECKER BDERO100 5" CORDED RANDOM ORBIT SANDER
Now let's talk about the actual sandpaper, more specifically sanding progression. It's pretty easy to understand. First let's talk about the number you’ll see on the package. These numbers are called grits. The lower the number, the coarser the sandpaper. This is best used for removing material aggressively. However, you will witness deep scratches on the wooden surface. The higher the number, the finer the paper becomes. Less material is removed, which translates to shallow scratches.
This is where sending progression comes into play. In other words, sanding through the different levels of grit. It's common practice for woodworkers to progress through at least three to four sandpaper grits. Starting with the lowest number and working your way up, this will give you a smooth and clean result. An example of a progression is starting with 120 grit and sanding your way up to 180 or 220. With patience and practice, you’ll find what levels works best for you and your projects.
Both the orbital sander and random orbit sander are great power tools to own, but if you have to choose one, the random orbit sander is the best choice. One advantage with the standard orbital sander is the square pad. Getting into corners with this is effortless. However, the amount of quality sanding you can accomplish with the random orbit sander is preferable, in my personal opinion of course. Also, keep in mind that sanders do let off a lot of dust in the air and worksurfaces. Most of these sanders do feature a dust collection bag but, in my experience, it’s always best to connect a dust collection system or vacuum directly into the exhaust port. With that being said, always remember to wear a protective mask during operation as well.
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