If you’ve got a DIY, home renovation, repair, or arts & crafts project coming up, then chances are you’ll be in the market for a new sander.
Bosch Random Orbit Sander · includes 4 listings
The Bosch Random Orbit Sander’s variable power control gives it the power and guts to do a variety of jobs, but opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of some of its other features.
Completes large jobs efficiently
Easy to control
Wide range of speed control
Can throw discs before they're worn out
Ineffective dust collection system
Ryobi EBS800 / EBS800V Belt · includes 2 listings
For those in the market for a cordless sanding tool with a high power output, the Ryobi EBS800V Belt Sander may be what you’re after.
Great battery life
High power output
Sanding sheets often move sideways
With variable speed control, dust extraction, and the ability to sand in different directions, the Festool ETS EC 150 EQ Random Orbital Sander Plus is a go-to for fine finishes.
Price (RRP) $1,025.00
Types of sanders
A sander is a power tool that’s used to smooth surfaces by abrasion with sandpaper. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including removing paint, upcycling pieces, and smoothing the surface and applying finishing touches to a range of materials.
Power sanders have helped us do away with the tedious chore of manually scrubbing away at a plank of wood with a piece of sandpaper. They can help you complete a sanding job that would have taken hours by hand in minutes - however sanding by hand is still a crucial part of many jobs today.
Here’s a list of some commonly used sanders.
A manual sander, or hand sander, is the least expensive sanding tool you can buy. They’re easy to use, and as the name suggests, require manual labour to operate and achieve a smooth, even finish.
They’re suitable for small projects where the wood is already in good shape or has already been sanded - you can then come in with the manual sander for touch-ups.
Even if you’re thinking of buying a power sander, a manual sander can be a good tool to have around to complement your electric sanding.
An orbital sander has a rotating base (called a platen) that moves circularly or orbitally. They’re used for general jobs, and are a great option to remove fine layers of material, such as paint or varnish.
They’re easily used on both plaster and timber.
Suitable sandpaper: An orbital sander takes standard sandpaper sheets, hook-and-loop sanding pads or special self-adhesive sanding pads.
- Easy to use. They're lightweight, making them easy to manoeuvre across your working surface.
- Allow for maximum control. They often have features like vibration control that make them easy to manoeuvre.
- Won't damage the surface you're sanding. Because they make quite gentle movements, you won’t ruin your work surface with proper use of an orbital sander.
- Not heavy duty. This makes it incapable of removing thick layers of material quickly.
A detail sander is a triangular orbital sander. It’s a great option for sanding furniture, corners, and other hard to reach places.
Random orbital sanders
A random orbital sander has a round, vibrating sanding pad that also spins in a circle - it’s probably the most common power sander in Australian tool sheds.
It’s particularly useful for achieving a fine finish, and can be a suitable option if you’re planning on staining or painting the finished product.
Suitable sandpaper: A random orbital sander suits round self-adhesive or hook-and-loop sanding pads.
- Heavy duty. They’re more heavy duty than an orbital sander and are capable of removing significant amounts of excess material.
- Achieves exceptionally smooth finish. They can achieve a super fine finish, making them great for polishing a woodwork piece.
- Versatile. They can be used on a variety of surfaces (such as wood, plastic, or metal) and most offer variable speed control - so you can take a more delicate approach to your work or go faster and more agressively.
- Relatively quiet. For the work it does, a random orbital sander doesn’t make much noise.
- Slower to use on larger jobs. They're slower to perform heavy duty jobs than belt sanders.
- Unsuitable for corners. Its circular shape makes it unable to sand the nooks and crannies of any surface you want to sand.
A belt sander has two drums over which a sand belt moves around quickly. They’re great for sanding large, flat surfaces, such as floorboards, and are most commonly used to remove large amounts of material quickly.
To avoid damaging your working surface, use a belt sander with the grain of the wood. Also ensure you’re applying adequate pressure to the tool as it may “run away” from you if you don’t.
Suitable sandpaper: A belt sander requires cloth sanding belts - ensure you get them in the correct size for your sander.
- Effective at removing large amounts of material. This makes them suitable to use on medium to large-sized work surfaces.
- Powerful. Generally speaking, belt sanders are quite powerful, meaning you can work on heavy duty tasks.
- Easy to use. They're usually quite easy to use - you just need to move the sander over your work surface in even strokes.
- Only suitable for flat surfaces. They aren’t suitable for curved surfaces, so you may have to buy an additional sander if you expect to be working with angles.
- Can damage work surface. The high torque of belt sanders can also be a drawback if you’re not gentle with more delicate surfaces, as you can damage your work material.
- Doesn't leave as smooth a finish as other sanders. They don’t leave a particularly smooth finish, so you may have to go in with another sander, such as a finishing sander, which is used to touch up your piece.
Other types of sanders
There are also specialty sanders on the market that may be more suitable if you have more specific jobs or require some detailed work to be done.
- Sander polishers: A sander polisher can both sand and polish the piece you’re working on - they’re usually best for sanding timber and for polishing painted surfaces. You can also usually polish with some a random orbital sander.
- Drum sanders: A drum sander spins a sandpaper tube around a motorised drum. They’re useful for sanding curved surfaces and large surfaces such as floors. Some come in smaller sizes, like drill bit sanders or those designed for rotary tools.
- Belt-disc sanders: A belt-and-disc sander is a belt sander and a disc sander combined into a single tool - these are bench sanders rather than handheld sanders.
- File sanders: A file sander has a handle and a finger-like belt that makes it easy to reach into and sand tight spaces. It can get into even smaller crevices than a detail sander.
- Drywall sanders: A drywall sander is used to sand plastered walls, ceilings, and walls. It can also be used to remove paper residue, paint, adhesive residue and, although mostly used as a wall sander or plaster sander, can also be used to sand the floor.
- Spindle sanders: A spindle sander is a tool that helps you achieve a smooth finish on wood pieces, particularly detailed pieces or ones that have curved edges.
- Disc sanders: A disc sander has a disc-shaped abrasive - this means that for instance, random orbital sanders are disc sanders, however not all disc sanders are capable of random orbital motion. They're are generally suited for rougher work where a lot of material needs to be removed quickly.
Factors to consider when choosing a sander
- Dust extraction: Some models have dust extraction systems which suck sanding dust directly into a box or bag at the rear of the sander, saving you the hassle of a clean up, and helping better protect your eyes from nuisance dust.
- Vibration control: A vibration control suspension system minimises the vibration that the user feels through their hands, making it more comfortable to use. Most tools will have this feature, but will have varying degrees of control.
- Variable speed control: Variable speed control lets you change the operating speed to suit the material of the surface you’re sanding. Getting a sander with a wide range of speeds can help you tackle anything from a plywood veneer to solid wood.
- Soft-start option: A soft-start option lets your tool ramp up slowly to its full power, which can help you protect more delicate work surfaces, and can also help you gauge the power needed for your surface.
Sanders can be corded or cordless - you can generally expect corded models to be more powerful. Cordless models are useful when mains power isn’t available or if a cord would be too fiddly or hazardous in your workspace.
If you’re looking for a cordless sander, look for a battery charge level indicator so you know how much work you can realistically do before you start sanding.
Ease of use
How easy a sander is to use depends on the surface you’re working with - choosing a sander that’s suitable for your purposes, and has features like vibration control and dust extraction, should put you on the right track towards making light work of your sanding projects.
An ergonomic design is also paramount when choosing a sander machine, whether you’re working with a benchtop sander or a handheld sander.
Before buying a power sander, ensure you know what kind of sandpaper you need to buy for it and check whether it’s easily accessible for you.
Some power sander manufacturers will recommend you only use sander paper of the same brand, and while you may technically be able to use sandpaper of a different brand with your power tool, sometimes doing so can void your warranty if something goes wrong.
Power sanders can set you back anywhere from $50 to upwards of $1000, but the majority of models are in the $100 to $300 range. Some specialty tools - such as detail sanders - can cost as little as $30.
Ensure you’re also factoring in how much the sandpaper will cost - if you’re planning on using your sander often, you’ll probably find yourself forking out quite a bit on replacing some parts of your tool.
Which type of sander should I buy?
That depends on what you'll be using your sander for.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What kind of materials will I be sanding?
- What are the sizes and shapes of the surfaces that I will be sanding?
- What type of surface quality am I hoping to achieve?
- Are the compatible sandpapers and backing pads easy to find?
- How much am I willing to spend?
Your answers to these should help you go home with a sander that’s suitable for your purposes and lets you easily complete the home, repair, or arts and crafts projects you want to do.