How to choose the right power sanders

Completing sanding jobs by hand is tedious work. When electric power tools came along, they greatly speed things up. Although there are a huge variety of larger industrial sanding machines, this buying guide is for power tool users looking for the right handheld sander for use around the house or on the jobsite. As with most power tools these days, many corded models must be plugged into an electrical outlet, but just as many, if not more cordless models run on a rechargeable battery. Choosing the right power sander depends largely on the types of sanding jobs a user needs to complete – from sanding larger surfaces like floors to smaller, more intricate jobs like refinishing furniture.

How to choose the right power sanders

Completing sanding jobs by hand is tedious work. When electric power tools came along, they greatly speed things up. Although there are a huge variety of larger industrial sanding machines, this buying guide is for power tool users looking for the right handheld sander for use around the house or on the jobsite. As with most power tools these days, many corded models must be plugged into an electrical outlet, but just as many, if not more cordless models run on a rechargeable battery. Choosing the right power sander depends largely on the types of sanding jobs a user needs to complete – from sanding larger surfaces like floors to smaller, more intricate jobs like refinishing furniture.

How do they work?

The advantage of a handheld power sander over manual sanding is clear. The sandpaper is affixed to the sander and the motor does all the work of rapidly moving the sandpaper to achieve the desired removal of material and smoothing of the surface of the workpiece. In some cases, the movement of the sanding head may seem so slight that it’s more like vibrating than making large movements. Sanders vary widely in terms of their removal rate, meaning how much material is being removed. Any given sanding task may require the removal of a lot of material at first, whereas in the later stages of a project, less material needs to be removed because the goal becomes achieving as smooth a surface as possible. While the removal rate of material is partially impacted by the speed of the sanding pad or the amount of downward pressure applied by the user, it’s more about the grit of the sandpaper. Coarser grit sandpaper removes more material whereas finer grit sandpaper removes less.

This sander’s got moves…. linear, random and orbital

Any given power sander is going to move the sandpaper in a particular way. A belt sander only moves the sandpaper in a linear direction and is best reserved for heavier-duty jobs where lots of material needs to be removed in the initial stages of sanding. A finishing sander is more about achieving the right smoothness of finish and typically moves the sandpaper in an orbital fashion, meaning it’s vibrating the paper in small circles or orbits and removes small amounts material from the workpiece. A random-orbital sander moves the sandpaper in a random-orbit pattern of constant irregular overlapping circles. The random sanding action ensures that there are no swirl marks can be used without worrying about the direction of the grain in the wood, as with linear sanders. Some handheld power sanders may be able to switch movement modes between orbital and random orbital patterns.

This sander’s got moves…. linear, random and orbital

Any given power sander is going to move the sandpaper in a particular way. A belt sander only moves the sandpaper in a linear direction and is best reserved for heavier-duty jobs where lots of material needs to be removed in the initial stages of sanding. A finishing sander is more about achieving the right smoothness of finish and typically moves the sandpaper in an orbital fashion, meaning it’s vibrating the paper in small circles or orbits and removes small amounts material from the workpiece. A random-orbital sander moves the sandpaper in a random-orbit pattern of constant irregular overlapping circles. The random sanding action ensures that there are no swirl marks can be used without worrying about the direction of the grain in the wood, as with linear sanders. Some handheld power sanders may be able to switch movement modes between orbital and random orbital patterns.

Pro-tip: Know your grits

Controlling how much material is removed when sanding depends mostly on the grit of sandpaper used. There are a stunning variety of grits available. The key to understanding grit is simple because it has to do with the size and number of abrasive particles or grains. The higher number the finer the grit (meaning more grains of a smaller size) and the lower the number, the coarser the grit (fewer grains but larger in size). Coarser grit removes more material, finer grit removes less material. Extra course sandpapers have grit numbers ranging 24–36, course sandpaper ranges from 40–50 grit, medium ranges from 60–100, fine ranges from 120–220, and extra-fine sandpapers range from 240–600. The super high grit sandpapers are mainly for polishing. The term sandpaper is the most used term however the material used to secure the grit can vary from paper to material or mesh. The actual grit itself can be made from man-made and natural substances such as silicon carbide, aluminium oxide, and zirconia. The type and application that each of these are good for depends on whether you are sanding wood, removing layers of paint or varnish from a surface or polishing metal.

Ergonomics: Full Handle or Palm Grip?

Many smaller handheld power sanders don’t have a full handle. Instead, the top of the sander has either a circular or oval shape you grab onto. However, this kind of palm grip can result in hand fatigue in a surprisingly short amount of time. A full handle is always more ergonomic because the grip feels more natural and comfortable, allowing users to use the tool for longer periods of time with less fatigue.

Multi-sanders: several sanders in one

The smartest power tool manufacturers are always on the lookout for getting more functionality and performance out of fewer tools. After all, why have several or more sanders if there’s a model out there that combines multiple functionalities into one tool?

Worx Advantage

The 20 V PowerShare Sandeck 5-in-1 multi-sander
The innovative design of this multi-sander gives users 5 different sanding tools in one. Different plate attachments can be swapped out depending on the sanding task. There’s a plate for detail sanding (the triangular shape also known as a “mouse” or corner sander), a finishing sander plate (with orbital movement), a random orbit sanding plate, a contour sanding plate, and a finger sanding plate. The max mode technology transmission automatically detects which plate is attached and delivers the appropriate power and movement for that plate’s particular sanding function. Each plate is held in place with Hyperlock™ technology that delivers a full ton of clamping pressure to ensure all the friction is directed to the surface of the workpiece and away from the body of the tool. This Hyperlock™ clamping system allows for easy changes between sanding plates without the use of any tools, and the plates accept hook-and-loop sandpapers. There is also a speed selector dial to choose between five different speeds ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 movements per minute. This versatile tool weighs in at only 2 kg, has a full handle for better grip, a dust bag, and is part of the PowerShare lineup of tools that are powered with the same rechargeable battery.

Multi-sanders: several sanders in one

The smartest power tool manufacturers are always on the lookout for getting more functionality and performance out of fewer tools. After all, why have several or more sanders if there’s a model out there that combines multiple functionalities into one tool?

Worx Advantage

The 20 V PowerShare Sandeck 5-in-1 multi-sander
The innovative design of this multi-sander gives users 5 different sanding tools in one. Different plate attachments can be swapped out depending on the sanding task. There’s a plate for detail sanding (the triangular shape also known as a “mouse” or corner sander), a finishing sander plate (with orbital movement), a random orbit sanding plate, a contour sanding plate, and a finger sanding plate. The max mode technology transmission automatically detects which plate is attached and delivers the appropriate power and movement for that plate’s particular sanding function. Each plate is held in place with Hyperlock™ technology that delivers a full ton of clamping pressure to ensure all the friction is directed to the surface of the workpiece and away from the body of the tool. This Hyperlock™ clamping system allows for easy changes between sanding plates without the use of any tools, and the plates accept hook-and-loop sandpapers. There is also a speed selector dial to choose between five different speeds ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 movements per minute. This versatile tool weighs in at only 2 kg, has a full handle for better grip, a dust bag, and is part of the PowerShare lineup of tools that are powered with the same rechargeable battery.

The convenience factor

Using a handheld power sander generates fine sawdust that can quickly accumulate on the surface of the workpiece. Look for brands and models of power sanders that include a dust bag attachment and/or a vac attachment for attaching to a vacuum to keep things clean while operating the tool. Some power sanders may offer a trigger lock for convenience so that the tool keeps running even when the trigger is released. Opinions vary widely on whether trigger locks are a good idea. For sanding specifically and often periods of prolonged use a trigger lock reduces the potential for fatigue greatly.

Better batteries to get the job done

If your collection of cordless power tools has become a hodge-podge array of different brands, you probably also have a dizzying array of different batteries and chargers for each one. When it’s time to replace old tools, consider streamlining your cordless power tools with a brand that offers an integrated battery and charging platform that can be shared across tools.

Worx Advantage

The Worx 20 V PowerShare battery platform
The Worx cordless power sanders mentioned in this buying guide are all powered by the exclusive 20 V PowerShare battery pack that can be shared across more than 70 other tools in the PowerShare family. This innovative approach combines great power and easy portability while saving you money with fewer batteries and chargers.

Did you know?

Sanding disc and papers come in such a large variety of shapes, grits, styles and coatings that a typical hardware store will carry over 500 different sku’s to cover all the different power sanding tools and applications. Some online retailers carry over 1,000 different sanding accessories.

Hook and loop vs sticky paper

When you’re working with a sander, having the sanding fall off can ruin your project. Hook and loop discs have a “fuzzy” fabric backing, which fastens to the tiny hooks on the sanding pad. Although hook and loop sanding discs have a strong grip, they can easily be removed and replaced many times. Simply pull the disc off, and then press it back onto the sanding pad when you’re ready to use it again. This is a great feature when you need to switch between different grits of sanding paper.

Hook and loop vs sticky paper

When you’re working with a sander, having the sanding fall off can ruin your project. Hook and loop discs have a “fuzzy” fabric backing, which fastens to the tiny hooks on the sanding pad. Although hook and loop sanding discs have a strong grip, they can easily be removed and replaced many times. Simply pull the disc off, and then press it back onto the sanding pad when you’re ready to use it again. This is a great feature when you need to switch between different grits of sanding paper.

Practical art

Igor is one with the woods around his workshop. He lives in a sort of symbiosis with the trees that he shapes into objects.

“The feeling of handling polished wooden objects is similar to that of exchanging caresses with a loved one. It’s like a welcoming, reassuring warmth. Sanding is the final touch of the lengthy transformation process, so I put particular care into this step. Be it an acacia bowl, an olive mortar or a beech spoon, a well sanded tool inspires trust and confidence. They are practical and beautiful at once.”

Practical art

Igor is one with the woods around his workshop. He lives in a sort of symbiosis with the trees that he shapes into objects.

“The feeling of handling polished wooden objects is similar to that of exchanging caresses with a loved one. It’s like a welcoming, reassuring warmth. Sanding is the final touch of the lengthy transformation process, so I put particular care into this step. Be it an acacia bowl, an olive mortar or a beech spoon, a well sanded tool inspires trust and confidence. They are practical and beautiful at once.”

Same battery, expandable power

Worx PowerShare is a unique 20 V modular system that allows you to combine the same battery to multiply voltage to 40 V and even 80 V. PowerShare batteries are available in a choice of capacities so that you can choose what you need.

5 specialty sanders in one tool, HyperLock clamping system

Sandeck cordless multi sander 20V - tool only - WX820.9

5 specialty sanders in one tool, HyperLock clamping system

Sandeck cordless multi sander 20V - with battery and charger - WX820.1

The campion of hard-to-reach spaces

Cordless detail sander 20V - tool only - WX822.9

The versatile detail sander that is perfect for smaller tasks

Worx corded 65W D-Tail palm sander with accessories - WX648

If you spend more time in your shed than your living room, you’re probably wondering what can we possibly teach you about tools that you don’t already know, right? Challenge accepted.