Sanders are an essential tool for every construction or repair project. Construction projects don’t just end with ensuring structural integrity; every surface also needs to look good and smooth, and this is where sanders come in.
A sander has one purpose; it’s a powerful tool that will help you smoothen surfaces.
In this article, you will learn all about the different kinds of sanders and how you can use each of them to the best smoothing effect.
Table of Contents:
- 17 Types of Sanders for Home Projects
- Orbital vs Palm Sander: Which is Right for You?
- Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander Comparison
- What’s the Difference: Orbital vs. Random Orbit
- How to Choose the Right Sander for Your Project (Buying Guide)
17 Types of Sanders for Home Projects
Sanders has a single and specific purpose. But, you’ll be very surprised at how many kinds of sanders there are depending on the sanding job you need to do.
The only thing you can find in common with most of them is that they use sandpaper or an equivalent substitute for smoothing.
If you have been doing construction for a long time, there’s a good chance that you have tried using some of them without having the slightest idea of what they are called.
So, from the manual sanding block and sandpaper sheets to belt sander and table sander, here are 17 types of sanders that you can use for home projects:
1. Manual Sanding Block
A simple sanding tool, the manual sanding block is the only sander that doesn’t require power to work. However, while the concept is easy, it’s also the most gruesome and tiresome to use.
Rather than relying on electricity, sanding blocks will need you to do it manually by using a wide variety of hand sanders where you can attach sandpaper. Using a grip can also make manual sanding blocks more effective.
If you’re going to be sanding a few cabinets or some new walls, then a manual sanding block will work just fine.
However, since they are used manually and can be very time-consuming, we don’t recommend manual sanding blocks for large-scale construction projects as they are tiring to work with and will take much more time compared to electric sanders.
There are a variety of sanding blocks, as they come in different shapes and sizes.
You just have to pick the type that will fit well with your project. Also, they are more affordable than electric sanders, making them more budget-friendly.
In terms of accessibility, manual sanding blocks are easy to find in any hardware store and mall. If you need it for a small project, you can easily have access to a sanding block.
They may be more tiresome to use, but manual sanding blocks are cost-effective and can do the job just as well as power sanders.
2. Sandpaper Sheets
Using sandpaper sheets is the most affordable way to sand a surface, as you won’t have to use any other tools such as manual sanding blocks and power sanders. The only thing you have to use with sandpaper is your own hands.
Sandpapers aren’t made of sand. In reality, they are made of fine natural/synthetic particles called grit. These particles are refined through screens and glued to a surface such as paper and sponge.
With sandpaper sheets, you need to know the right grit size for the job, as not every grit will work well on every surface.
The grit types are coarse, medium, and fine. You can pick one depending on the kind of finish you want.
3. Hand Sander
Hand sanders or portable sanders are the best if you have multiple projects in different places. They are also handy to have if you need to do a quick sanding job.
You can use hand sanders with your hand, and you can bring them anywhere. A hand sander works by attaching it with sandpaper and proceeding to manually work on the surface.
The only downside to a hand sander is that it’s not suited for big sanding jobs because using it can be too tiring to use even after just a few minutes.
Also, they aren’t as good at scrubbing off wood at a fast rate compared to electric sanders.
4. Strip Sander
Strip sanders, also known as belt sanders, are a very powerful multi-use tool that’s used for sanding, but can also be used for leveling surfaces and shaping.
This kind of sander uses belts with a sandpaper surface that rotates when used.
Compared to other sanders, strip sanders can be used with coarse grits and they work very fast, especially when working with wood.
Furthermore, they are also easier to use and can produce good-looking results even when using coarse sandpaper.
5. Bow Sander
Most power sanders can do the job well and quickly on flat surfaces. However, they are less effective when you need to sand rounded or molded surfaces.
With bow sanders, they may not be electric, but a good one will help you achieve the perfect finish.
Bow sanders are accessible, as many woodworkers can make one for you. However, you can also try making one yourself as there are many guides online with instructions that are easy to follow.
6. Oscillating Spindle Sander
Unlike previous sanders in this list, oscillating spindle sanders are not handheld tools. Instead, they are better placed on top of a bench or a table.
It works with a revolving tube that holds the sandpaper. Being used on top of stable bases like tables, this kind of sander is very steady.
Oscillating spindle sanders suit small items that need detailed and precise sanding, which you can’t achieve when using regular sanders for small items.
However, that doesn’t mean that this sander is easy to use. While it’s stable, your hands need to be steady as you hold the item as a little mistake can ruin the finish.
7. Drywall Sander
Drywalls are a very affordable wall option. However, they don’t have the smoothest surface out of the store, making drywall sanders necessary.
With a drywall’s rough surface and since walls are large, regular hand sanders aren’t the best option if you want to do the job optimally.
Drywall sanders can help a lot in smoothing drywall, and they are also strong enough to remove any leftover adhesives on the wall.
Furthermore, since this type of sander is designed for walls, they tend to have good length. With this, you don’t have to worry about reaching tough spots. It means you can also do the job faster as you can cover more space on your wall.
8. File Sander
Also known as finger sanders, file sanders are small and thin tools that are good for detailed and accurate sanding.
Because of its small size, you can hold file sanders with one hand. A file sander is perfect for sanding surfaces in tight spaces.
Furthermore, it’s easy to handle and will help you a lot when working with awkward angles.
Due to this, you can have an easier time sanding with file sanders than with regular ones.
While they suit tight spaces, file sanders aren’t the best option for sanding big spaces, as this type of sander suits smaller surfaces much better.
9. Palm Sander
Palm sanders are very easy to use handheld sanding tools. Some people also refer to them as finish sanders.
Palm sanders use oscillating square pads to sand surfaces. People like palm sanders because they are easy to use, lightweight, and quiet, making them easy to control for creating high-quality finishes.
Furthermore, because of the square pads, palm sanders work well when sanding corners. They also work well on most kinds of surfaces, such as wood, paint, varnish, or plaster. However, it’s not as effective for sanding rough stock.
Because of palm sanders’ small size, good handling, and affordability, they are a good option for homeowners looking to do a home project that requires sanding. When it comes to big construction projects, though, a palm sander may prove too small.
10. Detail Sander
People also call Detail Sander as a corner sander, mouse sander, and triangle sander. It is often compared to orbital sanders because of their multiple similarities.
A detail sander resembles an iron because of its triangle-shaped head and it makes it a suitable tool for detail work and sanding hard-to-reach spaces.
Additionally, its shape also improves its effectiveness in terms of putting finishing touches.
Detail sanders are small, lightweight, and handheld, that’s why you can also take it to different projects because it is highly portable.
Detail sanders also come with multiple types of grips. If you want to work using a more traditional style, you can use the standard grip.
You can also use the handle grip for tight spaces and the precision grip for better handling and maneuverability.
You can fit detail sanders with most sandpaper types. Furthermore, it won’t take too much time and effort, as this type of sander’s design makes sandpaper changing simple and easy.
11. Orbital Sander
The orbital sander is probably the most common type of sander out there, as it can be found in most hardware stores.
People also call the orbital sander a circular sander, finishing sander, pad sander, palm sander, quarter-sheet sander, rotary sander, sheet sander, and vibrating sander.
Orbital sanders use rectangular pads fitted with sandpaper that revolves itself to initiate the sanding, which is why it’s called an orbital sander.
Unlike most sanders designed for specific applications, an orbital sander is an all-around, versatile tool that can produce quality finishes on most kinds of materials and surfaces.
They are perfect for most home repair and improvement projects but don’t expect them to perform well in large-scale projects.
Orbital sanders are easy to use because it’s lightweight and can be used with one hand.
It’s also easy to change the sandpaper on orbital sanders, as it’s just as easy as hooking up the sandpaper to the rectangular pads.
12. Random Orbital Sander
Random orbital sanders (ROS) are very similar to orbital sanders, with the main difference being the finish quality. They are also known as dual-action sanders.
Unlike orbital sanders, random orbital sanders use round pads fitted with sandpaper. This round pad works by moving and spinning tiny circular orbits at random.
Due to this random pattern, random orbital sanders create a good, smooth, and clean finish without any swirl marks produced by the orbital sander.
Moreover, this type of sander can prevent damages when you go against the grain, such as surface scars.
A random orbital sander also only produces light vibrations while running, making it easier to handle with precision.
Furthermore, ROS is slightly better in heavy stock removal compared to an orbital sander.
Both the orbital sander and random orbital sander are lightweight and easy to use. If you are not an experienced sander, you can try these sander types for most home projects.
13. Disc Sander
Unlike most items on this list, a disc sander is a tabletop sanding tool with a big disk mounted on the table.
You can use it with most sandpaper types on the side of the disc. It’s simple to use as you only have to stick your item’s surface to the fast-revolving disc to start sanding.
Because you sanders hold the item yourself, disc sanders hold well in making quality, detailed finishes, especially on smaller items.
However, you must have deft and careful hands to produce this quality work.
Also, make sure to put proper distance between yourself and the disc sander, as the disc moves fast and it’s easy to make mistakes.
Also, disc sanders are also height-adjustable, making it easier for you to work at whatever height and angle you want.
While most disc sanders are tabletop, there’s also a handheld variety, the portable disc sander. It’s much more difficult to find than the tabletop variation because it’s harder to use.
To work with a portable disc scanner, you need to make sure that the surface you’re working on is stable and tightly secured because the force of the revolving disk can damage your item when it’s moving around as you work.
If you’re looking for a comparison for the portable disc sander, it works like a belt sander that can cover more space.
14. Edging Sander
Edging sanders are heavy hand held sanding tools designed for preparing floors for projects. With other sanders, it takes a long time to work on the floor, and the quality of work isn’t that good either.
With edging sanders, you can get the work done quicker and with better accuracy and effectiveness, too.
An edging sander is a handheld tool; however, you need to take care when using it as it’s also heavy, and it packs a lot of power, which can make it tough to handle with precision, especially for long periods.
Also, since they are powerful, you need to take care of the floor because edging sanders can cause significant damage to the floor if you use them the wrong way.
15. Drum Sander
Drum sanders are heavy-duty sanding tools mostly available from rental centers. Unattractive for most homeowners because of its high price point, it’s rare for one to see a drum sander inside homes.
With its size and weight, a drum sander needs two people to carry it from place to place. There are two kinds of drum sanders:
- Benchtop Drum Sander
The benchtop drum sander works by having a large rotating drum with attached sandpaper.
To use it, you have to push the surface between the abrasive drum and conveyor belt to allow the sander to apply a quality finish on the surface.
After the initial sanding and as the wood has become thinner, you can keep on sanding it to get a better finish.
While they are very good at finishing tough sanding jobs at a high rate and with good finish quality, remember that it’s not an electric planer.
Also, it’s not as good as an electric planer in terms of removing materials from surfaces.
- Flooring Drum Sander
With a fast rotating drum with sandpaper, a flooring drum sander will help you a lot when sanding a floor. Because of its power, you can use it to produce a quality finish on most wooden surfaces.
If you’re looking to repair your floor and install a new one, the flooring drum sander can help you sand your floor and reveal a new quality finish from the wood surface. It can also remove adhesives, stains, and debris.
However, while it’s good with most surfaces, a flooring drum sander isn’t easy to use.
In fact, with its intense sanding power, you need to take care of using it as you can destroy your floor with it if you’re not careful not to make mistakes that lead to surface scarring and holes.
Furthermore, while it comes with a dust bag to keep all the dirt and debris, you should still vacuum the floor first before sanding to make the job easier for both yourself and the sander.
16. Belt Sander
By rotating a sandpaper-covered sanding belt from which it gets its name, the belt sander is one of the most commonly found sander tools in most hardware stores, homes, and workshops.
Wrapped around two drums, with the rear drum attached to an electric motor that makes it rotate the belt at a fast speed, the belt sander is good at smoothing wood surfaces.
This type of sander will work well with most kinds of wood, as it’s strong enough to handle most tough surfaces.
Also, the belts are changeable. If you need better handling and precision, you can use smaller belts.
But, if your priority is to strip the wood down as much as possible and you don’t mind it getting a little bit unstable, you can use large belts.
However, this power can also be a disadvantage, as too much pressure or working at the wrong angle can push the sander to cause damages to surfaces.
It’s also not the best in terms of the quality of finish because belt sanders are better used early in the project when you need to strip off the surface for further sanding.
Furthermore, you should note that belt sanders come in different sizes and designs that help them become more useful for specific applications.
17. Table Sander
A table sander is fixed onto a table for the user to sand with by pushing the wooden surface to the abrasive disc. Regarding the disc, its size can vary from 4 to 12 inches.
Power is the selling point of the table sander, as it excels in sanding and smoothing surfaces fast. Because of the power, though, the table sander won’t suit you if you prefer precision work.
To use table sanders effectively, you need to install them on a stable and height-adjustable table.
Table sanders are pretty big and quite expensive, so they’re mostly used in industrial applications and by woodworking enthusiasts.
While you can keep one at home, there are many portable and cheaper alternatives.
Orbital vs Palm Sander: Which is Right for You?
When you’re looking for a sander you can use for your next home project, it’s easy to get confused about the different types of sanders.
In this comparison, we’ll be dealing with the orbital and palm sander.
They are both useful sanding tools, and they have many similarities. But, they also have many differences that can make or break your purchase decision.
Both the orbital and palm sander are equipped with square pads with sandpaper while the ROS uses round pads, but they differ in application.
For the palm sander, it moves the pads back and forth for it to grind against the wooden surface.
For the orbital sander, it uses a patterned circular motion to create a smooth finish. However, the orbital sander leaves a pattern on the surface after sanding.
For the ROS, it rotates the circles on the pads on a random pattern for a smooth finish without swirl patterns.
In terms of power, the orbital sander and ROS have a big advantage. While the palm sander is good for home projects and repairs, it will not cut it if you’re planning to use it for large projects.
Because of its power advantage, the orbital sander and ROS can finish jobs quicker and with good finish quality, too.
The palm sander is powerful for most basic applications, but you can’t expect it to work well on harder surfaces.
While it’s weaker, the palm sander can produce a good finish, but that doesn’t mean that orbital sanders can’t. The orbital sander has both power and good finish quality.
However, because it’s high-powered, the orbital sander and ROS are tougher to handle, and you can destroy the wood if you use them the wrong way and without care.
If you want to avoid this, there are orbital sanders with speed control, so you can adjust the speed according to the power you need for sanding.
Orbital sanders, ROS, and palm sanders are handheld devices that can help you do most sanding jobs on most wood types.
They are both lightweight, and with the right grip, you can use them both effectively.
With most premium orbital and palm sanders, you will find that they have improved grip and different grip options compared to most entry-level sanders.
These grips will offer you better use and handling when working with different angles and surface types. You can also find some orbital sanders with palm-type grips.
However, while palm sanders may not be as powerful and not as heavy-duty as orbital sanders, they offer better control and stability because of their reduced power.
Due to this, you will have an easier time sanding surfaces because the vibration and feedback caused by the sanding won’t be too much for your hands to handle.
Also, orbital sanders are powerful enough to damage your project if you make a mistake, which is highly likely because of the strong vibrations and if you’re not used to woodworking.
With the ROS, orbital sander, and palm sander, the sandpaper is easily replaceable with most sandpaper types and grit sizes.
If you’re sanding, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of dust and leftover wood that can jam into the sander and cause a mess around your working area.
It’s why you need to look for a decent dust collection system when looking for palm and orbital sanders, and any other type of sander for that matter.
When buying palm sanders, you should know that their dust collection systems aren’t that robust compared to orbital sanders. It’s because they are designed for basic applications.
For orbital sanders, make sure that the dust collection system works well because this type of sander is powerful.
Between orbital, ROS, and palm sanders, there is no clear winner. It’s because your decision depends on why you need a sander.
If you’re going to do light sanding, then a palm sander is a good, effective, and affordable option.
However, if you want a sander with more power, then the orbital sander is a good and affordable tool.
Whichever you choose, make sure that you’re getting the best sander for the sanding job you’re going to do.
Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander Comparison
If you’re torn between a belt sander and an orbital sander, we’ll help you make your decision by explaining the similarities and differences between the two.
Belt sanders and orbital sanders are both powerful sanders that can deal with most wood surfaces. B
ut, the difference comes with their design, as the belt sander and orbital sanders are created for different purposes and applications.
Belt sanders, ROS, and orbital sanders highly differ in terms of how they operate and apply sanding on surfaces.
Orbital sanders are equipped with square pads with sandpaper that rotate in a continuous fast pattern to sand surfaces while the ROS uses round pads that rotate randomly.
On the other hand, belt sanders work with a rotating belt worn around two drums that make it move.
Belt sander for wider reach – Belt sanders are better when you need to sand wide, flat surfaces because they excel at stripping material off wood at a fast rate.
Orbital sander for better finish quality – Orbital sanders and ROS may be slower and weaker in stripping wood, but they often give smooth and clean results after sanding.
With orbital sanders, you can get a smoother and refined finish. However, the surface can get a swirl because of the square pads’ orbital movement pattern.
Even with that, though, the orbital sander’s finish is better than the more ‘rugged’ finish that the belt sander produces.
If you don’t like the swirls from orbital sanders, random orbital sanders can execute the same quality finish without leaving swirl marks.
Furthermore, orbital sanders are better for working with corners and edges, which the belt sander can’t do decently.
When it comes to sandpaper, the belt sander needs a special belt with sandpaper to work. These belts can be quite expensive, depending on the size.
If you want smoother work but with less power, smaller belts will do well. But, if you’re in the initial sanding stages, you’re better off with big belts that can strip off material fast.
On the other hand, orbital sanders can be equipped with different sandpapers from regular sheets, making them more versatile. Furthermore, sandpaper sheets tend to cost less compared to sanding belts.
This is where it all comes down to, as belt sanders and orbital sanders work well in different applications.
Belt sanders suit the early stages of a project when you need to strip off material from surfaces fast. They work well in removing paint and uneven parts on the surface.
A belt sander may not offer the best finish, but they are better for preparing wood for fine sanding.
Orbital sanders and ROS, unlike belt sanders, won’t work well in the early stages. They can’t perform that well in removing material off surfaces.
Mostly, they excel in the final parts of the project when it comes to fine sanding and making sure that the surface will be beautiful and clean.
However, orbital sanders can leave swirl marks. If these marks bother you, random orbital sanders can do the job just as well as orbital sanders, but without the swirls.
When choosing between a belt sander and orbital sanders, you need to remember their differences. Palm sanders are better for removing material fast, while orbital sanders provide a quality finish.
Rather than choosing between the two, you can get both, as they can benefit one another. With a belt sander, you can prepare the wood for fine sanding with an orbital sander.
What’s the Difference: Orbital vs. Random Orbit
Orbital sanders and random orbital sanders are very similar devices, with the only differences being how they operate and the result they produce. However, with their similarities, it’s easy to think that they’re the same.
Here’s how you can differentiate an orbital sander and a random orbital sander:
Orbital sanders use square pads in a circular motion, while ROS have multiple circular pads in different sizes.
Other than the pad shape, the movement and application is where the main difference between orbital sanders and ROS comes from.
Orbital sanders move their rectangular pads in a patterned and consistent circular motion. On the other hand, ROS revolves its circle pads at different speeds and patterns.
Due to this difference in sanding application, orbital sanders and ROS produce different results.
Because they differ in the way they sand surfaces, they produce different results. With orbital sanders that move their pads with a consistent pattern, they can produce smooth, clean, and beautiful results.
However, because of the pattern, they can also leave swirl marks on the surface. While swirl marks are not a deal-breaker, some people can get bothered by them.
On the other hand, ROS moves its circular pads at random. This random movement allows the ROS to produce clean and smooth finish quality.
Furthermore, because the pads have no movement pattern, this means they don’t leave swirl marks.
There isn’t much of a difference between the two other than that they have different ways of sanding.
Orbital sanders are great at sanding surfaces clean and smooth. However, random orbital sanders do it even better because of the absence of swirl marks.
Overall, they are both good sanders. If you don’t mind the swirls, either one will work well for your project.
How to Choose the Right Sander for Your Project (Buying Guide)
As you saw from our list, there are many types of sanders for different sanding applications.
When you’re looking to buy one, especially if you don’t have prior experience using a sander, knowing the difference between them and making the right purchase can be tricky.
To help you with your decision, we have prepared a list of the things you need to look at when checking out sanders.
When it comes to buying sanders, the important thing is knowing and understanding the job you need to do with your sander.
There are various sanding applications, and there are a lot of sander types specifically designed for them.
For example, you can’t expect to have it easy to sand the floor when you’re using a palm sander. You will need a flooring drum sander or an edging sander for that.
Next time you’re looking for a sander, make sure to know what you need so you can also get the right sander that you need.
Tabletop or handheld? – While most sander types are handheld, some are heavy-duty and used as a tabletop sanding tool.
For most simple sanding applications, a tabletop sander isn’t necessary, as it can be too powerful for the job and too complicated for regular users just looking to do the occasional home repair and improvement project.
However, if you’re working on a large project, you’ll have an easier time with a tabletop sander at the beginning of the project.
Then, you can switch to handheld ones at the end to get a better finish.
But, if you think you need a tabletop device for your current project, you don’t necessarily have to buy one since you can also access one through rental centers.
Power, application, and finish
Different sander types come with different power levels and applications. For example, hand sanders may be easy to control and produce a good finish, but they are no good against drywall because they are too weak.
For sanding drywall, you’re going to need drywall sanders, which may not produce a good finish but is good at stripping material wood off fast.
When it comes to application, the same power applied differently can produce different results.
Case in point, the orbital sander versus the random orbital sander. Both produce roughly the same stripping power, but orbital sanders use a rectangular pad that rotates in a pattern, while the ROS uses a circle pad with multiple circles that rotate randomly.
Their power, which is the same, but applied differently, produces a varying finish quality. The orbital sander, because of the pattern in its application, can leave swirl marks on surfaces.
On the other hand, the ROS doesn’t produce swirls because it doesn’t move to a certain pattern.
Buy… or rent?
If you need a sander for your current project but don’t see any reason to need it in the immediate future, you should consider if you need to buy one because there are rental centers that will allow you to rent sanders.
Granted, you’d be lucky to find any handheld sanders like palm sanders and belt sanders available for rent.
It’s because they are very affordable, and having one means you have a tool for the next time you need to install a new cupboard or strip some wood.
But, if your project needs the use of heavy-duty sanders like drum sanders and other tabletop and floor sanders, it’s not wise to spend that much money on these expensive tools for a one-time project.
If you need heavy-duty and expensive sanders for a single project only, maybe you should consider that it’s wiser to rent than to buy one and let it get stuck in your garage for decades.
There are various kinds of sanders and many possible sanding applications. Due to this, choosing the right sander for your project is difficult without any prior knowledge or references regarding sanders.
Now, you can have an easier time making your decision by taking note of the things we touched on in this article.