Even if you know how to use a power sander, you may not know these tricks to up your game. These tips can make you more efficient and give you a better result. Don’t take on another sanding job until you’ve read and practiced these novel ways of producing perfect results.
Random orbital sanderscome in two main sizes, and size really does matter. When selecting a random orbital sander for a project, there is a significant difference between a 5-inch and a 6-inch sander. Choose a 5-inch sander if weight is an issue. Though a 6-inch sander is heavier, it has a30 percent larger pad and more powerful motor. You’ll get the job done faster with a 6-inch sander, though it does not sand finer than a 5-inch sander.
Attach your sander to a vacuum hose to pull dust away from the sanding area. This not only protects your lungs from excessive dust, but it also makes sanding more efficient since the sandpaper remains in contact with the wood instead of floating on top of dust. Cleaning your work area will also be easier if you use the vacuum attachment.
If you want to use a random orbital sander with curved pieces, swap out the head. Standard pads don’t fit around curves as well as soft pads do. For detailed, contoured work, have soft sander pads on-hand for your random orbital sander. These are more versatile than the standard, harder pads that typically come with random orbital sanders.
Belt sanders are best for covering the largest areas in the shortest amount of time. Make sure to use the right type of belt sander for the application. Stationary models — occasionally called bench sanders — are better for smaller items you can hold against the sander. Handheld models work best for large parts or floors.
When using handheld belt sanders, keep the sander moving. This prevents overworking an area and creating a dip in the wood. Always sand with the grain, especially when using a belt sander. These models can scratch the wood if you use them against the grain. As you progress to finer grits, save time and money by skipping grits. For instance, even sandpaper manufacturers suggest you can safely move from 100 to 150 to 220.
Belt sanders are powerful sanders, and the speeds can range from 900 to 1600 feet per minute. Faster speeds and larger models are better for heavy-duty sanding, but they can be harder to wield. Choose a balance between power and weight for the best belt sander for your job.
Detail sanders are better for smaller jobs. These sanders have a pointed tip to make it easier to sand corners. Since this is such a specialized piece of equipment, diversify it by choosing a model that features scrapers, extension plates and cutting blades. Additionally, always have a face mask available to wear when using a detail sander. These units are so small they do not have dust collection options.
Drum sanders are large and can be unwieldy. Only use one of these if you have experience, as their power and weight can cause considerable damage in the wrong hands. These sanders often smooth out floors. To make the most of sanding a wood floor, pass the sander twice over the area at a 45-degree angle to the grain. This may feel counterintuitive — especially compared to belt sander use — but it’s the best means of evenly removing bevels on a floor.
Finish sanders are small but only good for giving a final polish to your work. These are not ideal for large areas or to smooth out very rough spots. One mistake people make with palm sanders is trying to hold the wood with one hand while sanding. Though you can use these sanders with one hand, always clamp down your workpiece to keep it from moving during the sanding process.
Though you don’t want the wood to move when using a finishing sander, you do want to keep the sander moving. These sanders are not as powerful as belt sanders or random orbital sanders, but they can still put a dent in a piece of wood — especially if you have a coarse grit sandpaper on the sander. Keep the unit moving during use to prevent this.
Check your work after using a palm sander. You may have to sand out scratches the sander left behind, even if you used fine sandpaper. Scratches frequently occur with palm sanders, which move the sandpaper both with and against the grain.
When you begin to incorporate these tricks into your sanding techniques, you’ll become more skilled and produce better results. For work environments, this is always a boon that could result in higher customer satisfaction. Accolades from supervisors will make you happier, too. Who would think that just upping your sanding game could do all that?
Article by —
Megan Ray Nichols
Freelance Science Writer
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