Skip to main content

Get to Know Your Sander

Ready to put down the sandpaper sheet and pick up a sander? Power sanders help you achieve smooth, consistent results without fatiguing your arms in a fraction of the time manual sanding uses. There’s a few all purpose sanders out there that are easy to get the hang of and an essential for having in the workshop.

Types of Sanders


Uses a special sandpaper disc rather than a sheet to sand a larger area quickly. Disc sanders achieve a rougher finish than their random orbital counterparts and are best used as an initial pass before refining with a finishing sander. Stripped paint or varnish from floors and furniture are good uses of a classic disc sander.

Finishing Orbital

Does just what the name implies–finishing sanders are for more delicate projects, like polishing and shaping wood. Finishing orbital sanders sand in a rotating pattern, rather than in a straight line.

Random Orbital

Rather than oscillate in a fixed pattern, the random orbital moves in a non-predictable motion, which all but eliminates any scratch marks that are often left behind with regular orbital sanders. It can also often achieve the fine shine that a finishing sander is known for, making it a nice in-between option for a woodshop in need of a single sander.


Like regular disc sanders, belt sanders are most often used as a first step of a sanding project. They work on a continuous loop (rather than with a static sheet) and are efficient tools for removing large swaths of roughness in one go. Woodworkers will use a belt sander first and then go in with an orbital or finisher to fine tune the job.

Tips for Buying

Electric vs Battery: Like many power tools, power sanders are available as both battery and electric versions. Battery powered sanders are better for shorter, on-the-go projects when you’d like ultimate ease of use. Electric sanders won’t run out of power, so are great for longer projects and are, obviously, only preferred when you have easy access to electric outlets! 

Vibration control: Many newer models offer vibration offset technology that helps cut down on hand fatigue and makes the tool easier to control. 

Hand grips: Similar to the vibration control feature, hand grips help cut down on fatigue. They also offer extra safety, making it harder for the tool to slip out of your grip while in use.

Sandpaper 101

Grit: The grit refers to the number of abrasive particles per square inch on a sheet of sandpaper. The lower the grit, the coarser the finish, so would leave a rougher finish. Lower grits (24-150) work best for a first pass at re-finishing hardwood floors, preparing wood for finishing, removing water stains from wood, or even cleaning plaster. Finer grits (240-1000) are best for detailed projects like polishing and finishing. 

Material: Most often, you’ll be reaching for sandpaper made from three different materials: Aluminum oxide, garnet, and silicon carbide. Aluminum oxide is best for general use, while garnet offers the smoothest finish. Silicone carbide is best for non-wood surfaces like plastic and metal.

DIY + Inspiration

Pressure Washers: Types + How to Use
Get to Know Katie Freeman
Top 6 Places to Feature Handmade Tile with Fireclay Tile
Stay Up To Date With Us
Positive vibes. No mansplaining. Ever. Follow along to learn about the newest Pros on the MBuild roster, our favorite DIY + renovation tips, and stories about badass women in the trades. Let’s build the matriarchy one project at a time.