This is 7 Helpful Wood Sanding Machines and How to Choose the Right One. In this guide I’ll show you all of the different sanding machines that you can buy for woodworking, so you know which one you need. Enjoy.
Two Main Types of Wood Sanding Machines
There are two main categories of wood sanding machines, those are handheld machines, and freestanding machines. In each category, there are a number of different versions that can be used for many different types of woodworking projects.
I’m going to show you the most common types that are available to woodworkers, as well as what each one of them can do for you in your shop. Once you know this information, you’ll be able to go and buy the exact sander that fits your needs.
Like anything else, woodworking has a little bit of marketing and sales associated with it. If you’ll buy one type of sanding machine, you’ll probably buy another. At least that’s the logic behind having so many different types.
Once you’re done with this post, you be able to cut right through the noise and go exactly to the sander that you’ll need for your particular project. Over time you may end up buying more, but at least you’ll know where to start.
See Also: 12 Awesome Uses for 80 Grit Sandpaper
The Palm Sander
Starting with sanding machines that can be operated by hand, or held in both hands, the palm sander is the bread-and-butter of the majority of woodworking shops. If you make a lot of projects that need to be sanded, this is where you should probably start.
Palm Sanders also come in a number of different varieties. However, the basis of the design is that you can hold it in your hand, and glide the unit around the surface of your project. As you do, the sandpaper smooths out the wood.
Some of these work by oscillation, and others work by spinning. You can have units that are powered by air, and powered by electric. Inside of those options, there are also several different shapes and sizes and brands to choose from.
I recommend that you buy an electric palm sander that takes common pieces of sandpaper. This gets you out of the cycle of having to buy expensive specialty sandpaper to use your palm sander, which can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to the price of the tool over the years.
Sandpaper is a lot less expensive when you buy sheets and cut them yourself. Pick out a sander like the one I show above and it can be a trusted friend in your woodworking shop for a very long time to come. It will also not cost you a lot of money for sandpaper.
See Also: Are You Paying Too Much For Sandpaper?
The Belt Sander
Next in the hand sanding category is the belt sander. This is a handheld sander that uses a rotating belt to remove material. They are available a number of different brands, and they can take different grits of sandpaper.
The advantage to a belt sander is how well it removes material. Belt sanders in general are more aggressive than palm sanders, and they remove a lot of wood. If that’s your need, then a belt sander is the perfect tool.
One of the biggest reasons to use a belt sander is if you are leveling a very large surface. It can be tedious to do this job with a palm sander, because it just doesn’t remove material as quickly. The belt sander is more of a shaping tool while the palm sander is a finishing tool.
See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Sandpaper Grits
Getting into freestanding machines, most woodworkers end up with a small belt/disc sander as their first freestanding unit. These are typically bench top models that sit on a table top, and plug into the wall.
Most of these have a belt that’s about 4 inches wide, and a disc of around 5 or 6 inches in diameter. This allows you to get the benefits of the moving belt and also a disc. You can find these for around $100, and they are little workhorses.
The advantage to a sander like this is it removes material very quickly, and you can bring your project to the sander and hold it with both hands. This frees up your hands to manipulate the piece, and allow you to do more shaping.
For your first freestanding machine in your new woodworking shop, I definitely recommend a belt/disc sander. This is an extremely useful tool, and you will find a lot of reasons to use it once you have it in the shop.
See Also: Making Rings With a Belt Sander
Knife Belt Sander
The variation on the belt sander is called a knife belt or narrow belt sander. This is essentially the same tool, except the sanding belt is typically about an inch wide. There are a number of good reasons to use this small of a belt, and your project will tell you right away if you need it.
The benefit of a narrow belt is that you can rotate a piece around it a little bit more easily. This allows the belts to get into tight corners that a traditional belt sander cannot. If you’re making a lot of projects with tight areas that need sanding, this tool may be for you.
These come in a number of different sizes, and you can buy one to suit your needs. If you are on the fence, start with a smaller, less expensive version from Amazon and see if it’s something that you really need. Down the line if you enjoy it, you can buy a bigger one if you need to.
English Wheel or Sanding Disc
The disc sander comes in a number of different forms. There are large units that have one giant disc, units that you can attach to a buffing motor, and even units that replace your table saw blade.
In the end though, these simply a flat disc that has a piece of sandpaper stuck to it. The rigidity of the disc allows you to press your material against it, and the sandpaper removes wood. They are great for shaping, and some models are inexpensive.
Since you may already have a belt/disc sander, take a look at some of the add-ons that you can get before buying a freestanding unit. For example, you might be able to buy a disc for your table saw for a lot less money.
This is just a flat metal plate with a hole in the center that you attach to your table saw just like you would attach any other blade. The difference is there is sandpaper on one side, and you use it to sand your projects.
See Also: Heirloom Sanding Block Tutorial
Oscillating Spindle Sander
Another fun sanding machine is the oscillating spindle sander. This is a flat table with a vertical sanding drum that sticks up from the middle. It turns really fast and bobs up-and-down while you stand your pieces.
The point of this kind of sanding machine is to allow you to stand curved pieces of wood by using spindles a different diameters. The center spindle can be changed out for a number of different sizes, ranging from as little as half an inch all the way up to a few inches.
Depending on the type of curved piece that you’re sanding, select a spindle diameter that allows you to touch all of the areas that need to be sanded. Then, all you have to do is work your piece against the bobbing spindle and you’ll easily be able to sand it.
See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Sanding Wood
The Drum Sander
If you are doing a lot of work or you have to level bigger surfaces, this can be a tedious task by hand. Also the results can be inconsistent. Even the best of us have a hard time creating a level surface without some sort of machine.
This is where a drum sander is a huge win for your woodworking shop. It is not an inexpensive tool by any means, but the time it saves you is massive. It will also create a surface that is much more consistent than you could ever make by hand.
These are great if you’re making things like cutting boards. After you glue up a bunch of pieces of wood, you then have to sand them flat for your cutting board to look nice. Instead of doing all of that by hand, just send it through the drum sander a few times.
See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Sanding Sticks
How to Choose the Right Sanding Machine
Now that you’ve seen a bunch of different sanding machines, it’s time to think about how to choose the right one. After all, none of these machines are free, so you have to make a decision that will use your resources in the best way.
The first thing to do is look at the type of woodworking you plan on doing. Yes, over time this can change. However, the only thing you can really do at this point is serve the projects that you are currently interested in making.
Next, once you have an idea of the projects, watch a couple YouTube videos to see how they are made. Pay particular attention to the sander that the person is using, or if they are using multiple sanders.
Use this information to confirm your decision about buying a sander for your shop. If the professionals that make the same project use a particular unit, then odds are it’s also good enough for you as a hobby maker.
See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker
Your Homework Assignment
Now that you know how to effectively pick out the right sanding machine for your particular woodworking, it’s time to head out into the shop and take action. Don’t read all about sanders and not buy anything.
So many people get hung up on the research and of buying a new tool that they either take too long or they actually end up never buying it at all. Not buying anything for fear of buying the wrong thing as a poor decision.
When in doubt, start with a palm sander and abelt/disc sander. These are both bread-and-butter pieces for any woodworking shop, and they will serve you well for a long time. Buy a brand that you trust, and you will be happy in the end.
If you have any questions on these sanding machines, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.
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