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4 Types of Random-Orbit Sanders


In this design, the motor transmits power to the sanding pad via bevel gears.These powerful sanders are well suited for aggressive stock removal. Right-angle sanders are harder to control than in-line models, so two-hand operation is a must.


With the motor above the sanding pad, these sanders have better balance and operate more gently and with less noise. Most in-line models can be used with either one or two hands.

his sander creates a silky-smooth surface ready for finish, and can also, with coarse sandpaper, aggressively remove wood like a belt sander. It's unbeatable for flush sanding face frames or anywhere grain direction changes. Random-orbit sanders are sized by disc diameter—5 and 6-in. models are the most common.


This smaller in-line sander is ideal for easily finish sanding vertical surfaces where weight is an issue. They're also handy and inexpensive.


Air-powered sanders are typically



If you plan to do a lot of sanding on large, flat surfaces, look for one that takes 6-in.-dia. discs. For general-purpose sanding, 5-in. discs are the most convenient to use.


How random-orbit sanders actually work is complicated. Suffice it to say that the larger the sander's offset (orbit) the more aggressively the sander will remove wood. Aggressive sanders are fast, but they produce rougher surfaces than models with smaller offsets.

Variable-Speed Control

For delicate work you may want to slow the sander down. Some of the new random-orbit sanders have variable speed.Typically, the speed control dial is separate from the trigger switch, so you can change speeds while you're sanding.

Dust Collection

Most random-orbit sanders have holes in the pad that line up with holes in the discs through which dust is pulled as you sand. Buy a sander you can hook up to a shop vacuum or dust collector.

Pads, discs and dust extraction. Accessory pads (bottom right) let you use your sander for buffing and polishing. On some sanders dust is extracted via holes in the abrasive disc (bottom left). For optimum dust control, connect your sander to a shop vacuum with a flexible hose (top).

CONTOUR SANOING PADS. A softer pad is available for most sanders for contour sanding rounded edges and scooped-out chair seats.

ABRASIVE AND POLISHING PADS For sanding between coats of finish, use woven abrasive pads. For polishing, use sponge pads.

more aggressive than electric models, and they tend to run more smoothly. They're smaller and lighter than the electrics, so they're easier to control and less tiring to use. Plus they're more durable than electric sanders.

You will need a 5-hp or larger, two-stage air compressor to power a pneumatic sander. It should produce 12 to 16 cfm at 90 psi.

Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) vs. Hook-and-Loop Discs

Random-orbit sanders use either pressure-sensitive-adhesive backed (PSA-type) discs, or hook-and-loop discs.

PSA discs generally cost less. But the adhesive can lose its stickiness, and once you pull it off the disc it's hard to stick it back on. Hook-and-loop discs, on the other hand, can be removed and reused, making it easy to switch grits.

SUCTION HOOD AND VACUUM HOSE. Adding a suction hood increases your sander's dust-collection efficiency. Use a vacuum hose to connect your sander to a shop vacuum.

All accessories above are available from individual manufacturers.

American Woodworker 20c0 buyer's guide

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