Sanders buying guide
Types of sander
Want to remove a lot of material from a large area sharpish? This electric sander is probably the best tool for the job. Tabletops, doors and edge sections of timber flooring. None of them are a problem for the belt sander. And you'll be impressed when using it for squaring or shaping wood (sanding doors to fit, for example). The belt sander works with a belt of abrasive paper stretched over rollers. You can secure some models to a workbench for stationary use. And look out for a sanding frame - this is a useful feature that limits the depth of sanding.
An orbital sander (also called a finishing sander) is your best bet for getting a smooth finish on large flat areas. Use it for smoothing plaster, paint or varnish between coats too. The base plate, available in different sizes, moves with a tight, rapid orbital action that minimises scratching.
Random orbital sander
This is a handy one. The random orbital sander combines the speed of a belt sander with the smoothness of an orbital sander. It features circular sanding discs that 'orbit' and rotate simultaneously. This leaves the surface virtually scratch-free and spreads wear on the sanding sheets more evenly so they last longer. A flexible backing pad means the sander can cope with gently curved surfaces. This type is also known as an eccentric sander.
Detail or delta sander
Also described as 'eccentric', a random orbital sander can be the most useful first choice, combining the smoothness of an orbital sander with the speed of a belt sander. It uses circular sanding discs that 'orbit' and rotate simultaneously, leaving the surface virtually scratch-free and distributing wear on the sanding sheets more evenly, so they last longer. A flexible backing pad enables the sander to cope with gently curved surfaces.
This sander is pleasingly versatile. Combining features from delta and orbital models, the multi-sander is good for treating both flat and contoured surfaces. You can also use special attachments for working on 'profile' sections such as skirting boards and architraves.
A variable speed function lets you preset maximum speeds for greater control.
Sanding can create a lot of dust so a dustbag or vacuum cleaner attachment is very useful.
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