Random-orbit sanders make good finishes

The raw material for your woodworking projects comes from lumberyards or big box retailers cut to certain standard sizes. You need to cut, shape and finish them to produce smooth surfaces. Various saws, handheld or driven by electric motors, do the cutting for you.

Rasps, files, block planes and sanders take care of the finish. It was hard, tedious work to achieve an even finish with those handheld basic wood working tools.

Not any longer. Random-orbit sanders produce smooth surfaces even in the hands of less skilled woodworkers. They fit in the palm of your hand and are light-weight. Inexpensive sanding disks are for sale everywhere.

What to do when selecting the best random orbit sander:

  • 1.    Do not use a belt sander to make the job

Belt sanders are meant to quickly apply a rough finish to a very uneven, unfinished wooden surface. They are not designed to do fine work, just to remove as much material as possible in a short time.

  • 2.    Match the random-orbit sander to your work.

In the majority of cases, this means to purchase a palm grip sander. They are light and fit comfortably into the palm of your hand. These sanders combine a fast rotating disk with random sideways wiggles. The combination of the two produces a fine, smooth finish without much effort.

Be warned, they also produce huge quantities of fine dust that get into anything.

  • 3.    Big right-angle rotary sander.

It looks a little like an angle grinder and makes just as much noise and dust. It is good to take a lot of material off in a short time but tends to gouge the surface.

  • 4.    Buy a sander with a dust port.

Sanders are by nature dust makers. Modern power sanders have a port to attach a shop vac. What a relief.