Wood Sanding Tools to Get Started in Woodworking

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When you’re a beginner woodworker, getting new tools and building up your tool collection is exciting. Wood sanding tools might not be as sexy as a new router, but, they are used in pretty much every project that involves working with wood.

We know when you’re a newbie, tool shopping can be complicated and overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start in the tool arena and if you’re on a budget you’ll want to stick to the basics at the beginning of your quest.

So, we’ve decided to break it down for you and make your life easier. Today, we’re going to focus on the ins and outs of sanding tools, such as the drum sander, the random orbit sander, and other sanding machines, as well as what they’ll do for you and your woodworking projects.

Why Is Sanding So Important?

You’re probably wondering why we’re focusing on sanding tools today. Believe it or not, sanding is one of the most important processes when you’re working with wood. Gain more knowledge about best sanders, read more here.

Sanding is what perfects your wood for a beautiful, smooth look. It removes all unwanted blemishes from your lumber. Machines can leave awful mill marks, not to mention, you’ll come across dents and other wood blemishes that’ll drive you crazy and leave your project looking less than perfect.

Sanding isn’t the most fun part of woodworking. In fact, it’s most woodworkers least favorite task. But it’s necessary for a quality finished project.  Even if you don't look forward to it, with the right tools you might find it both meditative and satisfying. Do you want to know about orbital sanders? read here. We can also sand hardwood floors, wondering how? Check out how to sand hardwood floors article.

The Grade of Sandpaper

When dealing with sandpaper, including those for a sheet sander or sanding disks, and sanding tools you need to understand the grade of the sandpaper. The grade determines the number of abrasive particles (grain) on a piece of sandpaper per square inch.

The higher the number the grade on the sheet, the finer the sandpaper will be. Any sandpaper over 120 means it’s a super fine grade. Superfine sandpaper is perfect for preparing wood furniture or similar for staining. Sandpaper can be graded up to 600.

Anything under 80 is considered very coarse. A coarse sheet of sandpaper is great for stripping away any unwanted paint or varnish. The lowest sandpaper grade runs in at 60.

Anything between 80 and 120 is considered medium-grade sandpaper. Medium grade sandpaper works best for removing any blemishes and cuts on the wood.

Now we’re going to get into the good stuff so you know what to buy for your workshop!

Wood Sanding Tools to Get You Started Sanding

In order to understand the different types of sanding tools you’re going to need for your wood projects, you need to first understand the major sanding methods there are. Once you know what your specific project needs, you can determine what sanding tool you’re going to need. Do you wish to know about best belt sander? read more here

Manual Sanding/Hand Sanding

Manual sanding is pretty self-explanatory. It’s manual sanding or sanding by hand with a piece of sandpaper. Using sandpaper by hand is tedious and uses every bit of your arm muscles. You’ll be tired and sore at first.

However, you have more control when using sandpaper instead of a sanding tool to prevent damage or over sanding.

To make sanding easier, there are awesome contour sanding grips you can purchase for manual sanding.  These are inexpensive and easy to use - just wrap the sandpaper around and rub away.  

Peachtree 110 Flexible Contour Sanding Grips with 3 Flexible Foam Pads and 5 Profile Grips

​Block Sanding

Block sanding is a basic block of wood (or block of cork) with sandpaper wrapped around the block. You can hold the sandpaper in place with clamps or clips. One side of this block is completely flat and smooth.

Block sanding gives you more stability while sanding, saves a few arm muscles, plus it doesn’t leave any pesky marks that hand sanding can leave behind.

Block sanders are used best for sanding before painting for a perfectly smooth surface to work with. They’re also used for body work on vehicles and on drywall.

You can either make your own block, which is super easy, just take a small piece of 2x4 and wrap your sandpaper around it.  Even if you have block tools, you might end up using a scrap piece of wood for a sanding block because it's convenient and closer than your workshop.  You can buy fancier block sanders such as this durablock set shown below or others that have features like clips to hold the paper and ergonomic handles.  I've got a few of these handled block sanders that I use for drywall.  You can also get super fancy block sanders that self adjust to curves and have comfort features if you are going to be doing a sanding, especially on curved surfaces.


Dura-Block AF44A 6 Piece Sanding Block Set

​Power Sanding

Power sanding is using power sanders to get the work done instead of relying on your own force. These babies are for the big sanding jobs and it’s always helpful to have one around when you need it.

There are so many types of power sanders it can get confusing. For now, we’re going to cover the three best power sanders that you need to know all about.

Belt Sanders: Belt sanders are remarkable machines and the most powerful of all power sanders. These sanders have a loop of abrasive material that stretches over two cylindrical drums. When the belt sander is powered on, the front drum spins while the drum in back spins from the motor. They remove paint and varnish plus they’re big enough to sand large lumber and at a faster pace.

Orbital Sanders: Orbital sanders are perfect for more lightweight sanding projects. They work by having the sandpaper up against a pad. The sandpaper is held down by two spring-loaded clamps. The square pads rotate to sand the wood. These sanders work best for sharp ends and removing paint or varnish.

Random Orbit Sanders: Random orbital sanders are unique and fun to use. Unlike an orbital sander, these sanders use circle shaped pads instead of square pads. When the motor is running, it vibrates the pads which move in an orbit shape, like a circular rotation. This movement makes it work double time just at a slower pace. These sanders work great for most any sanding and also help avoid creating a visible pattern with your sanding.  Probably unsurprising, my favorite is the Bosch sander below.

Bosch Random Orbit 5 Inch Sander/Polisher

​Conclusion

Sanding is such an important aspect for woodworking. It’s important for a finished look or even removing old paint and varnish. Getting the right sanders for your workshop should be one of your first priorities.  Oh, and don't forget the sandpaper!  Every good shop should always have a variety pack of sandpaper available when the need for sanding arises. 

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