Last updated: August 12, 2021

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We are going to talk about the best options for sander and how to choose the most suitable model for you. They make life easier for professionals in many different work areas.

There are several types of sander on the market and we will explain the differences and usage indications of the most common types.

In addition, we will also look at the differences between sanders, grinders and polishing machines. Although they are similar tools, the application of each one is a little different, as we will explain below. Stay with us to find out about prices, advantages and essential criteria for choice.




Summary

  • Sanders are electric tools for sanding wood and other materials such as plastics, acrylics, etc.
  • The main types of sanders are: orbital, roto-orbital and belt sanders. We will explain the features and differences of each of them.
  • The cheapest sanders are around £100, but you can choose from a wide range of brands and types for less than £500.

The Best Sander: Our Picks

Buying guide

Sanders can be used to sand various materials such as wood, plywood and metal. That is why it is a versatile tool, used in many different areas.

But it is not that simple to buy a sander. For that, we need to clarify some points. Come with us!

Homem usando lixadeira para lixar metal, produto está soltando faíscas.

There are several types of sander, and you need to be aware to buy the right product. (Source: 12019 / Pixabay)

What is a sander and what are the different types?

As the name suggests, a sander is a piece of equipment that allows you to sand certain raw materials with more ease and speed. A job that was once done by hand, today relies on these tools to assist in the process.

We have seen above that there are many sanders available on the market and they can be classified in several types. Here, in this guide, we will highlight the three most common types: orbital, roto-orbital and belt.

And so that you understand the characteristics of each one in detail, we will describe them below.

Orbital sander

This type of sander is known as a treble sander because of its fast back and forth motion. This movement is called an orbit, which explains the name of this type of sander.

Sanders of this type have the vibrations perpendicular to the base where you do the sanding. For example, if you have something to sand placed horizontally on a bench, the orbit motion of the sander will be up and down.

This type of sander usually has a rectangular (or square) base and there is no disc. The shape of the base is probably the easiest way to distinguish it from the roto-orbital sanders explained below.

They are usually portable, small in size and weight. They are more delicate tools, for light and soft sanding jobs. They are generally used on MDF and plywood.

Belt sander

Is a sander where the disc not only makes the orbital movement, but also rotates. Unlike the orbital sander, the rotating orbital sander has a circular disc base.

These sanders are more efficient and can be considered more aggressive than orbital sanders. With them you can produce more in less time. The disadvantage is that the price is higher and it can be difficult to find sanding options on the market.

Belt sander

Belt sanders have an electric motor that drives two drums on which a continuous sanding loop is placed. As the sander is used the drums rotate and the sandpaper moves, much like on a belt.

Belt sanders come in two variants: portable and benchtop. In the first case you hold the machine by the hand and move it to do the sanding.

The bench belt sander is built to stand in a certain place and you bring the object to be sanded to it. It is available in a range of sizes from a few inches to over a metre. They are generally used in industrial environments.

The belt sander is considered to be a more aggressive tool and is usually used in the early stages of sanding or to easily remove part of the material. A second use of the belt sander is to remove paint and finish from woodwork.

What is the difference between a polisher, sander and grinder?

Now we will explain the differences between sanders and two other very similar power tools: grinders and polishing machines.

Grinders are used for sanding, be it stones, wood or metals. They have low rotational speeds of around 5,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). These tools have an intermediate torque, neither too strong nor too weak.

Grinders are used for grinding and deburring. Their rpm is high (generally between 8,500 and 11,000 revolutions per minute). When forced, they do not usually slow down. They can be used on large metal structures. For example, for the deburring of weld seams.

Uma esmerilhadeira em operação em uma peça metálica.

Example of the use of a grinder for deburring a metal. (Source: Powertools / Pixabay)

Polishing machines, on the other hand, are used for polishing. When compared to the other machines we explain here, they usually have the lowest rotation speed.

The reason for this is to prevent the surface from being burnt by overheating during its application. If the rotation speed is too high, the object can be damaged. They are used, for example, to polish stainless steel parts and car bodywork.

Each of the 3 tools we explain here has its own use for a specific purpose and there are big differences in the construction of the machines.

The ideal is to use different tools for polishing, sanding and grinding. Trying to use a single tool for all purposes can make the job more difficult, result in a poor finish and compromise the tool's durability.

Sander Grinder Polisher
Recommended for Grinding stones, wood or metals Grinding or buffing Polishing
Speed Medium (5,000 rpm) High (8,500 and 11,000 rpm) Low speed

Is a battery sander worth it?

A very small number of sanders are battery-powered, unlike other electric tools such as drills, screwdrivers, saws etc.

The advantage of using batteries is convenience and ease of working. There is no need to be careful with the power cable or to use extension cords to the nearest socket.

The batteries used are usually lithium-ion, which is a very convenient type. They have no memory effect, have a good amount of charge, are small and light. These are certainly attractive features for use in sanders.

The disadvantage of using battery-powered sanders is the initial investment. These products are more expensive than similar models that are plugged in. This characteristic is common to practically all electric tools.

A second disadvantage of the battery sander is the possibility that the battery will completely discharge before you finish your work. Because of this, it is recommended to have a spare battery that can be used while the other one recharges.

Advantages
  • Convenience and mobility
  • Light and small
Disadvantages
  • High price
  • Battery can run out and you are left in the lurch

How much does it cost?

The cheapest sanders are orbital sanders and the most expensive are belt sanders. Orbital sanders are priced between £100 and £300. The sanding area of all models is usually similar, there are changes in the power of the sander and in features such as counterweight, which make it more pleasant to use.

The roto-orbital sanders with smaller diameter discs have prices starting at £300. The industrial quality roto-orbital sanders, which usually have larger disc sizes and can be used in more intense work regimes, have prices starting at £800.

Portable belt sanders, which usually have belts close to 10 cm in width, are priced from £300 to £700. There are several options of larger sizes in the bench models, which generally have higher prices.

Orbital sander Belt sander portable belt sander
Prices between £100 and £300 From £300 Between £300 and £700

Buying criteria: Factors to compare sander models

Now we will explain in more detail the main points to observe when choosing your sander:

  • Power
  • Number of oscillations
  • Rotation speed
  • Dust aspiration
  • Inputs for use
  • Voltage
  • Noise level

Below, we will understand the importance of each of these points.

Power

The higher the power, the fewer times you will need to run the sander over the same surface. There is also less chance of the sander losing speed when pressed too hard against an object to be sanded.

For orbital and roto-orbital sanders most models on the market have a power of just over 200 Watts. The most powerful models are up to 300 Watts.

Belt sanders, on the other hand, tend to have higher power ratings. Most of the models on the market have between 700 and 1.000 Watts. To make it easier, below is a summary of the power of each type of sander:

Orbital sanders Roto-orbital sanders Belt sanders
Between 200 and 300 Watts Between 200 and 300 Watts Between 700 and 1000 Watts

Comparing power is a good criterion for deciding between sanders of the same type. However, there is no point in comparing power outputs of sanders of different types to decide which model will do the job more easily.

Before looking at the power, you need to choose the type of sander that is right for you.

Number of oscillations

Every sander has a certain number of oscillations per minute, sometimes abbreviated as "opm".

The number of strokes per minute is usually 14000 or 12000 for orbital sanders. For roto-orbital sanders, values in the range of 24000 opm can be found.

Rotation speed

It is important not to confuse the rotational speed with the number of oscillations. Rotation applies only to roto-orbital sanders, which are those that have a rotating circular disc.

For orbital sanders - those with a square or rectangular base - there is no rotation speed, only oscillation.

Rotational speed is usually given in revolutions per minute, often abbreviated to (RPM). Generally speaking, the higher the rotational speed, the better the grinding result tends to be.

Typical values for rotation speed are 12,000 RPM, which corresponds to 200 complete disc rotations per second.

Dust extraction

Most of the sanders on the market have some kind of dust extraction system.

Besides avoiding dirt and hindering visibility in closed environments, the sander without dust collector will bring an additional work for you, which is to clean the environment where the sanding was done. Just make sure that the product also has this function.

Inputs for use

Before buying a sander, it is worth checking if the brand you choose has the materials you need (for example sandpaper) available on the market in your region.

A second point to take into account is the price of the materials. Depending on the model and the manufacturer, the price for the use will increase. Because of this, working with a sander with a lower starting price may not always be the cheapest option.

Generally speaking, it is usually a bit more complicated to find sanding sheets for an orbital sander than for an orbital sander.

Imagem de lixadeira sobre superfície de madeira.

Before buying, check if the sander comes with sandpaper or if it is easy to find where you live. (Source: Yauheni Herasimovich / 123RF)

Voltage

Almost all sanders available on the market can be used on 110 Volts only or 220 Volts only. It is not possible to find models that have a voltage selector switch or that can work with both.

So, before finalizing your purchase, make sure you check if the voltage of the product you have chosen is the correct one for your region. Otherwise, you may end up burning the product the first time you use it.

Noise level

A noisier sander can make the work more uncomfortable and tiring, so it is always interesting to evaluate how much noise a sander makes before buying.

To choose the right one, you should look at the number of decibels (abbreviated to "dB") in the sander specifications. The higher this number, the more noise is produced during use.

Although this is an important factor for the comfort of your work, there are shops that do not specify the number of decibels in the description of many products. In any case, you can check it in the instruction manual, which is often available on the manufacturers' website.

(Source of the highlighted image: 1861 / Pixabay)

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