Types of Sanding Machines


Power sanders come in six basic types, each designed for a specific type of job. Using the appropriate sander saves time and effort and will give a higher-quality result. While the type of sander should be matched with the job, the model, features and specifications should be matched with the craftsman's personal preference (and budget).

Belt Sanders

  • Belt sanders consist of a sandpaper belt that wraps around a rear roller and a front roller. When the drive roller spins, it causes the sanding belt to move forward like the tread of a bulldozer. Belt sanders are aggressive sanders, used to remove a lot of material quickly, and they can gouge the surface if held in one place too long.

Disc Sanders

  • Disc sanders consist of an abrasive wheel, or a grinding disc face, that spins. They can be used for rough or fine sanding, depending upon the grit of the abrasive paper attached to the disc face. Discs are interchangeable and come in a variety of diameters to accommodate both large and small surfaces. Disc sanders can also be purchased as an attachment that fits onto a power drill.

Planetary and Orbital Sanders

  • These sanders are named for the motion they make during the grinding process. They are similar to disc sanders, except that the platen randomly orbits, eliminating the risk of the abrasive pad leaving circular scars on the wood. They are primarily used for heavy sanding and the “roughing” that prepares a surface for fine or finish sanding.

Conveyor and Surface Sanders

  • Conveyor and surface sanders are used to grind flat or square surfaces. They are large, stationary machines, through which large, flat pieces of wood, such as doors and cabinetry panels, are fed by a conveyor system. They are designed to sand surfaces with one pass through the machine.

Oscillatory and Vibratory Sanders

  • These types of sanders work by vibrating the abrasive pad very rapidly while the operator presses the sander against the surface of the wood. They are ideal for light sanding between coats of paint or finish sanding. They come in many models and sizes, from small handheld models to large floor sanders. Floor sanders of this type, however, should only be used for sanding new, unfinished floors, when only light sanding is required. When refinishing old wood floors that have damage, leveling issues or coats of old varnish that must be removed, use a drum sander.

Drum and Sleeve Sanders

  • A drum sander drives an expanding drum mechanism to which an abrasive sleeve is attached. This type of sander is used for large, flat surfaces. Drum sanders can be either stationary or free-standing. Stationary drum sanders have a thickness control feature that allow them to safely sand lengths of wood of any thickness, even pieces that are less than 1-inch thick, such as molding or trim. Multiple pieces can be sanded at once for uniformity. Free-standing models are used for resurfacing and refinishing wood floors, when relatively large amounts of material must be removed.

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  • Photo Credit bretter mit augen image by Bianka Hagge from Fotolia.com bulldozer image by Goran Bogicevic from Fotolia.com drill image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com wood grain image by Benjamin Jefferson from Fotolia.com man working, door image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com wood background image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com old wood texture image by PaulPaladin from Fotolia.com
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