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Elyria, a city of just under fifty-five thousand in the Greater Cleveland area of Northern Ohio, has a poverty rate of over twenty-two percent, meaning that one out of every four points five residents fall under the poverty line. And now a new group is starting to address the problem–with volunteer work, compassion, and some palm sanders.
Roger Dorsey and his wife first became motivated to help find children in need when they came across Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit group based in Idaho with the sole person of building beds for children in need.
Realizing that the problem was in their backyard, Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey began small, starting with a group of volunteers from their church and the purpose of building a single bunk bed with an initial goal of raising three hundred dollars for the cause, some of which came from money gifted to Mr. Dorsey for his birthday.
Another challenge faced them: many of the volunteers had never handled a power tool. But by the end of the day, with the help of equipment like power drills–and palm sanders, the group was able to provide bunk beds for children who would not otherwise have them.
It’s amazing what a little inspiration and quality power tools can accomplish.
Of course, you don’t have to have a high ended goal in mind to be in search of the best palm sanders possible. In this article, we’ll discuss not only the best palm sanders available but also how to find them and what they can do for you in terms of home improvements and beyond.
What is a palm sander?
Let’s start off with basics. A palm sander is one of the most versatile types of power sanders, and also among the most affordable. You can easily find even some of the best palm sanders for under fifty dollars, and it is used for a variety of projects.
While a palm sander is a power tool, it also does combine manual force as well as manual switching of sandpaper as it is worn out. Typically, palm sanders are used for small to medium-sized projects. Palm sanders are a bit smaller than other sanders and easier to maneuver.
Also known as a sheet sander, palm sanders typically use hook and loop fasteners and take standard sheets of sandpaper.
What’s the difference between a palm sander and a random orbital sander?
A random orbital sander, as the name implies, moves in a circular, random motion. Random orbital sanders tend to be used for tricky spaces, especially curved ridges. Random orbital sanders help reduce swirl marks by the disparate motions and use circular sheets of sandpaper.
A palm sander also moves in a circular fashion, but it is square instead, meaning that you need it square sheets of sandpaper. Because of its square shape, it’s better for getting into corners as opposed to working alongside curved edges. The motion is back and forth and circular but is a patterned motion rather than an elliptical one.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to using a palm sander over a random orbital sander?
Many people like the aspect of a random orbital sander because its motion reduces swirl marks. But there are pros to using a palm sander instead. Let’s take a look at the main advantages and disadvantages:
- Palm sanders are less expensive and also easier to operate
- Sandpaper in a variety of grit is widely available
- Small and compact design, and often lightweight
- Clamping features ensures sandpaper doesn’t become loose
- Can leave swirl marks if not used properly
- Less efficient at stripping away materials
- Less comfortable to use than a random orbital sander
- Requires a more frequent change of sandpaper
What projects are palm sanders best for?
Palm sanders are best for finishing work on small projects. They are especially handy when you wish to smooth stains, paints, and varnish. Of course, they are also helpful for squeezing into corners and on regular shaped furnishings and woodwork.
Should you buy a palm sander or a random orbital sander?
The good news is that there is not even one answer to this question. That is, you’re actually best off investing in both a palm sander and a random orbital sander. That’s because both fill different niches, and are considered to be useful tools to have for a variety of woodworking projects. While palm sanders are helpful for stains and varnish, random orbital sanders are helpful for removing finishing and smoothing corners.
How do you use a palm sander?
Palm sanders are more or less operate the same way. Depending on the size of the model, sheets of sandpaper are either halved or quartered and clamped down on the sander’s base. As you work, you’ll have to feed sheets of sandpaper, as they do not last very long and you are required to manually feed the machine.
The sandpaper works the paperback and forth in a circular motion and mostly works on flat pieces. The machine will not operate well on curved edges.
What size of palm sander do I want?
The basic mechanics work more or less the same, though miniature palm or sheet sanders work more slowly. The most common sizes will either take half or quarter sheets of sandpaper. Half sheets of sandpaper work to get the job done more quickly, making them more efficient and also favored for medium-sized projects.
On the other hand, quarter-sized palm sanders are better for finishing work and smaller projects. It will take you longer to complete a project, but it’s easier to make sure you aren’t over sanding something if you’re using a smaller palm sander.
Of course, small palm sanders also tend to be more lightweight, easier to maneuver, and cheaper–though compared to other sanders as a whole, palm sanders generally are all of these things anyway.
If you’re looking for more precise, slow work, go for a quarter size palm sander. For the most versatile sander, and one that perfectly complements a random orbital sander, you may get more use out of the larger size, but ultimately it is a bit of a matter of personal preference, as well as what type of projects you plan on doing.
What is an electric detail sander?
You might think an electric detail sander is something altogether different, but it’s actually a form of a palm sander. An electric detail sander has a triangular base instead of a square one and is better for tighter corners and irregular shapes, often used for something like window frames.
It’s more of a specialty sander so it’s less useful overall, but it will give you more precision. If you already have other sanders, it might be nice to have for detail work, but of course, it is useful in fewer situations.
How do I know what sandpaper to use with my palm sander?
Even the best palm sanders won’t do the task as effectively as you wish if you don’t know how to select proper sandpaper. Sandpaper comes in different grits, and different grits are helpful for different tasks. Unlike with a random orbital sander, which is more limited in sandpaper options because they must be circular, you can use just about any grit of sandpaper for a palm sander.
There are four common grits you’ll have an option to choose from for most home improvement projects:
- 40 to 80 Grit: Forty to eighty grit sandpaper is considered among the most coarse, is best for quick removal. It’s not normally used with palm sanders, and often used with larger sanders, like belt sanders, and for heavier duty tasks.
- 100 to 150 Grit: One hundred to one hundred and fifty grit sandpaper is considered medium grit sandpaper and is often used for a variety of projects as you start. It’s favored for removing stains and varnish and also sanding wood.
- 180 to 220 Grit: One hundred and eighty to two hundred and twenty grit sandpaper is considered finer and is another grit of paper you may find yourself using with a palm sander. This is suited for polishing up unfinished wood and sanding in between paint jobs.
- 320 to 400 Grit: Three hundred and twenty to four hundred grit sandpaper is considered very fine and is typically limited to light, finishing tasks. It is also the type of sandpaper you should use if you want to use a palm sander on metal or other materials besides wood.
What other features do I need to consider before I purchase a palm sander?
The best way to find palm sanders for your next home improvement task is to have an idea, of course, what to look for. We’ve already covered when you want to purchase a palm sander, what size, and what grit of sandpaper is most suited for your tasks. Now let’s take a look at some remaining factors that should go into your decision.
1. Dust collection system
One of the biggest problems when it comes to palm sanders is how they collect dust. While dust collection is a concern for ll sanders, it is especially so when it comes to palm sanders. That’s because the dust collection system tends not to be quite as robust.
While it’s difficult to find a perfect dust collection system, you want to look for a sander that comes equipped with a firm dust bag, ideally one that is built-in with a tight seal. Some models come with a vacuum system as well. You’ll also want to check the dust bag’s capacity, as some cheaper models hold less dust at a time.
More importantly, the best models will include a dust-sealed switch. This protects against dust backing up and ruining the motor of your sander. Some also have microfilter systems.
Firm grips alongside the top base, anti-slip technology, and tight construction make the palm sander both easier and safer to use. Those features will also provide more control as you sand, especially for more slippery materials.
If the product description doesn’t use key words such as ‘grip’ or ‘slip’ resistance, chances are it doesn’t have it. Rubber is most commonly used for strong gripping material; be wary of anything slippery or not as durable.
3. Low vibration
While lower levels of vibration are ideal for any sander you purchase, this is especially important for a small sander like a palm or sheet sander. You want to control for those finer details, and models that haven’t been constructed for lower vibration will be not only harder to use but also more tiring to use over time.
Again, the best you can do here is look for a model that specifically mentions that it’s been constructed in order to reduce vibration levels. Some do have what is called a counterbalance system, which is used to help distribute movement more evenly as you use the sander.
4. Compact design
Palm sanders should be lightweight, to begin with, but a compact design makes them easier to store and use. While we wouldn’t recommend a compact design for every kind of sander, since palm sanders are typically used for small tasks, there are more benefits than setbacks.
As an added bonus, some palm sanders couple ergonomic features with a compact design, which is helpful for anyone who plans on using their palm sander often, or for anyone who has joint aches. Also keep in mind that sometimes compact designs are more skilled at getting into corners, which is what you want from something like a palm sander.
Typically when you’re looking for a sander, you might be on the hunt for a powerful motor, but the fact of the matter is that palm sanders need not be especially powerful. A 2.0 Amp motor will get the job done well enough, and save money on higher power motors. In fact, higher power engines may have a downside.
Since you’re using palm sanders for smaller tasks and finer details, high power sanders can over sand and ruin finishes. A little over two amps is fine, but try not to go much over, and keep it under three amps.
6. Clamps and levers
How the machine feeds and clamps down on sandpaper is important for a few reasons. Keep in mind that you’ll need to trade sheets of sandpaper more often than you would with a different type of sander, so you want to make sure that your sandpaper is easy to slip in and out. A simple lever system is ideal for this.
When it comes to clamps, though, you want to make sure your sandpaper is also secure. Some of the more poorly constructed models have the problem of sandpaper slipping as you work. Again, a simple clamp to secure the sandpaper goes a long way. You might look even further into what materials are used; some clamps and levers risk being flimsy and wearing out.
If you’re looking for a sturdier model, the body of the sander is more durable when it’s made out of something like aluminum as opposed to plastic. If you don’t plan on using it heavily, however, it may not be something to stress over.
Again, this is a matter of preference but it’s helpful to know what’s normal. Palm sanders can be as light as around a pound and as heavy as a few pounds, with two a half pounds running middle of the pack. Sometimes heavier models will provide more power, but they also tend to be harder to use for fine detail work.
There is a variety of sources where you can find palm sanders. You can purchase them at home improvement stores as they are a fairly popular form of sander; you can also purchase them online. One good idea is to go in-store to look at different types of sanders and brands in person, then make the purchase online if you’d like something more specific.
Here are a few palm sanders that are reasonably priced and have many of the features we’ve recommended;
- For ultimate versatility, consider the Sheet Sander with Hook and Loop Pad by Tacklife: This palm sander by Tacklife features an impressive six-speed control, which means it’s useful for a variety of tasks. A buckle seals the dust away and is paired with a microfilter system for better dust control. The base is made out of aluminum for improved durability and it features a 2.5 AMP motor, for a great balance of power and control.
- For fewer swirl marks, take a look at Bosch Palm Sander with Dust Collector: Bosch offers another great option in this palm sander. A special feature of this palm sander is a dampening system for the pad, which is meant to reduce swirl marks common from palm sanders. The compact design also features a 2.5 AMP motor, microfilter dust collection system, and comes with a vacuum adapter and carrying case.
- For more precision and control, you might like Dewalt ¼ Sheet Palm Sander: This Dewalt palm sander costs just under fifty dollars and is useful for detail work, with shorter height so it’s easier to get close to your material. Rubber covers to protect the switch from dust build-up, while there’s a counterweight system to reduce vibrations, providing more control and precision than some other models
- For more comfortable use, try a model like Porter-Cable Finish Palm Sander. This palm sander is designed to make use more comfortable, with a dual plan system meant to target vibration levels and make the sander as user-friendly as possible. The 2.0 AMP motor is powerful enough, while also better for finishes than more powerful motors. It also contains switch seals to prevent dust build-up.
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