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Sanding can be intense (and physically draining) work, depending on the project you decide to tackle. But choosing a power sander can be just as daunting. First, you must decipher which sander will work best for your needs, and then you must track down the best power sanders on the market.
Determining which one to buy isn’t as easy as picking a grade of sandpaper, though. Here we’ll cover the different types of power sanders, what each one is best for, plus outline the features you need for the job you’re planning to complete. We’ll also share the eight best power sanders to cover every sanding need.
Bottom Line Up Front
If you’re looking for a do-it-all sander for a variety of project applications, our top pick is the BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander for its versatility and quick-change sandpaper discs.
Whether it’s a small project or you’re refinishing an entire area of the house, BLACK+DECKER’s Random Orbit Sander is handy and ready to tackle the job. Its built-in blower and lightweight design make it easy to use no matter what needs sanding.
Different Types of Power Sanders
Power sanders are part of a larger segment of sanders that are human-powered. Power versions take the load off the operator, though, and can make a fast job of even the roughest surface.
Finding the right tool for your task is crucial, though. Here we’ll break down the most common types of power sanders and what each is for.
Belt sanders use long strips (or belts) of sandpaper that wrap around two drums. Different belt sizes are available and work best for different conditions, but balance is key in these models.
Belt sanders can typically cover large surface areas in a short amount of time, but the sanding they provide is often efficient and a bit aggressive.
Disc sanders use disc-shaped sandpaper to finish off large areas with a smooth polish. Many drills can accommodate disc sander attachments, but here we’ll focus on power tools which are sanders first, often with secondary functions, rather than the other way around.
A detail sander often has the shape of a clothing iron, with a triangular-shaped sandpaper pad with a point. The triangular sandpaper pad can fit into nooks and crannies to properly sand surfaces all over; detail sanders are useful for detail work and small-scale craft projects as well.
Drywall sanders are a job-specific sander featuring a handle or long pole for reaching out-of-the-way drywall. Because drywall sanders are such niche tools, we’ve opted to leave them off our list in favor of the more widely-used handheld sanders which cover many more sanding tasks.
Its name might suggest something round, but an orbital sander features a square sandpaper sheet (a quarter the size of a standard sheet of paper sheet). It gets its name from the way the sander’s vibrations move; the sanding pad moves in a circular motion and provides fine sanding for finishing work.
You might also be interested: Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which is the Best Tool for You?
A random orbital sander is like an orbital sander save for two features: it’s round pad and the way it moves. Random orbit sanders use both circular movement and circular orbits, reducing the odds of the sander leaving swirl marks on your fresh surfaces.
Random orbital sanders are ideal for many users because of their multifunctional features and different levels of sanding, from heavy to fine work.
File sanders can be air-powered (as the one we feature below) or corded, and they have narrow belts which fit into small spaces. Professionals (and hobbyists) in the automotive industry often use file sanders to manage welding imperfections and other metal surface sanding.
How to Find the Best Power Sanders
Sandpaper is sandpaper, right? Not exactly. Each power sander uses a unique type or size of sandpaper, but varying grit isn’t the only difference between the products. Here are the top features to look for when shopping for a power sander.
Depending on the project, you may want multiple speed or other settings to customize the result your sander provides. Swapping out different grits can help with project specifics, but if you’re working with a heavy-duty sander, you risk ruining all your hard work if the speed on your power sander is not variable.
Even an automatic speed adjustment setting is preferable to single-speed units in many cases, as the tool itself will regulate its speed based on the resistance it encounters while you work. More speed settings are always desirable, though, because they provide you with more control over the sanding process.
Dust collection might not seem like a huge factor when shopping for the best power sander. Once you begin sanding your first project, you’ll realize why we recommend a unit with adequate dust collection or at least a vacuum port.
Working with wood, in particular, can get dusty fast, and other materials (such as metal) can be dangerous to inhale. Adequate ventilation is crucial when sanding, but a means of containing the dusty byproduct is helpful, too.
For people who are familiar with the sanding by hand without a power tool, there’s only so much you can do with a piece of sandpaper. But with a power sander, multiple speeds and functions can achieve much more than your old collection of sandpaper in varying grits.
Some power sanders offer multiple modes for different stages of projects, from heavy sanding for removing paint and other residues to gentler modes for polishing delicate surfaces. In short, the more versatile your sander, the easier it will be to enjoy a project from start to finish.
The more functions your sander has, the fewer extra tools you need to purchase to complete a sanding task. Even if the up-front investment is higher with a multi-function tool, it may pay off over the long term if you can take advantage of all the features.
Purchasing a sander first and finding a project later is one way to go, but it’s helpful to have a use for the sander in mind before you begin shopping. Project type counts for a lot when it comes to sanders, especially given the variation among even one type of tool. Here are common project types and the sanders which best suit those tasks.
Large-Scale Sanding Projects
Refinishing a wood floor or sanding the walls of a log cabin are intimidating tasks. For large projects which require quite a bit of labor to complete, an ideal tool is a belt, disc, or random orbital sander.
Belt, disc, and random orbital sanders can handle large and gritty projects without causing too much user strain, given you use them properly.
Small-Scale and Detail Work
For small-scale projects, including those with nooks and crannies and lots of detail work, power sanders such as detail and orbital models provide the focus you need with a tough-but-gentle sanding function. File sanders may also help with small-scale projects, especially those in hard to reach areas.
Finishing and Polishing Tasks
When it comes to finishing off a project with a gentle sanding tool, most users turn to disc or random orbital sanders with variable speeds and swirl-reducing technology.
Polishing and finishing wood projects require attention to detail, and the gentler disc and orbital sanders help finish your project without leaving unsightly scuff marks.
1. Makita 9403 Belt Sander
A workhorse sander without the heft of most heavy-duty belt sanders, Makita’s 9403 delivers consistent sanding with little effort.
- 84-decibel noise level
- 4-inch-wide belt
- Large front grip
- Weighs 13 pounds
- 11 Amp motor
- 80 grit abrasive belt
- Dust bag and vacuum ports
- Corded 120V
With a large front grip and a balanced 13-pound weight, the Makita 9403 makes tough jobs quick and easy.
An onboard dust bag swivels out of the way, but you can also connect a vacuum to the port instead.
Either way, you’ll likely still need an exhaust mask (its bag is small), but a port option is appreciated, nonetheless.
Variable speed settings would be a plus, but apart from a bit of noise, lack of adjustment is one minor drawback we found with Makita’s belt sander.
Electronic speed control manages the belt movement, though, so you can expect the tool to compensate for changes in conditions while you’re working.
- Included dust bag swivels for convenience
- Option for bag versus vacuum port
- Well-balanced even in single-hand operation
- Quieter than comparable models but still loud
- One speed only
2. BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander
For do-it-all applications on a small scale, BLACK+DECKER’s Random Orbit Sander is a pint-sized tool with plenty of power.
- Hook and loop sandpaper system
- Dust-sealed switch
- Dust bag included
- 2 Amp power
In terms of covering all your bases, it’s tough to go wrong with a random orbit sander.
BLACK+DECKER’s model can handle nearly any task—from fine sanding jobs to larger buffing projects—and leave a smooth finish. Remember the movement random orbit sanders use?
With spinning and vibrating movement, the sander cleans up nearly any surface and leaves little evidence behind (unlike some orbital sanders).
If you often work on multiple projects or aren’t yet sure what projects you’ll be tackling, BLACK+DECKER’s might be the best power sander for your needs.
Keep a stack of hook-and-loop discs on hand, and you’re ready for any DIY around the house and beyond.
Give your projects a professional finish with this Random Orbit Sander. It features a hook-and-loop system for easy sandpaper changes. It helps optimize material removal, and its sealed switch helps extend the life of the tool.
- Compact and portable
- Lightweight/easy to handle
- Covers a range of sanding tasks
- Hook and loop sandpaper can come off easily
3. DEWALT DWE6401DS Disc Sander
A powerful yet lightweight disc sander with convenience features aplenty, DEWALT’s Disc Sander can handle even large surface areas with ease.
- 6-Amp motor
- Adjustable dust shroud (compatible with vacuums)
- Mid-handle design for better balance
- Five-inch hook and loop sandpaper
- Variable speed adjustment
Part of the appeal of most disc sanders is the power they offer, and DEWALT’s Disc Sander is no different.
A highlight of its operation is the ease with which it cuts through rough surfaces, and the variable speed settings help with tailoring the tool to each project.
Even though it’s a heavier-duty sander (despite its light weight), DEWALT’s disc model is easy to wield and relatively quiet.
You’ll be able to sand multiple services quickly and easily without working through a big stack of sandpaper sheets as the tool makes fast work of nearly every project.
- Variable speed gives more control
- Relatively quiet
- Powerful enough for large surface area
- Too aggressive for more delicate jobs
4. TOPVORK Detail Sander
When it comes to sanding tight spaces and small details, TOPVORK’s Detail Sander delivers targeted sanding power with triangular-shaped sandpaper pads.
- 1.6 Amp motor
- 360-degree rotating pad
- Dust collection system
- Locking switch for always-on operation
- Ergonomic handle
- Seven-speed variability
- Triangular hook and loop sandpaper pads
For involved and detailed projects, TOPVORK’s detail sander allows you to get into nooks and crannies while sanding surfaces thoroughly.
Seven-speed settings give you full control over the tool’s operation, and you can also use the locking switch to go trigger-less with the motor.
A rotating pad gives you more control when navigating around corners and into detailed areas, helpful for small-scale projects where larger sanders can’t access or handle delicately.
Of course, handling larger projects or surface areas with a detail sander isn’t advisable, but for most small-scale projects involving angles, TOPVORK’s triangular sander has the ideal flexibility and overall shape.
- Rotating sanding pad
- Variable speeds
- Locking switch for trigger-less operation
- A dust collector is small
- Not ideal for larger surface areas
5. PORTER-CABLE 380 Sheet Orbital Finish Palm Sander
A gentler finishing sander for capping off any size project, PORTER-CABLE’s Orbital Finish Palm Sander is a lightweight tool for specific sanding applications.
- 2.0 Amp motor
- Dust-sealed switch
- Finishing/detail sanding
- Balanced with a low-vibration design
While PORTER-CABLE’s finishing sander may not look like the most appealing power tool, it provides a specific and helpful function.
Its task is to finish off sanding projects with a gentler sanding process with low vibration and low user fatigue.
Thanks to its low-profile design and square sandpaper sheets, the palm sander can work into corners and provide an all-over smooth finish for even the largest sanding projects.
Of course, you won’t want to use the tool for heavier removal jobs, but for finer work, it can help cap off projects where looks, as well as function, are crucial.
- Ideal for final polishing of projects
- Can get into corners and crevices
- Provides fine sanding detail
- Not ideal for projects from start to finish
6. Bosch 1250DEVS Orbital Sander
A multi-mode orbital sander with handy speed features and advanced dust collection, Bosch’s Orbital Sander is a cross between a random orbital and standard orbital sander.
- 6.5 Amp motor
- Ambidextrous auxiliary handle
- A passive dust collection system
- Random orbit and aggressive turbo speed
- Pad dampening system
- Six-inch hook and loop sanding pads
With two speeds (random orbit and aggressive turbo), the Bosch orbital sander gives you options for how to tackle your next sanding project.
A pad dampening system helps avoid swirl marks, which we often see with regular orbital sanders.
For dust collection, a passive system works in conjunction with vacuum hoses to keep your workspace as clean as possible.
Deep channels in the pads help to divert dust through the vacuum port, further helping clear the air and your work area.
- Multiple modes for different stages of projects
- Various dust collection mechanisms
- Dampening system for preventing cosmetic damage to projects
- Excessive vibration depending on the mode/speed
7. TACKLIFE Belt Sander
With almost ten feet of cord and two modes—standard belt sander and mounted bench sander—TACKLIFE’s belt sander is a staple for many workshops.
- Two modes: belt sander and bench sander (when mounted)
- 5 Amp motor
- Variable speed with six settings
- Dust collection box
- Vacuum dust adapters
- 3” x 18” sander belts
For smooth and relatively quiet sanding jobs no matter how large the project, TACKLIFE’s belt sander gives a solid solution.
Armed with multiple sandpaper belts and six-speed settings, you can cover small to large jobs without overexerting yourself.
Three by eighteen-inch sander belts are a great introductory size for most casual users, while those with more experience (AKA professionals) may prefer larger size belts for covering big projects in less time.
Either way, the TACKLIFE belt sander has plenty of power, and it also doubles as a mounted sander in your workshop, making it a great two-for-one option if you find yourself needing both modes regularly.
- Dual bench sander mode
- Variable speed settings
- Multiple sander belts included
- A dust collection box is lackluster
8. Astro 3037 Air Belt Sander
Astro terms it a “belt” sander, but the Astro 3037 Sander more closely resembles a file sander given its narrow profile.
- .5 HP
- Variable speed control
- Increased pulley space for thicker belts
- Has a simple belt tension lever
- 360-degree adjustable arm
An air-powered belt sander with the ability to reach narrow and otherwise unreachable spaces,
Astro’s 3037 accommodates nearly any ½” by 18” belt and allows for adjustments with a simple tension lever.
Multiple speeds ensure you can handle everything from the most demanding sanding projects to the most delicate.
If grinding down spot welds or other auto body repair tasks are on your agenda, the 3037 might be the best power sander for your needs.
It can also aid in finishing off detail work in a variety of settings other than automotive ones.
- A near-universal belt fit with ½” x 18” belts
- Adjustable speed for up to 16,000 RPM
- Reaches tough spots
- Loud in some sanding scenarios
Comparing the Options
|Product Name||Type of Sander||Sandpaper Type||Power|
|Makita 9043||Belt||4” x 24” belt||120V corded|
|BLACK+DECKER BDERO100||Random Orbit||5” hook and loop circle sheets||120V corded|
|DEWALT DWE6401DS||Disc||5” hook and loop circle sheets||120V corded|
|TOPVORK Detail Sander||Detail||Triangular hook and loop pad||120V corded|
|PORTER-CABLE||Orbital||Non-adhesive Square||120V corded|
|Bosch 1250DEVS||Random Orbital||6” hook and loop circle sheets||110V corded|
|TACKLIFE Belt Sander||Belt||3” x 18” belt||120V corded|
|Astro 3037||Belt/File||½” x 18” belt||Air (4cfm)|
Whatever sanding, buffing, or finishing project you have in mind, there’s a power sander to fit your needs and your budget.
Ultimately, the best power sanders are the ones which fit each specific project and complete the task at hand without overpowering the aesthetic result you’re aiming to achieve.
Fortunately, with these top choices for power sanders of all types, you can find what you need to finish whatever project you’re itching to start.
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