How to Use an Orbital Sander – Instructions for Smooth Sanding
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Not all woodworkers make the same types of project and some prefer the joy of work with old school hand tools and equipment. If you are one of those, but you have decided to embark on a new woodworking journey making larger projects, then a tool like an electric sander will make those large-scale jobs that much easier. So, understanding how to choose the best orbital sander for the task at hand will need to start with understanding how they work, and which brands make the best random orbital sander. This tutorial will explain exactly that! You could go online and read the orbital sander reviews on what the top-rated orbital sander is, but we have condensed those opinions, along with the opinions of professional woodworkers to help you all understand what is the best orbital sander for each type of woodworking project you might want to complete.
Table of Contents
- 1 Orbital Sanders Explained
- 2 How to Use an Orbital Sander
- 3 Popular Orbital Sander Brands
- 4 How to Find the Best Orbital Sander
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Orbital Sanders Explained
Orbital sanders, not to be confused with belt sanders, have an oscillating motion when in use. A conventional orbital sander spins in one direction. A random orbital sander provides even greater sanding refinement by spinning in random directions, thereby avoiding those tell-tale swirl-marks that conventional orbital sanders can leave on surfaces. Where belt sanders are more boisterous than electric sanders, they are much rougher when in use and often cause slight imperfections in the surface of the wood you are sanding. This means they are typically used for the massive woodworking projects that make them more suited for those industrial jobs where the final finishes are not important.
Orbital sanders are the more delicate sanding machines, especially when compared to the belt sander. An orbital sander creates a much smoother finish, and this is better when the finish of the wood will be seen and touched, like furniture pieces in your home, than patio decking, and more. Because their sanding action is smoother, and they allow you more control when using them, they cause much less damage to the surface of the wood. Regardless, you will need a bit of time to get used to how they work, but they are far easier to work with than your typical belt sander, which requires a lot of skill to use accurately.
These days, random orbital sanders have many features, like different speed settings that you can choose from to make the sanding faster or slower. This also helps if you are working with softer wood. The lower setting will be less intense and will help prevent any damage caused by the sander. This also applies to removing paint with a sander. An orbital sander will cause far less damage to your surface, while still providing just enough texture for a new coat of paint to adhere to.
Another thing that has changed the face of woodworking, is that the price for these tools has dropped, making it so much more affordable for the average woodworker, professional or hobbyist to purchase even one of the top-rated orbital sanders for themselves. Regardless of the orbital sander reviews, you can find online, what is the best orbital sander for the specific task you have at hand?
How to Use an Orbital Sander
Now that you are fully aware of the different types of orbital sanders, you may have already decided what is the best orbital sander for the requirements of your work. Now it is time to work out how they are used. Keep reading for some guidelines on how to use these machines practically and accurately.
As always, we will start the instructions for how to use the tool with preparing the workspace. The first step in this process is to make sure that there is no unnecessary clutter lying around. The extra mess can make it difficult for you to move the wood around, especially the bigger pieces. Next, you should lay down some plastic tarps across the flow to protect it, and to catch a lot of the dust that might fall to the floor. Even if there is a dust collector there will be some mess left on the floor, and the tarp can help to minimize a lot of the time needed for cleaning up afterward.
The next step is to clean the actual item you are sanding. The grime and the dirt might clog up the machine, or ruin the sanding disk, so this part is important. Use a garden hose to splash the larger pieces and a cloth for the smaller ones. Make sure that the wood has dried fully before you even think about sanding it. It needs to be bone dry to be sanded properly, or you might risk damaging the wood’s surface.
The next, and very important, step is to gather all of your protective gear and put it on. This should include gloves to protect your hands from potential splinters, long-sleeved overalls, or just long-sleeved clothing, generally speaking. You will also need an eye mask to protect your eyes from lying sawdust shrapnel, as well as a respirator mask to make sure you do not breathe in any of the dust in the air. Lastly, make sure you have a window open so that there is ample airflow.
Sanding Your Workpiece
When it comes to sanding, it is not only about having the right tool for the job but having the proper technique and know-how as well. When using a sander for the first time, you will need to practice on some scrapped boards to get a good feeling of the pad when it comes in contact with the board. When you have gotten the hang of it, you can start moving it across the surface using appropriate pressure to see how you can handle it once you have acquired the necessary skills. It is now time to move on to your work item once you are satisfied with your technique.
In the case of larger workpieces like the deck we mentioned earlier, there is a higher chance you might damage the surface than in the case of smaller workpieces. The biggest workpieces tend to be made of harder wood composites, which is why they are larger.
This final step in the process is not entirely necessary, but it will raise the quality of the final result. Not only that, but it will increase the lifespan of the wooden item you have just sanded, so you will not have to repeat the process any time sooner than needed to save the wood’s surface. Freshly sanded wood is now very exposed to damaging elements like rain or even insects that like to burrow into the grains of the wood. This can be prevented by layering the surface with wood treatment.
These wooden treatments, or wood stains, are amazing because they get into the porous wood, and sit below the surface of the wood, whilst protecting it at the same time. They also heighten the natural ok of the wood’s grain, bringing out the lowlights and the highlights of the wood. This can also give the wood a warmer aesthetic, which works beautifully in some settings. Or, some stains are transparent, if you would prefer to see the natural look of the wood.
Some of these stains or protective coats might come in the form of resin, which is sure to increase the longevity of the wooden item for a long time. Freshly sanded wood might look satisfying at first, but it will soon become the opposite appeal because the surface will be easily damaged by liquids and other equally damaging factors.
Popular Orbital Sander Brands
How do you choose the best random orbital sander, or orbital sanders, generally speaking? It is common for certain manufacturers to stand out amongst the rest of the brands in the various industries today. As a result of both their gumption as well as their dedication to the customers who buy their tools, their reputation is high. They are valued by loyal patrons for delivering on their promises. Not every brand makes the same orbital sanders, so to understand what is the best orbital sander, you will need to determine what task you need the tool to achieve. Let us take a look at some of the top-rated orbital sander brands that are available today.
Power Tools by DeWalt
The DeWalt brand is an all-star American brand. The average American household is highly likely to have some form of DeWalt tool in their collection out in the tool shed, or their garage. Over the years that they have been around, about 100 years, they have developed and redeveloped their designs to perfection. There is no limit to what their tools can do because they have something for pretty much all trades that involve building something.
The quality in their designs is impeccably high, and they have earned their spot as one of the leading tool manufacturers in America and across the globe. The DeWalt team seems to be made by people who were tradesmen themselves because they have thought of everything that could go wrong and improved their designs accordingly. Something that only someone with experience could master. Their tools are well-made and they promise to last you a long time, so their price is quite fair even though it might be a bit higher than its lesser counterparts.
Orbital sanders by DeWalt are generally very easy to use, meaning that an inexperienced user will not struggle as much to move the machine across the wood when sanding. There are additional features that come included with the tool, and others that you can buy separately to attach later when they are needed for specific tasks.
Power Tools by Makita
Makita is one of those brands that has earned its reputation through and through. They are highly valued amongst all woodworkers and other trades that might need power tools. They have been around for quite some time, all the while raising the bar for all tool brands across the globe with their forward-thinking designs. During this time of their success, they have learned from mistakes in the past and perfected their designs up until this day. You can truly see how they have strived to better their brand with each design.
Every tradesperson can find a tool made by Makita to suit their needs. This enables them to be used on a wide variety of projects, so you are not limited in your choices. Several of the features attached to Makita products were pioneered by the company. They are amazing inventors, and they are always coming up with original designs to improve their work, as well as unique features to go with. This includes their cordless designs that are powered by lithium batteries that will last a lot longer than the average battery, and they can be recharged easily.
Power Tools by Bosch
The brand Bosch has been around for so long, even before some of our grandparents’ time. They are one of the most reputable brands, but largely because of how long they have been around. They make a large number of electrical tools, equipment, appliances, and more! They have just about anything that you could imagine, and they make a great show of how well they are made too, and for good reason!
Bosch is a German company that has been around for about 140 years, rising into the scene before the first world war. This company has made it their mission to gather up all the greatest innovative minds to design the latest tools, starting trends in terms of the additional features they have, and in the specific designs of their tools. They are permanently researching the various needs of the consumers of our world, and they keep an eye on the evolution of construction in any form so they can keep up with the fast-paced demands of this world we live in.
The orbital sanders by Bosch are amongst the better designed power tools. Many would argue that they make the best orbital sander on the market today. They are of a professional grade, but this does not mean they are too expensive for the average tradesman to purchase. This means that anyone can buy one for their work, thus raising the standard of their trade.
How to Find the Best Orbital Sander
Wanting to buy a power sander? You have come to the right page. Besides understanding the different brands and how amazingly designed they each are, there are a few other aspects that you should keep in your mind. Rather than impulsively buying the tool, let’s take a look at some of the other aspects that can seriously influence how the sanding process works.
What Type of Sander Do You Need?
The type of sander you choose can be largely influenced by what task you plan to pair it with, just as the type of drink you choose with your meal. Even if you are going to make use of one of the best sanders made by the best manufacturers, it won’t make much difference if you use it on a task that the tool is not particularly well suited to do. If you are not too worried about the finish the belt sander creates and you have a large surface that you would like to sand down, then a regular orbital sander or a belt sander should be just fine, according to the various orbital sander reviews.
The sanders reach high RPMs and are designed to rip up surfaces quickly and easily, but they can leave some nasty marks on surfaces or accidentally tear up pieces of surfaces if you’re not careful. You might want to use one that runs at a slower speed so you will have less chance of damaging the surface, a machine that runs at 12000 RPMs should suffice. Depending on where you intend to use the sander, some are better than others for sanding corners, railings, soft workpieces, elevated, or surfaces; therefore, it is very important to choose one carefully based on the details of your application.
Battery Powered or Corded?
The decision you make regarding whether or not your sander should have a cord or whether it should be cordless is entirely up to you, and the style of work you do. Are you constantly on the go? Or are you stationed at one spot where the orbital sander will remain, conveniently close to a plug point? Those who like to take their work with them wherever they go are likely to prefer working with a cordless orbital sander. This will ensure they have enough power to last them a while before their battery dies. But those who are stationed in one spot like a workshop might prefer the constant source of power from plugging the cord that is attached to the PowerPoint.
If you are a construction worker, and you have been assigned the task of rebuilding someone’s home. You might want to take your sander along for the job, so you pack it up and set up a workshop on site. This can be amazingly helpful because you can never predict the needs of the job that randomly spring up. This might mean that the temporary workshop does not have enough power to lead to where you set it up, and you might need a cordless sander and a few spare batteries that you have charged up to be ready for use.
If your workshop has a power source, this can help lengthen the time you can sand the wood for, and also increase it, because you will not have to stay on the lowest speed setting just to get the job done without the battery dying within the hour like it would with the cordless sanders.
Ultimately the decision on whether or not a corded or cordless sander is the best random orbital sander is up to you and the needs you must meet with your work. Are you a DIY enthusiast who builds occasional shelves? or are you a professional woodworker who sands items all day if you have to? The choice is subjective and there is no wrong answer.
You have now equipped yourself with the know-how and the brand knowledge of the various orbital sander manufacturers and you can start to apply this knowledge practically to your woodworking projects. This is the fun part, so enjoy the journey of learning. Before you know it, you will be making professional-grade wooden items that will “wow” just about anyone!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Orbital Sander Is Best?
Even though there are numerous power tool brands today, there is no sander out there that can be considered objectively as the “best” sander. Each one is designed to meet the needs of different applications, so the best orbital sander will be the one that is suitable for your application (and your budget).
What Do Orbital Sanders Do?
An orbital sander moves in one direction while the sanding pads rotate super-fast and graze the surface of the wood you are sanding. They are used to get rid of any imperfections in the surface of the wood, and can also be used to key a surface (create a textured surface) to enhance paint or adhesive adherence.
Can I Remove Paint With an Orbital Sander?
If you want to remove an existing coat of paint on the wood’s surface, then you might benefit from using a random orbital sander for woodworking. These tools are designed to scrape off the first layer of the wood’s surface to smooth it out, so it will work perfectly to remove a coat of paint.