12 Best Sander types for Woodworking

Long gone are the days of only having a piece of sandpaper to tackle some of your biggest projects. Modern inventions have afforded woodworkers the luxury of electric sanders that get the job done quickly and evenly, but which ones are the best?

The best sanders for woodworking depend on the specific woodworking tasks but include the sanding block, random orbital sander, orbital sander, oscillating spindle sander, file sander, detail sander, belt sander, table sander, disc sander, mounted disc sander, floor sander, and edging sander.

There are so many different types of sanders available to woodworkers that go about that job in a very different way. No matter what you are needing or what your woodworking job may require of you, there is a sander out there that will fit the bill for your shop. Continue reading to take a look at twelve different types of sanders, including recommended tools in each category, read how they work, and see an exact purpose for each of them.

12 of the Best Woodworking Sanders and How They Work

A sander is one of those tools that every woodworker has to have in their shop, and it is going to be used repeatedly. After all, who wants a dresser that gives them splinters every time they pull the drawers out? Much less, to complete portions of a project like applying the stain, you will need a sander to prepare the wood for this step.

You know the purpose of a sander, but there are so many out there that the selection can be a bit mind-blowing. With so many options, it can seem almost impossible to choose the right one for the jobs you plan to use it for. Fear not, though.

Below, I will give you a list of the most used sanders out there, tell you how they work, and explain what they are used for. By the end of this, you will be a sanding pro.

12 of the best woodworking sanders include: 

1. Sanding Block

The sanding block is the tried and true sander of all time. With various shapes and sizes, you can find what you are looking for at a low cost.

Benefits of using a sanding block include no electricity access is required, they are transportable, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you can manually adjust the power applied to a wide variety of small to medium-sized woodworking projects.

Sanding blocks are fantastic because they do not require any electricity, although their power comes from your manual labor. This means you can take them anywhere, at any time, and get them into about any space imaginable. They are great for those of you that are doing smaller crafts and work great in places that have no outlets or electricity.

Sanding blocks are a step up from your average piece of sandpaper in efficiency and labor intensity. Not many will snag a random piece of sandpaper, but if you have, you know it is difficult to get a grip on.

The sanding block helps you have a solid block to grab hold of and gives you a bit more stability and torque when you are going back and forth and a more rigorous speed.

What to look for in a sanding block? You will want to pay attention to the shape, grit, and type of sandpaper attached. Equally, you will want to find a sanding block that can be held comfortably since your grip and ability to apply pressure is what gives this tool its power.

There are all kinds of shapes and sizes out there and also some that are throw-away or reusable. The Preppin’ Weapon Sanding Block Kit is one of the best sanding blocks for woodworking on the market (Check out its price on Amazon HereOpens in a new tab.) considering its ergonomic shape, variety of sandpaper grip levels, and high-quality material and reviews. For your woodworking, keeping around a basic sanding block is a must.

2. Random Orbital Sander

A random orbital sander is a tool that uses a round sanding pad rather than one that is square or rectangular (like a sanding block is). The sander can take a few different pad sizes to accommodate whichever model works best for the size work you typically deal with, but it also can be ordered in either a D-handle, barrel-grip or one-handed palm grip.

The benefits of the random orbital sander are plentiful. The genius behind this sander is that it spins in circles while the orbital sander itself spins. This may sound like overkill, but this random spinning helps eliminate any swirling pattern that other sanders could leave behind.

It has a few different capabilities like functioning as a belt sander and can get ultra-smooth sand and stock removal. Its affordability is also a huge plus, making it a pretty common item for many woodworkers. 

A few times, I have found myself in a position where my own sanding movements have caused a new pattern in the wood I was working with.

This can sometimes be resolved with a finer grit being taken over the surface, but what do you do if your finest grit is the one that caused the pattern? This is where a random orbital sander really comes in handy and lives up to its reputation. It takes human error out of the equation.

Random orbital sanders are perfect for woodworking projects like building staircases, building a desk or table, or sanding a large and wide surface area on another type of woodworking project.

The Dewalt 5” Random Orbital Sander(Link to the sander on Amazon HereOpens in a new tab.) is one of the top options available considering its 8,000 to 12,000 OPM, dust-seal switch that protects the tool, comfortable grip, and high-quality sanding material. Similarly, the Makita D-Handle 5” Random Orbital Sander (B05041)(Check its price on AmazonOpens in a new tab.) is rated highly for its 4,000 to 12,000 OPM, 3-amp system that provides a surprisingly quieter sanding experience for users.

Other features to look for in a random orbital sander include cordless options for increased transportability and maneuverability. Also, you can opt for smaller or larger sizes to better meet your woodworking needs.

3. Orbital Sander (Sheet Sander)

Orbital sanders, also known as sheet (or quarter-sheet) sanders, are fantastic tools if you need something that is not extremely bulky and one that is easy to work without it getting away from you. This sander has the same function as a random orbital sander but is a bit less advanced.

This sander cranks out tiny circular orbits to get your pieces nice and smooth through the use of square quarter-sheet sandpaper. When I say nice and smooth, focus on that last word, “smooth.”

The benefits of using an orbital sander include the fine finish that it can achieve, although you will need to pay attention to orbital patterns left behind by this tool. Since orbital sanders use peel-and-stick sandpaper, they are often less expensive and require minimal replacement sandpaper costs.

This sander is designed for the finest of the finest sands. It is not made for degunking the world’s most splintered piece of wood but works as more of a finisher to really get that last once-over completed without any flaws. It is easy to handle and is really quite gentle due to its size and overall function.

Orbital sanders are great to use for small projects that you intend to stain or paint. They can leave behind orbital patterns, but they are the optimal tool for the finest finish applied to your woodworking project.

There are many affordable and high-quality sheet (orbital) sanders available, so you will want to pay attention to the type of sandpaper, including thickness and grit, power, size, and variable speeds.

The Bosch OS50VC Electric Orbit Sander(Check out its not so low price on Amazon HereOpens in a new tab.) is one of the top competitors on the market considering its high-quality performance, versatility, accuracy, vibration control, dust collection system, and ac/dc power source option. While it is slightly higher in cost than other similar orbital sanders, it is known to consistently provide a high performance that many users associate with being worthy of the investment.

4. Oscillating Spindle Sander

An oscillating spindle sander is a sanding drum that juts from either a benchtop or a sanding table. When the sander starts to run, the drum raises and lowers, which helps to get rid of nasty grooves or works well to smooth out unruly edges. This also gives you the ability to really see the exact spot that you are sanding.

Benefits to using an oscillating spindle sander include the ability to sand down more rigid surfaces as you prepare larger woodworking projects. Oscillating spindle sanders are not managed in the same way as other sanders, so you will only need one if you are using them for projects that require pre-prepared wood.

This type of sander is used primarily for creating smooth edges. It wears well due to the even distribution of the drum during the sanding process, so it can last a good while, which means a good investment for you and your wallet!

The drums can come in different sizes from ½ to 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Bigger sizes work great even for angeling, but all are perfect for curved and straight surfaces. The size you purchase totally depends on your individual needs.

What to look for in an oscillating spindle sander includes the power, visibility of the layout line, effectiveness, quality of material, variable drums that are user-friendly, and a high-quality dust collection system. 

One of the best oscillating spindle sanders on the market is the Ridgid EB4424 that works as an oscillating spindle and a belt sander (which we will discuss later). This high-quality machine is consistently rated in terms of performance, effectiveness, and longevity. Plus, since it can operate as a belt sander, you get a two-for-one deal here. (You can check its current price and availability on Amazon HereOpens in a new tab.)

5. File Sander

File sanders are tiny compared to most sanders, but that is totally appropriate considering their purpose. A file sander is designed to get into the tiniest of spaces – spaces that even sandpaper can’t get a grip on. This may seem impossible, but they get the job done.

Benefits of file sanders include the ability to use them for fine details, maneuverability, flexibility, and low cost. File sanders are best used for small woodworking jobs that require a small bit of sanding with a higher level of grit.

If you have a small spot in the groove of a side table that your sandpaper refuses to sink its teeth into, the file sander may help you get exactly what you need. Sandpaper is wonderful for tough areas, but sometimes, it simply doesn’t have the flexibility, or you can’t get enough torque behind it to effectively sand a particular spot. This is where file sanders come into play.

File sanders are great for all those small jobs, but they do very well to smooth the edges of more delicate pieces or those pieces that are very thin and require a softer type of sand. If you don’t want to use sandpaper in your hands to tackle them, a file sander can do a great job for pieces that require a bit of a softer touch. 

The WEN 6307 has a variable speed dial power, auto-tracking belt system, and the ability to pivot up to 55 degrees. This file sander is effective, high-quality, and perfect for those small, tiny spaces that require your sanding attention. (6. Detail Sander

The detail sander is also a sander that is used for minimal detail work. There are several options out there, but if you are looking for one for the sole purpose of the fine details, then opt for the smallest option.

Benefits of using the detail sander for woodworking include that it is effortless to handle, is relatively quiet when being used, and uses just enough power to get in between those hard-to-reach spots. 

A detail sander is like an orbital sander, but it also has a triangular pad. Because of this shape, it uses special adhesive sandpaper. I say this because you cannot cut paper to fit this type of tool. You’ve got to buy the good stuff.

A detail sander is also a tool that comes with more than one attachment. Its purpose is to complete exact work and to do that. You sometimes have to switch up your attachments or use a variation of a few.

This sander does great in very tight spaces and is a champion in working on projects that are funky shapes. Even better, it works great for those projects that have quite a bit of detail to them (hence, detail sander).

While some multi-purpose tools exist, one of the best detail sanders for woodworking is the Black + Decker Mouse Detail Sander. This option is relatively inexpensive, easy to control, highly maneuverable, lightweight, compact, and precise. (Check its price on Amazon hereOpens in a new tab.)

7. Belt Sander

A belt sander can be found in just about any woodshop. This sander has a wide belt on it that is wrapped around two drums. When powered on, the drum in the back is turned to start the feed of the belt. The one in the front moves due to this jumpstart, and thus, you have a feed.

There are many benefits to a belt sander. Primarily, it is available in quite a few different sizes. If you are new to the game, there are smaller sizes that make learning pretty easy, and then there are mid-sized ones that have a bit more weight to them, making them a little easier to balance considering their speed. Large belt sanders pack a punch when it comes to power but cover a ton of surface quickly.

For the small sander, you will be looking at a size of about 3×18 inches. Going up in size to a more medium machine, it is 3×21 – this is the size that has a better balance and is easiest to control once you get the hang of the tool. The two larger sizes are 3×24 and 4×24.

Belt sanders are used for heavy-duty sanding on large projects. Since they cover a large surface, Belt sanders can be used for projects like preparing pre-installed flooring or building large woodworking pieces like desks and cabinets.

One of the best belt sanders for woodworking is the Makita 9903 Belt Sander. This option is potent, efficient, has 3” x 21” dimensions (so it is good for larger projects), has an 8.8-amp motor, and is highly controllable with the auto belt tracking system. Plus, since it’s a Makita, it will be a bit quieter than other options. (You can check its current price on Amazon hereOpens in a new tab.)

8. Table Sander

You want to consider what your projects really look like before purchasing this sander because they are big. This means they will take up a good amount of room in your shop, and you have to justify the space-taking for what you are getting and how to use it.

A table sander is stationary and uses a belt to tackle larger sanding jobs. A table sander is designed for those working with big pieces of wood very frequently. This type of sander is designed to go over large areas with efficiency.

It is not the kind of sander you use for items that need to be sanded a bit more delicately and will not do great in areas that need a little precision. A table belt model is most often used for industrial-type work. If you want something a little less aggressive, consider looking at a slack belt model. This type of sander allows for a smoother finish when the right sanding grit is used.

The WEN 6502 Belt Sander is highly efficient, powerful, and made of high-quality cast iron. It will help increase efficiency on your large to industrial-sized woodworking projects. (Check out its current price on Amazon here)

9. Disc Sander

This sander was made for those who need a sander but don’t necessarily want to purchase a separate tool for the job.

A disc sander’s many benefits include that these sanders are designed as an attachment for any drill. It is a round disc and can be mounted onto a drill you already have in the shop. Due to using the drill as the power source, these sanders rotate only in a circle. They can use any grit inserted to do more fine work if needed or work towards heavier duty sanding.

The only drawback is that you are using a drill to power the sander, so this can mean that there isn’t enough torque to get through rougher surfaces or that there is not a gentle enough motion to finely sand something in an even way that won’t leave your piece with sanding marks.

The most appealing aspect of the disc sander is its accessibility. If you have a drill, you can have a sander. Disc sanders are best used for woodworking projects that need high material levels removed at an efficient pace. Consider this for building a beautiful desk or dining room table.

The Jet J-41002 Belt/Disc Sander is a great combination option if you look for a machine that can combine these two popular types of sanders. It is high-quality and has an 8-inch disc sander perfect for stationary disc sanding projects. (Check out this belt sander here on AmazonOpens in a new tab.)

10. Mounted Disc Sander

Sometimes, you need a bigger tool, and the mounted disc sander might be your answer. This sander works exactly as a disc sander does, only it is mounted.

Instead of using a disc, though, a mounted disc sander uses a wheel to get all your sanding done and can cover a larger amount of area than the disc sander can. It can also do this in about half the time due to its size and speed comparatively.

As with the disc sander, a mounted disc sander can also use different types of grit sizes for whatever your job calls for. The change of grits may be a bit more tedious than with disc sanders, but not too difficult.

Mounted disc sanders are ideal for projects that you would typically use a disc sander on (larger surface areas that require a high level of sanding), but one that you want to be able to increase your overall efficiency. For large woodworking projects, this is a type of sander to consider strongly.

The Grizzly Industrial G7297 12” Disc Sander is a great option if you are looking for a mounted disc sander. It uses 12-inch discs so that it can cover a wide area in a small amount of time. Plus, it even comes with a miter gauge and the ability to tilt up to 45 degrees for easy maneuverability on your woodworking projects. (Check the current price here on Amazon)

11. Floor Sander

Floor sanders put some serious power behind sanding. They are heavy, they are fast, and they take a lot of muscle to maneuver. This closely resembles a drum sander, but it is pushed. All you do is plug in the machine and get to work – simple, but be careful. This does not mean you should be afraid. Please beware of the beast and respect its capabilities.

One of the benefits of using a floor sander is that it can achieve exactly the level of sanding required for your hardwood floors. Since they have a designated purpose (sanding floors), they are highly specialized and capable of using power to promote your hardwoods’ durability and longevity.

Very few people actually own one of these unless they are in the flooring business. Because of this, it means that many people who borrow or rent them are a bit inexperienced. Still, if you are into flooring as a woodworker, it will be imperative to choose a flooring sander. Be sure to take your time and evenly distribute your weight to avoid creating new marks on the floor.

Floor sanders are used to get floors smooth, remove stains, and get paint or other grime from their surfaces. Woodworkers can use them on a new installation of beautiful hardwood floors or be used (or rented) to make older floors look brand new.

The Clarke Orbital Floor Sander is a great option if you are looking for an industrial floor sanding machine. This orbital floor sander will have your hardwood floors prepped for a new treatment or stain in no time. With power and precision, this heavy-duty floor sander can help you to achieve this woodworking specialty.

12. Edging Sander

The floor sander is used for large areas. This helps to speed up an otherwise very tedious task, but standard floor sanders can’t get into all those nooks and corners that are inevitable in houses.

An edging sander is a disc sander, and it is designed to get into all of those places that a floor sander simply cannot. They work to go along the edges of floors and do especially well on sanding stairs. Even though it is small, edging sanders hold quite a bit of power. 

Once started, they can easily get away from you if you don’t have a good grip. The key here is to pay attention to what you are doing, be ready as soon as the machine gets going, and be attentive to your work. This tool is powerful and will knock out some of the toughest stains, gnashes, splinters, and gouges on any floor. Just be aware of its capabilities.

As mentioned, an edging sander is great for interior trim work, such as the edging of your floors or crown molding or installing woodworking trim in other areas of your home. Just be sure to choose the right size and power capabilities for your specific projects that you have in mind.

The Clarke Floor Sander Edger is a high-quality industrial option if you are looking to make hardwood flooring your professional woodworking avenue. (You can check its price on Amazon Here if you DareOpens in a new tab.) However, it might be best to refer to a random orbital sander for your hardwood floor sanding needs if you are doing this yourself. This might take you longer, but it will be much less costly than investing in a floor sander or a floor edging sander.

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