Different Types Of Sanders and Their In-Depth Functionalities

The inventions of sanders have saved us thousands of hours of sanding by hand. As the manufacturers kept on improving their sanding machine, we got a variety of sanding machines to work with. The different types of sanders have unique features that help in different works. Thinking about the users, there are also a variety of corded and cordless sanders. The sanders help to level a surface so that there are no ups and downs, and it also smoothens it so that it does not have any harsh edges. It is ideal for detailed finishing or polishing on a surface. 

You will find all your answers here if you are new at woodwork and know absolutely nothing about the sanders. We have discussed what sanders are and also about the different types of sanders. We have added some comparisons to make your view clear and some pros and cons of each sander to help you know them better. Read till the end to get all the detailed knowledge about the sander.

What is a Sander?

The sander is a kind of power tool that can smooth surfaces with abrasive paper. You can either hold it by hand or use it as a benchtop. It has sandpaper attached to it, and by moving it rapidly by a motor, it sands any material. You can sand wood, metal, aluminum, or plastic, depending on the sander. There are different types of sanders, but you need to choose the suitable one for your project. 

Different Types of Sanders You Can Use For Woodwork

You will find a variety of sanders in the market, each capable of doing different types of work. Some might be suitable for wood while the other one can work on metal. Let’s take a look at the famous sanders that people mostly purchase from the market. 

Belt Sander

Almost every woodworker has a belt sander in their collection because of its versatility and performance. It works as the drum rotates the belt. These often come with a strong motor and a compact size that is easy to carry but powerful. Changing the sanding belt is easy too. By pulling a lever, you can easily release the belt from the sander. There are various grits to choose from, depending on the type of work you will do with them. Some of the sanders also come with an auto-tracking belt that keeps the belt in place while you work continuously. 

Advantages of belt sanders

  • Good for covering large areas
  • It strips off a good amount of wood
  • Suitable for stripping of paint from a surface
  • Easy, compact, handheld sander


  • Stronger ones are hard to handle

Orbital And Random Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is a sander that has a circular, square, or rectangular-shaped sanding pad that moves in a tiny circular motion. However, the random orbital sanders are also orbital sander, but it spins as it moves in a circular motion. The spins occur randomly, so it is called the random orbital sander. These sanders are not suitable for covering large wide areas. But it is really useful to smooth out any rough edges that a belt sander might have missed. It works to remove paint or rust from a surface and polishes the surface.

Pros of Orbital And Random Orbital Sander

  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Easy to change sanding pad
  • Low profile body helps it to reach tough places
  • Can be corded or cordless
  • Perfect for ultra-smooth sanding and stock removal


  • Some might leave swirl marks on the surface

Rotary Sander

Rotary sanders are either handheld or floor mounted. It works as its head turns in circles, but unlike the random orbital sander, the rotary sander does not vibrate while it spins. The rotary sander is easy to use and suitable for almost all kinds of materials. Also, it can reach the edges and smooth out any harsh edges giving out a polished finishing.

Palm Sander

The palm sanders are also known as the finishing sanders. They have a square pad that oscillates in a circular motion giving a smooth finish. It works better as it can reach all the corners perfectly with its square pad. Also, it is known as the ¼ sheet sander as it mostly uses one-fourth of regular-sized sandpaper. These sanders are lightweight and quiet to work with, making them popular with all kinds of polishing work. 

Advantages of a Palm Sander

  • Easy to handle
  • The sandpaper is easily available
  • Affordable
  • Good for reaching corners


  • Not strong enough to take heavy-duty jobs

Types of Handheld Sanders

The handheld sanders are sanders that you can use by holding them in your hand. There is another type known as the benchtop sander or the stationary sander. They need a bench or a table to mount on so that they do not move while working. The handheld sanders are comparatively light so that you can easily grab them by hand and place them where you need to sand.


  • Easy to carry around
  • Has comfortable handles
  • Mostly lightweight
  • It comes with a powerful motor

Limitations Of Handheld Sanders

  • Cannot cover a big workpiece at one go

Power Sanders

There are normally two types of power sanders available in the market. They are corded and cordless. The corded one comes with a power cord that takes power from the electricity. But the cordless one usually runs on batteries. They are portable so you can take them anywhere and work even if there is no electricity.

Advantages Of Power Sanders

  • It gives you options to choose according to your situation
  • Corded ones have less weight and more power
  • Cordless ones have no restricted movements
  • Both types have powerful motors


  • Corded ones are not free to move away from the electric source

Detail Sander

A detail sander comes in a triangle shape, so it has another name, the mouse sander. The detail sander is small and compact, so it can get in small or narrow places and make it smooth. It is perfect for all kinds of furniture making. 

What we like

  • Small size and lightweight
  • Can get in narrow and tight places
  • Suitable for beginners
  • It comes with a dust canister


  • Not suitable for any stock removal

Types of Electric Wood Sanders

Most of the electric wood sanders are corded, and you need an electric outlet to operate them. Below we have listed some electric sanders-

Drum Sander

The drum sanders are a kind of belt sander as they have rotative belts to sand. They are quite big and heavy in size and ideal for heavy-duty jobs that need to cover a large area. Drum sanders come with a stand, so it works as a bench sander or a stationary sander. But some drum sanders come with handles to use as a floor sander. Either way, this sander usually has a powerful motor that can remove materials from the surface, giving a plain finish. So if you are searching for a drum sander, you can get a Supermax or Jet 16-32 drum sander.


  • Ideal for covering large areas
  • Powerful motor provides high speed
  • Can level out any material
  • Has a good dust collection system

Disadvantages of Drum Sanders

  • Too big to carry around

Spindle Sander

The spindle sander works as the spindle wrapped in sandpaper spins. It is also a benchtop sander which means you will need to mount it on a table or bench to work with it. The best feature is that the spindle spins and goes up and down, which helps in the sanding process. This sander is perfect to use on curve edges or the straight edge to make them curved. However, the spindles come in various sizes to help out with different sanding. 


  • It can use as a benchtop
  • High-Speed, powerful motor
  • Good for sanding edges and curves
  • It gives a smooth finishing


  • Not suitable for sanding wide areas

Disc Sander

A disc sander has a round disc-shaped sanding pad that has abrasive paper on it. This sander can be portable that you can use by hand or as a benchtop.  It works just like a belt sander, but it can reach the places that the belt sander cannot. The bigger the disc is, the more area it can cover. However, the benchtop disc sander is a bit different. It has a round circular backplate that has an abrasive paper on it. There is a small work table made from aluminum to help you keep your workpiece while you sand. You will need to move your workpiece on the disc as it rotates. The worktable is also adjustable in different angles, and with a miter gauge, it is easier to sand a curve. 

Belt Disc Sander

The combo of belt and disc sander is more affordable than getting each of them individually. Yes, you heard it right. You will get these two most used sanders in one machine at a budget-friendly price. These sanders are versatile and durable as they have a powerful motor that can reach high speed. As they are heavy, they serve as a  benchtop sander. With a wide belt and disc, it can take care of any materials. Some belt disc sanders come with separate work tables, each for the table and the disc, and even a separate dust port. 

Advantages of Bet Disc Sanders

  • You get two sanders in one machine
  • Easy to store
  • Powerful motor
  • It comes with adjustable work tables and a miter gauge
  • Has good dust collection system
  • Can work on any materials


  • Setting up the sander might be difficult for the beginners

Comparison Between Different Types of Wood Sanders

A Belt Sander vs An Orbital sander

Belt sanders are the best choice for any heavy-duty wood. If you need to remove a significant amount of material from the surface, this is the best choice. At constant high speed, a belt sander can damage the softwood. So, if possible, choose the one that has a variable speed option.  However, the orbital sanders are ideal for any finishing work. They can either be corded or cordless. But they are not suitable for working in a large area as they have a small disc capacity. Even if you try, the orbital sander will take a long time to finish working with it. 

An Orbital Sander vs Palm Sander

While the palm sander and the orbital sander work the same way, we can say that the difference lies in size. The palm sanders are normally small in size so that they fit in a palm. On the other hand, orbital sanders can be a little bit depending on the power source and motor. While palm sanders are cheaper, they are suitable for beginners. Also, the orbital sander is moderate to control and can handle a larger area than the palm sanders. If you struggle to get the corners, palm sanders can get them better than the orbital sander. 

What is the difference between a dual-action sander and a random orbital sander?

If you are curious about the difference between a dual-action sander and a random orbital sander, we got you covered. There are not many differences between them. By dual actions, they mean a circular motion and an orbital or oval movement in a sander. So basically, the random orbital sander is one kind of dual action sander as it has a circular motion as well as an orbital movement.


By now, you probably have gotten a clear idea about the sanders. Now the choice depends on you. You can choose the sander that works best for you depending on the type of work you do. The different companies have given out a variety of sanders and that too in various price ranges so that you can get a sander even if you are low on budget. Whether you need a sander for a small project or a big project like the professionals, you can find them selling in the market easily. 


What types of sanders are perfect for wood?

Four types of sanders are good for wood. They are the belt sander, the disc sander, the random orbital sander, and the detailed sander. They each have their special purposes. While the belt sander is good for removing material from the surface, the other sanders take care of the detailing, smoothing, and polishing. The sanders even out any splinters and make the wood smooth. The Wen 6321 belt sander is perfect for wooden works as it has a powerful motor and a sturdy body that can sand for longer.

What types of sanders are ideal for decks?  

 The sanders that are powerful enough to take on a large area are ideal for the decks. The Makita 9403 belt sander is perfect for any heavy-duty work with the least amount of noise. However, for the minor detail work or polishing, you will need a detail sander later on.

What types of sanders are perfect for metal?

The sanders that are powerful enough to sand metal are the belt sanders and the bench sanders, a combination of belt and disc sander. However, the bench sanders seem ideal as the belt sander might cause sparks to mix with sawdust, which can cause serious accidents. So having a benchtop sander with the correct abrasive belts, you can sand metal and even do the detail work. The Bucktool BD4801 bench sander is powerful enough to be the best sander for metal works.

What types of sanders are good for furniture?

Although it depends on the furniture, you need something that can reach all the narrow places and smoothen them easily.  For this job, all kinds of detail or palm sanders are perfect. They are small and compact so that they can reach anywhere you need to sand. However, the DEWALT DCW200B palm sander is perfect for any detail work. It is durable, powerful, and compact, which makes it ideal for any furniture-making work.


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