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How to Use a Sander for Woodworking

Learn how to use a sander in this Howcast woodworking video featuring Makeville Studio.


So, when you're done putting together your woodworking project and you're ready to finish it, put on some final finishing or stain or oil, the first thing you're going to have to do is get it all smooth.

And that involves getting the wood to a level of smoothness that the finish will take onto the wood. Usually that involves going through a selection of different sandpapers. From rough grit to finer grit.

And, you can do this on a small project with a hand sander, like this. If you're working on something larger you may want to go to a power sander.

And, I have two different types of power sanders here. One is a random orbital sander. And, that's what this one is. It has a Velcro pet base that allows you to put different grits on there.

The nice thing about a random orbital sander is that its motion is, just as the name implies, is random and elliptical. And so, sandpaper, as you know, scratches the wood. And so, when this machine is on the wood, it actually hides the scratches very effectively because of the motion of the sander.

So, this is good, a great tool for sort of larger pieces that are going to take you too long by hand.

If you need to really remove a lot of material on a project, then you're looking at a belt sander. And, the belt sander has a continuous belt of sandpaper that runs on rollers around this base. And, it can be used in a couple different ways.

You can use this as a hand held tool. Running it over your work piece. Or, you can mount it upside down and clamp it to the table and actually run pieces of wood on top of the sander. Smaller. That's effective working with smaller pieces of wood.

So, the one caution about the belt sander is that it is a very aggressive tool and will remove a lot of material, whether you want it to or not.

So, when you're sanding down larger pieces and using this hand held tool, you need to be very careful about how you're holding it. How much pressure you have on it. And, before you know it, it will have gouged out a big piece of your work. So, use this one with caution.

Now, one thing about sandpaper that you should know, is just get an idea of which of the different grits to use and when. So, a rough grit of paper is 80, say. That's about the roughest I ever use in my shop. And that's an effective way to just remove material very quickly.

So, you can mount this on a hand sander. If you need to rub out some scratches or, you know, smooth out a curve, this is an effective way to do it.

You can work your way up through grits, though, to get to a final finish surface by going, then, to 150 and then to 320. You can probably do 220 in between that. And you can get even finer than that by going up to 400 and beyond.

At that point, you're probably ready to do some final finishing. You're getting to almost polishing the wood at that point.

Another option for sanding is to use a power sanding machine, like this one. This is a combination belt sander, over here it has a narrow belt one inch wide, and a disk sander on the other side. So, when this machine is turned on, you've got both sanders operating.

And, this is great for fairing curves or putting, you know, smoothing out edges. The other nice thing about this machine is that you can use this table as an index when you're sanding. Meaning, I can square off an edge just by sanding it but if I have this table at 90 degrees to my disk.

And, this is adjustable. So, if you need to do different angles you just loosen the table, set it at whatever angle you need. Tighten it back up. So, you can do angled sanding and shape the wood in that way.

So, these sanders are great but they're super dusty. And so, one thing you always want to have on hand is a connection to a shop vac. If you don't you're going to have dust everywhere around you.

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