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While my last woodworking project required a 22″ drum sander it’s not a sander I’d expect everyone to invest in. But after 30 years experience as a woodworker I do know the best sanders for wood.
- Dewalt Orbital Sander – if you only buy one sander this is the best sander. Since it can sand from 24 grit up to 400+ it can remove stock quickly or apply the final sanding coat.
- Porter Cable Belt Sander – I grew up learning how to sand cabinet door panels with a belt sander and have logged hundreds of hours with a Porter Cable.
- Dewalt Palm Sander – the best sander for the wood coat just before staining is a palm sander and this Dewalt has been on my workbench for years.
- Jet Drum Sander – if you are really serious about wood restoration or getting into woodworking this a must have sander. I started with a 16″ and have upgraded to a 22″ Jet and it let’s me tackle custom cabinetry (including a massive walnut kitchen from my home workshop).
Dewalt Random Orbit
1. Random orbital sander - a must have sander for wood
With a random orbital sander you’ll be able to use course grit sandpaper to remove large amounts of wood. And then switch to finer (and finer) sanding discs to achieve a finish-ready surface.
A random orbit sander will quickly remove wood with available 24-grit hook-and-loop sanding discs. By use of a 10,000-RPM+ design the sander generates a fast cutting action that will smooth any planed surface quickly.
And to use, simply start with a low-grit sandpaper and move up to at least a 200+ grit for your finish pass.
Tip: Just be careful to not apply heavy pressure to the sander to avoid “swirl” in the finished wood.
2. Belt sander
With a belt sander just about any wood surface can be quickly ground smooth. But sometimes too fast, so this sander is used to prepare wood for finish sanding.
With a belt sander I’ve sanded thousands of wood cabinet door panels flat after they were ran through a planer. While eventually I went to a drum sander, this sander is versatile in sanding everything from face frames, door panels, even fitting cabinets and filler strips to walls.
Due to it’s aggressive design a large platen (metal surface between wood and sander) is desired, but a professional 4×21″ is a handful. So for a DIY’er I recommend a 3×21″ that is more affordable and is less strain on your arms.
3. Palm sander
A palm sander is the perfect sander for putting the final polish on wood after a random orbit sander. With fine-grit sandpaper this wood sander will prepare wood for stain.
Chances are you’ve used this sander in the past, but if not it works on a simple design of using a “quarter” sheet of sandpaper locked in it’s clamps. Due to it’s design it’s best suited for putting a final pass on wood before applying finish.
4. Drum sander (hands down #1 of best sanders for wood)
A drum sander is needed for the same reason you don’t use a circular saw to rip boards to width (right?). And for any serious woodworker this is an investment worth having.
While #4 on this list, it’s not because it isn’t the best wood sander on the list. Because it is and I’ve owned two (a 16″ and then upgraded to a 22″) of these sanders. Due to it’s wide drum design and aggressive cutting capability it can grind through just about any project, including upper cabinet face frames up to 50″ tall if you opt for a 25″ model.
And this machine hooks right into the dust collector you already have for your table saw.
5. Power Disc Sanders
A power disc sander moves this list of best wood sanders into the specialty sanders. For intricate or small sanding tasks a disc sander provides precise control as you hold the wood, not the sander.
If your projects have a number of small pieces or you need to precisely sand the end grain of small sticks then this is a sander for you. Since you won’t need to hold the sander you can have precise control over the wood as you sand.
6. Sponge sander for wood
A sponge sander is often overlooked by woodworkers, but it’s a versatile sander you’ll use throughout your projects. From sanding raised panels to sealer on finish it’s a must have.
I have dozens of these on hand for cabinet making projects as they are cheap and I’m always running out. Due to their soft design they work great for getting into heard to reach places and bending to the profile of curved wood.
And they aren’t just for cabinets because over the years I’ve probably sanded 50,000 feet of architectural trim between spray coats with an HVLP sprayer.
7. Block sander for wood (or metal)
A block sander is one of the few tools that hasn’t evolved over the years. While chances are you own one, it’s invaluable for quickly taking edges off shelving or face frames.
So I turn to this sander every time I’m finish sanding a cabinet with face frames. Why? Well, I don’t want to use a pad or orbital sander inside the cabinet and often they just don’t fit. Or I needlessly wreck a sanding disc tackling a job that this sanding block is honestly faster at.
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