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The Best Wood Sanding Tools and Sandpaper For Woodworking

With dozens of types of sanders finding the best wood sanding tools can be difficult. But, remembering that sanding is about speed of wood removal followed by careful removing of sandpaper scratches will let you focus in on the right sander for your project.

New to woodworking? Then most woodworkers will start with a random orbit sander and add pad sanders, spindle sanders and other tools based on the size of the projects.

ALL PURPOSE

Random orbit wood sander

5-inch Random Orbit Sander

If you own only one sander it has to be a random orbit sander. And this Bosch sander (a top tool brand) has the power, quality and comfort to quickly remove wood or polish surfaces.

Professional option:Festool 576070

Sanding wood comes down to a progression of sandpaper grits and machines to move them.

And with a random orbit sander you can use wood removing 60-grit paper up to 220-grit (or higher) sandpaper to remove the scratches left by other tools and grit.

On a budget, we like this Bosch as it offers:

  • Pad dampner to help remove swirls
  • Easy hook and loop paper replacement
  • 1/2-micron dust collection

And of course, a Bosch brand name that’s trusted by professionals.

PERFECT FINISH

Drum sander

Controlled Thickness Sanding

From perfectly flat cutting boards to making doors up to 20-inches wide this sander will take rough wood to perfectly smooth. 

Other options: Guide to Drum Sanders

While drum sanders may not be for every budget (they start at $1000 and go upwards of $4000) they do make for the best wood sanding tool with their precise control.

Key features:

  • Precision thickness 
  • Rapid stock removal (planer alternative)
  • Integrated dust collection

And while this Jet 10-20 can sand upwards of 20″ (by reversing the material) there are larger units to sand up to 50-inch surfaces.

EDGE SANDING

Spindle sander

Edging and Curved Finishes

An almost must have for most woodworking shops, a spindle sander likee this WEN will let you quickly sand edges of work pieces.

While some spindle sanders have two separate drums for flat and curved edges, this WEN model combines both into one interchangeable design. The benefit? Less bench space.

Key features:

  • 4×24 belt
  • Four spindle sizes from 1/2-inch to 2-inches
  • Oscillating action

Best Wood Sanding Tools

1. Belt sander for fast wood removal

Makita belt sander

Used for:

    • Quickly removing large amounts of wood
    • Cabinet doors, wood panels of any size and shape, cabinet installation face frames

If you are looking for wood sanding tools you’ll need to consider a machine that will quickly remove large amounts of wood at a time. When will you use a belt sander? Well, most projects involve removing leftover planer marks, smoothing seams where wood panels are glued together, or adjustment of wood edges against walls.

Considerations when purchasing:

    • A 3×18″ sander is considered entry level, 4×24″ for serious woodworkers
    • The platen is what contacts the belt where it meets the wood
    • A 4×24″ will do a better job on larger surfaces due to a larger platen
    • Look at dust extractors – these machines produce a lot of dust
    • Best sandpaper: having a 60, 80 and 120 grit on hand is best

2. Random orbit sander - a must own wood sanding tool

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Removing course scratches from wood
  • Taking sharp edges off wood pieces
  • Preparing surface for finish sanding

After you’re done sanding with a belt sander you’ll be looking at removing the course scratches left behind. And that’s where the random orbit sander comes in.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Sanding discs are readily available
  • Variable speed for adjusting to course and fine grits
  • Quality of dust collection and ease of emptying
  • Best sandpaper: choose grits from 60 to 180 for this sander, then use a palm sander to finish the job

3. Palm sander finishing sanding tool

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Finish sanding of wood
  • Wood preparation just prior to staining

The palm sander is usually my last step in sanding before I stain wood. Because it is designed to remove very little wood and leverage high grit sandpaper it leaves a very smooth finish.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Quality of the dust collection
  • Comfort of top (palm) grip
  • Easy to use sandpaper grips
  • Best sandpaper: woodworkers typically use grits of 100 or higher as this sander isn’t made to remove wood

4. Mouse sander for tight spots and detail wood sanding

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Finish sanding in tight corners
  • Wood preparation just prior to staining

The mouse sander is a cousin of the pad sander in that it is designed for final finish sanding. However, it has the added benefit of a sharp nose (the “mouse”) to get into corners of cabinets, doors, or other tight spots.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Availability of sandpaper
  • Smallest possible size of tool for hard-to-reach spots

5. Drum sander

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Sanding flat stock eg. panels
  • Cabinet door and face frame construction

Transitioning to a few serious duty tools, the drum sander is an investment. But, it’s an investment in being able to create professional cabinets or other woodwork.

I’ve owned one for nearly 15 years and wouldn’t consider many of the projects I do without one. With an internal “drum” that sandpaper is wrapped around you’ll have up to a 25″ wide drum that can grind away wood at a rate close to a planer. Additionally, you’ll be able to use grits from 24 grit up to 220+ to gradually reduce sanding scratches.

You may also like my guide to tools for making cabinet doors as this machine is the centerpiece.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Width of drum – the wider the better
  • Integrated feed sensor that slows rate of feed based on motor load
  • Quick access to safety shut-off switch(es)
  • Included cabinet or stand
  • Best sandpaper: as a planer replacement, use a 24 grit to remove wood quickly, then have grits of 60, 80, 120, 180 and 220 to gradually remove scratches

6. Drill drum sander for circle sanding

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Edge sanding
  • Sanding round holes or curved features

This is a specialty type of sander in the collection of wood sanding tools. With versatility to be used in either a vertical drill press or your corded/cordless drill it can be used in the shop or field. By fitting around a fixed drum, various grits of sandpaper can be swapped out to do course or finish sanding.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Ease of sandpaper interchange
  • Long metal shank to fit into drill
  • Carrying case to keep the sandpaper and drums together

7. Sanding block for hand sanding wood

Makita belt sander

Used for:

  • Sanding small pieces
  • Knocking off sharp edges (course grit)

There isn’t too much to get excited about with this one. With a simple design to grab sandpaper this wood sanding tool is easy for anyone to use.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Ease of sandpaper interchange
  • Comfort grip on top
  • Wet and dry use (for more than just wood)
  • Best sandpaper: a 60 grit is best for removing wood and use a 220-grit or higher when doing finish sanding.

8. Oscillating spindle sander for curved wood sanding

Grizzly spindle sander

Used for:

  • Edge sanding
  • Sanding round holes or curved features

While similar to the drum sander for a drill, the oscillating spindle sander adds a bit more. With a drum that moves up and down it will avoid leaving horizontal scratches in the edge of the wood. And for an added bonus the extra action will remove material just a bit quicker as the grit will be kept cleaner.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Ease of sandpaper interchange
  • Height of sanding drum
  • Size of table

9. Oscillating edge sander for smooth sanded edges

WEN edge sander

Used for:

  • Edge sanding
  • Sanding large flat surfaces

If you think this looks a lot like a belt sander without the housing – you’re right. With a rapid stock removal design the edge sander can quickly and squarely sand edges of just about anything. However, it might be one of the most dangerous sanders so follow the manufacturers directions.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Ease of sandpaper interchange
  • Height of sanding drum
  • Size of table
  • Conversion to a spindle sander

10. Band sander for edge sanding wood

Rikon band sander

Used for:

  • Sanding small surfaces
  • Precise sanding of end pieces of wood
  • Removing end grain scratches

I grew up using one of these for metalwork but the band and disc sander is also two versatile wood sanding tools. The band sander will let you work with small pieces. While the disc sander typically has a fence for moving pieces back and forth for removing end grain scratches.

Considerations when purchasing:

  • Quality of fence
  • Size of tables
  • Installation of new sandpaper
  • Best sandpaper: this sander was built to remove wood not polish it. An 80 or 120-grit is most common

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to sand wood by hand?

The quickest way to remove wood by hand is with a low grit sandpaper in a hand sanding block.

Which sander is best for wood?

While there isn’t a single best sander for wood, there are three popular sanders that can combine to do a high quality job in most woods. First, woodworkers will use a tool like the belt sander to quickly flatten and remove wood. This is usually followed by a random orbital sander to remove the belt sander scratches. Lastly, a palm sander with a high grit is used to produce a glass-smooth finish.

How do you know when you've sanded enough?

The best way to tell you’ve completely sanded a piece of wood is to use light to examine the woods surface. Look for any leftover sanding or planer marks, swirls in the wood or un-even areas. If areas need sanding, repeat this process and use an air compressor to remove dust to see what a finished surface looks like.

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