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What sander to use

Posted by Katy | Toolstop on 29th Jun 2022

There are many types and sizes of sanders on the market. In this guide, we explain the most common types of sander and which you should use and when.

What sander to use
What sander to use

What sander do I need?

Sanders come in many different types and sizes, each of which is suited to specific applications. Use them for removing existing paintwork, surface preparation or to smooth and finish surfaces.

In this guide, we explain the most common types of sander and which you should use and when.


What is an orbit sander?

Orbital sanders usually have a rectangular base and are best suited to fine finishing on larger surfaces. They can get right into corners and up to edges with fast rotation speeds. Unlike with a belt sander, they leave less obvious cross-grain marks.

What is a random orbital sander?

Random orbital sanders have a circular base and are suitable for both fine finishing and high material removal on small and large surfaces. They sand in a random-orbit action, meaning constant irregular overlapping circles. You can even use them to sand curved surfaces. Due to their circular base, these sanders cannot get into corners.

What is the difference between an orbital sander and a random orbital sander?

An orbit sander moves only in circular motions whereas a random orbital sander will also move back and forth.


What is a belt sander used for?

Belt sanders provide fast material removal therefore are ideal for removing old layers of paint and varnish from surfaces. They have a pair of rotating drums that rapidly turn a sanding belt to provide fast material removal, though can only be moved in a back and forth motion.

They can handle coarse grits and have a linear sanding action, so even with coarse grits you can sand with the grain and get a good result. The next step would then be to use an orbital sander for finishing work. Belt sanders are not intended for fine or finishing work.

makita sander

What is a sheet sander?

Sheet sanders are a type of finish sander that are based around the dimensions of a standard sheet of sandpaper. There are 3 common sizes; 1/2 sheet, 1/3 sheet and 1/4 sheet, and these relate to how much of the sandpaper sheet they use. Different sizes are better for different sized jobs.

They are ideal for sanding between coats of paint or varnish and are square/rectangular in shape so can get into corners.

dewalt sheet sander

What is a drum sander?

A drum sander is typically used to sand flat surfaces like floorboards. It is cylindrical in shape with an abrasive wheel mounted onto its surface. The drum moves at speed to sand surfaces.


Which sander is best?

Ultimately, no sander is best as they all have different capabilities and are designed for different purposes.

No two types of sander can be compared, as it all comes down to the application.


What sander should I use and when?

Sander Type Pros/Cons
Belt Sander Sands tough surfaces with ease, fast material removal.
Random Orbital Sander Very versatile. Can be used for most sanding jobs with the right grit of paper. Will not reach into corners due to circular base.
Drum Sander Ideal for floor sanding. Quick working progress.
Sander Type Pros/Cons
Belt Sander Sands tough surfaces with ease, fast material removal.
Random Orbital Sander Very versatile. Can be used for most sanding jobs with the right grit of paper. Will not reach into corners due to circular base.
Drum Sander Ideal for floor sanding. Quick working progress.

When it comes to sanding, you also want to make sure you have the right sandpaper for the job. To find out more on sandpaper grits and which you should use and when, check out our guide.