Updated: June 8, 2015

Sander Reviews:

For those of us in construction and woodworking professions, having the right type of sander can save us time and energy when working with small or large projects. The different types of sanders are detail sanders, pad or palm sanders, random orbit sanders, belt sanders, disc sanders, and spindle sanders. A disc sander is bench mounted, has a circular pad which will hold specially made sanding sheets and they usually have a belt mounted horizontally or vertically on the frame. Other disc sanders have sliding miter gauges on tilting tables. If you have angled edges, then the tilt feature will let you get to them and the miter gauge keeps the specific angle throughout the sanding process. Disc sanders angle edges efficiently and precisely and finish end grain. A detail sander is a smaller handheld machine which is great for sanding woodwork with odd shapes or small crevices. Often referred to as contour sanders, the detail sander is used for millwork and crafts.

There are corded detail sanders and cordless models available. Spindle sanders and like disc sanders in that they are bench mounted. There is a cylindrical spindle in the middle of a big worktable which allows for edge sanding around circles or curves. The spindle holds different size sanding tubes with different grit sandpaper. You will often see spindle sanders that have an oscillating feature which will lower or raise the spindle as it rotates. Palm sanders (or pod sanders) come in models that use 1/4 or 1/3 sheets of sandpaper. Palm sanders are what many homeowners have for DIY projects of removing paint on floors and walls. It's easy to attach sandpaper to a palm sander since many have fasteners or loops and some of the newer sandpaper has peel and stick backing. When a palm sander is in use it will vibrate and go in a circular pattern and always make sure that you move in the same direction as the wood grain. This will keep scratching to a minimum of the stock. Keep reading for information on belt sanders and random orbit sanders.
belt sander

Buying Guide - A random orbit sander has round pads which move in a circular motion. The offset bearing that the pad is attached is how the pad's motion is given a random pattern. You can move the sander in any direction and don't have to worry about scratching the surface. Random orbit sanders often come with a variable speed control so you can customize the sander to the material you are working on. Slower speed means more control and higher speeds mean faster, less accurate sanding. Special sanding sheets are required for all Random orbit sanders and the holes on the pads must line up with holes on the sanding paper in order for the dust removal system to work efficiently. Lastly, there are belt sanders which have a continuous belt (loop) of sandpaper that goes across 2 wheels. In order for the belt to spin and remove stock, the drive wheel must be engaged. Belt sanders remove lots of material quickly and are often used for first portion of rough sanding jobs like hardwood floors. The dust coming from a belt sander can be overwhelming so having a dust bag is essential. The top sander brands are Bosch, DeWalt, Hitachi, Makita, Porter-Cable, Ryobi, and Sears Craftsman. The price range for belt sanders is about $130-$190. We go into the best brands for each type of sander below.

Best Belt Sanders:

The Bosch 1274DVS Belt Sander ($170) is considered a great buy - users say the it's easy to clamp to a bench and use it as an edge or stationary sander. The trigger-mounted variable speed control is the best of the class and the belt tracking control runs smoothly. Consumers did say the Bosch belt sander could use a longer cord and a touch more power. The dust collection bag does a good job of picking up the dust but fills up after just 3-4 minutes of sanding. The DeWalt DW 430 and DW 431VS ($190) - 2 belt sanders with a slight difference on the variable speed control. Experts like the ability to take off the front cowling and sand into rounded inside corners and tight spots although the dust collection system is removed during this process which causes an issue. The DeWalt is an excellent compact sander whose manual is the best on the market. Some users said the handles are too close, power is lacking, and the dust bag gets in the way. The Hitachi SB-75 ($169) - great on power, perfect handle spacing, belt tracking is flawless, and the dust removal system was convenient to remove and empty. The Makita 9900B ($179) comes with a huge 16 foot cord, tracking control was ample, and the belt release function worked fine. The dust bag system on this model was hard to remove and replace. The Makita 9901 ($169) lies flat on its side, is really quiet, and is a bit too powerful. Some users say the Makita is too lightweight given the extra power it has. The Porter-Cable 351 ($168) has power, is comfortable, and the belt-release lever works properly. The big drawback to this model is the lack of a dust bag (I think they forgot it). The Porter-Cable 352VS ($169) - is almost the same as the 351 mentioned above but it does come with the dust bag and is variable speed. The metal platen on this model was not flat, but that seems to be a common complaint with all belt sanders. The Ryobi BE-321 ($140) was one of the cheaper models reviewed and although it performed exceptional well for the price, some owners were concerned about the plastic belt-release lever which they say could easily break over time since lots of pressure is put on it to release the belt. Lastly, the Black & Decker DS321 3" x 21" Dragster Belt Sander ($70) was rated fairly high for simple home projects, but users said it would be hard to do serious woodworking projects with this model (not for professionals). You can purchase belt sanders online at Amazon.com. When searching on the Internet for belt sanders keep in mind that some stores sell them as "floor sanders". View top rated belt sanders here.

Top Drum Sanders:

We went to Amazon so see which drum sanders sold the best and its appears that 2 brands have the top sellers - Performax and Grizzly. The Performax 629004K 16-32 Plus Drum Sander Including Stand ($899) was a best seller and the Grizzly G0459 12" Baby Drum Sander ($425) was a close 2nd. The Performax 628900 Mini 10"x20" Benchtop Drum Sander ($579) received some excellent reviews from woodworkers who use grained woods.

Spindle Sander:

Need a quality spinder sander, then consider the Porter-Cable 121 Oscillating Spindle Sander ($229), the Wilton 99179 Oscillating Spindle Sander ($175), or the Jet JOVS- 10 / 708411 Oscillating Vertical Spindle Sander ($849). The Wilton spindle sander gets great consumer reviews saying it's quiet, good dust collection when hooked up to a shop vac, and assembled easy. The Porter-Cable spindle sander is "excellent for edge sanding large materials with straight or curved edges" and the fact that it's portable is a big selling point. Users say the "tool that will change the work flow in your shop". As for the higher priced Jet sander, well you get what you pay for which means a great product. Consumers say the spindle action is "smooth and quiet" and comes loaded with 1/4 inch to 4 inch spindles, a push button start, and a 39-inch table height. Any home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot will carry these sanders or you can order online at Amazon.

Disc Sander - Palm Sander:

We are always being asked which disc sanders are the best for drywall and invariable we say the Porter-Cable 7800 Drywall Sander. All owners who were reluctant to buy said the Porter Cable and was much faster than hand sanding and the results came with almost no dust. Some consumers said the drywall sander made swirl marks, but expert in the field said you need to practice a bit and then it's easy to avoid that issue. Hard to get inside corners, but otherwise the machine works great. Some other top models include the Delta SA180 Shopmaster 1Disc Sander ($99), Makita GV5000 5" Disc Sander ($100), and the Grizzly G7297 12" Disc Sander ($125). For palm sanders, the Bosch 1295DVSK 5" Variable Speed Random Orbit Palm Sander with Case ($87) is top rated with variable speed, performs quietly, and dust collection is more than expected. Browse disc and palm sanders here.