How to use Orbital Sanders?

Sanders can be very useful, especially when dealing with wood. As you may know, there are a lot of different sander types. You have the belt sander, palm sander, orbital sander, etc.

All of these sanders do a great job. But the one I use mostly for my personal woodworking project is the orbital sander.  This sander is easy to use, doesn’t cost a lot of money and gives you great results.  Orbital Sanders are mostly used for scratch-free surfaces and for smooth finishing.

This tool is very easy to use, but with some techniques, you can get the best of it. That’s why today we have decided to give you a step by step guideline on how to get the best results using an orbital sander?

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How to use Orbital Sanders?

To get the best results possible, you have to make sure that you have everything in order. So, before even turning on the sander the other stuff needs to be set.

Fix the Object

As you may know, orbital sanders are very fast. To avoid damaging the object you need to make sure the object is locked.  To get a smooth finish you have to make the object stable. That means that there shouldn’t be any unnecessary movement or vibrations.

This problem is very common when dealing with single pieces of wood. To avoid this you can ask someone to hold the piece of wood while you are sanding.

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Ventilation

Sanders and mostly orbital sanders tend to produce a lot of dust. This happens a lot, especially if you are dealing with very old and rusted wood pieces.  Dust can be very bad for your health and others near you. To avoid this you need to have some ventilation system inside of your garage. This forces the dust to go out.

Another way to get rid of the dust is to buy a high-quality sander. These types of sanders come with a dust collection system that gets rid of the dust before going on the air.  They tend to cost more, but they are worth it.

Sandpaper

While sanding, you will be dealing with different types of wood. Each of them requires different sandpaper. You will need to use sandpaper according to the wood you are working on.  There are different sandpapers, they come in different “grits”.  Each of the sandpaper will remove the scratches of the previous paper you used.

So, to get a very smooth and fine finish you need to gradually move towards a finer grit. You can’t just start with fine-grit sandpaper and except to get a smooth finish.

Start Sanding

Once you set up everything else then you will only have to deal with the tool itself. Start the orbital sander and gently place it on the surface you are working on.  Start by smoothly moving the tool around the object, it is important to use the same pressure and movement speed until the end. The constant force is the key to getting the results you want.

Quick tip – Orbital sanders are mostly used to give the surface a fine finish. To get better results, we recommend to sad the object twice. If the object is too big to sand twice, then you can only sand the edges twice and you will see a big difference. I always use this trick.

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Slow & No extra Pressure

A lot of people believe that if you add a lot of pressure you will get better results. That’s wrong. The weight of your hand is more than enough when dealing with sanders. No extra pressure is needed.  In fact, if you add a lot of pressure then you won’t get a good finish. Moreover, extra pressure will put your tool at risk of breaking down, you will damage the motor, the pads and the sandpaper.

Orbital sanders tend to leave a lot of swirl marks. If you want to have a surface with free swirl-marks then it is important to work slower. By moving the sander slow you reduce the chances of swirl marks, you may still get some, but if you move the sander fast then more scratches will happen and the finish quality will be worse.

Changing discs

Orbital sanders use discs. A good thing about this is that you can change them very easily, they are cheap, and you can find them almost in every hardware shop. So, if you see that the disc isn’t giving you the results you wanted then probably its time to change it.

Other things that show you that the disc needs to be changed are; slow cutting operation, stops cutting, a lot of dust inside, etc.  These little things will show you when its time, and it will save you a lot of time.

Finishing

After you have done all these steps then it’s time to finish. Once you get the results you wanted then make sure to stop the sander and clean it. Once you clean the sander then it’s time to clean the surface you just worked on.

If you didn’t get the results you wanted then you have two options – you can start the sander and do all the steps above again ( use finer grit from the beginning). Or you can use your hands – you can get the finest sandpaper you have, wrap it with a block and start sanding the areas that you want.

Both of these two tricks are good. If the results are almost perfect then use option 2 ( using your hands ), but if you can see that the surface needs a lot more sanding then it’s recommended to use the sander again.

Looking for professional sanders? Check: Best Wide Belt Sander

Tips on Using Orbital Sanders

  1. Make sure the object you are working on doesn’t move.
  2. Make sure to choose the right sandpaper.
  3. Use constant force and movement speed
  4. Don’t add too much pressure.
  5. Change discs frequently

Final Words

And this is it, folks – this is how you use an orbital sander. It may look difficult at first, but once you start you will realize that you can do it. To get a very smooth finish you need a little experience, so don’t expect it at the first try. But once you sand a piece of wood or two then you will get that smooth surface

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Michael is the Editor at thetoolgeeks.com. He used to own a local shop where he sold different tools for 20+ years. He now enjoys researching DIY tools and writing guides about it.

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