Helpful Tips

How to Use Orbital Sander

Wood sanding machine

The best palm sander is a staple in most woodworking shops. This is a very versatile power tool that has a reputation for achieving scratch-free and incredibly smooth finishes for woodworking projects whether you’re working with metal, plastic, or wood. This power tool is considered the next generation of sander. This is a power tool that moves the sanding disc in a circle as it spins while moving the entire pad at the same time in an oval orbit around the center of the tool’s axis. Basically, this tool prevents the sanding particles from making contact with the same section of material, repeatedly. This results in a smoother, more uniform finish. While this power tool is definitely much easier to use than older styles of orbital sanders, but if you’re new to woodworking, you may not know where to start or how to get the perfect finish. Here, my guide will give you some great pointers on how to use orbital sander correctly, in order to avoid unsightly swirl marks.

How to use orbital sander is simple and much easier compared to other types of sanders. To use, you’ll first need to choose and attach the appropriate type of sandpaper grit. Next, you’ll switch the sander on and allow it to reach its top speed before you make contact with your workpiece. As you’re working, do not apply any pressure in order to prevent damaging the surface of the wood. If you’re using a finer grit you’ll want to go very slowly and make sure you achieve a uniform look. Take care of all the surface areas and the edges using a different grit. Once you’re done, remove the sander from your workpiece before switching it off. And that’s all there is to it.

Now that you know just how easy this power tool is to use, read on to learn about some great tips that can help you to avoid many mistakes most beginner DIYers make.

Basic Use

If you’re using a beginner-friendly model such as the DEWALT DWE6423K Variable Speed Random Orbit Sander, before you get started sanding, first use a set of clamps to secure your workpiece to the work surface. Once this step is complete, you’re ready to connect the ventilation system, which will collect the dust that’s created as you sand.

Sandpaper Disc

Make sure you choose the appropriate grit for your project. Coarser grit will be perfect for heavy sanding, especially if you’re dealing with grooves or a tough finish. However, this type of grit can also leave nicks in your workpiece. Finer grits, such as 220, will leave a nice smooth, clean finish, however, it can take much longer to get the desired result. After you have chosen the appropriate sandpaper disc, attach it to the sander.

Get Started Sanding

Switch on the sander and allow it to reach its top speed before you place it on the material. Once you make contact with your workpiece begin moving it along the wood grain, for a clean finish. You can gently guide the sander using a minimal amount of pressure in order to avoid damaging the wood.

A Beautiful Finish

A Beautiful Finish

Begin sanding the edges of the material by placing a third of the sanding disc over the edge of the workpiece. Once all of the edges and areas are done, switch the sander off. Make sure you remove any remaining sawdust using a clean cloth. If you want a smoother finish, use the same type of grit and manually sand the workpiece.

What To Keep In Mind When You Use Your New Sander

If you’re used to manually sanding your work, then you’ll be blown away at how much time this power tool can save you. In order to use it correctly, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Switch it on and allow it to spin up to speed before you make contact with your workpiece.
  • Lift the tool off your workpiece before you shut it off
  • Never press down on the sander. Instead, allow it to sand under light pressure.
  • Move the tool from left to right, following the grain of the wood.
  • Never tip the sander on its side during use.

For more great woodworking tips, be sure to check out my article on how to sand furniture.

Related Questions

Why Can’t I Tilt A Palm Sander During Use?

You may see an unsightly spot in your wood and be tempted to tilt the sander on its side in order to focus on this particular spot, but doing this will result in a low spot in your finish. It’s also important to keep a minimum of ¾ of your sanding disc on the material at all times when you’re sanding, for similar reasons. If you fail to do so, you may end up with a round over effect along the edges of the workpiece.

How Much Pressure is Too Much?

These sanders are made to work with a minimal amount of pressure. When you press down on the sander you end up slowing down the rotations per minute. This results in motor damage and a performance that’s less than efficient. The amount of pressure you use should just be the weight of your hand and the weight of the sander itself.

How Can I Tell If I’m Making Progress With My Sander?

If you can’t determine how much progress you’ve made with your sander just by eyeballing your workpiece, you can use the following trick to make it easier to see how far along your project has really come. Take a pencil and use it to mark a line on the workpiece. As you’re sanding, you’ll begin to notice some of the pencil marking begin to disappear. Continue to use pencil marks throughout the duration of your project to ensure the entire surface is as flat and as even as you need.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, learning how to use orbital sander is pretty easy, as long as you remember not to apply any pressure as you sand, use the appropriate sandpaper grit, take your time when sanding, especially when you’re using a finer grit, and never tilt your sander on its side during use. It may take you a few hours to really feel confident using this tool, but once you do, you’ll find that it leaves a smooth clean finish and can save you several hours that would’ve otherwise been spent manually sanding your workpiece.