Sander complete guide: Woodworking

Sanding is the process of removing high spots in the material to give the item a smooth finish. In this article, I will discuss sanders for woodworking. You will learn the different types of sanders, how to choose a sander, the best sander for the money, and much more!


What is a sander?

A sander is a tool that is used to remove the high spots on wood to give the object a smooth finish. In this article, I will focus on sanders for woodworking.

A sander is not to get confused with a jointer that is used to flatten wood, or a planer that is used to even the wood thickness.

To learn more about the differences between planers, jointers, and sanders, then you should check out my article “Wood Planers: Types of planers and features”.

7 Types of Woodworking Sanders

In woodworking, you have 7 main types of sanders.

  1. Sanding block
  2. Palm sander
  3. Random-orbital sander
  4. Belt sander
  5. Disc sander
  6. Spindle sander
  7. Drum sander

Below I will go over each sander, the price range, and their uses.

  1. Sanding block
    • Cost: $3-12
    • Power Tool: No
    • Uses: Ideal for delicate projects, suitable more most projects
    • A sanding block is a manual hand tool and requires more labor than the other power sander options.
    • Sanding blocks are ideal for delicate projects like wet sanding to a high gloss finish.
    • With hand handers, you have more control over the minimal amount of force that you use, and it is much easier to prevent burning through thin finishes.
  2. Palm sander
    • Cost: $15-70
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: General Woodworking projects
    • Palm sanders are power sanders that can handle many woodworking projects. Palm sanders are however, more susceptible to burning through the wood or finish.
  3. Random-orbital sander
    • Cost: $30-100
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: General Woodworking projects
    • Random orbital sander is the most common type of woodworking sander. This is because of the random orbital feature that prevents wood burning or burning through the finish. Additionally, the random-orbital sander prevents sanding marks, unlike the palm sander.
  4. Belt sander
    • Cost: $40-120
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: Quickly sanding larger items
    • A belt sander is ideal to quickly remove material for larger woodworking projects. Sanding hardwood flooring or larger workbenches are ideal for this type of sander.
    • A belt sander will remove material quicker and is not ideal for use after a finish has been applied or in-between coats.
  5. Disc sander
    • Cost: $80-200
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: Ideal for smaller or irregular shaped items
    • A disc sander is a stationary tool that rotates a disc. The user will operate a disc sander by rotating the work piece along the moving disc.
    • A disc sander is ideal for smaller objects that will be difficult to sand with a hand sander, and for irregular shaped objects.
    • A disc sander is not ideal for larger objects that will be difficult to hold in ones hand.
  6. Spindle sander
    • Cost: $130-210
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: Ideal for curved work pieces
    • A spindle sander is a stationary tool with a sanding sleeve wrapped around a spindle. This tool is ideal for consistently sanding curves in the wood.
  7. Drum sander
    • Cost: $400-2000+
    • Power Tool: Yes
    • Uses: Industrial tool for sanding a consistent, even, finish
    • A drum sander is a stationary tool that will sand the wood to a consistent finish and width. A drum sander will be able to tackle most projects and is extremely efficient
    • The drum sander is also more powerful and will remove material quicker than the other sanding options
    • The drum sander is a stationary tool and has a maximum amount of wood that the user will be able to feed into the sander.

How to choose the right sander

The sander that you choose will be largely based on your budget, space, and sanding needs. Below, are the best sanders for common woodworking needs.

  • General woodworking sander
    • Best Tool: Random-orbital Sander
    • A random-orbital sander will be able to handle most of the general woodworking tasks. Random-orbital sanders are versatile enough to be used for most projects and powerful enough to efficiently remove high spots.
    • Additionally, random-orbital sanders are designed to prevent wood and finish burn through and sanding marks, unlike the palm sander.
  • Sander for thin finishes or delicate projects
    • Best Tool: Sanding block or variable speed Random-orbital sander
    • A sanding block is a manual, handheld sander. Sanding blocks are ideal for very delicate finishes like wet sanding.
    • A variable speed random orbital sander can be used for delicate projects, but you will not be able to do wet sanding applications.
  • Sander for smaller items
    • Best Tool: Disc sander
    • A disc sander is ideal for smaller applications that are hard to control with the other handheld options. The disc sander is not too abrasive and can be used on most woodworking objects that can be hand-held.
  • Sander for irregular shaped objects
    • Best Tool: Spindle sanders
    • Spindle sanders are ideal for curved items that can be rotated along the moving spindle.
  • Sander for heavy finishes and large projects
    • Best Tool: Belt Sander
    • A belt sander is a handheld power sander that is ideal for larger woodworking projects. It is also abrasive enough to remove heavy finishes and is very efficient.
    • Belt sanders are ideal for assembled table tops, flooring, and other larger projects that will not fit in a drum sander.
  • Efficient and consistent industrial sander
    • Best Tool: Drum Sander
    • The drum sander is a sander that will quickly and efficiently remove material to a consistent finish and even wood thickness.
    • Drum sanders are the most abrasive and efficient out of all of the other listed sanders.

Best random orbital sanders

NameAmpsMin RPMMax RPMCordlessWeight(lbs)PriceRPMs per $lbs per $
BOSCH ROS20VS2.5750012000No3.5$60200.0583
DEWALT DWE64233800012000No3.4$84142.86.0405
DWT 2.8A 350W Orbital Sander2.86000130004.1$49*265.31.0837
Jellas 5″ Random Orbital Sander2.5800013000No3.1$60*216.67.0517
WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander2.5700014000No2.7$40*350.0675
WORKSITE 20V MAX Cordless Random Orbital Sander2.0700011000Yes4.6$90*122.22.0511

When looking for a random orbital sander, you should consider your woodworking needs.

Importance of RPMs: Random orbital sanders

Sanders with lower minimum RPMs and higher maximum RPMs have the most versatility in speed options. You will need the low RPMs to handle delicate projects and thin finishes and the higher rpms to quickly remove material.

The WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander has the most RPMs per $ and has the top maximum RPM of 14000.

Importance of weight: Random orbital sanders

When using a random orbital sander, you will be operating the tool with one hand. The weight of the tool is important because a heavy tool will be difficult to control and will cause fatigue quicker.

In general, any random orbital sander over 5lbs will be difficult to operate for extended periods of time.

The lightest sander is the Jellas 5″ Random Orbital Sander with a weight of 3.1 lbs and is $60.

Best Random Orbital Sander Price-Per-RPM

NameMin RPMMax RPMPriceRPMs per $
WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander700014000$40350
DWT 2.8A 350W Orbital Sander600013000$49265.31
Jellas 5″ Random Orbital Sander800013000$60216.67
BOSCH ROS20VS750012000$60200
DEWALT DWE6423800012000$84142.86
WORKSITE 20V MAX Cordless Random Orbital Sander700011000$90122.22

In terms of price per RPMs for random orbital sanders, the WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander is the best bang for you buck with 350 RPMs per dollar.

With the WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander because you variable speed of 7000-14000 for 350 RPMs per dollar.

But if you need slightly lower RPMs, then you can get the DWT 350W Orbital Sander for 265.31 RPMs per dollar with 6000-13000 RPMs.

Best Random Orbital Sander

The best random orbital sander is the WORKPRO 5″ Random Orbit Sander because it has variable speed of 7000-14000 RPMS and only weighs 2.7 pounds.

With this sander, you get 350 RPMs per dollar and it costs $40 retail value.

Best belt sanders

NameAmpsBelt lengthMin FPMMax FPMWeightPriceFPM per $$ per belt inch
Makita 99038.821″69014409.5lbs$2705.3312.86
BAUER Variable Speed Belt Sander1024″900160012.4lbs$9916.164.125
Ryobi Portable Belt Sander618″8206.78lbs$998.285.5
RIDGID R27406.518″4009505.8lbs$1207.926.67
Jellas Belt Sander721″2107009.68lbs$70103.33
Kobalt 24V MAX Belt sander18″40010006.2lbs$1825.4910.11

Best Belt sander Price-Per-RPM

NameMin FPMMax FPMPriceFPMs per dollar
BAUER Variable Speed Belt Sander9001600$9916.16
Jellas Belt Sander210700$7010
Ryobi Portable Belt Sander820$998.28
RIDGID R2740400950$1207.92
Kobalt 24V MAX Belt sander4001000$1825.49
Makita 99036901440$2705.33

The BAUER 10 Amp 4 in. x 24 in. Variable Speed Belt Sander is the best orbital sander in terms of the amount of RPMs that you get for the price. With the BAUER belt sander, you get 16.16 RPMs per dollar.

The BAUER belt sander however, has a minimum FPM of 900, which is the highest on the list.

If you do not need a low minimum speed, then I would recommend the BAUER Variable Speed Belt Sander because you get the more FPMs per dollar.

Feet-Per-Minute (FPM) is important because you need lower speeds if you do not want to remove material too quickly.

If you need the minimum speed but not high speeds, then I would recommend the Jellas Belt sander.

The best sander with low minimum FPMs and high maximum FPMs with 7.92 FPM per dollar is the RIDGID R2740. With the R2740 you will have the versatility of high and low FPM and you get more feet per dollar in comparison to the Kobalt and Makita.

If you want high maximum FPMs and low minimum FPMs, then you will likely have to pay more for each FPM.

Best Belt sander Price-per-belt length

NameBelt lengthPricePrice-per-inch of belt
Jellas Belt Sander21″$703.33
BAUER Variable Speed Belt Sander24″$994.125
Ryobi Portable Belt Sander18″$995.5
RIDGID R274018″$1206.67
Kobalt 24V MAX Belt sander18″$18210.11
Makita 990321″$27012.86

Longer belts on disc sanders are ideal for larger projects because the sandpaper will not wear out as quickly and you can sand more area at a time.

Shorter belts can be used for smaller projects. However, the purpose of the belt sander is to sand heavy finishes and larger projects. For smaller projects, a different sander will likely be more useful. Go to this part of the article to learn how to pick the right sander

The Jellas belt sander has the lowest price per belt inch of 3.33. This sander does have a lower maximum FPM of 700.

Best Belt Sander Conclusion

The Power User

If you want a sander with a long belt and high RPMs, then I would recommend the BAUER Variable speed belt sander because it is 4.125 dollars per inch of belt and it has a maximum RPM of 1600.

The Versatile User

The best sander with low minimum FPMs and high maximum FPMs with 7.92 FPM per dollar is the RIDGID R2740. With the R2740 you will have the versatility of high and low FPM and you get more feet per dollar in comparison to the Kobalt and Makita.

How to choose the right sandpaper

The sandpaper is just as important as the sander. When choosing sandpaper, you need to consider the type of sandpaper, the grit, and use, and the compatibility with the sander

  • Type of sandpaper
    • When choosing sandpaper for your woodworking needs, you will need sandpaper that is specifically designed for wood.
    • Based on the material that sandpaper is made out of, it may be better suited for polishing metal or removing rust.
    • The two main types of material that I use are Aluminum oxide Craftsman 5in disks and Ceramic Alumina Gator Sanding Disks. Honestly, both work very well on woodworking projects and I cannot tell a difference.
    • As long as you get sandpaper that is compatible with wood, you will be fine.
  • Grit
    • The higher the grit, the smoother the finish you will achieve.
    • Lower grit will cut down the high spots quicker but will not leave a super smooth finish.
    • Using a high grit sandpaper on rougher wood will take longer to polish and you will waste sandpaper.
    • It is ideal to start with a lower grit and then build your way up to higher grit sandpaper to achieve the smooth end result.
    • For dimensional lumber and plywood, I like to start with 120, 220, and the finish off with 320 before adding the finish. Going past 320 may lead to issues with the finish bonding to the wood.
    • If you are trying to remove old varnish or finish, then I would recommend starting at 60 or 80 grit and moving up.
  • Uses (wet or dry)
    • There are two types of sandpaper, wet/dry sandpaper and dry sandpaper. For sanding wood, you will generally only need dry sandpaper.
    • The only time you will need wet/dry sandpaper for wood projects is if you are wet sanding the finish to a polish.
  • Compatibility with sander
    • Lastly, you will need sandpaper for your sander. Orbital sanders take different sandpaper than sanding disks and belt sanders.
    • Sanding sheets are usually only compatable with sanding blocks and sometimes palm sanders.
    • You will need a velcro sanding disc for orbital sanders and specialty sandpaper for belt, spindle,, and disk sanders


In this article, we went over woodworking sanders, their uses, and how to choose the correct ones. We then looked at the best random orbital sanders and belt sanders by weight, RPMs, and belt length.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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