How to Use a Sander

How to Use a Sander

Have you ever observed a finely crafted piece of furniture, the handle of a beautiful knife or a lacquered wood picture frame and wondered how someone managed to bring the grain and texture out? What gives it that amazingly smooth, yet nuanced appearance? Chances are it was sanded, and you can make things that look like that if you learn how to use a sander.

The best part is, using a sander is fairly simple. You won’t be a master craftsman at first, but with some very affordable tools, you can begin refining your woodwork so it resembles something truly artisan.

Types of Sanding Equipment

You don’t even need a sander to sand, technically speaking. A piece of sandpaper is a great tool to have around for the simplest woodworking projects — you use it by rubbing it on things with your hand. However, when it comes to larger jobs or applications where you really want to achieve a specific finish, you’ll need a machine.

The most common ones you’ll find out there fall into the categories of orbital, belt and detail sanders, but there are several other special kinds for specific jobs. When you’re just starting, a smaller palm-sized orbital or belt sander makes a good choice because it’s a versatile tool that can be used for several different jobs.

Sanding Basics

Before you begin to work a piece of wood with your sander, decide on the type of finish you’d like to achieve and select the appropriate sandpaper. Set up your sander, making sure to secure the dust collector and to use safety equipment that includes goggles and a face mask to protect yourself from dust and debris. Attach your sandpaper and turn the machine on to test that everything remains in place. Now you’re ready to begin sanding, whether a small project like a chair or a larger one like a deck.

Orbital sanders tend to be more forgiving than their belt-driven cousins in terms of leaving a pattern, but as a general rule, you’ll want to work from one corner across the surface vertically or horizontally in parallel. This will produce a uniform finish. As your skills develop and you become more familiar with different types of sanders and sandpaper, you can fine-tune for the look you want and get a specific pattern using the right paper and tool.

In some instances, you might have to clean the surface using a dry cloth and make multiple passes. Ideally, you’ll want to seal the finished product to protect the beautiful finish you put on it. There is any number of options to do this, including lacquer, varnish, natural oils, and paint, which will go on smoothly and have a much cleaner appearance on a sanded piece of material.

Perfect Your Sanding Skills

Practice makes perfect, so give yourself lots of opportunities to use your newfound skill in sanding. It’s an essential step to making craftsman-quality woodworking pieces, and one you can take a lot of pride in once you get a few projects under your belt.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

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