how to use random orbital sander: Start your woodworking journey

Sanding is one of the most important tasks of any woodwork. It has a great effect on the end quality of your hard work. And the tool that made the sanding wood easy is random orbital sanders. Sanders are being used in woodworks for a long time. There have been many types of sanders like disk sanders, belt sanders, palm sanders and many more. Random orbital sanders are the next generation sanders that surpassed the limits of other types of sanders. You can have both heavy sanding and light sanding with a random orbital sander. In this article, I am going to explain how to use random orbital sander with some easy guidelines.

How It Works

Random orbital sanders work in the same principles of its predecessors. Like orbital sanders, the sandpaper friction motion of random orbital sanders is orbital. However, there are many key differences between the two also. Unlike orbital sanders, the sanding disks of random orbital sanders are always round shaped. The main key feature of random orbital sanders is their oscillating sanding motion. The sanding edge which holds the sanding disk moves in an oscillating manner. The combination of the oscillating circulation and the orbital motion of the sandpaper makes the random orbital sander unique. Thus, the sanding path never repeats which delivers a quality sanding. Although the orbital sanders were marketed as finishing sanders, the repeated path of their sanding motion often leaves swirl mark on the wood’s surface. Random orbital sanders solved this problem in an efficient manner.

Guidelines to Using Random Orbital Sanders

Using a random orbital sander is very easy. This sanding machine doesn’t require one to have any special knowledge of operating it and its operation is similar to that of an orbital sander. Their using process is same in both heavy sanding and finishing sanding. Here are the general guidelines on how to use a random orbital sander or an orbital sander:

1. Secure the Workpiece

The first thing you should do before starting the sanding process is to secure the work item you intending to sand. Not only it will facilitate the sanding process, but also reduce the chance of any accidents.

2. Attach a Dust Vacuum and Wear a Mask

Most of the power sanders now come with dust vacuum attachment. This dust vacuum sucks the sanded particles through the holes of sandpapers. Before starting the sanding machine attach the dust vacuum to the sander. It is also recommended to wear a mask.

3. Attach the Right Kind of Sandpaper

Attaching the right kind of sandpaper is very crucial to the sanding process. There are many kinds of sandpapers available on the market. Sandpapers are selected based on their grit numbers. The less the grit number is, the more abrasive quality the sandpaper has. Normally 180-220 grit sandpapers are used for light sanding or finishing purposes and 80 grit sandpapers are used for heavy sanding. You can find more details about sandpapers in later part of this article.

4. Start the Sander before placing it on the surface

Start the sander and let it spin before placing it on the wood surface. This way the sanding will be smooth. Similarly, lift off the sanding machines before switching it off.

5. Keep a Constant Moving Direction

Don’t keep the sander static in one position. Keep it moving at all times. It is important to move the sander in the same motion in the direction of the wood grain. If you work with your right hand it is convenient to move the sanding machine from left to right, along the grain always.

6. Don’t Put on Extra Weight

Don’t put any extra weight on the sanding machine, whatever the type of the sanding machine. The weight of the machine and your hand resting on the machine is enough. It is a common misconception that extra weight will make the machine sand faster. In fact, this will rather harm the motor and reduce your machine’s lifespan. Let your machine’s weight do the work.

7. Don’t Sand Partially on the Surface

Don’t let more than ¼ or ⅓ of the sanding pad leave the surface. Never sand only with the edge of your sander and don’t tip the sander to sand any particular lower spot. Otherwise, these mistakes will lead you to a rounding error or uneven surface.

Sandpaper Basics

Sandpaper sheets are widely used for their abrasive quality. There are different types of sandpaper for metal, wood and other surfaces. Sandpapers are made of either garnet, emery, aluminum oxide or silicon carbide. Garnet sandpapers and aluminum sandpaper sheets are best as furniture sander. Aluminum sandpapers are usually used in power sanding machines. Silicon carbide sandpapers are used in the wet-sanding process. These sandpapers are backed by clothing instead of paper. However, the main factor of choosing the right kind of sandpaper is not the material. It is the grit number of sandpaper which determines the sanding quality. The grit number represents the presence of abrasive particles in the sandpapers. The more the grit number, the lower the abrasive particles and vice versa. A wide range of sandpapers of different grits are available on the market, ranging from 20 to 2000 grit number. Sandpapers beyond 600 grits are mainly used for industrial purposes. The most commonly used sandpapers and their uses are given below for your convenience.

  • 40-80 Grit Sandpaper: These sandpapers have more abrasive quality and are used for heavy sanding process in belt sanders. You can also use them in a random orbit sander if you require a heavy sanding.
  • 80-150 Grit Sandpaper: These sandpapers are perfect for starting any DIY projects. They can provide good quality sanding to remove marks from the wood. They work great in unfinished wood for removing stubborn old paints.
  • 150-220 Grit Sandpaper: these are best for light sanding. They are used in furniture finishing process or refurbishing old furniture.
  • 220-400 Grit Sandpaper: these are very fine grit sandpapers. They are perfect for light sanding, especially sensitive or thin surfaces.

This orbital sander tutorial is the complete directives of how to use orbital sander or how to use random orbital sander. Following these, now you can easily get good quality sanding results with a random orbital sander. Don’t forget to check our guide to making the most of your belt sander for your desired wooodworing results.


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