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Things You Should Look For on a Benchtop Sander

Jack Gordon - June 5, 2020 - 0 comments

A Benchtop Sander is a must-have on your woodworking shop. Like any other tool, you should pick the one that’s best for you, based on your personal and professional needs, as well as your budget requirements. There are plenty of benchtop sanders on the market, made from high-quality parts that offer durability and overall reliable operation, so choosing one might not be that easy.

But first, you need to know exactly what a benchtop sander is before purchasing one. Whether you are a vivid woodworker or just a fan of homemade furniture, you are probably sanding on a regular basis. Not only is it a messy process, but most of the time it can be inefficient, tiring, and painful if you’ve been tediously sanding by hand. That’s where benchtop sanders come in! They are high-power electric and very useful tools that make sanding easier, faster, and more effortless (as well as much more entertaining).

A benchtop sander is not a portable machine but sits stationary on your workbench (you might also be able to set it up on sawhorses, providing a more accurate and cleaner cut!) It will also give you the flexibility to sand any edge or surface of chairs, table, or whichever project you’re tackling at the moment. It also gives you a greater capacity for sanding and while offering you the ability to use both hands on your workpiece, rather than just one, if you’re operating with a portable sander.

The most popular models have either belt and disk sanders, drum sanders, or oscillating spindle sanders. You should always pay attention to size, efficiency, durability, and price, as you’ll need to maximize the qualities of your sander with your personal needs.

To give you a better understanding, I narrowed it down to three types of benchtop sander models. Which one should you choose? That’s up to you, so be sure to pay attention to each one’s features.

Belt and Disc Sander

Belt and disc sanders are easily adjustable. They work vertically, horizontally, and anywhere in between, which ends up being a major advantage in a benchtop sander. For me, it’s usually easier to use the belt vertically, but it’s totally up to you!

The quick-release lever makes changing the belt and other adjustments more effortless, enabling you to get back to work rather rapidly.

They usually have a round rotating disc for sanding and a flat belt on top, so you’re getting a great two-in-one option for those that want value and diversity.

Its unique configuration allows you to not only sand square and curved ends, but it also comes with a tilting work table, meaning you can efficiently work on squared and angled pieces, as well. On one side, it’s perfect for sanding precise chamfers and bevels and on the other side, due to its belt, you can accurately sand wide and longboards. It’s compact, useful, comfortable, and overall super efficient!

Drum Sanders

You might recognize this as a shop tool, but now there are some versions acceptable for home use, as well! Ideal for smoothing long and wide boards, or other flat wooden pieces. The hand crank allows you to open and close the machine, as well as letting you choose the thickness of the piece you want to sand. The auto-feed system moves your piece carefully through the sander at a consistent speed, while the board comes out on the other side, smooth and elegant.

Lastly, drum sanders are nearly hands-free! They keep your fingers safe from any moving parts, which might be a defiant feature when it comes to woodworking tools, and they allow you to do several lights passes through the machine, achieving the level of smoothing you want.

Oscillating Spindle

It’s incredibly efficient and really fun to use (I always have a stupid smile on my face while doing it!) As it moves up and down at the same time it spins in circles, you won’t get scratch marks on your pieces. The dual oscillating motion can sand curves more precisely than the latter two and you’ll end up achieving nearly perfect contours, shapes, or other sanded surfaces.

Usually, you are able to choose from a variety of diameters and abrasive sleeves. Some brands even make oscillating spindles that can convert into oscillating belts, making it a two-in-one tool that may prove to be much more effective for you.

Now that I’ve gone through the most popular types of benchtop sanders, before clicking that “buy product” button, there are a few features you should focus on, in order to make a well informed and wise decision.

Buying guide

  • Ease of Use: This makes a big difference in how much time you might spend assembling, configuring, and adjusting versus actually getting the work done. Make sure it’s as useful as well as it is comfortable and effortless for you to use it.
  • Power: 1 horsepower to ½ horsepower works just fine. A bigger motor is only beneficial if you’re thinking of aggressively sanding harder and rougher materials or larger objects.
  • Dimensions: Bigger tools can sand wood quicker – this is pretty obvious. A disc with a bigger diameter or a belt with longer, wider dimensions will be perfect for tackling larger projects, much easier. However, larger dimensions require bigger motors, which consequently leads to higher prices, so be sure you match the size with the type of projects you want to tackle.
  • Orientation: Some stand vertically, others horizontally. Facing the user, some stand on their ends and run horizontally, while others run horizontally sitting flat on a surface. This will depend on your woodworking skills and how you feel more comfortable.
  • Dust Management: Believe me, dust can seriously become a problem and a health hazard. It’s best to choose a model that has built-in ducts, allowing an easier cleanup.
  • Weight: These types of woodworking tools are stronger than most, so it’s not that surprising that they need to be heavier (but not in a way you can’t handle them) and sturdier, in order to endure the extreme vibrations that a sander creates.
  • Bevel Capacity: Important to protect your fingers from the powerful sander. A beveling table for both a belt and a disc sander will surely help you to sand and shape odd curves and awkward angles and still be able to count to ten with your hands.

The Verdict

Now that you have a better idea of what a benchtop sander is and how to use it, hopefully, you can make an informed decision before purchasing one. They’re potent, expertly crafted, and built to last a lifetime! Not only do they deliver fantastic performances and are true powerhouses of value to every wood project, but they are an important tool in every woodworking shop. Take a good hard look at these features and you should be able to get an addition to your woodworker’s arsenal that will surely change your projects’ outcomes, dramatically. Thanks for reading, and get to work!