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Types of Sanders for Refinishing Furniture


What type of sander one uses while refinishing furniture is a pretty personal choice. We have friends that only use a mouse style detail sander – some are afraid of certain types of sanders – and other folks simply don’t know what to start out with.

So what do we use? Basically every sanding option out there. We have the following sanders:

  • Random Orbital Sander – This is our “every day” sander – it’s easy to use, has variable speeds and really eats up paint and other finishes. This is a sander to spend some money on in my opinion. The variable speed allows us to use a low speed for areas that need a gentle sanding and then we can kick it up to full speed to really eat up finishes. Lauren uses this sander all of the time and loves it. It works faster and better then the mouse detail sander we used to use.
  • Belt Sander – This one is not necessary for refinishing furniture – but it’s a nice to have. It’s great for large areas, but it does require a special technique to make sure you get everything even. And make sure you brace the piece you are working on, otherwise it will fly away! And once the belt sander starts to heat up – take a break otherwise you will snap the belt. Nothing dangerous – but it does make a loud popping sound. Lauren will not touch this sander – it’s pretty heavy and can run away from you if you are not careful – but if you have a large piece, you should at least borrow one if you can to try it out. We found ours at a yard sale, so it was an easy acquisition.
  • Mouse/Detail Sander – This was actually our first sander – and our only one for the longest time. Until a friend borrowed it and I was forced to go buy the random orbital sander – which is now our number #1 sander. However, this is a great little sander – easy to use and can get into some tight spots. But for large pieces, if you use this, you will develop “the claw”. These are relatively cheap sanders – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one for more then $75. A good starting sander – and good to get into small areas – but this will wear you out if used on large pieces. Lauren uses this one from time to time (used to use it all the time until we got the orbital).
  • 1/4 sheet sander – We got this sander was a freebie throw in with another purchase at a yard sale a while back. It works – but frankly it’s only really good on flat areas. This one hasn’t been used much at all – but it’s a nice to have around the garage when we have dueling sanders.
  • Dremel Multi Max Sander – I was giddy when Lauren bought me this – it’s an awesome multi tool – perfect for cutting odd areas, getting out grout or sanding tight spots. This is not a sander for large areas – but it will get into tiny corners. I’ve used this to remove grout from tiles, cut holes for hinges and sanded detail trim areas. Highly recommended as an addition to any garage.
  • Regular Dremel – Use this with the round sanding attachments for those super tiny spots and other detail areas. Use a very light touch as the round bit will leave round marks in your pieces if you are not careful. I don’t use this tool as much as I would like to – there are just so many things you can do with it – but when I need it, it’s the only tool that gets the job done. Need to cut off a bolt or nail – use the Dremel. Need to sand a delicate piece – use the Dremel. Need to grind of rust on a tiny piece – use the Dermel.

And that’s not even all the sander options out there – I really want a benchtop belt/disc sander – and a spindle sander too – but I need more space first! Oh well, maybe if I find one at a yard sale I can justify the purchase.

So what sander do you prefer to use? Did I miss any?


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