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  • Opinions on portable power sanders?

    I finally got my router last week, finally decided on a Bosch EVS1617. The Ridgid 2 1/4 HP kit was very tempting, but the bonus accessory kit made the Bosch a better deal.

    Anyway, now that I have the means to build some nicer furniture pieces, I've started looking into buying a power sander. So far, I've been sanding down my projects by hand, and it has easily become the most tedious task. The problem is I'm not sure what type of sander I should get. I'm currently considering a random orbital sander that uses discs, though I really don't know if it's better or worse than the ones that use 1/4 sheets. I see that they are priced in the middle over the wide range of sanders that are out there so it seems like a good place to start.

    Should I be looking for an orbital, and not random orbital? What about belt, finishing, and detail sanders?

  • #2
    Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

    A random orbital sander will serve you much better than a ¼ sheet sander ever will. In my case, I'll use the ROS for 99% of my sanding work. A couple of important advantages the ROS has over the older style ¼ sheet sander is that the ROS basically eliminates swirl marks and does the overall sanding job much quicker.
    Teach your kids about taxes..........eat 30 percent of their ice cream.

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    • #3
      Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

      Originally posted by wathman View Post
      I finally got my router last week, finally decided on a Bosch EVS1617. The Ridgid 2 1/4 HP kit was very tempting, but the bonus accessory kit made the Bosch a better deal.

      Anyway, now that I have the means to build some nicer furniture pieces, I've started looking into buying a power sander. So far, I've been sanding down my projects by hand, and it has easily become the most tedious task. The problem is I'm not sure what type of sander I should get. I'm currently considering a random orbital sander that uses discs, though I really don't know if it's better or worse than the ones that use 1/4 sheets. I see that they are priced in the middle over the wide range of sanders that are out there so it seems like a good place to start.

      Should I be looking for an orbital, and not random orbital? What about belt, finishing, and detail sanders?
      Belt sanding for serious material removal.

      Random orbit for fine finishing. Hook and loop paper is a little more expensive, but I prefer working with it.

      orbital will fit in corners better than a ROS but I'd prefer a detail sander for corners if it was me.

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      • #4
        Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

        Sounds like I'm on the right track with a random orbital sander that uses hook and loop paper. As for brand, it seems that I'm going back and forth between Ridgid and the equivalent Bosch model that are priced exactly the same! They really don't want to make it easy for me to decide I guess.

        http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/...3+90129+500897

        http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?actio...VSK&lpage=none

        Is there anything the Bosch has that the Ridgid doesn't at that price? If not, the LSA with Ridgid will decide it for me.

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        • #5
          Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

          A Porter-Cable speed-bloc 1/4 sheet is easily the most used sander I have. I don't get any swirl marks with grits finer than 150, and usually finish up with 220 on woods like oak and walnut and 400 on maple and cherry. Personally don't use the round disc sanders on wood projects because of the poor corner access - you have to finish up by hand or with a 1/4 sheet machine anyway. I use 6" DAs (air) on car bodies though, since they are more aggressive.

          I used to be down on the 1/4 sheet finish sanders because I had a Sears one that was weak. Most of the energy went into shaking my hand... but the PC is at whole different level and does a great job.

          The belt sander is much less useful tool for fine woodworking. Until you develop the proper light touch, you can do a lot of damage with one of those. But when you need serious material removal, they're great. Again, I have a PC 3 x 21 that's about 20 years old, has never skipped a beat, is real easy to change belts on and (importantly) tracks really well. I don't like the bigger ones, as they're not as easy to control. Not a must have tool in my book, though. A good one isn't cheap, and you can almost always hand plane or scrape. I would rather have another speed-bloc so I could keep two different grits on them.

          Hook and loop? I would never go that way because of the price. I like to change paper often and using hook and loop would be prohibitive. Good sandpaper is really pricey as it is.

          The brand of paper is important. I like 3M & Mirka best; many like Norton but it's not quite as good in my book.... any chinese imported papers are a complete and utter waste of money.

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          • #6
            Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

            From a budget perspective, I can see your argument for the 1/4 sheet sanders. I'll have to do a cost comparison on the price of good paper vs. discs, and estimate how much sanding I do for a typical project. Unless I do a lot of sanding, I probably wouldn't realize any savings from going with a 1/4 sheet sander. Seems like the cheaper 1/4 sheet sanders have issues with the paper locking mechanisms also, so I'd have to go with a more expensive brand like porter cable.

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            • #7
              Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

              If you go 1/4 sheet, please don't get a cheapo even if the paper clamps look good. The cheapos don't remove much wood. You'll be sanding all day and your hand will be numb from the excessive vibration. I got my PC quite a while back, but as I recall it wasn't that much money... check it out.

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              • #8
                Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                Personally I think both a 1/4 sander and ROS are a necessity. If I only had to choose one though, the 1/4 sheet sander hands down. While ROS sanders are a lot more effective and tend to leave a better finish with less effort they have no corner access and are not very good at smaller pieces or edges where a 1/4 sheet sander does great. ROS sanders will tend to have the disc torn to pieces in any situation where the disc can't fully seat against a surface.

                One of the best 1/4 sheet sanders is the Bosch with the self tightening sheet clamp. Fitting sheets into this model is a snap. No need to carefully bend the paper around two clamps and make sure its fully stretched before clamping down. Current Porter Cable and Dewalt sanders are the same model and very good as well.

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                • #9
                  Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                  I think I see the 1/4 sander you're talking about, it didn't show up on my Lowe's search earlier since I selected "Random Orbital Sanders," and this one is just an Orbital sander. The price is pretty good so still considering. So the question now is, do I really need my orbits to be random?

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                  • #10
                    Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                    You can get by without a ROS.......people did for many years.

                    I have both and would recommend both. If I had to recommend only one I'd have to recommend the one I use the most and that's the ROS.

                    If you get an ROS I'd recommend one with an 8 hole pattern, which is almost any brand but the porter cable. The PC is a quality tool, but 8 hole sanders are more common and therefore 8 hole paper is more common. I HATE the paper that works for 5 or 8 hole.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                      The ROS is by far my most often used sander, then the belt sander, then the 1/4 sheet palm sander. My ROS is a Porter Cable PC343K and is a very good sander...much nicer than my Ryobi. The Bosch gets high ratings.

                      My belt sander is a Hitachi SB75 that I bought as a refurb for ~ $60...it's been a huge improvement over my B&D belt sander.

                      If I can offer any advice, it's to buy a decent quality sander the first time around. They cost a bit more but last longer and perform better. If you need to shave costs, get a refurbed unit, as opposed to a cheaper one.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                        The newer Porter Cable 343 does have an 8 hole pad. The older PC333 did have a 5 hole design.

                        I agree with the previous posters who say that owning both a ROS and a ¼ sheet sander is a good idea. For corner work, if you don't own a specialty sander made for this purpose, the ¼ sheet sander is a good option. I like and use my ¼ sheet sander for edge sanding.
                        Teach your kids about taxes..........eat 30 percent of their ice cream.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                          I guess I'm an old fart here. I don't own a random orbital yet. I mostly use a belt sander for heavy removal and a Porter-Cable 330 1/4 sheet high speed orbital for lighter work. For finishing I do that by hand. For serious hogging work out comes the nasty 9" disk sander / angle grinder. You would never dream of using it for any hardwood work. It's mostly when I want lots of paint gone fast or when I want to make loads of fine wood dust for testing shop vacs and such. As an angle grinder it gets used with 7" grinding wheels and yes the guard is put back into place.

                          I think what you get really has to be based on what you want to use it for. Do be sure to have a few good sanding blocks as you will use them for sure.

                          Howling Off Now

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                          • #14
                            Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                            I have several hand-held power sanders, including both a Ridgid and Ryobi ROS, a Ridgid 1/4 sheet, a Ryobi CornerCat (detail sander), and a Craftsman belt sander. The latter is from the late 60's. The two Ryobi's were purchased in 2002 and the Ridgid's in 2003.

                            What I use least, is the belt sander. It's great for removing a lot of surface, very quickly. That's nice if you're trying to even out some very messed up stuff like the back side of the old oak wainscote in my kitchen. But generally, it's just too aggressive for anything else.

                            I find the ROS to be the most often used sander. I first used a Makita that I friend had lent me back in 2003. It was a greatest sanding tool I had ever used up to that time, but that particular model was very noisey and its so-called dust collection was more like dust distribution! Shortly thereafter, I bought the Ryobi variable-speed ROS. I liked a lot, it was quieter than the Makita, a lot cheaper and the dust collector did a fair job.

                            I used it so much that I thought I would wear it out and soon after bought the Ridgid, which had recently been introduced. That's my workhorse sander and it works great. Dust collection could be better, but that's the fault of the bag, which seems a bit too porous. With a vacuum attached, it works excellently! Only bad thing I can say is that the slide-through-body power switch is all too easy to trigger off while you'll using it. I've learned to place my hand where it's not likely to trigger the switch. In the six years I've used it (a lot), the only thing I've replace is the hook & loop pad, this past spring.

                            The 1/4 sheet I haven't used all that much. I like it, as it gives me more versatility with paper selection, which is also quite economical. But I recently had it into for repair because it started spitting it's metal innards. The biggest problem I've had with operating though is that the paper just seems to catch/snag quite easily. I usually replace the paper, not because it's worn out, but more because it's torn.

                            My second most active sander is the Ryobi Corner Cat. This sander has got to be one of the best bargains out there. At $30, it operates very nice. Removes material with good efficiency and yet is gently enough for a fine finish. It takes a chevron-shaped paper (like a small clothes iron) which has a point area (Ryobi and Norton brand anyway) that can be separated and rotated for additional wear. Actually the paper lasts quite nicely and with it's hook & loop, it's easy to change. After more than seven years, and a few drops on the floor, it's still going strong!

                            I hope this helps,

                            CWS
                            Last edited by CWSmith; 08-03-2009, 06:10 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Opinions on portable power sanders?

                              well, it seems I'm back where I started in respect to actually buying a sander, but at least I know what the different types of sanders are best used for, and which brands are better bets. My next big project will likely be a freestanding shelving unit, so there will be plenty of corners to deal with. Just based on that, I'd probably fare better with a 1/4 sheet sander. I'm sure down the road I'll have no problem finding a reason to buy a hook and loop ROS so I'll have one of each eventually

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