How to Use an Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is an essential tool in all woodworking shops because it helps you tackle various projects. The versatile tool allows you to get a scratch-free and smooth finish in no time and with less effort. Additionally, this power tool can also remove paint, rust, and stains.

If you want to give a professional look to each of your woodworking pieces, you need to invest in a random orbital sander. This guide will show you how to use this incredibly practical and resourceful power tool.

What is an Orbital Sander?

This is a hand-held powered sanding tool that is used to create a smooth finish and surface on plastic, wood, and metal. The round sanding pad is used in two different motions; an oval orbit around the Z-axis of the sander and a simple rotation. There are tons of variations of the random orbital sander, but all are pretty easy to use to create a professional finish to your projects.

How to Use an Orbital Sander

How to Use an Orbital Sander

If you are using a random orbital sander for the first time, don’t worry. It is quite straightforward to use once you understand the instructions. With little practice, you will be sanding like a pro in no time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on using a random orbital sander:

1. Prep the Materials

Before starting the sanding process, you need to prepare your materials. This includes attaching the finished piece to your work surface, bench, or table with the use of clamps. This will secure the piece safely and ensure that it does not move around too much and cause any dangerous kickbacks. Additionally, you should also attach a ventilation system, such as a vacuum, to the random orbital sander. This will collect any sawdust when you begin sanding, which will prevent any mess.

2. Attach the Sanding Paper

You should make sure you use the appropriate sanding paper for the particular job. Depending on the project, you may require coarse, hard, fine, or medium grit sandpaper to give you the desired results. Coarse grits that are 40 or 60 are ideal for surfaces requiring heavy sanding, such as grooves and tough finishes that need to be sanded away.

However, such medium-coarse grit sandpaper can damage smooth boards that don’t require too much sanding. Finer grits, such as 180 and 220, are ideal for leaving a smooth finish for such projects. They are perfect for metalworking projects. Any sandpaper below 40 is considered coarse and is excellent for removing rust, stains, and paint.

Once you have chosen the appropriate sandpaper for the task, you should attach it to the random orbital sander. Most sandpaper has an adhesive back, which makes the attaching process easier. Hence, simply peel off the back and attach it to your sander by pressing on it.

3. Switch on the Sander and Start Sanding

Now that you have prepared your material, worktable, and the sander itself, it is time to start sanding. We recommend that you first start off by sanding a small piece of wood. This will help you get the feel of the tool and learn how to use it before actually using it on your finished piece because otherwise, it could potentially damage it.

When you have used it on experimental surfaces, you can start using your random orbital sander on the final piece you want. Place the sander on this piece firmly and then switch it on. Once the sander reaches full speed, you should move it along the wood grain to create a smooth finish. Or move it along the lines of whatever type of piece you work on. You can also move it along the surface in a back and forth motion.

Lastly, use even pressure to sand the piece. Avoid pressing it too hard on the surface because it would cause dents.

4. Move the Sander across the Surface

It should be noted that it can gouge the piece if you press the sander on the workpiece too hard or for too long. Therefore, you should move the sander across the surface and keep moving it continuously while closely observing it. As mentioned earlier, use the sander in back and forth motion or along the grains and lines of the surface.

Additionally, avoid tilting the sander to one side too much because this can also result in an uneven surface on the wood. You should work on the edges of the workpiece at the end once you are done with the surface.

5. Remove the Sander and Clean Up

Once you are done sanding, switch off the random orbital sander and brush away any of the sawdust with a plain cloth. You can also use a vacuum to remove any excess sawdust. If you are not satisfied with the finished result, you can attach finer sandpaper to the sander and repeat the process for a smoother finish.

If you plan to apply paint or stain on your wooden surface that you have just sanded, you should run a warm, damp cloth to open up the grains. This will allow the stain and paint to adhere well to the wooden surface.

Safety Considerations When Using an Orbital Sander

When you are using a power tool like an orbital sander, you should follow some precautions in order to ensure your safety. For example, you should wear a mask and protective glasses to prevent sawdust and wood shavings from coming into contact with your eyes or entering your mouth.

You should also wear gloves to ensure better grip. Additionally, tie your hair back and avoid wearing any jewelry as they can get trapped in the moving parts of the sander.

Our Final Thoughts

Using a random orbital sander is quite straightforward for the most part. You need to attach the final piece to the workbench or table and then work in back and forth motions or along the wood grain or lines of the surface.

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