What’s a random orbital sander?

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A belt sander is good for removing large amounts of material, but hand sanding is necessary to remove scratches. A random orbital sander removes less material and prevents scratches with its unique motion. It works well for removing paint, smoothing joints, and curved surfaces. When purchasing, be prepared to spend $50-200 and consider a dust removal system.

Finish work on woodworking projects has come a long way since the days of hand sanding with sandpaper. for larger, flat-surface projects, a belt sander, a powered device that moves a belt of sandpaper at high speed in one direction, works wonders for removing large amounts of material. However, after using a belt sander, hand sanding becomes necessary to remove scratches from the sandpaper. If you want to remove less material and smooth flat services without using just your hands and sandpaper, try a random orbital sander.

A random orbital sander is a handheld powered device, either battery operated or plugged into an AC outlet, that removes less material than a belt sander, thus allowing for a smoother finish. Additionally, the unique motion of a random orbital sander prevents scratches: The sanding surface moves in a circle, but simultaneously moves in an elliptical motion to ensure that the sandpaper grains never go through the same section of wood twice. This gives the random orbital sander an edge over regular orbital sanders, which can go through the same section of wood twice, causing scratches.

For removing paint from furniture or moldings, or cleaning a surface between coats of finish, the random orbit sander works very well. It takes away enough material to do the job without digging too deep into the wood. The random orbit sander also works well on joint projects — with two flat pieces of wood meeting at a ninety-degree angle — to smooth out any seams or uneven surfaces. For curved surfaces, a disc sander may be a better option, although a random orbital sander may be appropriate for smaller tasks on curved projects.

When purchasing a random orbit sander, be prepared to spend between $50-200, depending on your specific needs. Many random orbital sanders are equipped with dust removal systems, which break down the dust created by the machine so it doesn’t end up in your eyes, nose and mouth. Some dust created by your random orbital sander can be harmful or even toxic, so a dust abatement system is usually a worthwhile investment. Many random orbital sanders come with optional abatement systems, though they can cost more than sanders without dust abatement options. Some random orbital sanders even allow you to attach a vacuum cleaner to it, serving as a less expensive alternative to a built-in dust abatement system.

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