Sliding a piece of sandpaper across the surface of a wooden piece isn't the best of experiences. In fact, it can be quite exhausting if the piece is too big. In some cases, doing everything by hand would take a lot of time and energy. But that's not an option when you depend on a deadline to finish the job.
The best benchtop sander helps you be more efficient, saving you valuable time to do other things. These machines are available in a wide variety of models and not all work the same way. For that reason, you need to consider some important aspects to choose the best sander for your kind of work.
Today, we’ve prepared for you a detailed buying guide. Here you’ll find valuable tips for choosing a sander that fulfills your requirements. We'll also give you a top 10 list with the best benchtop sander reviews.
Benchtop Sander: A Comprehensive Buying Guide
Each benchtop sander is designed to perform a certain kind of work. While some are perfect for heavy duties, others are better for more precise jobs. Choosing the right size, weight and motor power depends on many factors. Today, we'll explain you all those factors in this detailed buying guide.
Motor power and speed
The motor power defines the performance of your sander. The more motor power you have, the faster the belt and the disc will move. With a powerful motor, there’s less risk of jamming when you apply high pressure on the sanding surface. That means the motor won't stop or overheat when sanding a big piece of hardwood.
Usually, the amperage range for benchtop sanders is 1-6 Amps. In this case, the bigger the sander, the higher the amperage should be. For small to medium projects, a 4-Amp motor is more than enough. On the other hand, for big projects, you'll need 6 Amp or more to finish in the shortest possible time.
Powerful motors can deliver a high angular speed when working on a direct drive setup. This setting is common in 2-in-1 sanders. Usually, the motor is directly connected to the sanding disc. On the other hand, the motor is connected to the sanding belt by gears or belts.
While the disc offers higher speed, the belt offers greater inertia. If the inertia is high, there's less risk of the moving parts getting stuck.
Some sanding belts are stronger than others. Some belts have sharp edges for cutting metal. That way, you can also use your sander as a jig saw. The most popular sanding materials are zirconia and aluminum oxide. Zirconia sanding belts are the best of all. The grains have a high hardness, being able to wear down small metal pieces. Because of that, you'll need a zirconia belt for sharpening a knife or removing rust.
Also, make sure to choose the correct grain size for your type of job. The higher the grit number, the finer the sanding will be and vice versa.
The base of the sander is perhaps the second most vital part after the engine. Benchtop sanders generate a lot of vibration, especially is the motor is too powerful. Because of that, the base must be made of a dense material, to absorb vibrations. A fragile, lightweight material would have a completely opposite effect.
The best base materials are cast iron and steel. Both materials have high density and resistance. A strong base also ensures less risk of breakage if your sander accidentally falls.
Benchtop sanders generate a large amount of sawdust. When it spreads through the air, it’s potentially dangerous. Especially for asthmatic people. Because of that, dust ducts are so crucial. They prevent dust from ending up inside your lungs.
Best sanders have built-in vacuums to suck up dust. In the case of the sanding belt, the vacuum cleaner is inside the belt guard. In the case of the sanding disc, the vacuum cleaner is just behind the disc. For that reason, you can notice a series of holes on some sanding discs. These are especially useful for absorbing sawdust. However, they often leave an irregular sanding pattern on the surface.
If the sander doesn’t include a dust aspiration system, make sure the dust ports are the appropriate size. Some dust ports are larger than normal and require special adapters to fit the vacuum hose. Some adapters are difficult to find, so maybe you'll have to 3D-print them.
Some additional features will make the sanding process much easier. Things like a hinged worktable or an adjustable miter gauge are quite useful. For example, hinged worktables let you vary the inclination for beveled sanding.
A miter gauge lets you vary the tilt on the horizontal plane. With more movement possibilities you can obtain different results with the same tool.
If time matters to you, you should choose a sander with a quick-release mechanism. This feature allows you to loosen and tighten the belt just by turning a lever. Changing the belt is usually a time-consuming duty. But, with this mechanism, the process takes a few minutes.
What is Benchtop Sander used for?
A benchtop sander is used to smooth surfaces and remove defects through abrasion. A motor moves the abrasive material in a linear or orbital patter to generate friction. Depending on the grain size and hardness, the abrasive can generate different results.
For example, a coarse grain is better for wearing down a large amount of material in a short time. The end result is uneven, leaving deep scratches on the surface. On the other hand, a fine grain is best for removing defects. The end result in this case is smooth and uniform.
A benchtop sander can also be used to cut and sharpen metal parts. Vertical belt sanders are the best for these purposes.
Benchtop Sander: Cleaning and Maintenance Tips
To keep your sander in optimal conditions, you need to apply a maintenance routine. Here are some tips:
- Loosen the sanding belt after using the sander. Doing this will prevent the belt from losing its flexibility and stretching permanently.
- Empty the sawdust containers after each use. If you wait too long, the sawdust will compact and be more difficult to remove.
- Use an air blower to remove the wood debris around the motor. Small wooden pieces may ignite and damage the motor.
- Inspect the inner cables and the power cord. If you notice burn marks, replace the cable immediately.
- Look for cracks or any other deterioration signals on the transmission belt. If you notice anything unusual, replace it.
Benchtop Sander Usage and Safety Tips
Using your benchtop sander appropriately will help you prevent accidents. Here are some safety tips you should always follow:
- Wear a face mask, protective glasses, ear protection and a pair of gloves every time you use your sander.
- Disconnect the power cord before any maintenance routine.
- Make sure the sander is turned off before connecting the power cord.
- Don’t apply too much tension on the belt.
- Never use the sander with unprotected hands.
- Keep the power cord away from the sanding surface.
- Don't exert too much pressure on the sanding surface.
- Keep the air vents clean and clear all the time.
It's Time to Wrap Up
After reading this detailed buying guide, you’re better prepared to make a wise decision. Always remember these key aspects: size, weight, speed and motor power. Pay special attention to the size of the sanding belt, disc and sawdust ports.
Additionally, look for other additional features like spacious worktables and miter gauges. Don’t forget that the base should be dense and resistant to dissipate vibrations. If you carefully follow each of our tips, you’ll have no trouble finding the best benchtop sander for you.
1. How to use a benchtop sander?
Ans. To use benchtop sander, follow these steps:
- First of all, plug the power cord into an 110V outlet.
- Then, actuate the on/off switch to turn on the sander.
- After that, place the piece on the sanding surface, applying light pressure.
- Move the piece backwards and forwards to get a uniform sanding pattern.
- Finally, turn off the sander when you’re satisfied with the results.
2. What is the difference between a belt sander and a bench sander?
Ans. Belt sanders only use a belt as a sanding means. On the other hand, bench sanders are more versatile and can work as a belt sander, disc sander and jig saw.
3. How do I choose the right sand paper for my benchtop sander?
Ans. To choose the right sand paper, follow these tips:
- Coarse sanding and stripping: 40-60 grit
- Removing superficial defects: 80-120 grit
- Finish sanding: 200- 600 grit
4. What size range of materials can you use with a bench sander?
Ans. It all depends on the dimensions of the worktable of the sander. If the worktable can support the material without tipping, size shouldn't be a problem.
5. Which are the main differences between a hand sander and a bench sander?
Ans. Hand sanders can be manual or motor-powered. To use them, the user should slide the tool across the surface. Because of that, they’re lighter and smaller than bench sanders. On the other hand, bench sanders are designed to work on a worktable or special base. They can be portable or fixed. They're usually bigger, heavier and need a motor to operate.
6. Can a bench sander be used on metals and non-wood materials?
Ans. Yes. With a powerful motor and a resistant belt, a bench sander can be used on metals and non-wood materials.
7. Can you use a bench sander for finish sanding?
Ans. Yes. You just have to make sure to use a fine-grit sandpaper for this purpose.