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Sanders & Grinders

Sanders & Grinders: a buying guide

Add the right finish to all your projects

Sanders and grinders save time and energy by helping you to achieve consistent, speedy results. A good sander is an indispensable part of your workshop, whether you work with wood on a regular basis or only occasionally. Grinders, meanwhile, serve a bevy of useful functions ranging from rust removal and blade sharpening, to polishing and buffing.

Types of Sanders


Ryobi Random Orbit Sander

Random orbit sanders feature a round pad that moves in a random pattern to prevent gouging, and can handle everything from rough to finish sanding. Random-orbit sanders are among the most versatile of all sanders, and are available in four models:

  • Palm-grip: Compact and lightweight; ideal for smaller projects such as sanding drywall or stripping furniture.
  • Pistol-grip: Larger and more powerful; provide smoother finishes; ideal for working on tabletops and casework.
  • Right-angle: Heavy-duty; work quickly for rough sanding.
  • Pneumatic sanders: Powered by compressors; powerful and versatile.

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RIDGID Belt Sander

Belt sanders utilize a pulley-driven loop, and are ideal for removing large amounts of wood quickly. They are best used for large areas and rough sanding, such as sanding doors, tabletops and other uneven areas.

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Makita Finishing Sander

Finishing/sheet sanders feature a squared-off sanding pad that moves in a circular motion. They are ideal for delivering smooth, fine finishes to such materials as veneers and plywood. Also, because of their square base, they work well sanding corners.

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Black & Decker Detail Sander

Detail sanders feature triangular sanding pads that can sand curves and profile shapes with ease. These sanders are ideal for sanding in tight spots, such as around chair spindles.

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RIDGID Oscillating Edge Belt/Spindle Sander

Oscillating edge/spindle sanders combine belt sanding and spindle sanding into one machine, and convert back and forth with ease for fast, accurate sanding. These sanders can handle everything from sharpening knives to polishing applications, and work well with both wood and metal.

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Power and Sandpaper

Sandpaper sheet

Sanders may be powered with electricity, batteries or air compressors. Electric sanders are generally more economical and portable, making them convenient for moving between jobsites, or parts of your home. Pneumatic sanders, on the other hand, are generally more powerful and work faster, but require a compressor, which may be difficult to transport. Regardless of which power source is a better fit, you'll need to determine which type of sanding accessory works best. Surfaces range from very fine to rough and coarse, depending on the task at hand.



Sanding of any kind creates a considerable amount of sawdust. Look for sanders with bags to collect dust or ports that give you the ability to hook the sander up to a dust collection system or wet/dry vacuum to whisk away debris it's created.


Trigger locks allow you to keep the unit locked in the on position without having to manually depress the trigger, freeing up your hands to focus on guiding and controlling the sander.


Often used with smaller portable sanders, clamps allow you to lock sanders in an upside-down position to create a sanding stand. Rather than bringing the sander to the wood, clamps let you bring the wood to the sander for small, delicate items.


Pad brakes allow you to lift the sander from the work surface and put it back down without gouging the material. Once in place, you may want to remove them to ensure the highest-quality performance.

Types of Grinders


Ryobi Bench-Top Grinder

Bench-top grinders are ideal for heavy-duty polishing, grinding and sharpening. They generally feature two wheels, one with a lower grit for coarse work and the other with a higher grit for finer, more detailed results. Their wheels typically range in diameter from 5" to 10" and spin at roughly 3,500 RPM.

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An important consideration when buying a bench-top grinder is the purchase of a diamond wheel dressing tool. This is used to produce sharp, new edges on your grinding wheels for optimum performance.


Dewalt Angle Grinder

Portable/angle grinders are generally smaller than bench-top grinders and have only one wheel ranging from 2" to 7" in diameter. These sanders often have a side handle that makes them easier to hold with two hands.

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Grinder Wheels

Grinders can be used for removing both ferrous and nonferrous metals, as well as various applications with wood, paint, rust, concrete, masonry, marble, slate, stone and tile. They can also brighten and polish metal, buff, grind, sand, cut and notch. You can even use them to deburr or level surfaces. The key to such versatility lies in the grinding wheel. Knowing which wheel will be more effective for specific tasks is crucial for achieving the right results. Use the chart below to help determine which wheels you'll need to use for a given job:

Wheel Type Use and Points to Consider
Silicone Carbide
  • Sharpening metal tools; rounding edges of metal pipes
  • Cleaning and sharpening sheet metal
  • Removing burrs and rust from metal
  • Buffing and polishing
  • Must apply wax to wheel before use
  • Sanding and sharpening; prepping surfaces for painting
  • Cleaning metal; removing rust and paint; stripping and deburring
  • Sharpening tools such as shovels, axes, scrappers
Aluminum Oxide
  • Woodworking and materials that easily crumble
  • Run cooler and resist clogging
  • Need frequent replacing
Dry-Cut Diamond
  • Cutting tile, stone and concrete
  • Cutting bars, rods and bolts
  • Restoring edges
  • Sharpening outdoor power equipment blades and hand tools
Tuck Pointing
  • Removing mortar



Units with water trays provide a convenient place to cool down metal as you grind, helping to prevent it from overheating.


Motors that allow for speed adjustment let you grind on slower speeds to prevent heat buildup.


A vacuum attachment allows you to connect your grinder to a vacuum to eliminate the ample amounts of dust created when tuck pointing brick.


Metal gear housing aids in high-torque applications. Grinders with machine-cut gears generally last longer and require less maintenance, saving money over the long run, despite a slightly larger up-front investment.


Built-in lamps provide better illumination of the work area for increased accuracy.

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