How to Use An Orbital Sander

Getting a smooth, consistent surface for your building project or home repair is faster and easier when you utilize the power of a sander. Learn how to use an orbital sander the right way and you’ll gain the confidence to take on new projects around the home and expand your skillset. Add an orbital sander to your growing tool collection or rent one from The Home Depot at a fraction of the cost.

Sanding items by hand is time consuming and difficult to maintain a consistent finish. Using an orbital sander takes a fraction of the time and provides exceptional results. When you know how to use an orbital sander, you’ll be another step along with knowing how to refinish furniture, give building projects a professional result, and more. Orbital sanders can even be used to learn how to sand drywall for smooth results.

Skill Level: Beginner
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  1. Step 1 Learn the Anatomy of An Orbital Sander

    Learn the Anatomy of An Orbital Sander

    The first step to getting to know any tool is to understand the anatomy of the tool and what each thing on the tool does. The common parts of an orbital sander include:

    • Power Switch: An orbital sander can be battery operated or electric powered but no matter which one you choose, there will be a power switch located on the sander to turn it on and off.
    • Housing Motor: The motor provides power to the sander.
    • Sanding Pad: the sanding pad is an interchangeable grit paper that attaches to the bottom of the orbital sander and either buffs or smooths a surface depending upon the grit you select. Stock up on plenty of sanding pads in various grits to prepare for any building project.
    • Dust Bag: This bag on the back of the orbital sander helps to collect the dust produced by sanding, keeping your work area cleaner. The dust bag needs emptied periodically.
    • Palm Grip: A contoured grip at the top of the tool provides a comfortable place to hold to tool as you work.
  2. Step 2 Choose the Right Sanding Pad

    Choose the Right Sanding Pad

    Before you can sand any surface, you have to determine which sanding pad is the best for the project. If you are starting a building project with bare wood, you will likely need multiple grits of sanding paper all for the same project. Fortunately, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you understand the different grits of sanding paper and how they work.

    • Coarse: 20-36 grit: This sanding paper is ideal for removing an existing finish or as a first step in smoothing a rough surface, such as pallet wood or another bare wood.
    • Medium: 40-60 grit: A medium grit is ideal for getting rid of an existing paint or stain finish on wood and can further smooth down a surface after you’ve gone over it with a coarse grit paper.
    • Fine: 150-180 grit: Fine sandpaper is that final step in getting an ultra-smooth surface. Once you’ve sanded with fine paper, it’s ready for sanding or painting.
  3. Step 3 Set Up the Sander

    Set Up the Sander

    Most orbital sanders offer a hook and loop system that makes it fast and easy to change out the sanding pads. Starting with the coarsest grip you need, load the sanding pad on the base of the sander with the hook and loop system. Once you’re done, make sure to double check that the sanding pad is properly aligned with the sander.

  4. Step 4 Turn on the Sander

    Turn on the Sander

    With your sandpaper loaded and your hand on the grip, you can turn on the orbital sander and test it on a piece of scrap wood to make sure the sanding pad is secure, and everything is working properly before moving to your project pieces.

  5. Step 5 Learn How to Sand Wood

    Learn How to Sand Wood

    An orbital sander spins the sandpaper in an orbital motion. Holding onto the grip, pass the orbital sander over the surface of the piece you’re sanding in the direction that makes the most sense with the piece you’re sanding. Flat surfaces you can pass over in a back and forth motion. If you’re sanding a piece of furniture, you can follow the lines of the furniture. When you’re done, you’ll have a smooth and consistent finish free of any swirl marks, especially when you work your way down to a fine grit sandpaper.

  6. Step 6 Final Tips and Safety Suggestions

    Final Tips and Safety Suggestions

    As with any tool, there are a few safety measures you should take to prevent injury. To begin with, make sure that you aren’t wearing any loose clothing or loose hair while sanding. Secondly, make sure to keep your free hand clear of the area you’re sanding. Any time you are working on a building project or using power tools of any kind you should wear safety glasses to prevent small pieces of wood from entering the eye.

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