Things to Know Before Buying a Detail Sander
If you need to prepare the surface of a piece of furniture, remove paint from a window sill or get the varnish off an old bookcase, you’ll need the best detail sander you can get your hands on. Detail sanders are excellent for getting into those difficult places that other sanders can’t reach, you’ll thank me you picked the right one.
Understanding Sanding Power
Don’t make the mistake of trying to sand down metres of rough sawn boards with a detail sander- it’s not what it’s designed for. Maxing out at around 350 Watts, the best detail sanders don’t need buckets of power to get the job done. The key feature of a detail sander is precision and manoeuvrability, to get into a tight spot and sand in places that other sanders can’t reach.
Don’t Neglect a Dust Collection Box
There’s no two ways about it, sanding down timber, plastic or other materials creates dust. These fine particles aren’t just a pain to clean up, but pose a serious threat to your health if you breathe them in. The best detail sanders create a vacuum when in use that helps to suck dust up from the workpiece and into a waiting dust bag or box. In my experience, if you have an external dust extraction system, you should use it. Dust bags and boxes, even filtered ones, are only partially effective at removing the dust from the air.
Attaching the Sanding Pad
A key feature of the best detail sanders is the way the sanding pad is attached. Using a hook and loop system means you can quickly change pads without using tools and, in the case of the Bosch PSM 100 A, change the entire foot if it wears out.
The Useful Extended Finger Sander
Known by a few different names, some detail sanders come with interchangeable tips that extend the reach of the sander by several centimetres. This narrow extension is ideal for sanding the tightest spots such as between the spindles on a chair back or between bannister posts.
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Detail Sander FAQs
What’s the difference between a detail sander and a random orbit sander?
There are a lot of different types of sander out there, and they’re all designed for different purposes. Random orbit sanders are rotary tools at heart- they spin a sanding disc to remove paint or varnish and must be circular in shape. Detail sanders do not spin. The motor inside a detail sander causes the sanding pad to vibrate in a tight arc, which means the pad can be created in a delta shape to get into tight spaces and corners.
What’s the best use for a detail sander?
Detail sanders are a lightweight and precision pieces of kit. They are not meant for large stock removal or to replace a heavy duty belt sander. Where they come in handy is for finish work on odd-shaped objects. Loved by furniture makers and restorers, detail sanders can be poked into tight spots and crevices where other sanders would never reach.
Do I need to wear any protective equipment?
You should always wear the correct level of personal protective equipment (PPE). Detail sanders are small but loud, especially when used for a long time. Even if you connect an effective dust collection system to your detail sander, it’s good practise to protect your lungs too. So, always wear safety goggles, ear defenders and a dust mask.
How can I get the most out of my detail sander?
As with any power tool, practise makes perfect, but there’s a few techniques I use to get the most out of my detail sanders:
Try to keep a firm, even pressure on the sanding pad to avoid creating ridges and get the most out of each sweep of your hand.
But don’t press too hard. A great mantra for using any piece of equipment is “let the tool do the work” Your sanding pads will last longer, and you won’t get nearly as tired.
Use a pencil and scribble across the work surface- this will help you keep track of where you’ve sanded, and once the pencil marks have disappeared, you’ll know you’ve sanded enough.
Use a variety of sanding grits- Usually the trick is to work up in numbers- start with a low grit to remove the bulk of the material and change for higher grits to create a smooth, glass-like finish.
This is probably the most important tip for using even the best detail sander- go slow! There’s no rushing if you want to get the best results, it’s as simple as that, the slower you go the more control you have, the less noticeable scratches there will be and the better the finish overall.
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