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What Is a Finishing Sander?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sanders are tools for polishing, shaping, or smoothing wood and other surfaces including metal and plastic, most often using an abrasive-covered belt or disk. Sanding can be done by hand, but when one speaks of a sander, one generally means an electric sander which is a power tool. There are a number of types of sanders, such as detail sanders, disk sanders, orbital sanders, and belt sanders. A sander that is suitable for finishing is called a finishing sander.

An orbital sander comes in two models. One is simply called an orbital sander. It can be recognized by having a slow speed and a weight located above the sanding pad to make it move in small circles so that the work gets sanded in every direction. The second type of orbital sander is also called a “finishing sander,” and characteristically has a rectangular head that is characterized as ¼ or ½ sheet, depending on how much of a standard sheet of sandpaper covers its surface. The smaller ones are also called “palm sanders.”

Unlike an orbital sander, a random orbital sander moves in two ways simultaneously, with the sanding disk making an ellipse while spinning. This bi-directional motion helps prevent circular scratches and makes the random orbital sander useful as a finishing tool. If the random orbital sander is equipped with variable speed controls and the proper attachment, it may be suitable as a polishing tool as well as a finishing sander.

A detail sander may be designed as a finishing sander as well. Some detail sanders benefit from a very small profile and attachments, while others have a larger body and adapt to detailed areas only through the use of numerous attachments that are specifically adapted to different areas. Some of these attachments go by names that represent their shapes, such as inside corner and outside corner, concave, slot, and extended delta. Some detail sanders combine sawing capability along with fine sanding.

A specialty finishing sander is one that is made for a very particular use. For example, a pipe surface sander and polisher is a specialized tool for sanding pipes, tubing, and rails. A metal-surface sander is used to brush, deburr, dull, finish, smooth, and polish metal, such as aluminum or stainless steel.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for HomeQuestionsAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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