Sanding is universally everyone's least favourite DIY job, but there's no escaping it. Use a random orbit sander on your next project and gain back the hours and elbow grease you would have spent sanding.
Photos by Charles & Hudson
Using sanding blocks and sandpaper can be a frustrating and inefficient way to sand. The paper is tough to get on and often times doesn't stay on. Sanding sponges are easier to work with but still require maximum effort. Both of these sanding techniques work, but with a random orbit sander, you'll spend less time sanding and more time enjoying the fruits of your labour.
A random orbit sander works by simultaneously spinning the sanding disk and moving it in an ellipse. The random sanding action prevents swirl marks and the direction of the grain is not an issue when sanding.
Random orbital sanders come in 5 or 6 inch sizes, depending on to the sanding disk size used. Five inch sanders are the most popular for DIYers, as they offer a bit more manoeuvrability. The pads are circular ,unlike the square pads of an orbital finish sander. These sanders are controlled by the palm of your hand and all you need is a light touch -- let the sander do the work.
Most of these sanders come with a vacuum system that activates when the sander is on. Fine wood particles are sucked up through holes in the surface of the sander and deposited into a detachable canister. Even with a vacuum system it's still advised to wear safety goggles and a respirator mask.
The random orbit sander can be used for all types of sanding work. It is capable of tough jobs such as stripping down paint to more delicate tasks like smoothing corners. When buying a sander spend a bit more for better vibration control, a better vacuum system, and variable speed.
Lifehacker's Workshop column covers DIY tips, techniques and projects.