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    Power sanders

    Hand held power sanders speed up the task of smoothing timber surfaces. There are three hand-held power sanders available: the belt sander, the orbital sander and the palm sander. Different grades of sandpaper are available, ranging from coarse to very fine. Always read the manufacturer's instructions before you use a power sander.

    Belt sander

    The largest of the hand held power sanders, the belt sander, is suitable for heavy-duty sanding like removing layers of paint from timber and sanding large areas, such as wooden floors. The abrasive paper forms a continuous loop.

    • To use the belt sander it must always be flat to the surface it is sanding.
    • Turn the sander on before bringing it into contact with the wooden surface.
    • Working parallel to the grain, gradually move across the wooden surface.
    • The weight of the belt sander will provide enough pressure for the machine to work efficiently. Do not apply too much pressure as this can damage the sander's operating mechanism.
    • Cover the whole surface making overlapping passes.
    • Lift the sander from the wooden surface before switching it off.
    • If you have used coarse grade abrasive paper, repeat the process with a finer grade abrasive paper to achieve a smooth finish.

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    Orbital disc sander

    The most common type of orbital sander has a sanding disc around 125mm (5in) to 150mm (6in) in diameter. When operated the disc will rotate at speed in a slightly off circular motion that allows you to use the orbital sander in any direction regardless of the direction of the grain. The orbital sander is fitted with a trigger lock so you can sand continuously without keeping the trigger depressed. It may also have speed settings to control the force of the abrasive action. Once again, you may want to start with a coarse grade sanding disc before finishing with a finer grade.

    Orbital sanders are also available with small triangular plates designed for sanding in tight corners. These should be used with light pressures as too much pressure can result in the abrasive paper leaving marks on the wood.

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    Palm sander

    Also called a finishing sander, a palm sander is designed for small areas with surfaces that need sanding prior to being finished by hand with a fine grade abrasive paper before applying a clear polish or varnish. As with other sanders, turn the palm sander on before bringing it into contact with the wood and lift the sander from the wood before switching it off.

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    Drum sander

    This is a heavy-duty sander for sanding wooden floors. The sander is fitted with a drum around which the sandpaper is wrapped and a dust bag for collecting the saw dust. Sand paper for drum sanders is expensive so always fit it correctly.

    When using a drum sander it is important to remember never to let the moving sanding drum come into contact with the floor when the machine is stationary, as this will produce ugly gouges in the floor's surface. As soon as the sanding drum comes into contact with the floor, the machine should be propelled forward.

    Bulked wood dust can ignite spontaneously, particularly if it has come from a floor treated with stain or varnish, therefore the dust bag should be emptied when about one-third full.

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    Corner sander

    Orbital sanders are also available with small triangular plates designed for sanding in tight corners. Some corner sanders have rotating heads to allow you to use all three corners of the sandpaper. Corner sanders should be used with light pressure to avoid the abrasive paper leaving marks on the wood.

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    Edging sander

    The edging sander is designed for sanding around the edges of the room where the floor meets the skirtingboard. It has a disc of sandpaper which is held in position by a retaining bolt. When operating an edging sander always be careful to avoid central heatcing pipes and electric cables.

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