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There are a wide variety of hand sanders available for the do it yourselfer. Hand sanders are generally considered to be any type of sander that can be used by holding it in your hand. This includes electric and drill operated sanders as well as manual sanding blocks.
With the wide range of hand sanders available it is important to remember that regardless of how carefully you choose a sander, it is also important to choose sandpaper with the appropriate grit. Sandpaper with coarse grit will remove too much material, no matter how lightly it is applied. Likewise, the most aggressive use of fine grit sandpaper will not do any good in the early stages of a woodworking project.
The least expensive and oldest design of hand sanders is the manual hand sander. This can be a plastic block that has grooves to hold the sandpaper in place, or a block of wood with a strip of sandpaper tacked on. A manual hand sander is good in areas where you do not want to work too quickly and risk taking off to much material. It is also an inexpensive option if you are working on a budget.
Belt sanders are aggressive sanders. They remove a great deal of material easily, and it is easy to remove too much if you are not watching carefully. To prevent this from happening, pay attention while you are working and keep the sander moving the entire time.
Belt sanders work by a drive roller that is connected to the sander’s motor. A sandpaper belt wraps around the rear and front roller of the belt sander. The drive motor moves the sandpaper belt.
A disk sander connects to an electric drill. If you already have an electric drill, the disk sander is an inexpensive addition. It is important when using the disk sander that you keep it moving at all times, or you may leave the imprint of a circle from the sandpaper disk on your project.
Drum sanders can run on electric motors or be attached to drills. It is easy to mark your project with a drum sander, but this can be prevented by investing in an oscillating drum sander. The oscillating motion prevents the rubs and marks that are so easy to cause with a traditional drum sander.
Pad sanders are used for finishing work. They should be used with fine grit sandpaper. Pad sanders come in all different sizes and shapes. You can get them with points and straight edges, which make it easy to complete the finish work on your project.
For the kind of thing that I've generally done, one of those black sanders has been adequate -- just a little sanding between coats of paint, sanding down spackel after patching a hole, that kind of thing.
But if you are someone who does a lot of little project, you might want to invest in a small electric hand sander. My mother has one of those Black and Decker Mouse sanders. Not only is it kind of adorable, it's faster and easier than using a block sander while still offering a lot of control for the user. It's relatively idiot-proof.
I don't even have to buy one -- I can just borrow hers for my next project!
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