A Complete Guide on the Best Sanders for Refinishing Furniture!

While sanding is not all too popular in the furniture refinishing business, it is still an essential technique that helps prevent unnecessary wastage while giving the furniture in question a fresh look.

The most recommended sander types are electric in nature, among which there are three prominent sub-types: orbital, belt, and random-orbit sanders. Armed with apt abrasives, you can smooth-sand any wooden surface just the way you want it.

Why A Sander for Refinishing Furniture

First off, a safety note… Sanding, much like its name suggests, can generate enormous amounts of dust. Though several modern models have dust collection bags or ports to help mitigate polluted residues, a dual cartridge respirator or a simple face mask can keep your lungs safe from harm.

Speed, strength, and power define belt sanders whose design includes a motor that fires up a rear drum that in turn rotates a belt. The fore drum turns freely to compensate. Flat board smoothing springs to mind for belt sanding techniques. This type is capable of smoothing narrow edges on these and other boards. You can also use it to remove old stains, finishes, varnishes, and paints. Its four standard sizes include 3x18, 3x21 (most popular), 3x24, and 4x24; all measured in inches. While it is difficult to control, in the right hands belt sanders can perform amazing heavy duty refinishing tasks.

Comparatively lighter and manageable are orbital sanders, which are easier to use with less fear of damage. Sharp-edge rounding and super-smooth wood sanding are ideal for this tool. You can also use it to knock down dry varnish and paint coats, not to forget sand off solidified wood putty. Also termed ‘quarter-sheet sanders’, they are designed with a pair of spring-loaded clamps that hold sandpaper against the device and spin or orbit in small circles; hence the name.

A hybrid combination of the two tool types mentioned above are random-orbit sanders, which look more like orbital sanders than their belt-wearing cousins. If you see a square sanding pad, it is an orbital sander, while a rounded pad is part of the random-orbit’s identity. The name gives away its purpose: the circular pad can move in random orbits, while a square one needs you to push it in a certain direction. From smooth-sanding tasks to stock removal, the one disadvantage with this tool type is that it cannot refinish wood faster than a belt sander, but it is leagues more versatile. The grip-designs are more intuitive, the diameter pads are a welcome 5 or 6 inches, and most models are compatible with sticker-like PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) abrasives as well as Velcro discs.

Top 5 Best Sanders for Refinishing Furniture – Reviews

1. Bosch 1250DEVS 6-1/2-Amp 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander

Some of the niftiest features have gone into this interesting random orbit sander from Bosch.At 5.3 pounds, it is manageably heavy. At the turn of a switch, you can access Turbo Mode; resulting in speedier stock removals (it runs the machine at five times the regular setting). There is also Random Orbit Mode for attractive fine-swirl sanding.

Pad speed does not fluctuate, thanks to constant response circuitry. Not only does this feature stay active under heavy workloads but it also prevents overloading on the 1250DEVS’s internal mechanics.

You have the option of soft starting the device, meaning remarkably reduced torque levels upon start-up. Variable speed settings are then at your disposal so you can match a speed to the task at hand; some professional experience will be required to best understand how to use this particular feature.

The powerful 6½-amp motor is designed to improve the 1250DEVS’s lifespan while also promoting heavy duty sanding capabilities. To top it off, a vacuum port is present to mitigate dust accumulation during sanding. The brilliant integral pad dampening system takes care not to leave any distinct swirl marks on wood surfaces.


Features

  • Weight: 5.3 pounds.
  • Turbo Mode (aggressive) and Random Orbit Mode (fine).
  • Soft-start.
  • Variable speed settings.
  • Vacuum port.
  • 6-inch disc size.
  • Powerful 6½-amp motor.
  • Ergonomic top and front handles.
  • Capabilities: fine sand finishing, stock removal (including rough stock), wood floors, OSM seam-work, and general furniture refinishing.
  • No-load speed: 270-600 rpm.
  • No-load orbit speed: 3,100 - 6,500 opm.

Pros

  • Constant response circuitry; no reduction in pad speed; active under heavy load; no overloading risk.
  • Soft-start technology for reduced initial torque build-up.
  • Variable speed setting for better task-related compatibility.
  • Integral pad dampening system ensures no swirl marks are left behind on the wood.

Cons

  • Too expensive.
  • Slow-start motors on any orbital sander seem like overkill.
  • Reported instances of it not maintaining rpm.

2. Festool RTS 400 EQ Orbital Sander

This orbital sander from the Festool brand has a brilliant design feature in its StickFix Hook & Loop. Abrasive alterations can be performed much quicker between grits, in fact you can also employ this design to re-use abrasives.

The grip is ergonomic and suited to adapt to your personal grip style. This has proven to reduce stress and fatigue by a large margin, while also promoting ideal control over the Festool RTS 400 EQ.

Pad swirl marks are kept to a bare minimum, often not at all, thanks to the design that ensures that the pad is in full contact with the furniture’s surface. This in turn helps you produce outstandingly smooth surfaces.

Its lightweight (2.4 pounds) structure makes it easy for you to work on vertical surfaces as well as overhead without undue strain. Indeed you can use it one-handed, especially for those important frame and edge sanding tasks.​

Encapsulated bearings encourage tool lifespan. Dust extraction is integrated into the design. A modern-standard speed range of 6,000 to 14,000 opm is a welcome addition to the RTS 400 EQ’s rich repertoire of features.


Features

  • Lightweight; 2.4 pounds.
  • StickFix Hook & Loop.
  • Capabilities: edge and corner finishing; fine sanding of doors, frames, panels;.
  • 200 watt.
  • Integrated Turbo dust extraction.
  • Practical narrow pad: 3-5/32-inch x 5-1/4-inch.
  • Speed range: 6,000 to 14,000 opm
  • Corded-electric power source.

Pros

  • Quick-change design feature for abrasive changes – ‘StickFix Hook & Loop’.
  • Ergonomic hand-conforming grip.
  • Full-contact design for pad; no swirl marks left behind on wood.
  • One-handed use capability; frame and edge sanding made easy.
  • Encapsulated bearings; improved lifespan.
  • Longer abrasive and pad life, thanks to hard-wearing fabric back and durable pad hooks.
  • Aggressive with coarse grit usage but gentle with fine sandpaper; versatile.

Cons

  • Reported case of internal mechanics failure; rare instance.

3. Bosch OS50VC 120-Volt 3.4-Amp Variable Speed 1/2-Sheet Orbital Finishing Sander

Packing several brilliant features, this orbital sander has more than what it takes to perform sheet finishing (to name one example) to perfection. The ingenious Sheetloc Supreme Paper Clamping System is a tensioning design to improve paper fit; it is also compatible with stick-on paper.

At 3.4 amps, the BoschOS50VC is one of the more powerful orbital sanders on the market. The ampere setting certainly grants you maximum sanding speeds and enhanced stock removal rate.

The micro-filter dust canister is translucent and comes equipped with integrated screen-off cap and paper filter. This improves on most such designs and helps keep dust accumulation to a minimum (even zero) while allowing you the chance to perform quick emptying of the can. Also included is a vacuum hose with airflow control.

This sander’s exquisite vibration control technology is worth detailing here. Unique to Bosch, this suspension system is designed to reduce vibrations to a bare minimum. This directly influences your comfort and handling abilities.

You can take excellent advantage of the variable speed dial, using which you can match speed and power to the task at hand to get the best possible performance out of the BoschOS50VC.​

The gear housing is made of die-cast aluminum; quite rugged. Weighing in at 6 pounds, it may not be one of the lightest models out there but carries much-needed bang for your buck.


Features

  • 3.4 amp power.
  • Supreme ‘Paper Clamping System’.
  • Micro-filter dust canister.
  • Variable speed dial.
  • Gear housing: die-cast aluminum.
  • Weight: 6 pounds.
  • Hole-punching plate included as part of design.

Pros

  • Paper Clamping system is ideal for fit; also works well with stick-ons.
  • Dust canister is translucent, and has integrated screen-off cap and paper filter.
  • Outstanding vibration reduction for enhanced handling and ergonomics.
  • Vacuum hose with airflow control also included.
  • Easy to use clamping mechanism.
  • You can use the hole-punching plate after adding fresh sandpaper to the pad by plunging it onto said plate and ‘goosing’ the trigger a few times. This makes the holes bigger while oscillating.
  • Sander is large enough to produce very flat surfaces.

Cons

  • Not compatible with PSA (Pressure Sensitive Adhesive) self-stick paper.
  • The trigger lock mechanism (i.e., locks the sander in the ‘on’ position) takes some getting used to. Use the side of your thumb’s first knuckle to activate during use.
  • The variable speed setting is overkill to professional woodworkers who simply change the paper to a finer grit when they want less sanding.

4. Black and Decker KA86 BELT SANDER 75 x 457 MM

We have our first belt sander making its way onto our list. The Black and Decker KA86 has an interesting angled belt design that makes it possible for you to sand twice as close to adjoining surface edges than you might have been able to do before.

From decking and floor-board sanding to greater stock reduction/removal from large surfaces, the KA86 is also smart thanks to a nifty belt tracking feature that keeps the belt component in position, so it will not automatically run off its rollers; known to happen.

Dust accumulation is kept to a minimum; the extraction design works its charm. You can shift out accessories on the KA86 via the lever-action belt altering mechanism integrated into this sander. At 3.1 pounds, this is surprisingly light for a belt sander.


Features

  • Clever angled belt design.
  • Belt tracking feature to maintain belt position.
  • Lever-action belt altering mechanism.
  • Weight: 3.1 pounds.
  • 720 watt motor output.
  • 3-meter electric cable to improve mobility and range.
  • Belt measure: 75 mm width.

Pros

  • The belt design is angled to let you get twice as close to adjoining surfaces while sanding.
  • Ideal belt altering mechanics.
  • Tracking feature reduces stress during operation.
  • Powerful motor.
  • Great belt width for large surface sanding.

Cons

  • Front roller has been reported to break; flimsy.
  • Cannot use this sander on very small furniture spots, need to use a detail sander for that purpose.

5. Makita 9404 8.8-Amp 4-by-24-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander

From its elegant design to a multitude of practical features that you would love to see in a professional grade belt sander, the Makita 9404/2has a gorgeous 8.8 amp motor; aggression no bar.The 16.4 foot power cord improves mobility and range rating. The reduced noise feature has you working in semi-calm conditions that do not exceed 84 decibels – this is in fact the quietest sander in its league.

It is always great to find environment-conscious features on a belt sander, namely a dust bag to keep your workspace clean. The sides and nose of theMakita 9404/2are so ideally proportioned that you can perform sanding tasks flush to the wall.

You do not need to monitor the belt’s placement all the time, let alone keep adjusting it. The auto-track feature keeps the sanding belt in place as you work. The variable speed control dial has a wide spectrum, specifically 690 to 1,440 feet per minute, using which you can suit the speed of the sander to the task at hand.​

A sanding shoe (optional) is also included and helps you make accurate sanding depth control judgments.


Features

  • 16.4 foot power cord.
  • 8.8 amp motor output; powerful and aggressive.
  • 84-decibel noise range, relatively quiet performance.
  • Auto-track belt feature, keeps sanding belt in place while you work.
  • Variable speed control dial: 690 to 1,440 feet per minute.
  • Belt measure: 4x24 inches.
  • Sanding shoe (optional); for ideal sanding depth control judgments.
  • Total package weight: 10.3 pounds.

Pros

  • Long power cord for increased mobility and range around workspace.
  • Ideally proportioned sides and nose; flush-to-wall sanding capabilities.
  • Practical variable speed control range.
  • Professional appeal: general contractors, furniture makers, deck builders, woodworkers and carpenters, and floor installers.

Cons

  • Oil leak issues reported.
  • Signs of overheating mere minutes into work.
  • Cannot speed-lock the trigger.

Factors To Consider In Die Grinder Selection

We have already covered several key points concerning the three different types of sanders available today; scroll up to the introduction for more. We shall now confidently relegate ourselves to explaining how best you can shop for sanders, based on the furniture project at hand.

1. Belt Sanders

Use belt sanders for dressers and tables, especially if there is plenty of paint or varnish refinishing to be done, so the furniture piece can be reverted to its raw wood format. You might end up creating gouges in the surface of the wood or ‘brr’ marks – this is most common with DIY-ers. In these instances, you can indeed re-sand the surface, but a little practice can go a long way. You can also smooth out rough segments of trim or timber.

2. Orbital &Mouse Sanders

Mouse sanders can perform back and forth motions while the orbital kind goes round and round. Based on what sort of technique you plan to use, get the right sander to go. Use these for lightly varnished or medium-painted wood surfaces. Remember that the sanding grit moves in a circle, which means there is a possibility that the tool will leave behind rounded grooves or marks. A mouse or finishing sander will help eliminate this afterwards. Since the mouse sander performs straight motions, your technique can stay along with the grain of the wood instead of going against it.

3. Sanding Gloves

These can prove enormously useful; in fact they complement your sanding tools quite well. The hand-shaped grit can stick to the Velcro on the gloves and grant you improved traction. As a result, you can create some of the smoothest surfaces. Unlike holding actual sandpaper, this one will not slip away as easily. The 240 and 120 models from the ‘Sandi Hands’ brand are worth checking out for hard to access spots on your furniture. 240-320 light grit versions are ideal for distressing signs or painted surfaces. For ultra-smooth finishes, grab the higher grits starting at the 400 mark.

4. Why am I doing all this again?

The core aim of sanding is to help extend the lifespan of the furniture in question, meaning longer lasting paint and varnish jobs and lesser accumulation of grime, dirt, and whatnot. Since this will certainly inspire you to hang on to that furniture piece in lieu of turning it into firewood or recyclable material, we can safely say that you have plenty of cost-effective restyling options where refinishing is concerned.

Conclusion

We are indeed spoiled for choices and it took a while for us to decide which sander to recommend as our best in class. While professionals usually prefer belt sanders, the competition seems to have caught up to these aggressive little ‘sand monsters’. The best sander for refinishing furniture is: The BoschOS50VC. No-3 on our list, this orbital sander has won our respect and praise. Click here for more information on this.

Its Supreme Paper Clamping System is, in our opinion, deserving of awards. The 3.4 amp motor is more than ideal for several different kinds of sanding and refinishing tasks. At 6 pounds, it is also ideally weighted. Excellent dust collection and vibration-reduction designs complement the OS50VC’s clamping mechanism and hole punching plate. This is all in all a glorious sander for furniture refinishing.

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