How to Use an Electric Sander

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Electric sanders come in many sizes to fit the project you're working on. Used properly, they can significantly shorten your project as opposed to sanding by hand.

  • Electric sander.
  • Safety glasses.
  • Face shield.
  • Coarse to fine-grade sandpaper.

1 Safely operating an electric sander

2 Select the grade of sandpaper

Select the grade of sandpaper, from very fine to coarse. Coarse sandpaper should be used to begin the finishing process, with progressively finer grades for the end of the process. Grits include super fine, extra fine, very fine, fine, medium and coarse.

3 Cut the sandpaper

Cut the sandpaper to the shape of your electric sander, ensuring it can be secured by the holding clamps on the sander.

4 Inspect your sander

Visually inspect your sander for frayed electrical wires, broken mounting clamps and excessive dust and debris that could inhibit the sander's operation. If these conditions exist, repair them before using, following the manufacturer's suggested procedures. Safety glasses and a face shield should be worn when the sander is on. Paint, dirt or nails should be removed beforehand.

5 Move the sander with the grain of the piece

Move the sander with the grain of the piece you are finishing. Do not move the sander against the grain of the wood or in a swirling motion; this will damage the finish. Don't keep the sander in one spot for too long; it will cause pitting.

6 Once you have smoothed the wood

Once you have smoothed the wood, turn off the sander and open the holding clamps to remove the coarse-grade paper. Install progressively finer grades of sandpaper and continue until the desired finish is reached.

7 If applying a finish

If applying a finish, use a damp cloth to remove all sand and dust particles from the wood.

  • Using an electric sander that has a damaged cord can cause electric shock.
  • Wear safety glasses and face shields throughout the procedure to prevent eye damage.
  • Use the appropriate shaped electric sander for the size and shape of your project.

Paul Vaughn has worked in the auto and diesel mechanics field for 10 years and as public school automotive vocational teacher for five years. He currently teaches high school auto tech, covering year model vehicles as old as 1980 to as new as 2007.