Hand sanding has its perks, but unless you’re killing hours and have muscles like The Rock, an electric sander is the way to go. Whether you’re sanding new wood countertops for a kitchen or making your own shelving, an electric sander is an essential tool for woodworkers as it saves time and provides a far better finish.
The problem is choosing the right grinder for the job. Right off the bat, you’ll have to decide between wired and wireless models, with each type having its pros and cons. Then you need to consider what type of sander is best for the job at hand: for example, a detail sander isn’t good for sanding an entire floor, and most home improvement jobs require more than one type of sander.
There are generally six variants to choose from: belt sander, random orbit sander, disc sander, finish sander, detail sander and multifunction sander. Read on and our buying guide and handy mini reviews will help you choose the right tool for the job.
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Best grinder: At a glance
How to choose the best grinder for you
What kind of grinder should I buy?
As mentioned above, there are typically four types of grinders. Some are more versatile and can be used for multiple jobs, while others are more specialized. Below is a brief summary of the main types and how they differ from each other.
belt grinder: As the name suggests, this type of sander has a belt that rotates in a constant loop, taking the sandpaper with it. These are very powerful and can easily remove thick layers of paint or shape wood before more sophisticated tools are introduced. Don’t underestimate their grinding power: Belt sanders require skill if you don’t want to accidentally remove chunks from your material.
Eccentric sander: If you can only afford one grinder, a Random Orbital is the most versatile. They’re usually circular, but not strictly circular, and while it appears they’re simply spinning the grinding wheel, they actually move it in an unpredictable pattern to avoid scratch marks. Their size and ease of use make them suitable for a variety of grinding tasks.
Disc sander: A disc sander is probably what most people think of as a random orbital sander. The main difference is that they rotate in a fixed motion, much like a car wheel. They typically require two-handed operation and, like belt sanders, are better suited for tougher jobs that require a lot of material removal. The firm motion means you have to be careful not to leave any visible circle marks.
end grinder: A finish sander is, as you might expect, the one you need to put the finishing touches on a job. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, meaning they are sometimes referred to as hand sanders, and are ideal for working on flat surfaces before adding products such as oil, wax and paint.
Detail grinder: A detail grinder is in many ways a type of fine grinder. Typically, they are triangular in shape with curved sides, making them less suitable for larger areas. However, they are ideal for precise tasks such as edges or hard-to-reach places.
Multifunction grinder: A fifth option that might be ideal for many DIYers is a multi-function sander. A bit like a socket set, these grinders come with interchangeable heads so you’re not limited to one type of grind. If you’re looking for the most versatile all-in-one solution, this is the way to go.
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What else do I have to pay attention to?
Once you have decided what type of grinder you need, there are a few things to consider before making your final choice.
Make sure the grinder has the right type of handle for you. Some are one-handed, while others can support two, either in the main grip or with an additional grip. A soft rubber grip helps you control your grinder and avoid mistakes.
Sanding creates a lot of dust, so it’s a good idea to look for a sander with good dust collection capabilities, as not all sanders come with this feature. Typically it comes in the form of a built-in dust compartment, but some can even be attached to a vacuum cleaner tube for better extraction.
Many grinders come with a simple on/off switch, but some offer variable speeds to provide more control. A slower speed ensures material isn’t removed too quickly, while full speed is great for both quick advances and buffing.
Whether the speed is variable or not, a lock switch can be really useful for tedious jobs so you don’t have to hold the power button down the whole time while you’re grinding.
You also need to check what size and type of sandpaper the sander takes. Some allow regular sheets to be cut and clipped in place, while others are the correct size and simply need to be attached via a hook and loop fastener such as Velcro.
Should I buy wired or wireless?
This all depends on how and where you intend to use your grinder. First of all, consider whether there is an outlet where you are grinding or whether you can even lay an extension cord. If not, then a cordless grinder is the solution.
When electricity is available, a corded grinder makes life easier in many ways because you don’t have to worry about recharging or replacing batteries when they get old. You only have to deal with one cable that might be in the way.
How much do I have to spend?
Sanders can easily cost under £30, but this will likely limit you to a small detail sander or handheld sander. You’ll have to spend more for more powerful, feature-rich versions or other types of sanders: sanders can range from £50 for a cheap orbital sander to over £250 for a professional belt sander.
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The best grinders to buy
1. Bosch PEX 220 A: Best orbital sander
Price: £62 | Buy now on Amazon
If you are looking for a versatile cable grinder, the PEX 220 A from Bosch is a good choice. It’s incredibly easy to use: the hook-and-loop closure lets you swap out sanding sheets in seconds, and the on/off button frees your fingers to hold the device via the soft and contoured grip.
The PEX 220 A is suitable for a wide range of tasks with a powerful 220 W motor in combination with a light, compact design. The 125mm disc size means it’s both small enough to tackle tricky areas and big enough to sand something larger like a door or worktop – flat or curved.
The small but effective micro-filter dust box also helps keep dust to a minimum, although it can be a little tricky to snap back into place after emptying.
Main Specifications – Weight: 1.2kg; Maximum speed: 24,000 opms; Pad diameter: 125mm; track diameter: 2.5mm; Interlock switch: Yes; Different speed: No; dust box: Yes; Rated capacity: 220W
2. Worx Sandeck WX820: Best multifunction sander
Price: £99 (without battery) £160 (with battery) | Buy now on Amazon
One Sander to rule them all? The Worx Sandeck WX820 is an excellent option for those who want to have a variety of grinders without having to buy multiple machines. The WX820 is effectively five grinders in one thanks to its range of interchangeable heads.
You get a fine grinder, eccentric grinder, detail grinder, finger grinder and arc grinder. Thanks to the “Hyperlock” clamping system, which Worx says offers 1 ton of clamping force, you don’t have to fiddle with allen wrenches or other tools to swap them out. Unlike many grinders, it also comes with a hard carrying case for easy storage and portability.
The WX820 comes with a micro-filter dust box and gives you plenty of control thanks to six different speed options. It’s not as powerful as a corded grinder, but the battery means you can use it anywhere and it’s interchangeable with other Worx Powershare tools.
Main Specifications – Weight: 2kg; Maximum speed: 10,000 opms; Pad diameter: Various; track diameter: Up to 2.5mm; Interlock switch: Yes; Different speed: Yes, 6 speeds; dust box: Yes; Rated capacity: 40W
3. Bosch PSM 100 A: Best detail sander
Price: £45 | Buy now on Amazon
The PSM 100 A from Bosch is a great option for those looking for a compact grinder for those tricky, hard-to-reach spots or precision work. Like its bigger brother, the PEX 220 A, this sander is no easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners – simply attach the sanding sheet, insert the dust box, plug in the power cable and off you go.
Bosch offers a comfortably contoured shape with a soft grip and an easy-to-use toggle switch. The dust box is small, but for even less dirt you can optionally connect the PSM 100 A to a vacuum cleaner. The triangular, pointed shape of the sanding plate allows you to get into corners, and the plate can be rotated to extend its life. Unlike many detail sanders, there is a second section next to the sanding plate when more surface area is needed.
Main Specifications – Weight: 0.9kg; Maximum speed: 26,000 opms; Pad size: 104 cm2; track diameter: 1.4mm; Interlock switch: Yes; Different speed: No; dust box: Yes; Rated capacity: 100W
4. Makita DBO180Z: Best Cordless Orbital Sander
Price: £100 (without battery) £189 (with battery) | Buy now on Amazon
If you are specifically looking for a cordless random orbital sander, you will not be disappointed with the Makita DBO180Z, which is available with or without a battery and charger. The cordless design means you’re not tied to a power outlet and can be recharged in just 36 minutes. You should get around 45 minutes of runtime at the highest speed, and you can quickly swap out the battery if you have a spare.
The design is taller than corded grinders and you have to consider the weight of the battery, which also affects the grip a bit, but it’s easy to use and offers three different speed settings that give you good control. A maximum speed of 11,000 opm (orbits per minute) isn’t particularly high, but the DBO180Z makes up for that somewhat with a large orbit diameter of 2.8mm. The dust extraction is above average and the machine works quietly.
Main Specifications – Weight: 1.7kg; Maximum speed: 11,000 opms; Pad diameter: 125mm; track diameter: 2.8mm; Interlock switch: Yes; Different speed: Yes, 3 speeds; dust box: Yes; Rated capacity: 190W