For levelling wooden surfaces, nothing beats a planer, and today's powered options help make the job quicker and easier. Equally, when you need to remove layers of varnish, stains, paint or rust (or you just want a fine finish over a large area), a sander is invaluable. Say goodbye to hard work and hello to getting the job finished in less than half the time.
A planer is a tool that helps you strip off slivers of wood, plywood or man-made board to make a surface level. It's ideal for taking a small amount off a door to make it fit into a frame; or for planing a wooden shelf, cupboard or wardrobe to fit into an alcove.
Key features to look for when choosing a planer:
• Width Capacity - Width capacity refers to the maximum width of the wood the planer can cut.
• Blade Speed - Some machines come with adjustable blade speeds. Others have only one speed. Some operators prefer to be able to adjust blade speeds themselves.
• Planer Blades - Planer cutters typically come with between two and five planer blades. The more blades, and the faster the blade speed, the more strokes the blades will deliver in a given amount of time, and the smoother, more refined the cut.
The 'planing width' is the width that you can plane in one pass.
The 'planing depth' is the maximum depth of material you can remove in one pass.
Revolutions per minute. For example, a no load speed of 14,000rpm refers to the amount of revolutions the cutter block makes in one minute. 'No load' means the speed when the planer is not cutting (this usually decreases when it is).
The amount of cuts the planer can make in one minute.
A step cut into wood that accommodates a panel or pane of glass.
The amount of watts the motor draws or needs from the electricity supply. Usually, the greater the watts, the more powerful the planer will be.
Chip bags collect planings rather than allowing these to be blown out from the back or sides of the planer. This makes it easier to see the surface being planed, and in turn safer.
There are very few sanding applications that cannot be undertaken by a power sander.
Different sanders are designed to perform various tasks, so it’s important to understand which machines are best suited to which applications.
A Belt Sander is used to quickly sand down wood and other materials for finishing purposes. It consists of an electrical motor that turns a pair of drums on which a seamless loop of sandpaper is mounted. But do take care - belt sanders have a very aggressive action and can remove material rapidly, so they're best used for the early stages of the sanding process.
A Random Orbit Sander combines almost the speed and aggressiveness of a belt sander, with the ability to produce a finer finish. The random orbit is produced by simultaneously spinning the sanding disk, which ensures that no single part of the abrasive material travels the same path twice. This sander is very useful when treating two pieces of wood that meet at right angles.
A Detail Sander is a hand-held sander that uses a vibrating head with a triangular piece of sandpaper attached. Used for sanding corners and very tight spaces. Sometimes known as a Corner Sander.
A Sheet Sander is used to sand/smooth wood surfaces although they can be used on materials such as plastics and metals as well. The motor moves the sanding pad in a circular motion at high speed. Sheet sanders are useful, primarily as they require standard sandpaper sheets, which can then be cut to the size of the pad, generally ½, 1/3 or ¼ sheet.
• Belt Speed – Slower speed means more control and higher speeds mean faster, less accurate sanding. Sanding speed is usually measured in orbits per minute or RPM.
• Wattage – Generally speaking the higher the wattage the more powerful the sander but belt speed or revolutions per minute (RPM) is also an important consideration when buying a sander.
• Dust extraction – Since sanding can create a lot of dust, some sort of dust extraction facility to help remove dust and keep your work area clean can be a useful feature.
• Paper attachment – There are various types of sanding paper attachment. Look for quick fit sanding paper for faster sanding action and easier paper fitment.
Sanders jargon explained
Sanding pad size
The size of the plate or disc that the abrasive surface is held by.
Diameter of orbit (Orbital and Random orbit sanders)
The diameter of the base plate's orbit. Smaller orbits (1-2mm) produce finer finishes, while those of 2-3mm enable you to remove material faster.
Sanding orbits (Random orbit sanders)
The number of revolutions the sander base plate makes in one minute. This speed is recorded when the sander is 'not under load' (in other words, when it's not actually sanding). The motor speed usually decreases when it is sanding.
Grit size (Grain size)
Abrasive sheets are referred to by their grit size (for example 60 grit, 80 grit etc). Larger grit sizes (such as 40 and 60 grit) are best for coarse sanding work where you need to remove a lot of material, while smaller grit sizes (like 220 or 240 grit) are good for extra-fine sanding (just before you apply a finish).
Sanding belt size (Belt sanders)
These normally come in two width sizes: 75mm and 100mm.