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What is a Disk Sander?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A disk sander is a device used for smoothing materials such as wood, metal and plastic. Unlike small handheld sanders, the disk sander is typically mounted to a work bench. Powered by an electric motor, the disk sander operates at a very high rate of speed. While the sandpaper disk can be attached to the disk sander by several different methods, hook and loop, adhesive backing and spray-on glue are among the most popular. Typically used for rough finishing, the disk sander removes material very quickly.

Not intended to be used as a finishing sander, a disk sander is typically equipped with a medium course sandpaper. This allows the sander to remove large quantities of material rapidly. Due to the circular shape of the sanding disk, the speed at which material is removed can be varied by positioning the material at different places on the disk face. The closer to the center of the disk the material is placed, the faster the sanding action. Great care must be taken not to burn material as it sanded at this high rate of speed.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Many disk sanders are manufactured as a combination disk and belt sander. The addition of a belt sander gives the operator a choice in sanding options. The belt sander is a belt of sandpaper mounted over two drum pulleys. This creates a long surface that can be used to sand flat edges. This is not possible on a disk sander due to the circular sanding face. On a circular sanding disk, one half of the disk is moving in a different direction than the other at all times.

A handheld version of the disk sander is the random orbit, or oscillating orbit, sander. This type of sander uses a circular disk; the disk, however, is operated in an oblong rotation that is constantly changing. This change in orbit creates a disk sander that is very capable of creating smooth, flat surfaces. Handheld sanders that do not operate with a random orbit are typically referred to as grinders or shapers.

Many bench-mounted disk sanding units are equipped with a tilting table. This table option allows the operator to sand angles onto a work piece by simply changing the tilt of the table. The angle can then be successfully duplicated on several pieces. The disk portion of the sander is available in many sizes, with the larger sizes best suited for all-around home workshop use.

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    • Man with a drill
      Man with a drill