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What is a Pneumatic Sander?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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A pneumatic sander is a tool that uses compressed air to power orbital sanding discs, drums, and belts. Air pressure is usually controlled by squeezing a trigger or pressing a button on the sander itself. A pneumatic sander can be used to strip old paint from metal, remove rust, and smooth down welded joints. Some sanders are designed for more delicate tasks, like finishing and leveling wood tables. Using a pneumatic sander instead of other power or hand tools can significantly reduce the time, effort, and energy spent on construction and fabrication jobs.

There are many different types of pneumatic sanders commercially available. Belt sanders are very useful in removing base coats of paint, metal shards, and rust. A strip of sandpaper is wrapped around two pulleys, which continuously rotate the strip around at high speeds. The rear pulley receives power from an air hose connected to the compressor, which is controlled by a trigger or switch on the tool.

Pneumatic orbital sanders are more portable and lightweight than belt sanders, and ideal for navigating around edges and smoothing delicate surfaces. Most orbital sanders operate by spinning a disk of sandpaper at variable speeds. The user can set the air pressure level on the sander to make the disk spin quickly for initial jobs, and slowly for finishing tasks. The tool can usually be held in one hand and moved around a surface while applying minimal pressure. An individual might use an orbital pneumatic sander to round the corners of a wooden table or smooth filler putty and primer spots on an automobile before a paint job

A major selling point of pneumatic sanders over other power tools is that they waste less energy and do not require recharging. A battery-powered sander can only be used until the battery is drained, and recharging can take hours. Power tools that plug into electrical sockets typically require a lot of constant voltage, which can make energy bills run high. With a pneumatic sander, the compressor only uses electricity when re-pressurizing the air tank.

When purchasing a pneumatic sander, an individual should carefully check the specifications of many different projects to make sure that he or she picks one that is suitable for the job at hand. It is important to pick a sander that is compatible with a person's air compressor. Most compressor hoses are equipped with universal joints that can easily be connected to many different sanders, but some products require special connectors. Additionally, some sanders require more power or pressure than some shop compressors can handle.

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