Spot Wood Sanding
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Portable power sanders such as this Festool Rotex, integrate vacuum holes to pull dust away
from the action. Dual mode sanders use gear-driven orbital motion for aggressive wood
removal and polishing, random orbital motion for fine sanding.

Visit woodworking shops large or small and you’ll see plenty of portable power sanders. Among the many familiar handheld sander brands, such as the red ones from 3M, or the Festool Rotex shown here, are offered in many varieties, including orbital, random, or combinations.

Manufacturers offer the sanders driven by internal electric motors, or through compressed air. For some production settings, compressed air is the way to go: with no electric motor inside, they never spark, and will last much longer. Festool says if you sand three or more hours a day, the economics of air tools make them the best choice, since they will last up to five times longer than electrical power tools, are much lighter and easier to use for extended periods, don’t heat up in operation and run very quiet.

A number of models have active dust extraction, improving results and also are better for operator health and safety. (Sawdust is a health hazard.) Festool says its air-driven sanders incorporate dust extraction as a central design feature, and work with a central dust extraction system, as well as its CT mobile dust extractors. The air-driven sanders use a three-in-one hose, which combines air supply, air tool exhaust, and dust extraction in a single conduit. (Using only one hose attached to the tool means there is less hose to drag around.) Hoses, made with antistatic material so dust extraction will not build up a static charge, can connect via adapters to dust extractors, keeping work clean.

More on sanding in the March 2010 Redbook, p. 71; a complete list of sanders is at

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