electric sander

How to sand furniture with an electric sander?

In Tips, Tools by Jamie P.

Sanding furniture might seem like a scary and difficult activity. However, with the proper tools and right instructions, anyone can do it. There are a number of different types of sanding equipment, but some are made better for furniture refinishing than others. Below I chose the 3 best electric sander options that are known to provide the best results on wooden furniture. I also include for each option how to sand furniture with each electric sander.

You must be wondering How to sand furniture with electric sander? and that’s great because I have the answers for you. Let’s get started!

When sanding furniture with an electric sander you need to make sure you have the proper grit sandpaper for the job. Next, turn your electric sander on and lay it flat on the surface that is to be sanded. Move in a steady motion to prevent sanding swirl marks, but also move with the wood grain.

Practice makes perfect, test sanding wood that isn’t part of a big project first so you don’t make any hard to recover mistakes. There are a few different types of electric sanders that all work differently and sand at different paces. Lets look at what electric sander is best for refinsihing furniture. 

Best Type of Electric Sanders for Furniture?

  1. Palm Sander
  2. Random-Orbital Sander
  3. Belt Sander

1. Palm Sander (Best Beginner Choice)

palm sander corded tool

The palm sander is a super easy electric sander that any level furniture refinisher can use. It is definitely the least dangerous sanding tool, besides sanding by the hand of course, but it would be the best starter choice for a beginner or kid interested in woodwork projects. Don’t get me wrong, the palm sander is still a great choice for professionals as well. The palm sander has no spinning components, it simply vibrates at rapid speed and the sandpaper does the job for you.

How to sand furniture with electric palm sander?

An electric palm sander is very simple and easy to use. First, you need to connect the sandpaper onto the sander. This is easy, usually, the sander has a clip-on area where you slide in the sandpaper and tighten the latch. Do this on both sides and you are ready to go. Sometimes its just a velcro attachment. Read instructions for your specific product, they will tell you exactly how to set things up if you are unsure.

Next, before you turn on the palm sander make sure you are placing the sander flat on the surface. This prevents uneven sanding that will show patterns. You do not want this on furniture, trust me. Also, do not forget to line up with the wood grain for best results.

Now you are ready to turn the sander on. Sliding the palm sander back and forth will remove the current surface, depending on sandpaper grit, the timing could vary. Gently press and slide for best results. The palm sander is great for furniture because you get to be more careful, it can take longer than other options though.

A few tips for palm sander:

  • you can smooth corners nicely
  • easy to fix uneven areas
  • have a gentle touch, pushing can cause uneven sanding

A quick recap on the steps to use an electric palm sander are:

  1. Attach sandpaper correctly
  2. Make sure sander is flat on the sanding surface
  3. Be aware of wood grain and sand with the grain
  4. Turn sander on and move back and forth

It’s so simple! Now its time for you to give it a try.


2. Random-Orbital Sander (Great for Everyone)

using electric orbit sander

The random orbital sander is another great choice as an electric sander for furniture projects. I actually use the orbital sander the most, it simply spins rapidly in a circle where the motion will cause the sandpaper to friction up against the project. It does require some basic skills you should be aware of prior to starting an important project. It is very similar to the palm sander, but instead of just vibrating, the random orbital sander spins too.

How to sand furniture with electric random orbital sander?

An electric random orbit sander is pretty similar to the palm sander, its lightweight and easy to set up. First, you grab your circular sandpaper discs and attach them. If you have holes in the sander disc area, you need to use sandpaper with the same amount of holes, usually, it is 8 holes.

Secondly, after sandpaper is attached you are pretty much ready to go. However, the technique is what’s important when it comes to orbit sanders. When you are sanding you must with the wood grain, but constantly keep moving in a back and forth circular motion. Move back and forth the wood grain, but keep the motion sort of circular. If you want to see me use the orbit sander take a look at this Full Oak Table Refinish project, read the process, or see the video is at the end where I use the orbit sander!

The biggest issue to be aware of is creating circular patterns in your wood. This would mean you are moving to slow and/or pushing to hard. Move rather quickly but don’t push hard. Let the sandpaper, spinning, and vibration do the work!

A recap on how to use the random orbital sander step by step:

  1. attach sanding discs
  2. find wood grain and know where to start
  3. turn sander on
  4. make sure sander is flat on surface and start sanding
  5. move back and forth grain, but in a circular motion

And that’s it! Good luck with your electric orbital sander. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I use an orbit sander for most of my projects and I would love to help.


3. Belt Sander (Better for Experienced)

electric belt sander

I used a belt sander on some earlier projects, but it really isn’t the best choice for sanding down furniture. If you know how to use it then you might be ok, however, it requires much more skill. Experts and experienced users could have great results, but I’d rather use a palm sander or orbital sander in my opinion, especially when it comes to furniture. There is a certain technique that must be applied so you do not ruin your wooden projects.

How to sand furniture with an electric belt sander?

When using a belt sander to sand furniture you must know the proper technique. If you sand the wooden item without doing so, you will see uneven sanding marks, which realistically will ruin your project.

Make sure you install the correct sandpaper grits onto your belt sander when sanding furniture, but more importantly, make sure the sandpaper is placed on the sander correctly! Improper use of a belt sander can seriously hurt you, the belt sander is bigger than most sanders and moves at rapid speeds. The spinning motion kind of reminds me of a chain saw but with sandpaper, not chains. Anyways, let me get into more detail about sanding techniques and how to actually use a belt sander on furniture.

What is the belt sander technique?

The best way to explain how to sand furniture with a belt sander is to first place the belt sander flat on the wooden surface if it is uneven you will rip apart the surface quickly. Next, instead of just running the belt sander back and forth the surface, you need to move in a circular motion. This prevents uneven sanding lines, which we do not want on our wooden surfaces. Move back and forth the surface of the project making a smooth sanding finish, belt sanding can go through top layers of finish very fast, but be aware that you don’t go through the bare wood! To sum up how to sand furniture with a belt sander in a few points lets take a look:

  1. Turn on the electric belt sander
  2. Make sure your belt sander is flat and even with the surface
  3. Line up with wood grain
  4. Slide belt sander forward onto the surface
  5. Move back and forth in a circular motion
  6. Change sandpaper as needed

These steps should give you a general idea of how a belt sander works. If you have any questions about belt sanders please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section of this post below!


Final Thoughts

Having the skills to sand furniture can be very helpful throughout your life. Refinishing furniture can save you thousands of dollars because buying new furniture can be so expensive. Furthermore, these skills can help with various DIY projects around the house, increasing the value of your home significantly. Learning how to sand furniture with electric sander is the perfect way to get into woodworking.

I hope these tips and tricks helped you get started! Want to learn more about making money flipping furniture? Then click the link to read all about it!