A Beginner's Guide to Selecting the Right Hand Sanding Tool

Posted by Sandpaper America on Nov 30th 2023

A Beginner's Guide to Selecting the Right Hand Sanding Tool

Welcome to our beginner's guide where we will help you navigate the world of sanding. Understanding how to select the correct hand sanding tool for your project can be a daunting task, particularly if you are just dipping your toes into the realm of DIY. With various types of hand sanders available, each with its unique function and purpose, it's essential to choose the right tool to achieve the desired finish.

This post aims to clarify the differences, strengths, and uses of various hand sanding tools, from conventional sandpaper to electric orbital sanders. Let's embark on this journey to smooth out your path toward a perfectly sanded project!

Hand Sanders vs. Hand Sanding Tools

First, let's differentiate between hand sanders and hand sanding tools. While these terms may seem interchangeable, there is a subtle difference that sets them apart. A hand sander refers to any device used for sanding by manually moving it over the surface, such as a block or a sponge sander. On the other hand, hand sander tools are manual apparatuses used for sanding, such as sandpaper or steel wool.

Types of Hand Sanding Tools


Sandpaper is the most common and versatile hand sanding tool available. It consists of abrasive particles glued onto a backing material such as paper or cloth. The grit size (coarse to fine) determines the level of abrasion, making it suitable for various tasks. Lower grit numbers remove material faster and are ideal for rough sanding, while higher grit numbers provide a finer finish. You can purchase sandpaper in sheets, belts, discs, hand pads, or rolls.

Steel Wool

Steel wool is another type of hand sanding tool made from strands of steel wire twisted together to form a dense pad. It comes in different grades, each with varying levels of abrasiveness. Steel wool is typically used for fine sanding and polishing wood and metal surfaces.

Sanding Sponges

Sanding sponges are another popular hand sanding tool that combines the convenience of a sanding block with the flexibility of sandpaper. They come in various grits, shapes, and sizes, making them ideal for hard-to-reach areas or curved surfaces.

Orbital Sanders

Orbital sanders are electric hand sanding tools that use a circular motion to smoothen surfaces. They come in two types: random orbital and orbital sheet sanders. Random orbitals have a round pad that moves in an elliptical pattern, while sheet sanders have a square or rectangular pad that moves back and forth in a straight line. Both types of orbital sanders are ideal for larger projects and can save you time and effort, especially when dealing with large, flat surfaces.

Sanding Tips

Always choose the right grit size for your project. Coarse grits remove material faster but leave rougher finishes, while finer grits provide a smoother finish.

Change sandpaper frequently to avoid clogging and maintain its effectiveness.

Sand in the direction of the wood grain for a smoother finish.

When using electric sanders, don't apply too much pressure as it can damage the surface or cause swirl marks.

Wear protective gear such as goggles and a dust mask when sanding to protect yourself from debris and dust particles.


Hand sanding tools and orbital sanders both have their place in the world of sanding. The key is to understand your project's needs and choose the right tool accordingly. When used correctly, hand sanding can provide a more refined finish while orbital sanders are better for larger projects or rough surfaces. We hope this guide has shed some light on the different types of hand sanding tools and their uses, making it easier for you to select the correct tool for your next sanding project. Happy sanding!

Are you eager to stock up your workspace with the highest quality sandpaper and sanding tools? Contact Sandpaper America at 1-800-860-7263 (SAND)to order from a wide variety of sandpaper products for metal working in Indiana. Choose from aluminum oxide cloth wide belts, Cloth X-Weight Belts, aluminum oxide sanding sheets, and much more. Call to place an over-the-phone order or go online and buy directly from our website!

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