Sanding Tool Choices: Pneumatic Versus Electric

Woodworkers discuss the merits and drawbacks of various finish sander options. April 14, 2010

We've been using 5" Dewalt sanders for our primary sanders and 6" Bosch ones for larger jobs (sanding cabinets and furniture). Our compressor is large enough to support air sanders and we've been thinking about making the switch. Besides sanding speed and quality, dust collection is another major issue we are trying to get under control and I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with the self-generating vacuum type air sanders? Any recommendations for sanders are welcome as we are limited to the experience we have with our current sanders and the like, except for a few years ago I had a bunch of bad luck with DA sanders not lasting but a day or two trying to sand down and repaint a 40' boat.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor E:
I donít have any experience with air sanders but we use the 6'' from Festool with the vacuum and it works great and no worries with dust.

From contributor Y:
The new 3M with dust bags are great. The paper is a little expensive but is long lasting and works well. It comes in 5 and 6" versions.

From contributor A:
The Mirka sanders are very slick and they have dust bags. They arenít expensive if you get them from a Mirka Dist. with the Abranet discs that you should have been buying for the last couple of years.

From contributor T:
I live by the Dynorbital 5" and Mirka paper. I rarely go coarser than 120 grit, but occasionally use an 80-grit for belt-sander level stock removal. I tried the Festools at a jobsite last week and it was okay but underwhelming, especially at the price.

From contributor J:
I finally made the switch to pneumatic 2-3 years ago and never looked back. I think there's a Dewalt in the shop somewhere for the jobsite if we need it. Pneumatics run smoother with less vibration and just plain work more aggressively. I have both Souix, and Dynabrades don't see much difference in them, but I like the Mirka psa disc's much better they seem to run longer.

From contributor O:
I use the Bosch 5" and the Metabo 6" in my shop with very good results, both hooked up to a Fein Turbo2 vac. The shop I am employed at we use the Dynabrade 5" pneumatics hooked up to Fein Turbo2's. Dust collection is excellent on both types but the Dynabrades outperform the electrics by a wide margin! If your compressor will run them I would suggest you give one a try. You won't be disappointed. The only thing keeping me from upgrading in my own shop is that my current compressor wonít drive them.

From contributor F:
The "new 3M air sanders" are AirVantage brand, a company that apparently 3M bought. AirVantage has been a very nice quality tool for close to 20 years. As always, service after the sale is key. Who administers to the warranty? What is the warranty?

From contributor T:
I've been thinking about a new compressor, my current compressor won't handle the additional load the pneumatics would place on it. What size compressor would you recommend to handle the sanders and what sander(s) would you recommend for sanding face frames and doors.

From contributor O:
You need something that is going to move a lot of cfm. The last two shops I have been in we have/had Ingersol Rand 80gal 5hp 2 stage which were ample to run a sander and a spray gun simultaneously in one shop and three sanders in the shop I am presently in.

From contributor J:
I run a 7.5hp Ingersoll/Rand two stage with an 80 gallon tank. It serves the whole shop - 1-2 man no problem.

From contributor V:
Like contributor O said the 5hp compressor would be the minimum. That is what most manufactures require. Air sanders are so much more efficient.

From contributor C:
I agree with contributor J. You'll make an initial investment in a decent compressor and pneumatic sanders but you will never go back. Also, if you plan on adding other pneumatic equipment later on you will be glad you have a big compressor. Our Blum, Castle, and wide belt utilize our 7.5 hp signal phase compressor as well with no problems keeping up.