Disc Sanders: Bench Top Mounted vs Floor Model

For even the most basic of home woodshops, a disc sander is a must have. Available in a variety of sizes, speeds, and models, the disc sander is an essential tool for the home handyman (or woman). Everyone can relate to having spent hours of back breaking work bent over a piece of wood which they’ve cut — either for a much needed repair in the home or just for the sheer joy of building something — sanding away the rough edges and moving from heavier to finer grits of sandpaper, all for the sake of preparing the piece for it’s final coat of stain or paint. The disc sander, however, is a labor saving device which can help you quickly get rid of those rough edges from your cuts, and move to the finer grades of sand paper.

Not only is this sander a great tool for your woodworking needs, but it can help you with numerous other home repairs as well. It can be used effectively on wood, metal, and plastic, letting you get rid of those rough edges before fitting a piece of steel over a fender, or a broken shelf back into your dishwasher. So, if you have the space, and you have the funds — and you like the satisfaction of keeping your own home running smoothly — keep on reading!

What is a disc sander?

The disc sander is exactly what its name says: a rotating disc that sands down a variety of materials. This type of tool comes in two basic styles, the bench top version, or the floor model version, and which one you purchase depends entirely on your own preferences and how much room you happen to have in your home workshop. The design of the disc sander is simple: a rotating, vertical disc, usually averaging twelve inches in diameter. Specially made sandpaper discs, of varying grits, are attached to the sander. The sander itself is powered by a small one half to one horsepower engine which allows the sander to be used effectively on a variety of woods, metals, and plastics.

What is it used for?

The disc sander, regardless as to whether it is a bench mount or a floor model, allows the woodworker to bring even, continuous pressure onto straight and angled cuts. With the large variety of sandpaper grits which can be purchased for the different disc sanders, even the most amateur of craftsmen can work their way from the coarser to the finer grits in a short period, and saving themselves a great amount of time and frustration. With the disc’s steady rotation even pressure is brought to bear on the cut, and you don’t have to worry about over sanding or making a dip in the wood where there shouldn’t be one.


This is a quick introductionary video, to give you an idea on how to operate a disc sander. Credit goes to Berthoud Highschool and their construction class.

What should I look for in a disc sander?

So, you’re pretty confident that you need this power sanding tool. You do a lot of your own home repairs, and even if you don’t do a lot of woodworking, you definitely want to in the future. A disc sander, then, is definitely something you want available and accessible in your home woodshop. The first question that you want to ask yourself as you get ready to make this important purchase for your shop is: should I get a bench top model, or a floor model?

The easiest way to answer this question is by looking at the woodshop that you have and figuring out whether or not you have the space for something as large as a floor model. The floor model version of the disc sander comes with a portable base has a footprint of several square feet as well as weighing several hundred pounds. While you can get up to one and a half horsepower engines for your floor models — which offers you a tremendous amount of power for your sanding needs — the next question you need to ask is, do you really need that much power.

For most of us the floor model is just going to be a little more than what we need, unless we’re going to be doing some heavy duty building and finishing. If you do have this need, or intend in the future to be crafting and working on large projects, then you’ll definitely want to pick up the floor model as it’ll give you that extra power and connect to your dust collection system. For others, the floor model — as great as it is — just isn’t a practical version of the disc sander.

When you don’t have the space, or the need, for a floor model disc sander, then the bench mounted version of this essential tool is just what the doctor ordered. The bench mounted version offers you a little bit of maneuverability (they still tend to weigh somewhere between seventy five and one hundred pounds), but, more importantly, they don’t take up the same amount of space as a floor model. With a base of just under twenty inches, the bench mounted disc sander can be tucked neatly to one side and be ready for whenever you need it.

How to find a product that fits your needs…

Once you’ve decided on your specific model, either floor or bench mounted, it’s time to start taking a look at the various disc sanders that are out there. Disc sanders come, like everything else, in a variety of styles, although all of them have the same basic function and purpose. But, as John Ruskin says, “You get what you pay for.” This is especially true with disc sanders and you’ll want to consider all of the bells and whistles that the disc sander comes with.

JET 708433 JDS-12B
The 708433 JDS-12B is yet another quality sander by JET. It will last you a long time. Click the picture to read reviews …

The disc sander is a tool that you’re going to use frequently, so you need to decide exactly what it is you want out of your particular disc sander. If you plan on using the tool for just the basics of woodworking and home repair, you can go with a basic model that’s going to give you the fundamentals, and that’s about it. However, if you plan on using the tool for a variety of projects, both for the home and for woodworking, then you’re going to want to make sure that you read a specific brand’s reviews, and what that particular model comes with. Most disc sanders, regardless of whether they’re a floor or bench mounted version, come with a miter gauge and a circle jig, after that, though, you’re going to need to start examining the reviews.[clear][clear][clear]

For instance:

  • How available are the sanding discs that attach to your sander?
  • Does the model that you’re interested in have fairly uniform size, or are you going to have to special order your sanding discs through the company that’s built the sander?
  • Are there any complaints about the power of a particular disc sander?
  • What are the people saying who’ve bought the machine? Did they have any issues with burn marks on their wood?
  • Does that particular disc sander actually work well on wood, metal, and plastic, or is there one that it really doesn’t handle well?
  • Can you actually connect your floor model to most dust collection systems, or does it only work well with one particular system?[clear]

What you need to look for, when purchasing a disc sander, is ease of access to replacement sanding discs; reliability; and does it live up to the promises that the manufacturer is making.

FAQs

  1. How easy is it to get replacement parts?

    Machines break, it’s sad, but true. Just like your chisels need to be sharpened and teeth break on saws, something is bound to break on your disc sander. You’re making an investment in your workshop and you need to make sure that you’re not throwing your money away on a machine that can’t be repaired or replaced.

  2. Which model is best for me?
    Again, that’s a question that only you can really answer. Sure, an expensive floor model disc sander would be great to have, but if you can’t even turn around in your woodshop, do you really need it? Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A one horsepower, bench mounted disc sander is going to take care of a great many of your woodworking and home repair needs.
  3. Can I really sand metal and plastic with this sander?Here’s where you really need to reach out to the internet community if you’re going to be working with a variety of materials. Some of the disc sanders are obviously going to be better than others, and the only way to find that out is by talking with the people that own them. Just because a machine says that it can work on steel, doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the burnished look that you’re aiming for. Make sure that you read the reviews to understand exactly how much — or how little — a disc sander can work with materials other than wood.