For every job there is a tool, and for every tool there is a job. Any woodshop will prove the truth of this statement. Even the most amateur of woodworkers can walk around his or her shop and point out individual tools and what their uses are. The descriptions and explanations may be limited, especially when compared to someone with decades of woodworking experience, but the basic information is there, as is the desire to know what a tool is used for. Power sanders, while more intricate than a handsaw, still have a basic purpose: to perform a specific job within the confines of the woodshop.

The Oscillating Spindle Sander is an extremely specific type of sander which comes in two basic styles, the bench mounted and the floor model. Depending upon a woodworker’s shop size, as well as the projects which he or she expects to be working on, play an important part in the decision making process.

What is the Oscillating Spindle Sander?

We all know what the basic purpose of a sander is: to smooth a rough surface and to prepare it as a final piece, whether that piece has a natural finish, a stain, or a paint. Regardless as to the woodworker’s final vision for the project, sanding is going to come into play at some point. The first question when considering an oscillating spindle sander is, what is it, and the woodshop that you’re building really need one.

This tool isn’t for everyone, but as you can see in this demo video, it really shines when it comes to smoothing curves…

The oscillating spindle sander is designed specifically to work with the curves, rounded edges, and odd angles of a piece of wood. The last thing that any woodworker wants is to spend hours measuring and cutting a piece only to ruin it by over-sanding a fastidiously made and difficult cut! This tool, whether the bench mounted or floor model, helps the woodworker make sure that he or she has burn free results as the piece is carefully sanded.

If your woodworking skills aren’t quite up to cutting French curves and arched pieces, then your shop probably doesn’t need to have an oscillating spindle sander just yet. If you are beginning to experiment with curves, arches, and intricate designs — and you want to save elbow grease on both cutting and sanding — then you’ll definitely want to pick yourself up this tool to make sure that all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

Bench mounted, or floor model?

So, you’ve decided that your skills as a woodworker are enough that you can justify picking up an oscillating spindle sander for your workshop. This sander is an extremely specific tool, one designed to work with wood, and the intricate cuts and curves that can be crafted. All that you need to do now is decide on what you need out of this machine, and how much room do you have in your workshop.

Some woodworkers are fortunate to have seemingly unlimited space in their workshops, others of us have an extremely limited amount of space within which to work. For those of us who have a small amount of space the bench mounted model is the best bet. The bench mounted model typically ranges in size from 12 inches by 14 inches, all the way up to 22. They have cast iron tables which offer both strength and stability, and they can be mounted firmly to your workbench. When not needed the bench mounted variety can be removed from your bench top and stored away, freeing up that much needed bench space. And just because the bench mounted sander is small, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t pack a punch when it comes to working with hardwoods. The bench model comes in a variety of horsepowers, ranging from one and a quarter horsepower to two and a half, and most models come with an assortment of rubber sanding drums.

Tip: When preparing to purchase your bench mounted sander you want to make sure that you’re getting a tool that’s going to take care of your sanding needs in regards to curves, arches, and irregular cuts. If you work primarily with soft woods, then there’s no particular reason to go all out and purchase a sander that work well on maple.

Make sure that you’re going to have a place to store your bench mounted sander when it’s not in use.

Now if you’re fortunate to have the room in your woodshop for a floor model oscillating spindle sander, you’re going to want to look at the floor models with the same critical eye that you would use when approaching any sort of purchase for your workshop. Like the bench mounted oscillating spindle sander you need to ask yourself if and where you have the room in your shop for a sander that could be as wide as thirty two inches at the base. Not only that, you need to ask yourself how you’re going to get a three hundred pound machine into your shop as well. This is an often overlooked problem! Rearranging your workshop is never an easy task, but the more heavy machinery that you own, the more difficult it will be.

Once you’ve decided on a floor model, though, you need to ask yourself some other questions as well. For instance, will a particular floor model be compatible with the dust collection system that you have set up in your shop, if you have a dust collection system. Not only that, how easy is it to get at your floor model’s engine. You need to make sure that you can access your incoming sander’s basic mechanical functions in case anything ever happens with the machine. And finally, you need to ask yourself once more if you really need the piece, or if you just want it. All of the tools are great, but they’re a waste of space if you don’t — or won’t — use them, and if you’re only working on small projects, such as doll furniture or small shelves, do you really need an oscillating spindle sander that’s going to take up a tremendous amount of shop space?

What should I look for in an oscillating spindle sander?

Once you’ve decided that you need and don’t just want an oscillating spindle sander, its time to think about what you’re going to be using it for, and what you should be looking for. If you’re going to be using hardwoods you’re going to want to get a sander with a little more kick to it. Patience is ever a virtue when woodworking, but having a strong enough tool is always a plus. You’re also going to want to look at storage for the various attachments that come with your sander. Some of the sanders come with built in spaces and holders for the attachments, and some do not. Some of the bench top models come with cast iron tables, and others are made out of aluminum, so are you looking for a lighter, easier model (in which case the aluminum base would be best), or are you looking for a really solid foundation to give you that extra security after you’ve mounted it to the bench top?

Jet Sander
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Depending on what type of wood you use, and what size projects you’ll be working on, you’ll need to weigh options of each type of sander. Smaller projects and softer woods, in general, would mean that you’d want to look at lighter, easier to handle oscillating spindle sanders. For larger projects, with harder woods, you’d definitely want a stronger base, and a little more horsepower for those curves.


Now that you’ve decided on either a bench mounted or a floor model oscillating spindle sander, here are a few frequently asked questions that you’ll want to consider — if you haven’t thought of them yourself already — before picking up your choice.

  1. Does your model of oscillating spindle sander comes with accessories?

    Seems like a pretty silly question, but it’s valid. Some of the sanders come with accessories, and some do not. Make sure that you’ve read through your model’s product description thoroughly before walking out of the store. You don’t want to get with a new sander and realize that you have none of the sanding sleeves or rubber drums that you’re going to need to actually use the machine.

  2. How can you get replacement parts?

    Yup, seems like a pretty obvious question, doesn’t it? Some people don’t ask though. Rubber drums don’t last forever, and neither do sanding sleeves. Before you make that purchase, make sure that you’re going to be able to keep yourself supplied with the basic parts that you’re going to need for the machine’s day to day uses.

  3. How reliable is the sander?

    Machines break down over time. It’s a sad but true statement, especially today, when everything seems to be designed to be thrown away rather than repaired. With each individual sander you’re going to want to research customer reviews and make sure that the reason that you’re getting a great price on a machine isn’t because the engine dies a week after the warranty expires. Ask around and look around, make sure that you’re buying a machine that is not only going to last, but one that can be repaired if need be as well.

    But what is the best oscillating spindle sander? Click the link for a comparison review!

    Thanks, and …be more toolerant, kiddo ;=)