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5 Best Sanders for Refinishing Furniture of 2024

Refinishing furniture with the right sander.

Refinishing furniture requires the right tools. Whether you are a pro or an amateur, getting the right sander is crucial if you want the best results.

So, how do you ensure you have the best tool for the job?

You’re in luck because we review the best sanders for refinishing furniture to bring you our top five.

Our Top Picks

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Product Comparison Table

Product Image of the DeWALT Random Orbit Sander
Best Orbital Sander for Refinishing Furniture
DeWALT Random Orbit Sander
  • 3-Amp motor
  • Random sander
  • Locking dust port
Product Image of the Makita 18V Cordless Sander
Best Cordless Sander for Refinishing Furniture
Makita 18V Cordless Sander
  • Maximum of 11,000 OPM
  • Two additional speed settings
  • Fast charging
Product Image of the Makita Random Orbit Sander
Best Sander for Table Tops
Makita Random Orbit Sander
  • Efficient material removal
  • Oversized sealed ball bearing
  • Rubberized grip
Product Image of the DeWALT 20V Oscillating Multi-Tool
Best Multi-Tool Sander for Refinishing Furniture
DeWALT 20V Oscillating Multi-Tool
  • Multiple tools in one
  • Plenty of accessories
  • 3-speed selector
Product Image of the Black + Decker Mouse Detail Sander
Best Detail Sander for Refinishing Furniture
Black + Decker Mouse Detail Sander
  • 3-way grip
  • Finger detail attachments
  • 14,000 OPM

Review Methodology: At Sensible Digs, we understand the importance of reliable and informative evaluations. Our examination of the best sanders for refinishing furniture is rooted in hands-on testing and professional assessments. Backed by data and firsthand experience, we compare and rank sanders based on key decision-making factors like performance, design, and ease of use. Our reviews offer clear, objective analysis, helping you discern what sets each product apart. We measure and track important criteria such as power, dust collection, and comfort, providing you with the facts you need to make an informed decision. Trust our expertise and our commitment to providing you with the most accurate, relevant information.

The Best Sanders for Refinishing Furniture of 2024

Here are our favorite sanders for refinishing furniture.

DeWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander

Best Orbital Sander for Refinishing Furniture

Random orbital sanders work slightly differently to orbit sanders. Rather than just spinning on a fixed axis, a random sander has an off-center axis, allowing the sanding pad to rotate and move side to side at the same time.

It has a 3-amp motor that generates 12,000 OPM and a dust-sealed switch to stop sawdust causing damage. The dust collection comes courtesy of a bag or direct connection to a central vacuum system.

The rubber overmold increases comfort, and the counterbalance reduces vibration for the most comfortable user experience.

What We Like

Quality Brand

DeWALT is a global concern, famed the world over for reliability and quality. It’s the reason why you find DeWALT products in the hands of professionals and amateurs alike.

Random Motion

Unlike orbit sanders, random models spin on an off-center axis to create a random motion of spinning and sideways movement. It’s the most efficient way of removing material.

Locking Dust Port

The dust port locks using one hand, making it easy to secure the collection bag or central vacuum hose.

What We Don't Like

Limited Uses

While a random orbital sander is a great multi-use tool, it has its limitations. You will struggle to get detailed finishing with this tool, and it isn’t the best to use on intricate edges and furniture.

Product Specs

Weight (pounds) 4
Dimensions (inches) 10.38 x 7.25 x 6.18
OPM 12,000
Amps 3
Accessories Carry bag
Price $$
Warranty 3-year limited

Our Ratings

4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Sanding Efficiency
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

User Experience

When I first used this palm sander, I was struck by its power and efficiency. It's perfect for my live edge charcuterie board projects and even car works, with its compact size and excellent dust collection system. Although it lacks variable speed adjustments, this is easily outweighed by its ease of use. It's worth noting that the dust bag is effective, but for indoor use or outside of a garage setting, a shop vac might be a handy addition to manage dust. Despite the omission of included sanding sheets, this sander hasn't let me down and it seems to be a solid addition to my woodworking tools.

Makita XOB01Z 18V Cordless Sander

Best Cordless Sander for Refinishing Furniture

Going cordless is a great way to liberate yourself from power cords and electrical supplies. It means you can take this tool anywhere. The power comes from a lithium-ion battery (not included), and it generates a maximum of 11,000 OPM.

You also get 40 minutes of continuous use at the low-speed setting and 20 minutes on full speed between charges. Also, the advanced technology gives you 50 percent more runtime and three times faster charging.

It also has two other speed settings ranging from 7,000 to 9,500 OPM. Like the DeWALT, it has a random action for efficient material removal, and it benefits from an ergonomic handle that increases comfort while reducing fatigue.

What We Like

Cordless Is King

Throw off the shackles of power cords forever and go cordless. You can take this tool anywhere to work. It also increases your maneuverability because you are not restricted by the cord, allowing you to get into the tightest spots.

Random Motion

Remove more material with this random sander. Rotating on an off-center axis increases the efficiency of the sander, speeding up material removal.

Fast Charging

The downside to a cordless power tool is waiting for it to recharge. This Makita deals with the problem by increasing the speed it charges by 3 times that of the competition.

What We Don't Like

You Need a Spare Battery

For this sander to work effectively, you should consider buying two batteries so that you always have a spare when the power starts to drain.

No Battery Included

Selling a battery-operated sander without the battery or charger means that you have to factor in the additional financial burden. This makes an expensive sander even more costly.

Product Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.9
Dimensions (inches) 5.16 x 8.07 x 6.89
Max OPM 11,000
Amps 18 volts (Cordless tools are rated in voltage)
Accessories N/A
Price $$$
Warranty 3-year limited

Our Ratings

4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Sanding Efficiency
4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

Personal Perspective

I recently transitioned from a corded sander to this Makita cordless, and despite its weightiness with 5.0ah batteries, it's been a practical tool for on-site work, allowing me to sand a variety of materials quickly and efficiently. Its design could use some tweaking, particularly the grip size and button placement, which weren't ideal for my medium-sized hands, and the dust port size which didn't quite fit my adapters. However, the tool's performance, coupled with its good dust collection when used with a vacuum and lower operating noise levels, make this Makita a solid addition to my cordless tool collection.

Makita BO5030K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander

Best Sander for Table Tops

When you are sanding tabletops, you need a tool that works best on flat surfaces. This Makita random orbital sander removes more material while minimizing swirl marks, thanks to the way it oscillates. A pad control system decreases surface marks for the smoothest finish.

It has a 3-amp motor, producing 12,000 OPM, and a rubberized grip for better control and comfort. It also has low-vibration, which further reduces hand fatigue. Makita has also fitted this sander with an oversized sealed ball bearing for longer tool life.

The dust-sealed power switch stops dust from entering the device, and it is conveniently located for easier control.

What We Like

Efficient Material Removal

Tables are flat, which is the ideal environment for this random orbital sander. It efficiently removes material with less effort and fewer swirl marks. It all adds up to a perfectly finished tabletop.

Oversized Sealed Ball Bearing

Makita is famed for the quality of its products, and this model is no exception. It has an oversized sealed ball bearing to increase the tool’s working life.

Rubberized Grip

The rubberized grip increases the comfort factor while decreasing hand fatigue. Ergonomics plays a major role in power tool usability, providing the best user experience possible.

What We Don't Like

Limited Uses

For all its strengths in sanding flat surfaces, this model is limited when refinishing intricate shapes and edges. You would get more satisfaction from a detail sander.

Product Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.87
Dimensions (inches) 15 x 7 x 10
Max OPM 12,000
Amps 3
Accessories Carry case and dust bag
Price $$
Warranty 1-year limited

Our Ratings

4 / 5
4 / 5
Sanding Efficiency
4.5 / 5
4 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Community Feedback

If you're like me and you're into hobbies that require a reliable sander, then you'll appreciate this sander. Despite being a novice to the sanding world, I found that this sander fits comfortably in my hands and does an excellent job on my electric guitar bodies. The only minor hiccup I've encountered is with the dust bag, which can be a bit tricky to manage during long sanding sessions. However, given its solid performance and the fact that it's a Makita, I'd say it's a worthy tool for any hobbyist's collection.

DeWALT 20V MAX XR Oscillating Multi-Tool

Best Multi-Tool Sander for Refinishing Furniture

It’s pretty hard to beat a multi-tool for all-around performance. When finishing furniture or restoring something from scratch, having the ability to interchange different sanders and tools within one kit is invaluable.

This DeWALT has a 3-speed selector to adjust the rate of the tool to cater to different materials. Plus, it has a variable speed trigger for more responsive applications. This cordless model has a brushless motor, which delivers 57 percent more battery runtime.

It also has an LED light and tool-less head changes for speed and convenience.

What We Like

Multiple Tools in One

What could be better than a tool that cuts, grinds, shaves, and sands? When restoring or finishing furniture, versatility is the key to a better outcome. This tool gives you that option.

Plenty of Accessories

Unlike some models, this kit is generous. It comes with different heads and a battery, charger, and spare sanding pads. It really is the complete set to get you started straight out of the box.

Cordless Freedom

The lithium-ion battery delivers efficient power to perform at the peak for longer. You can buy larger capacity batteries to keep you working for longer. It also comes with a charger, unlike the Makita cordless model.

What We Don't Like

Requires Spare Battery

Ask anyone with a cordless power tool, and they’ll tell you that you need a spare battery to work effectively. It means you always have a fully charged battery while the other drains.

Very Expensive

To get this kit, you will need deep pockets. It costs over 7 times the price of the budget model, so it is more likely to appeal to a professional or experienced woodworker.

Product Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.33
Dimensions (inches) 17.15 x 5.03 x 9.65
Max OPM Not stated
Amps 20 volts (Cordless tools are rated in voltage)
Accessories Different attachments, spare pads, and a carry bag
Price $$$$$
Warranty 3-year limited

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
5 / 5
Sanding Efficiency
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.5 / 5

First-Hand Impression

For all my DIY enthusiasts, this DEWALT 20V MAX XR Oscillating Multi-Tool has proven to be a versatile and indispensable addition to my toolkit. During a bathroom renovation, this gem made light work of cutting through tiles, grout, and wood, with the adjustable speed feature ensuring precision without damage. However, it's worth noting that the longevity of the blades leaves something to be desired, so stocking up on replacements is a smart move. Despite a hiccup where the tool stopped working after six months, the battery showed full charge, a minor setback in an otherwise stellar performance. Ultimately, this tool's lightness, long battery life, and myriad uses make it a valuable asset for any home project.

Black and Decker Mouse Detail Sander

Best Detail Sander for Refinishing Furniture

This mouse detail sander is worthy of your attention, and not just for the price. It has a 3-position grip for better control and comfort, along with a compact and lightweight design to reduce hand and wrist stress.

For super-detailed finishing, a finger detail attachment comes in handy, and a highly effective dust collection keeps you safe from harm. But what about that price? Well, you could own this detail sander for less than one-sixth of the cost of the DeWALT multi-tool.

The 1.2-amp motor generates 14,000 OPM, and while it isn’t the most powerful detail sander, it is adequate for most furniture finishing tasks.

What We Like

Unbelievably Affordable

If you have a limited budget or you are new to the world of furniture finishing, this Black and Decker tool is the best way to get started. Sure, you will need to graduate to better sanders in time, but at this price, it’s almost irresistible.

3-Way Grip

You get 3 options when you grip this sander. You can use the handle, place your thumb on the side for stability, or hold it from the top using the palm grip. However you grip it, you cannot deny it gives you better control.

Finger Attachments

This is a detail sander, but when you want extra-fine sanding, a finger attachment is a useful tool. It adds to your versatility, giving you the ability to reach previously unreachable spots.

What We Don't Like

Cheap Quality

We can wax lyrical all day about how cheap this sander is, but you can tell when you look at the quality of the components. It feels cheaply made because it is. You get what you pay for.

Product Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.4
Dimensions (inches) 10.25 x 4.63 x 5.44
Max OPM 14,000
Amps 1.2
Accessories Finger attachment, plus spare pads
Price $
Warranty 2-year limited

Our Ratings

3 / 5
3.5 / 5
Sanding Efficiency
4 / 5
3.5 / 5
Total Rating
3.5 / 5

User Experience

Bought this sander to breathe new life into some old furniture I've got, and it certainly did the job. The sander fits comfortably in my hand making it easy to control and maneuver into tight spaces; however, it's quite noisy and messy as it fails to contain the sawdust effectively. The sandpaper attachment is strong, sticking like Velcro, but I was disappointed with the extra attachment that came with this machine. It damaged the sander during initial use and was practically unusable thereafter. Also, this sander's dust catcher is a tad small and the vacuum attachment could use some improvement.

Product Comparison Chart

Product Best Weight Dimensions OPM Amp/Volt Warranty
DeWALT Random Orbit Sander Orbital Sander 4 lbs 10.38 x 7.25 x 6.18″ 12,000 3 Amp 3-year limited
Makita 18V Cordless Sander Cordless Sander 3 lbs 5.16 x 8.07 x 6.89″ 11,000 18V 3-year limited
Makita Random Orbit Sander Table Tops 3 lbs 15 x 7 x 10″ 12,000 3 Amp 1-year limited
DeWALT 20V Oscillating Multi-Tool Multi-Tool 2 lbs 17.15 x 5.03 x 9.65″ N/A 20V 3-year limited
Black + Decker Mouse Detail Sander Detail Sander 2 lbs 10.25 x 4.63 x 5.44″ 14,000 1.2 Amp 2-year limited

Should I Sand or Strip Furniture?

In the main, it’s better to strip furniture than to sand. Stripping involves less work than sanding, especially if the old surface is flaking off. A paint and varnish remover makes light work of removing several layers at a time.

Often, when refurbishing old furniture, you need to remove years of paint and varnish, some of it lead-based. A paint stripper is the safest way to scrape away these layers without harmful dust lingering in the air.

Sanding is better when you have surface damage or thin layers of paint that strip away easily. Once you have stripped your furniture back to the original wood, you can begin sanding to get the smoothest results.

Types of Sanders for Refinishing Furniture

There are so many choices when it comes to the right sander for your furniture. Let’s take a look at your options.

Detail Sander

As the name suggests, a detail sander is the best tool for detail finishing. This is thanks to its triangular-shaped sanding pad that allows the user to get into tight corners and edges. If you are restoring an ornate cabinet or your furniture has awkward edges and curves, a detail sander is the best tool.

Just remember, details sanders are compact, and are not as efficient as orbital sanders at removing material. So, if you are refinishing a table, a larger sander might be a better option.

Orbital Sander

Orbital sanders are the mainstay of any woodworker tool kit. They can multitask with the best of them. However, they might not be your best option for furniture restoration because of the circular sanding pad.

It restricts you to sanding flat surfaces only and not intricate curves and corners. That’s where the detail sander has the advantage over the orbit sander. Again, for flat surfaces, an orbit sander will remove old paint and varnish easily, and because the pad rotates, you can work in any direction.

Palm Sander/Finishing Sander

This is the best of both worlds because a palm or finishing sander is a mix of an orbital and detail sander. Thanks to the compact design and ability to remove material, there are more advantages than disadvantages.

Most palm sanders have a square or rectangular pad, so they can reach edges and corners with ease, and thanks to the orbital motion, you can still remove a decent amount of material. If we had to pick between the three, the palm/finishing sander is the best choice for versatility and all-around ability.

How To Choose the Best Sander for Refinishing Furniture

So, you need to choose the best sander for furniture refinishing. What are the details you need to consider to get the best tool? Let’s take a look.

Power and Vibration

Think about getting the most powerful sander with the least vibration. While most furniture restoration requires delicacy, sometimes you might need to remove decades of layers like paint and varnish.

Reducing the vibration protects your hand and wrists against fatigue. Refinishing furniture is time-consuming work, so you are likely to have prolonged spells of sanding, and comfort is key. Low vibration also gives you better control.

Orbits per Minutes

The speed of your new sander is measured in OPM, or orbits per minute. The more OPMs, the faster your sander works. Speed is important when you are working with older wood and need to remove blemishes and dents quickly.

If you can get one with variable speed, even better because this puts you in total control. You can swap materials and surfaces while adjusting the speed to match.

What About Comfort?

You will hear the word “ergonomics” a lot when it comes to sanders. Finishing furniture is painstaking work, requiring patience, so if you are using the sander for prolonged periods, comfort is key.

Before buying a sander, check it out for size, weight, and balance. Does the handle offer you a choice of positions? Does it fit in the palm of your hand? If you don’t feel that you can grip it properly, this will affect the way you control the sander.

Finally, if it feels heavy, it will wear you out a lot faster than other models, reducing your desire to work for longer.

What About the Dust?

Sanding is a messy business, so you need to get a sander that controls debris, removing it from your airspace. Breathing hazardous pollutants is a health risk, leading to lung disorders and serious illness.

Dust collection bags or central vacuum hoses are the best way to manage the dust. Either hook up a bag and empty it when it’s full or connect a hose to the exhaust port and extract the debris to a central canister.

What About the Budget?

In an ideal world, all sanders would have all the features we have mentioned, but most of the above rely on a decent budget. The amount you pay dictates the number of features you can get. Top price equals the top of the range, while the reverse is true of the budget models.

Tips on Using a Sander for Refinishing Furniture

Once you decide which sander is right, you need all the help you can get learning how it handles. You could also benefit from hints and tips to get the best results.

It’s All About the Grit

For older, thicker surfaces, use lower grit sandpaper. Try 80 to 100 grit for the best results. Lower-grade sandpaper removes lots more material in one go. If you have substantial blemishes and scratches, the lion’s share of the work is done using low grit paper.

It’s Still All About the Grit

Once you kick-start the restoration with lower grit paper, as you work through the process, scale up the sandpaper by increasing the grit. A good mid-range is around 120 to 150, while finishing requires 220 to 300.

Wear Protection

Wood dust is dangerous. It sits in your lungs, causing all sorts of problems. Personal safety is paramount when sanding old furniture. You should put on an N95 facemask to remove 95 percent of pollutants.

Also, restoring and refinishing furniture might release chemical residue found in lead paint and old varnishes, so protection is vital. Goggles are also required for the same reasons. plus, earplugs or defenders reduce the noise created by the sander.

Apply Light Pressure

Always work slowly and steadily. Too much pressure risks hollowing out even surfaces. It also puts undue strain on the sander. Also, you want to reduce surface marks, so a lighter touch is preferred.

Work With the Grain

Unless you are painting the furniture, work with the grain where possible as it could highlight surface scratches and marks when you apply the stain.

Use a Stocking

If you want to check how smooth the finish is, run a stocking over the surface to see if it snags. If it does, you need to carry on sanding until it is 100 percent blemish-free.

Sanders for Refinishing Furniture FAQs

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Furniture Before Painting?

If you fail to sand furniture before painting, it will lead to a sloppy paint job. Not only will it lack a beautiful and even finish, but if you don’t get that old and chipped paint out of the way, it will damage the new coat.

Even if you want to paint a furniture piece that wasn’t previously painted, you still have to sand the raw wood surface. After sanding furniture, your new coat of paint is likelier to stick to the surface.

How Long Does It Take to Sand Furniture by Hand?

While sanding furniture with a sander takes minutes, it can take hours to do it by hand. That’s because, even with the proper sanding technique, you will feel fatigued and need to stop and rest constantly. These frequent breaks will increase the time it takes to sand a furniture piece.

Two important factors that can expand this time are the size of the furniture, and how deteriorated the old paint coat is. Sanding a small bathroom cabinet doesn’t take as long as sanding an entire wooden door.

It is also faster to sand a raw and unpainted nightstand than to sand a shed table with cracked and chipped paint.

How Can You Tell If Furniture is Sanded Enough?

The best way to tell if furniture has been sanded enough is to touch the surface. Non-sanded wood will be rough to the touch. Also, if you notice that the surface you are sanding shows signs of scratches, you must stop sanding.

This process involves removing just the right amount of surface material to prep the wood for staining, priming, or painting. It can help if you use a light shined on the surface at an angle. This will help you spot imperfections and see where to sand some more.

Do You Have to Prime After Sanding Furniture?

Unless you use a liquid sander, you must prime your furniture after sanding. Cleaning the surface once you’re done sanding is very important.

All that dust and debris should never get caught in your paintbrush or underneath your spray paint coat. If it does, your paint job will be sloppy.

For the prepping part itself, you can use a spray primer.

If you have little-to-no experience painting wood, a spray primer will result in a thin and even coat, and the paint job will look amazing. Brush-on primers are also good but require more patience and a steady hand for even coats.

Remember the golden rule of priming: you always want the coats to be thin. When you’re done applying the first coat, you should barely be able to see the primer at all. You can begin applying the second coat once the first is fully dry.

How Do You Sand Furniture Without Making a Mess?

Sanding furniture (especially indoors) can be messy, and you’re left with a lot to clean up after. Thankfully, a few tricks make this cleaning job easier for you.

When sanding a piece of furniture, use plastic sheeting to cover the ground beneath it.

If you’re sanding a cabinet mounted on the wall and can’t/don’t want to take it down, cover whatever is beneath it with plastic sheets. This way, you can prevent sanding residue from getting everywhere.

If sanding with a power tool, look for one with a dust collection system. Some sanders have holes that collect this residue as you go along the furniture.

Alternatively, you can use a regular vacuum cleaner and position it close to the sanding area. It’s best to ask for someone’s help so you can have both hands free for sanding.

It also helps if you clean as you go along instead of waiting to finish and cleaning up after. As you sand, pause to remove any sanding residue from the surface of the wood. This prevents more of it from getting everywhere around you.

How Do You Prep Furniture for Paint After Sanding?

When you’re done sanding a piece of furniture, two extra steps are needed before you can paint it. The first step implies cleaning the sanded surface. Any dust and debris left on the furniture will mess up the paint job.

The next step is applying primer. As mentioned above, spray primer is better because it’s easier to use in thin coats.

Depending on your furniture’s wood, you should sand it again once the primer is cured. Primer may cause the wood grain to rise, and fine-grit sandpaper can help fix the problem.

Best Sander for the Job

Refinishing furniture is a skilled job. It takes know-how and experience, as well as the right tools. And knowing which tools are best for the job is an art in itself. While the sanders we chose all perform the same basic tasks, they are not all equal.

Hopefully, this article clarifies the strengths and weaknesses each sander possesses so that you can make an informed choice.

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Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.