Portable sanders and polishers are used for surface finishing of materials such as metal, wood, ceramics, and plastics. Both tools are Lightweight and fairly easy cooperate. They can be powered electrically or pneumatically and can be light-duty or heavy duty.

Portable sanders are used to remove paint, rust, corrosion, and imperfections from the surface of workplaces to produce a smooth surface for finishing. Field and machine shop maintenance personnel use the disk-type portable sander (Figure 3-20). The disk-type portable sander has a high-speed motor that rotates an abrasive disk, wire wheel, or a grinding wheel to prepare a surface for finishing. For sanding, a disk of abrasive paper is mounted with a flexible backing pad on the motor spindle (Figure 3-21). The basic motor unit is similar to the motor unit used for angle grinding, but with sanding there is no need for a wheel guard. On some models the motor spindle can be locked by depressing a lock button to install or remove the sanding disks. A side handle on the motor housing is used to support the sander during operation. This handle can be removed and screwed into the opposite side of the motor housing for left-handed operation. Pneumatic sanders have an advantage over electric sanders because they are lighter in weight and easier to handle which usually produces a better finished product.

Figure 3-20. Portable sanders.


Figure 3-21. Portable sander configuration.



Portable sanders are not intended for use as portable abrasive cutoff saws. The torque for cut off sawing will ruin the soft gearing in the sander motor unit

Various abrasive disks are used in the operation of the portable electric sander. These disks consist of different abrasive grains that have been bonded or glued onto a cloth or paper disk (see Table 3-2) .

Table 3-2.  Selection of abrasive discs.

The backing material that supports the abrasive disk is made of a tough vulcanized rubber or fiber that can withstand

hard use and constant flexing. Normally, the abrasive grain used on the disk is aluminum oxide, and the bonding agent is glue or special resin. Abrasive disks come in open-coat or closed-coat types, depending on the work to be performed. The closed-coat disk has the abrasive grains bonded close together, while the open-coat disk has the abrasive grains spaced further apart. Open-coat abrasive disks are used for sanding soft materials that could possibly load up a closed-coat disk, for example, wood sanding, removing paint and rust, and plastic. Closed-coat abrasive disks are used for sanding metal, finishing ceramics, and for smoothing rougher sanded areas.

Most portable sanders come with an instruction manual and those accessories that the manufacturer recommends for its use. These accessories can include a sanding setup which includes a flexible rubber backing plate, several types of sanding disks, and the hardware to secure the disk to the motor assembly. Other accessories may include flexible grinding disks with wheel guards, wire wheels, and odd-shaped grinding cups with the appropriate wheel guard. Only use accessories approved by the manufacturer to avoid injury or damage to equipment.

The portable polisher (Figure 3-22) is used to produce a super finish or shine to the workpiece surface. Polishing or buffing a surface is desirable at times to increase smoothness and make the surface easier to clean. By polishing a surface, a workpiece can also be made more wear resistant. Portable polishers are generally more powerful than portable sanders.

Figure 3-22. Portable sanders.

Since they encounter a greater frictional resistance when operation, portable polishers operate at slower speeds than portable sanders so as not to mar the finished surface. Pneumatic portable polishers are lighter in weight than electric models and may make fewer buffing marks on the finish. In order to improve the surface quality of a workpiece through polishing, it is necessary to use a soft bonnet or cover over the sander backing pad.

Lambís wool polishing bonnets are recommended with a soft rubber cushion pad separating the bonnet and the backing pad. Polishing compound, which is a mild abrasive, is used to help polish the surface. A left- or right-handed side handle is attached to the motor housing to help control the polisher during operations.


Operating the portable sander is difficult due to the rotating force of the disk, so the quality of the work depends mostly on the experience of the machine operator. Hold the portable sander so that the abrasive disk forms an angle of approximately 15į to the workpiece surface (Figure 3- 23). Apply just enough pressure against the sander to bend the sanding pad and abrasive disk so that about 2 inches of the disk contact the surface. Move the sander from side to side, overlapping each path with the next. If the sander cuts irregularly or is hard to control, the sander is most likely at an angle less than the required 15į to the workpiece. If the sander gouges or leaves rough edges, the angle formed by the sander is most likely too great. When the sander is operating, keep it moving back and forth across the workpiece or lift it free to avoid damaging the surface.

Figure 3-23. Incorrect and correct methods of using an electric sander.

The portable polisher looks like the portable sander but it is built with a slower speed and high torque needed for polishing. Polishing is performed by placing the spinning lambís wool polishing bonnet lightly against the workpiece and moving the polisher lightly back and forth while maintaining a light pressure on the workpiece. Avoid pressing down too hard, or the surface could get damaged. Use separate polishing bonnets for different polishing abrasives, glazes, or waxes. Reapply polishing compound as needed to keep a smooth finish.