So why go with an air sander rather than an electrical one? As with all air tools, replacing an old sander or buying your first one, an air sander is a lot cheaper than buying an equivalent electrical one which has to contain all the motor and electrical components to power itself. This also has an impact on the overall weight of a tool, and as anyone who has sanded vertically or above their head knows, keeping the tool weight down means much less arm fatigue!
If you are a power-tool fanatic or wannabe and plan on getting a range of power tools for your handyman work, then you are better off financially sticking with air tools since each tool doesn't have to house an expensive motor. So if you already have an air compressor with sufficient airflow, then the decision is a no-brainer. But the key point in the case of air sanders is just that - you need a lot of airflow from the compressor.
Top-Rated 6" Orbital Air Sanders
|Ingersoll Rand 317A
|Ingersoll Rand 317G
|Ingersoll Rand 300G
|Ingersoll Rand 311A
|Ingersoll Rand 311G
|Chicago Pneumatic CP870
|Ingersoll Rand 328B
In the table above, you will find some of the best-rated 6" orbital air sanders currently on the market (check out the reviews of each futher down the page). As you can see, average air consumption is relatively high (8-ish cubic feet per minute), and this is just the average* air flow needed. Air sanders are generally rated as having a 50% duty cycle - i.e the sander guy has the air sander on for half the time within any work period (what he is doing the other half of the time is anyone's guess, probably playing with his new air compressor!). So if you intend to use your sander like crazy or perhaps less frequently (are you worse than the sander guy?) then you are going to need more or less air volume than the standard rating. Use the calculator at the end of the page to work out what air flow you will need from your compressor based on how you will likely be using your future air sander.
Air Sander Reviews
Ingersoll Rand 311A
Ingersoll Rand is one of the standard bearers for air tools so you can rarely go wrong when you stick to their brand. This is a heavy-duty dual-action sander that is good for tougher sanding jobs, but it also has the ability to tackle finer finishing work simply by reducing the sanding-action speed using its speed control - not all sanders have this. It is also very quiet as Ingersoll Rand have had the foresight to include a noise-muffler to reduce sound. But remember, this is a heavy-duty sander and it is a heavy-duty consumer of air, so make sure that you have a sufficiently large compressor to support it. If you want to see it in action and get a 'feel' of how it functions, check out the video after the next air sander review where a version of it (the 311G) is compared alongside the another Ingersoll Rand air sander, the 300G. Note this sander uses adhesive-backed sanding discs which is not everybody's favorite.
Ingersoll Rand 300G
Here is another Ingersoll Rand air sander but this time it is a lightweight model both in actual weight and in the sort of work it is used for - there is no variable-speed control, just in case any of you are wondering. Again, the video below gives the best idea of how it functions and the sort of work it is good for, namely it is more atuned to providing a smooth finish ideal for painting rather than sanding down much rougher surfaces. As you will see in the video below, it is ideally used alongside a heavier-duty sander to provide that perfect finish. Once again as with other IR sanders, this sander uses the adhesive-backed sandpaper disc system as opposed to velcro or any mechanical attachment mechanism. One bad point about Ingersoll Rand products relates to their owners manuals which are often of little help. For example, this air sander comes out of the box with a security-device attached to the inlet hose that must be removed before using the tool - dont expect them to explain this to you! Oh and don't expect to be spoon-fed on how to use their tools. In general, their manuals are mostly filled with warnings of the dangers involved in operating the power tool rather than advice on using it - so you better know what your doing 'cos the Ingersoll Rand manual ain't gonna help!
Here is yet another Ingersoll Rand air sander - getting the message that they are one of the lead manufacturers of air tools yet? Unlike the 311A above, this one can be attached to a vacuum that removes the dust from the work surface as you are sanding improving performance and finish. However, this sander is very similar to the 300G described above also made by Ingersoll Rand, in fact there is so little difference between the two that it makes you wonder why they bothered with having two different 'series' of sanders - probably some marketing guy's big idea! Anyway, apart from small differences in rpm, levels of vibration and minimum hose size required, the two sanders are almost identical and like its cousin, the 300G, it is quite a tough little lightweight sander.
NB: The calculator has a 'safety factor' of 1.2x cfm incorporated to ensure the right compressor is chosen. Example: if the sander is officially rated at 8 cfm, the calculator will recommend a 9.6 cfm-capable compressor.