Bobbin Sander Reviews: Which is the Best Bobbin Sander in the UK?
A lesser-known tabletop sander than the more familiar belt and disc sanders is the bobbin or oscillating spindle sander. This is an unusual sander in that the sanding media not only rotates but also oscillates up and down. Bobbin sanders come with different sized sanding drums and sleeves which are particularly useful for sanding curved surfaces as well as surfaces that are internal to the workpiece. The bobbin sander can often be the only sander that can be used effectively to sand less accessible edges.
Bobbin sanders are relatively simple machines which means choosing one is not a particularly tricky task. However, there are some aspects that one should be aware of when buying one.
What to look for in a bobbin sander
Spindle length and stroke travel
Two important parameters of bobbin sanders that can vary between different machines are the length of the spindle and the degree to which it oscillates up and down. These two factors impact the thickness of material that can be effectively sanded using the machine. The longer the spindle and the further it travels when oscillating up and down, the greater the thickness of timber that can be sanded at any one time. Naturally, higher-end professional machines will have a longer spindle and oscillate a greater distance than machines designed for the DIY-er.
Availability of sanding sleeves
An important consideration when choosing a bobbin sander is the availability of replacement sanding sleeves. This is important for both when the sleeves included with the machine wear down as well as when the coarseness of the sandpaper needs to be changed to a higher or lower grit. Replacement sanding sleeves for higher-end professional machines can usually only be sourced from a limited number of suppliers. In contrast, sleeves for less-expensive consumer-targeted bobbin sanders are usually easier to get hold of.
Another important feature that differentiates between bobbin sanders is the ability to angle the table for chamfered or bevelled edge sanding. More expensive machines will usually incorporate the ability to tilt their worktables for this sort of sanding since it is usually more the domain of professionals and dedicated woodworking enthusiasts. DIY-ers, on the other hand, will often find this feature to be superfluous to their needs and usually not worth the extra cost of a machine where this feature is included.
The vast majority of bobbin sanders on the UK market have a cast iron worktable which provides both a robust and durable surface that will last a lifetime, but also adds weight to the machine to steady it while being worked on. Some machines, however, will favour an aluminium table which is less durable but keeps the weight of a machine down to a manageable level, especially if targeted for the DIY consumer.
Spindle speed and oscillations per minute
Spindle rotational speed and oscillations per minute refer to the speed at which the sanding drum rotates and the number of up-and-down cycles the spindle makes within the space of a minute, respectively. Although these factors can differ significantly between different bobbin sanders, they are of lesser importance to the process of choosing a bobbin sander. Higher rotational speeds and oscillation rates mean that the sanding will be more aggressive and will remove more material from the workpiece faster. But it also means that the operator will not have as fine a control over the sanding process as slower speed machines.
As with any sanding, but particularly with mechanical sanding, using a bobbin sander is normally a messy affair. Fortunately, oscillating spindle sander designers have taken into account this aspect of the machine and have incorporated dust extraction channels into the body of the bobbin sanders as standard. The only discrepancy to pay attention to here is the diameter of the dust extraction port to which the workshop vacuum hose attaches to in order to ensure that it is compatible.
The ‘generic’ bobbin sander
One special point to note when it comes to purchasing a bobbin sander for the home workshop is that at the lower end of the price scale, a single type of bobbin sander predominates. Different companies are essentially selling the same machine with only the company branding on it that is different. However, having been adopted by many different companies is positive for a couple of reasons. First, the almost universal adoption of the design indicates that this type of machine is proven and sound. Secondly, for the DIY-er that has settled on this type of bobbin sander as being most suitable for his or her needs, it means that choosing one is merely a matter of getting the best price.