Pneumatic vs. Electric Sanders

Article - August 10, 2009

This article was inspired by a question from Nathan. He writes:

Firstly, I absolutely love your show. The reason I am writing is that I have been watching David Marks Woodworks and noticed in a couple of his episodes he uses a pneumatic power sander. There is not much literature on the web regarding these machines. I was wondering if maybe you could highlight some of the characteristics of these machines. Watching the video I could not see any visible dust collection and all I could gather about these machines is they are more powerful than the electric sanders. Thanks a lot!

To be completely honest, I actually don’t have a whole lot of experience with pneumatic sanders. In fact, the only time I used one was in David’s shop. But I can still give you a some things to think about. There are a few key differences between pneumatic and electric sanders that may or may not matter to you. Pneumatics are generally lighter. After all, there’s no motor. As a result, they can also be quieter and longer lasting. The tools themselves are usually much cheaper too. That is, on a tool for tool basis they are cheaper (again, no motor). But obviously to use a pneumatic tool, you’re gonna need a big daddy air compressor. The smaller units will cycle repeatedly which will ultimately kill the compressor. And from what I hear, pneumatic sanders can also be more powerful than our standard electric sanders.

Now one big disadvantage that I see is the one you mentioned: dust collection. Although I have seen a few models on the market that have a connector for the dust. For most of us these days, good dust collection is a must-have. So that’s something to keep in mind. Ultimately, if you already own a big compressor, or if you envision yourself using other air-sucking tools like die grinders, air guns, and conversion spray guns, the pneumatics might just be a good choice.

***Anyone out there use pneumatic sanders? Feel free to chime in with your opinion.


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