A detail sander is an essential power tool for numerous DIY projects. From decorating to furniture restoration, good surface preparation is key. The problem is that sanding by hand is time consuming and dull. The answer is to use a good detail sander to deliver a professional finish, ready for painting, quickly and easily.
What is a Detail Sander?
The best detail sander is small & lightweight. Sometimes referred to as a palm, corner or mouse sander. The sandpaper attaches to a triangular vibrating plate which is similar in shape to the base of a clothes iron. The pointed nose allows you to sand out imperfections in hard to reach corners and tight spaces. For bigger jobs, that have large flat areas, consider a random orbital sander.
How to Choose a Detail Sander
Material removal & surface finish are of primary importance. Alongside these key factors come weight, noise, durability, dust collection and ease of use. The upfront cost is easy to compare, but the price and availability of the required sandpaper can easily be overlooked (we check this too).
Whether you’re decorating your home, renovating furniture or preparing something to paint, you need a decent sander to get the job done quickly & professionally – nobody likes sanding by hand.
Best Detail Sander 2023
Buying the right model should be easy. Although the basic function is straightforward, there are 100s of electric sanders to choose from. To help you find the right model we have restored furniture, renovated woodwork & decorated homes. Beyond the practical tests, we scrutinise specifications, check owner opinion and research real-world insight to recommend the best detail sanders available to buy, right now…
Best Mouse Sander
Black & Decker BEW230
The Black & Decker Mouse is a great, no-frills, detail sander. This model does everything it should and comes ready to use with six sanding sheets.
Lightweight and comparatively quiet – this Black & Decker model is highly rated by owners. However, what makes it really stand out is the low price.
Noisy power tools
All sanders are noisy. This model is no exception, but it’s quieter than most. As with any sander, you should wear ear protection along with a particle mask and glasses.
To minimise dust, the best solution is to attach a vacuum cleaner to the exhaust at the back.
Attach a vacuum to suck up the dust
You can significantly reduce dust levels by connecting a vacuum cleaner to the mouse. Plus, by sucking the dust away from the sanding plate, the device becomes more efficient. And the sandpaper lasts longer. Attaching a vacuum does make it less manoeuvrable. However, sucking everything up as you work, avoids a dust cloud and saves time clearing up.
If you’re looking for the best budget detail sander, buy this Black & Decker Mouse. It’s effective, affordable and highly rated by owners.
SPECIFICATION: POWER 55w | WEIGHT 0.8kg | NOISE 66dB/79dB | SANDING AREA 105mm² | ORBIT DIAMETER 1.5mm | NO LOAD SPEED 11,000 rpm
Black & Decker | Verdict Price £20.00
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Best Detail Sander for Furniture
The Bosch PSM100A is designed to handle a wide range of sanding jobs. Perfect for corners, edges and most surfaces, the Bosch PSM100A will make light work of your next DIY job – decorating, renovation or woodworking project.
More power and more speed
With a 100w power rating, it delivers a no-load speed of 26,000 opm. This will help you speed through every task with minimum fuss. The extra power does translate to it being a little louder than the model above, but as with any power sander, it’s best to wear ear protectors. Importantly, the extra power means you will get the job done quicker.
Less dust (without attaching a vacuum)
Similar to most detail sanders, a vacuum hose plugged into the back will give efficient and effective dust removal. However, this device also has a filter system and dust box to help keep your working area clean and relatively dust-free. Perfect for when a vacuum isn’t an option.
This sander from Bosch is a great choice for a variety of tasks. It’s suitable for hardwood, softwood, varnished & painted surfaces. It will make light work of most jobs including furniture restoration, decorating & wall repairs.
A great choice to make DIY easier & quicker.
SPECIFICATION: POWER 100w | WEIGHT 0.9kg | NOISE 83dB/94dB | SANDING AREA 104mm² | ORBIT DIAMETER 1.4mm | NO LOAD SPEED 26,000 rpm
BOSCH PSM100A | Verdict Price £34.99
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Best Cordless Detail Sander
Bosch PSM 18 Li
A detail sander is designed to reach corners, edges and difficult to reach spots. A cordless detail sander takes this to the next level. Free from the constraints of a cable, this model uses the versatile Bosch ‘Power for All’ 18v battery system.
Cordless power tools are super convenient. Initially, they can seem more expensive, but by using the same battery and charger with multiple devices, over time they’re cheaper & easier to use than the old cabled equivalent. If you already own a Bosch cordless drill, choosing this model is a no brainer as you can use the same battery.
In terms of performance, this model matches the corded Bosch on every level. This includes dust collection using a detachable dust box.
With any detail sander, the front tip of the sandpaper wears faster than the rest. This model from Bosch has a two-part sanding plate allowing the front part to be rotated and replaced separately. This clever design means you’ll use less sandpaper for the same job.
Whatever DIY task you’re tackling, cordless power tools make the job easier and quicker. If you’re restoring furniture, making something new or decorating your home, this Bosch cordless sander will give you a professional finish without fuss.
SPECIFICATION: WEIGHT 1.3kg (with 2.5Ah battery) | NOISE 72dB/80dB | SANDING AREA 104mm² | ORBIT DIAMETER 1.6mm | NO LOAD SPEED 22,000 opm
BOSCH PSM 18 Li | Verdict Price £143.95*
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* includes battery & charger
How to choose the right sandpaper – grit & type
Sandpaper is available in various grit sizes from coarse to fine. The lower the number, the coarser the grade. For most jobs, start with a coarser grade and then work through with progressively finer grades.
- 40-60 Coarse Grade suitable for paint removal & rough shaping of wood
- 80-120 Medium Grade follows rougher grades for paintwork. Plus it’s a starting point for most woodworking projects
- 180-240 Fine Grade as the name suggests gives a smooth finish ready for paint or varnish.
Don’t skip grades if you want a professional finish. You will get a better result, quicker, by moving one grade at a time.
Why won’t the sandpaper stick to my sander?
Given plenty of use, the hook & loop system used to attach the sandpaper to the base can wear out. It’s therefore important to look after this. Use the right sanding sheets. Each sheet should match the base in terms of size and position of holes. The right size means you won’t scuff the edges. Plus, hole positioning is important for dust extraction.
How much are the sanding sheets?
Branded sanding sheets are good but expensive. At the budget end, there are generic sheets that claim (but don’t) fit all shapes and sizes. The best value option is to choose, sander specific, aftermarket sheets. Make sure they have been designed specifically for your model (same shape & size + holes aligned).
Pro Tip – Less pressure makes light work
Let the sander do the work. Keep the sanders face flat to the job, keep it moving and apply little or no pressure. Applying pressure makes the job much harder & can gouge or damage the surface. Plus, pressing too hard reduces the life of the hook & loop surfaces used to keep the sheets attached.
BEST DEALS TODAY…
UK VERDICT 2023
The best detail sander makes so many DIY jobs quicker & easier. Our top choice is the Bosch PSM100A – powerful, effective and complete with a dust box, it wins our overall best buy award.
The cordless Bosch costs a few quid more but is worthy of your consideration. Using power tools without being tethered by a cord makes a big difference. Yes, the batteries are expensive, but using the same battery (& charger) on all your Bosch power tools can save you money over time.
For flat surfaces without detail, take a look at the best random orbital sander or if you want to know more about the best power tool you’ve never heard of, take a look at our guide to oscillating multi-tools.
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