Sanding round workpieces by hand can be as impossible to do as it is time-consuming and tiring. Whether you’re a professional contractor/furniture-maker or just a DIY hobbyist, having the right set of tools that simplify your jobs would be great. If you find yourself sanding round or oddly shaped objects, one tool that you should consider is an oscillating spindle sander.
What Is An Oscillating Spindle Sander?
This sanding tool is designed to help you in producing smooth, flat finishes on wood. An oscillating spindle sander uses a cylindrical drum covered in sandpaper to get rid of saw marks, rough edges, and even sand the within hole cuts. Apart from the steady and consistent spinning of the spindle, the drum oscillates up and down, preventing marring and burn marks. This, in effect, extends the lifespan of the sanding sleeve significantly by distributing the wear across the entire surface of the sandpaper.
The main benefit you can get from an oscillating spindle sander is the ability to sand curved edges without distorting the shape of the stock. No longer will you have to manually sand wood pieces with your hands and risk leaving unsightly marks on furniture you’ve spent hours or even days building.
Types of Oscillating Spindle Sanders
There are three main oscillating spindle sander types that woodworkers should consider depending on the scale of which they built their products. These types include large floor models, bench-top machines, and hand-held spindle sanders. You can find below a brief description of each type of oscillating spindle sander and who might benefit from them most.
Floor Model Oscillating Spindle Sander
Floor models are the largest type of oscillating spindle sander. They take up quite a bit of floor space, but they are better suited for larger projects. Large-scale businesses could benefit from this type of sander since they come with huge tables, larger spindles, and oftentimes faster sanding speeds. Even though DIY amateurs and furniture-making hobbyists could also find value in these large spindle sanders, there are two other options that are more cost-efficient.
Bench-Top Oscillating Spindle Sander
Bench-top models are perhaps the most popular type of oscillating spindle sander for small businesses and garage workshops. This type of spindle sander can be mounted onto your work surface for relative portability and better control when sanding. These are more compact than their floor model counterparts so you won’t need to dedicate a large space in your garage/workshop only for this machine.
Portable Oscillating Spindle Sander
The portable variety of an oscillating spindle sander is a hand-held power tool, sometimes cordless, that you can take with you to various job sites or areas around your home. Due to their compact, easy-to-handle size, their main drawback is their lack of speed and power compared to bench-top and floor models. However, this doesn’t mean that these tools don’t have any value to offer; if you need to sand horizontal hole cuts, a portable oscillating spindle sander will prove the easiest tool to do the job without dismantling your work.
What to Look for in an Oscillating Spindle Sander
Now that we know what an oscillating spindle sander is, what sort of benefits we can expect from owning and using one, and the various types available, now it’s time to learn about what specs to keep in mind when searching for a potential sander for our workshop. The following segment will provide you with quick descriptions of the most crucial specs so you can make an educated purchase decision.
Typically, oscillating spindle sanders will come with motors with capacities ranging from between ½ HP to ¾ HP. A higher HP rating will indicate stronger sanding power. However, for most sanding jobs, you won’t actually need something as powerful as a ¾-HP machine since greater power can sometimes translate into a greater risk of losing control. We recommend oscillating spindle sander models that come with ½-HP motors.
In addition to looking at how powerful the motor is, it’s just as important to consider the speeds at which the tool sands and oscillates. The speed of the drum’s rotation, measured in RPMs, can be an indicator of how quickly you can sand away at your stock, whereas the oscillations per minute (OPM) shows how many times the drum goes up and down per minute. More OPMs can be beneficial when sanding smaller objects without leaving damage marks on the wood. We feel that the best speeds for an oscillating spindle sander are between 1,500 and 2,200 RPM and between 25 and 75 OPM.
Spindle and Oscillating Lengths
When looking at potential oscillating spindle sanders to take home with you, try and find out how long the spindle is. The spindle’s length should tell you how wide or tall a piece of board the tool can sand evenly without needing to flip the stock over. We advise looking at models with spindles that are at least 4 inches long.
The oscillating length is the distance at which the spindle travels up and down while rotating. You don’t want something a traveling distance that’s so long that with each stroke will sand off more than you’d like. We recommend finding a model that delivers an oscillating length of 15/16 of an inch at most.
Sanding Drum Diameter
The diameter of the spindle plays an important role in giving you the right curve to sand odd-shaped edges without digging too far deep into your stock. Smaller diameters are better suited for sanding down tighter corners or turns, whereas larger drums can do a great job at sanding straight edges.
We suggest finding an oscillating spindle sander that comes with a series of different drum diameters. This gives you the flexibility to work on all sorts of edges and shapes. If you get a machine with just a single drum, you will either have to invest in additional drums as your skills in woodworking progress or purchase an entirely new machine if there aren’t any differently sized drums available for your model. We recommend looking for models with drums of ½, ¾, 1, 1-1/2, and 2-inch diameters.
Table Size and Material
The size of an oscillating spindle sander is of great importance. The table offers balance when sanding round edges of oddly shaped stock. In addition, the table also offers support, so your stock is perfectly perpendicular to the spindle, ensuring that you’re not sanding at an unwanted angle unless you’re intentionally sanding at a bevel (more about the table’s bevel later on). The table should be wide enough to accommodate easy sanding of relatively large stock, so you’re not left supporting the stock with your muscles while giving your digits enough clearance from the rapidly spinning drum.
The material used to construct the table is also something to consider. You don’t want a table that will leave scratches or other unsightly marks on the sides of your stock after sanding. Furthermore, if you opt for a portable, bench-top model, the table should be durable enough to withstand bumps and falls without warping its shape. We recommend finding an oscillating spindle sander that comes with a cast iron table. A cast iron table will help somewhat in controlling vibrations.
The ability to bevel a table is usually found in large, floor models. However, there are plenty of bench-top oscillating spindle sanders that come with bevel systems that let you sand your stock at an angle comfortably. We recommend looking for models with tilting tables that can provide up to 45° bevels. Any positive stops between 0° and 45° is a plus.
Size and Weight
Whether you get a floor model or a bench-top model, the size of the oscillating spindle sander is important. Floor models obviously take up floor space, and the larger the model is, the more space in your workshop you need to dedicate to the machine. There’s really no way around this, so be sure that your work area has enough room to accommodate a full-sized oscillating spindle sander. Otherwise, you should consider a bench-top model.
Bench-top oscillating spindle sanders take up less space and can be transported easily around your workshop. This doesn’t mean that any bench-top model will do; we recommend finding something that’s lightweight, compact, and can do everything you need from it. The dimensions of bench-top oscillating spindle sander can be somewhere around 18 x 18 inches, and it can weigh as little as 8 pounds or as heavy as 40 pounds.
A built-in dust port isn’t common in oscillating spindle sanders. Most of the time, sawdust will go flying around your workspace, so you’ll need to manually sweep up your floors and clear your tables after using this machine. However, for the models that come with a dust port, make sure that the port is the right size so you can connect your dust vacuum system to the machine, or you’ll need to purchase an adapter if the machine doesn’t come with one already.
There are several other features that increase the value of an oscillating spindle sander. These include built-in storage space for your drums and sandpaper of various sizes and grits, and the ability to connect a belt sanding attachment. These features won’t exactly improve the machine’s performance, but they can improve your experience when using the machine on a regular basis.
Top 5 Oscillating Spindle Sanders
The previous segment described some of the most important features to consider when choosing an oscillating spindle sander for your workshop. This segment will provide you with our picks of the top 5 models we’ve tested. Just a head’s up the five models we’ve chosen are all bench-top oscillating spindle sanders.
5 Delta Woodworking 31-483 Oscillating Bench Spindle Sander
The first item on our list of our top 5 oscillating spindle sanders is the 31-483 from Delta Woodworking. It comes with a powerful ½-HP motor that spins a ¼-inch spindle at up to 1,725 RPM. It comes with a 5-1/2-inch spindle that provides strokes of 15/16 of an inch at a rate of 29 OPM. The oscillating length serves to prolong the life of each sleeve of sandpaper since more of it is used with each stroke.
The 31-483 come with five interchangeable spindles for you to use on a wide range of different edges and angles. The diameter of each of the spindles is ¼, ½, 5/8, 1-1/2, and 2 inches wide. There are dedicated storage spots for each of the spindle drums and discs.
The table that comes with the 31-483 is 14-3/4 x 14-3/4 inches and is made of cast iron. The body of the machine is constructed with heavy-duty steel. The choice of steel is to help prevent the entirety of the unit from vibrating which can cause you to lose control during when sanding. The table can be beveled up to 45° on one side while the other is beveled at 135°.
Even though the unit is constructed of heavy-duty steel and cast iron, the unit, fully assembled, weighs only about 8-3/4 pounds. Needless to say, lifting the unit from point A to point B shouldn’t cause any issues. We can safely say that this unit is portable and can withstand thumps and bumps during transport.
This unit also comes with a 2-1/4-inch dust port and a 4-inch adapter. There have been some complaints from customers regarding the dust port, especially regarding the 4-inch adapter. However, with a bit of sanding (you can do this on your 31-483), you can get the fitting adapter snug onto your shop vac.
4 WEN 6523 Oscillating Belt & Spindle Sander
The next item on our list is the 6523 from WEN. It features a ½-HP motor that produces up to 2,000 RPM when the ½-inch spindle is mounted. The oscillating spindle does a 5/8 of an inch stroke up to 58 times per minute. The spindle travels less than that on the Delta Woodworking 31-483, but we find that you can still get the most work out of a single sleeve of sandpaper with hardly any waste.
The 6523 also comes with five different spindles – ½, ¾, 1, 1-1/2, and 2-inch drums. The 6523 also has storage spaces on the side of the machine where you can place unused spindles and their discs.
The entire unit, including the table, is made of heavy-duty aluminum for durability and lightweight. The table is a massive 18-1/2 x 16-1/2 inches for better support of larger stock. One side of the table can bevel up to 45° while the other side remains at the 90° position.
After assembly and with all the discs and spindle drums in storage, the entire 6523 weighs around 27 pounds. It’s far from being the lightest bench-top oscillating spindle sander, but the added weight really gives it stability when the spindle reaches its maximum speed. Transporting this unit from job site to job site shouldn’t be a big problem.
One of the things we absolutely love about the 6523 is that this is a spindle sander and belt sander combo tool. You can detach the spindle drum and attach mount the belt sander to the top of the unit. The size of the belt is 4 x 24 inches and rotates up to 1,575 RPM.
3 Shop Fox W1831 Oscillating Spindle Sander
The W1831 from Shop Fox is another highly rated oscillating spindle sander model to consider. It features a ½-HP motor that delivers up to 2,000 RPM on the ¾-inch spindle. The 4-1/2-inch spindle offers up to 58 OPM with a stroke distance of 5/8 of an inch. Like the WEN, the spindle doesn’t travel very far upward and downward, but it still does the optimal amount of work per sandpaper sleeve.
The W1831 gives you six different spindle diameters to play around with – ¾, 1, 1-1/2, 2 and 3 inches. You can save the spindles and their discs along the side and backend of the unit. Some customers have complained about the built-in storage spaces being unable to hold the discs in place while the spindle is in motion.
The table is made of heavy-duty cast iron that offers perfect balance while sanding your stock. The table, though not a perfect rectangle, is about 15 x 11-1/2 inches. It’s not the largest table, but it’ll offer enough support for some of your smaller pieces of stock. Unfortunately, the table doesn’t bevel.
Fully assembled, the W1831 will weigh around 33 pounds. Like the WEN model above, this one is considerably heavier than the super-lightweight 31-483, but the added weight works to this unit’s advantage by keeping the entire unit safe and secure on your bench. The cast iron table and body will prevent the unit from receiving damage when loading it onto your truck and transporting it to your job site.
2 Triton TSPS450 Oscillating Spindle Sander
The TSP450 from Triton is a ½-HP oscillating spindle sander that delivers up to 2,000 RPM with the ¾-inch sanding drum and up to 58 OPM. This spindle rocks 5/8 of an inch up and down and uses the entire length of the sleeve of sandpaper to prolong its life before needing to be replaced.
The tool comes with five different drum lengths – ¾, 1, 1-1/2, 2, and 3 inches – for maximum versatility and control when sanding edges and holes of any shape. The machine comes with dedicated slots to store your discs (around the sides) and unused drums (at the backend). The 1-1/2-inch dust port can also be found at the back. You’ll need to purchase or 3D print your own adapter if you plan on connecting this machine to a 4-inch shop vac system.
The entire machine is constructed with durable cast iron for stability and enhanced support. The table is rather small – only about 14-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches (half-oval shape) – so you’ll need to find supports for larger stock elsewhere. Unfortunately, the table doesn’t bevel, so you’re stuck sanding away at only 90°.
The entire unit weighs about 28 pounds which is rather lightweight, easy to carry, but heavy enough to prevent the unit from vibrating off of your work surface. We recommend mounting the unit onto your workbench prior to flipping the “on” switch.
1 WEN 6510 Oscillating Spindle Sander
The final bench-top oscillating spindle sander on our list and the product we highly recommend above all others is the 6510 from WEN. This Chinese-based company is apparently an expert at crafting high-quality power tools, and they’re extremely cost-effective to boot.
The 6510 comes with a ½-HP motor that delivers up to 2,000 RPM (1/2-inch spindle) ad 58 OPM. It provides strokes of up to 5/8 with each oscillation for maximum sanding coverage and prolonged life of each sleeve of sandpaper.
The 6510 comes with six different spindle sizes – ½, ¾, 1, 1-1/2, 2, and 3 inches – for maximum compatibility with stock of any size and shape. There are also spaces dedicated to each center disc and spindle for easy storage and quick access. We also find a 1-1/2-inch dust port at the back of the unit. No adapters come with the kit so you’ll have to purchase a 4-inch adapter separately if your shop vac calls for one.
This oscillating spindle sander comes with a 15 x 11-1/2-inch work table made of heavy-duty cast iron for durability and maximum support when sanding large stock. Unfortunately, there is no beveling option for this machine.
With everything fully assembled, this unit weighs only around 9-1/4 pounds. This is super-lightweight, it makes it easy to take with you to various job sites, and the table can withstand bumps along the way. We recommend mounting this unit every time you use it using the predrilled screw holes on the base to prevent the machine from rocking back and forth while running.
Oscillating spindle sanders, especially the bench-top variety, and ingenious machines that help sand odd shapes stock and holes with ease. Instead of repeatedly running your hand and sandpaper along the surface of a board, you can eliminate most of the manual labor by running the surface along the rapidly spinning sleeve of sandpaper that moves up and down for maximum removal.
When looking for a good oscillating spindle sander to use at the job site or at home, there are several features that you must consider. These include the motor capacity (HP, RPM, and OPM), how long the spindle is, how far the spindle oscillates up and down, what size drums come with the kit, the size of the table and materials used to construct it, whether the table bevels, the size and weight of the machine, the size of the dust port, and special features like a belt sander attachment or storage space. If you find a model that suits your needs in each of these departments, you won’t regret your decision at all.
Of the five models we’ve picked the best-performing bench-top oscillating spindle sanders, two of the spots belong to WEN, including our number one pick, the 6510. Whatever features this machine lacks, such as a beveling table and – let’s be honest – looks, the 6510 makes up for in performance. It’s a durable, lightweight, and powerful machine that exceeds all of our expectations. You just need to keep the unit mounted prior to flipping the switch to prevent the machine from vibrating itself off of your work surface and onto the floor.