Can I Use a Drill to Sand Wood?

Woodworking requires a lot of tools, some are more important than others. Then we also have multipurpose tools that are a do-all, with a drill being one of them. It should always be a part of a woodworker’s arsenal due to the versatility it offers. But what is the extent of its versatility? Can you use a drill for sanding wood?

In short, yes, you can use a drill to sand wood. You can purchase either sanding drum bits, a sanding disc attachment, or create your own sanding disc from scratch. But that is not all, you also need to make a jig to fix your drill for stability. You can sand without a jig as well, but it will be really unstable and hard to control.

A drill is a motorized tool, just like many others which are used to work on wood. Woodworkers can take advantage of this fact by making various jigs for drills. These jigs convert it into a disc sander for sanding, lathe for woodturning, and bandsaw for cutting. The versatility of the drill is only limited by the power of its motor. If the drill isn’t powerful enough, it might not perform heavy-duty tasks. 

What is Needed to Sand Wood with a Drill?

You might need to purchase a few attachments that we mentioned above for sanding wood with a drill, which more or less you can easily find either in your local store in the drill attachments section on Amazon . But the most important thing is constructing a jig. A jig will help with stability by holding the drill in place while sanding wood. 

This section will teach you the different attachments and the jigs required to use the drill to sand with them effectively.

Sanding Drum Bit for Drill

If you are unfamiliar with the sanding drums, these are basically small circular drums on which you slide on a sanding sleeve. If you have ever seen or used a Dremel tool, they always have a smaller version of these included in the kit. In fact, most rotary tools have these pre-included in their kits.

First up is to work on a jig for the sanding drum bit, which will allow you to control the motion of the drill. Sanding drum bits are easy to purchase and can be found on the internet, we’ve covered the best one available online in our product recommendation section. You can use these as they are, but with the help of a jig, sanding will become much easier.

Making the Jig

For making a jig you will need ring clamps, nails, adhesive, and two planks of wood. One plank has to be a 3/4 length of the drill and 3-4 inches wider than its overall thickness. The other plank, which will serve as the base, can be 6 inches in length and width.

So first up, you need to attach both these planks together at a perpendicular angle. Use an adhesive first to attach these after which you can use small screws to fix these together tightly. 

Once that is done, you now need to make slits for the ring clamps. These ring clamps will hold the drill in its place firmly. So place the drill on the wood and mark the areas that need to be slit.

Use a jigsaw for making the slits and pass the clamp rings through them. You can do without the slits as well, but with the slits, you are making sure that the drill is fixed in its place tightly.

Now you can fix the drill outwards facing down toward the screws you have used to attach the planks. Adjust the drill in such a way that the sanding drum bit is exactly 90 degrees in angle to the base. If it is off-angle, use small wedges or wood chips to adjust it for a right angle.

Here is a really good tutorial on how to make this jig and how to use it to sand wood:

Sanding Disc Attachment

This is a widely available attachment for the drill which allows you to use it as an orbital sander, albeit with a bit less stability. And you can attach the same sanding pads on it that are used on an orbital sander.

You can use it as it is, just make sure to hold the drill firmly to control its movement while sanding. You can also convert your drill into a disc sander via a jig.

This jig is incredibly easy to make, all you need are a few pieces of wood and screws. There are tons of iterations for this jig with some even having built-in dust collectors made into them. 

This video tutorial teaches you how to make a basic one with relative ease:

Creating a Sanding Disc Attachment from Scratch

It is easy to create a sanding disc from scratch. You can make one using a lid from a jar, or a circular piece of wood. All you need is adhesive and the hook side of velcro that can attach to the sanding pads available in the market. You will also need a steel bolt that can fit in the collet of the drill.

First up you need to drill a hole the size of the steel bolt in the piece of wood or jar lid. For the piece of wood, you need to use chisels to carve an indentation of the shape of the bolt’s head so that it does not stick out. You want the surface of the wood to be flat so that you can stick the velcro on it.

For the lid, you need to make sure that its inside is deep enough that the head of the bolt does not stick out. Use the adhesive to keep the bolt firmly in its place so that it does not move. You can also use a nut to fasten the bolt tightly to the piece of wood or the jar lid.

Now stick the hook side of the velcro on the lid or wood using the adhesive. Let it dry and then you can attach a sanding pad to it to start sanding wood with it. You can stick the sanding pad directly to the lid or wood, but then changing it will become a big problem later on. With the velcro, you can use sanding pads for orbital sanders and change them when they wear out.

How to Sand Wood With a Drill

If you have created a jig, then sanding with it is quite easy as the jig will allow you to have stability. All you need to do is guide the piece of wood against the sanding bits and attachments. If you have to sand without the jigs, then you will need to hold the drill very firmly to control it while sanding.

Firstly, you shouldn’t apply pressure and let the rotation of the drill sand the wood. If you apply pressure on the wood with the drill it will lose control. It might even burn off the sanding sleeve or pad very fast without even sanding properly.

The second thing to be careful about is to ensure that you fix the speed of your drill. If the speed keeps changing it will affect the control you have on it while sanding.

Lastly, you need to ensure that the drill isn’t too slow or way too fast. It needs to be fixed at a medium speed for sanding, as when the drill is too fast it will spin out of control. If it is too slow the drill will struggle to sand properly and burn the sanding paper too fast.

Tips on Sanding Wood With a Drill

While the above section covers the basics of how you can use a drill to sand wood, these tips will help make the process seamless and smooth.

  • In case of a sanding disc attachment, hold the drill exactly perpendicular to the surface you are sanding.
  • For the sanding drum bits, move against the direction of the rotation. If you move in the direction of the rotation, it will become harder to control.
  • Tighten the attachment and the bits properly using the key provided with the drill. If it is not tightened to the limit, the attachment or the bits might break.
  • Hold the drill with both hands for a sturdier grip.
  • If you need to sand a smaller piece, use a clamp to hold the drill in place while using a sanding drum attachment.
  • Always wear safety equipment when operating a drill for any purpose whatsoever.

Product Recommendations

Whether you plan on making a jig to sand wood with a drill or not, you will need the bits and attachment.

For a sanding drum, this 16 Sleeve Sanding Drum Kit by Line 10 Tools is pretty decent. It has 4 drums with 4 sleeves for each with various grits. You can attach these on either a drill or a drill press.

For a sanding disc drill attachment, we found the 3″ Dura-Gold Premium Pack a great deal. It has a variety of grits available that can be attached and removed with ease using a velcro function.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the above-mentioned methods should have given you a good idea of how you can sand wood using a drill. If you can make the jig and be creative with it, you will not need any other tool for sanding wood ever. Just make sure that your drill is powerful enough to handle the job.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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