Random oscillating sander vs. planing & scraping, with an RSI twist

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Forum topic by Rob posted 08-22-2014 08:37 PM 960 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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704 posts in 2491 days

08-22-2014 08:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sander sanding scraper plane

My random oscillating sander took quite a beating when my wife used it to sand the paint off the travel trailer that we’re converting into a concession stand. The replacement parts will cost just as much as what I paid for the sander in the first place.

I’m trying to decide whether to go ahead and replace the sander (and if so, I’d upgrade to a better one), or give planing and scraping a shot. I get the impression that a smoothing plane and cabinet scraper can actually give you better results in the same time or less, compared to sanding. Does that sound realistic, or am I dreaming?

On the other hand, I don’t want to further agitate the repetitive stress injuries I’ve sustained in my hands (precursor to carpal tunnel) by working as a software engineer for the past 12 years, and it looks like using a traditional card scraper for very long would be murder on my hands. I’d probably consider a scraper plane but even that might not be easy enough on my hands.

Any opinions? What works best for you, and what is the least rough on your hands?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

7 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2234 days

#1 posted 08-22-2014 09:22 PM

You will get lots of people recommending a hand plane. I use a lot of figured white oak, and the plane will cut feathery smooth shavings one minute. The next minute it tears out the surface, ruining your previous labor. For me, just my own observations, a plane is fast but not worth the risk of tearout. A card scraper is so slow, you could smooth for hours. The card scraper won’t cause tearout when dull, it just stops cutting.
I get my panels and workpieces nearly perfect with the thickness planer, then ROS at 120 and 150. That process works great for me.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1275 posts in 1356 days

#2 posted 08-22-2014 09:48 PM

Pintodeluxe is reading my mind. Planes are like manic depressive really hot girls. One minute, you are in heaven, the next minute you are wondering how in the hell you are going to fix what just happened. Planes are so fast when they work correctly, but when they tearout, it can totally screw up a piece of wood. There will be people who say that a well tuned plane should never tear out. Well a mercedes should never break down, but you still see them on tow trucks. Sorry I am really using a lot of literary devices here. I’ll start a new paragraph.

Even a great plane cannot always give you the 100% consistent performance that sandpaper can give you. I have tried to smooth projects with planes, and it sometimes works, but is not reliable. As much as I truly wish they could, planes cannot replace a random orbital sander in all circumstances. Maybe some circumstances, but not all.

I don’t know much about carpal tunnel, but if your hands already hurt a lot, a card scraper will utterly destroy them. Great tools, but they are a physical beating to use on large scale project. Better suited for tricky spots.

Scraper planes might be an interesting 3rd option. The ones I have used were finicky, but the results were crazy impressive. I am going by the Lie Nielsen factory next month and you can bet I will be testing some scraper planes. Try to give one a test run at a show or something before you invest though. I’m not totally sold on them yet because the one Lie Nielsen I did use got out of whack at a show and the staff couldn’t even get it to work again. Bad sign.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1275 posts in 1356 days

#3 posted 08-22-2014 09:49 PM

P.S. When the scraper plane was working, it was easy on the hands. No worse than planing a hard wood with a good plane.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


392 posts in 2442 days

#4 posted 08-22-2014 09:50 PM

to me, it’s not an either-or question. I use both for different jobs.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 2491 days

#5 posted 08-22-2014 09:57 PM

Thanks for the quick feedback, everyone. I’ll go ahead and get a replacement sander for now, and if I remember this weekend I’ll see if I can find anyone in my woodworking club who has a scraper plane that I can try out sometime.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

483 posts in 1101 days

#6 posted 08-22-2014 10:05 PM

I like the finish of hand planes and scrapers but they are probably not a complete replacement for sanders either. You might want to give a cabinet scraper like the Stanley #80 a try to. Depending where you live they can be found pretty cheap and I find them a lot easier on the wrists than hand scrapers during long sessions. I save the hand scrapers for area’s I can’t get to with a cabinet scraper or smoothing plane because they are hard on the hands.

View Crank50's profile


170 posts in 997 days

#7 posted 08-23-2014 02:03 AM

I’m still thinking about the “manic depressive really hot girls”. Forgot what the original post was about.

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