Choosing the right Sanding Disc

Sep 11th 2019

What Are Sanding Discs? Help choosing the best sanding discs

At Empire Abrasives, we understand the importance of using the right sanding disc for the job at hand. That's why we've put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the right sanding disc for your needs. Whether you're a professional fabricator or a DIY enthusiast, we have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the process.

In this guide, we'll cover the different types of sanding discs available, including their uses, sizes, and materials. We'll also provide tips and advice on how to use them safely and effectively. By the end of this guide, you'll have a clear understanding of the best sanding disc for your specific project, and you'll be able to achieve the best results every time.

What Are Sanding Discs?

Sanding discs are the part of a sander that actually does all the hard work. There's a ton of different discs for different jobs and getting to know the exact type that you need for the work you have to do is vital for anybody using a sander at work or at home.

Choosing the right disc for the job is essential, as failure to do so can result in a poor quality finish, or damage to what you're trying to sand. Thankfully, we stock a variety of different types of sanding discs and have something in stock to suit your requirements, whatever they are.

It can be a little confusing, what with all the different kinds of sanding discs available on the market today. Thankfully, this guide details the different kinds of sanding disks available from Empire Abrasives and what they're best suited for use on. We will help you to ensure you're using the right sanding discs for the job every time, and as such, minimizing damage to your stock while getting the best value for money possible.

Common Sanding Disc Tools

Angle grinder

Angle Grinder

An angle grinder is one of the most popular tools owned by most fabricators. An angle grinder is a handheld power tool that plugs into an electrical outlet, new ones are available that work with a lithium battery. The main difference in most angle grinders is the amount of power they have and the type of switch. Many welders prefer paddle trigger models over switches because they are much safer if your hands removed from the grinder.

The angle grinder is so popular because it can be modified to take many different types of abrasives discs, cut off wheels and even polishing discs. Just like the many sanding discs on the market angle grinders are available in many different sizes.

Angle grinders are popular but also extremely dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken when using them. Always use your guard while engaging the grinder, never wear loose clothing while grinding and always wear proper PPE.

Die Grinder

Die Grinder

Die Grinder are typically air powered but electric options are also available. This type of grinder usually takes smaller discs like roloc wheels or mini cut off wheels. Not only is the die grinder smaller than a typical angle grinder but it spins much faster. There are two types of common die grinders that are either configured with a straight body or an angled body.

This tool is popular because it offers fast work in extremely hard to reach places. When using a die grinder with sanding discs make sure to use the correct backing pad.

Bosch orbital sander photo

Orbital Sander

Orbital Sanders and Random Orbital Sanders are handheld tools that move with a circular motion so not to leave swirls marks on the workpiece. Random just means the disc moves from side to side as it does its rotations. Both types of Orbital sanders are used for finishing and polishing, usually not grinding. This type of sander uses a thinner disc made of paper or cloth with either an adhesive back or hook & loop. This tool is a favorite among woodworkers and auto body professionals.

Stationary Disc Sanders

Stationary discs sanders can usually be found configured on a pedestal, workbench or on combo belt grinder machines. These disc sanders usually require a more rugged PSA disc and range anywhere from 6” to 14” in size. Dissimilar to the other types of sanders that require you to hold the machine and apply pressure to the workpiece, the wheel with the abrasive will spin, while the user rests the workpiece in front slightly applying pressure to the wheel.

The Best Sanding Discs for Different Applications

Resin Fiber Discs

Resin fiber discs

Resin fiber discs are generally used for blending, grinding, deburring, and finishing metals. Commonly used on an angle grinder with an appropriate backing pad. Resin fiber discs are heavy-duty and abrasive, and are expertly manufactured for a range of applications ranging from surface blending to heavy stock removal. The sturdy fiber backing adds strength to the disc and ensure that they remain rigid when in use, which reduces the chance of errors and breakage.

Fiber discs that feature a center hole for mounting are the most popular kind of discs that are used on electric or air right angle grinders. Resin fiber discs are a good choice for people looking to remove rust and burrs from a variety of metals, such as steel.

Resin fiber discs are an excellent cost effective alternative compared to other types of sanding and grinding discs. Available in a wide range of sizes, grits and materials making them a good choice for many different applications.
Shop Fiber Discs

Flap Discs

Flap discs

Flap discs are an innovative grinding wheel using coated abrasives. This gives you more versatility on the work piece and a softer grind. These discs are used on an angle grinder available in various sizes, materials and ranges of grits. They’re one of the most popular abrasives among welders and metal fabricators due to their ability to smooth out welds,  remove mill scale, rust and their aggressive stock removal.

Flap discs are made up of little pieces of sandpaper that are fixed to a firm backing. Instead of being a single piece of sandpaper, they're made of multiple pieces of sandpaper. This not only increases the effectiveness, but also the durability of the discs.

Depending on how coarse the paper that's used is, flap discs are great for removing rust from metal or polishing metal. Flap discs are great for steel, aluminum, and a ton of other metals. The two common styles of flap discs are Type 27 (flat) and Type 29 (contoured). Flap sanding discs are a resilient choice for people looking to sand or polish metal surfaces, and offer great value for money thanks to their sturdy composition.
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Hook and Loop Discs

Hook and loop discs

Hook and loop sanding discs are made up of cloth or paper with a backing material not dissimilar to Velcro. There are a system of hooks and loops that are used to affix the sanding disc to the sander. This makes it extremely easy to change the disc, without having to sacrifice on the quality of disc used. If your sander isn't made to be used with hook and loop sanding discs, you can purchase a converter pad which will enable them to fit on your sander.

The most common shape of hook and loop sandpaper is a disc. Hook and loop sanding discs are extremely versatile in the sense that you can buy them in a variety of different grades, from coarse to superfine. What this means is that they're suitable for a variety of work on a variety of surfaces, from wood to metal and almost everything in between.

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Quick Change Discs

Quick change discs

Quick change discs are the go-to choice for grinding, deburring, and blending in small areas and tight corners. The simple to use fastening system makes quick change discs the ideal option for users looking to maximize their productivity. Quick change discs are usually used for a number of purposes on carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. For example, a quick change disc may be used to remove a weld and prepare a piece of carbon steel for its next step in production.

These quick change discs are available in a variety of different sizes and grades which makes them perfect for general use sanding, such as blending, breaking edges, and removing machine marks. These discs are best suited for smaller jobs, unlike PSA discs which are suited to longer, more sustained work.

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PSA Discs

PSA Discs for sanding - (pressure sensitive adhesive)

PSA (short for pressure sensitive adhesive) sanding discs have a sticky back and is good when used on large jobs that are likely to wear out the sandpaper. These types of discs are suitable for prolonged usage, with many workshops opting to use them until the abrasive is completely spent. PSA discs are best suited for use on wood, fiberglass or metal, depending on the coarseness of the disc selected.

Usually sold in rolls or boxes of individual discs. PSA discs are very popular among woodworkers and auto body professionals that typically work on flat surfaces.

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Semi-Flexible Discs

Semi flexible grinding discs

Semi-flexible discs are extremely resilient grinding discs that have been specially designed for the toughest of jobs. They can do the most aggressive forms of stock removal on stone and iron that you may struggle to do with less sturdy discs. Semi-flexible discs are durable and boast an exceptionally long usage life.

Only the best materials go into making the semi-flexible discs that we stock, so you can be sure that they're up to any job that you decide to throw at them. The contoured surface of semi-flexible discs are expertly designed to remove high levels of stock over a wide range of applications. These discs are available in different sizes so there's sure to be something in stock to suit your requirements.

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Surface Conditioning Discs

Surface conditioning discs

Surface conditioning discs are generally used to reduce process time. They do this by combining multiple grit sequences into one convenient step. This sort of disc is generally used for polishing, blending, finishing, and deburring a variety of different types of metal. Some of the standout features of this kind of disc include minimized loading and unloading times, a dramatic reduction in heat build-up, reduced occurrence of frayed disc edges and grain shedding, as well as an extended usage life when compared to other types of sanding discs.

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No matter the job, our sanding discs can help you get it done. If you need assistance with selecting the right product for the job, feel free to call (800-816-3824), email, or chat with one of our experts today.

Abrasive Materials

Just like most other abrasives, sanding discs have a variety of different abrasive materials to choose from. The abrasive materials are the grains embedded in the disc that do the actual grinding. The different abrasive grains have varying properties that each have their pros and cons. The most common abrasive materials used in sanding discs include aluminum oxide, zirconia alumina, ceramic, and silicon carbide.

Aluminum Oxide:

Aluminum oxide is the most used material for most abrasive products, including sanding discs. This grain is suitable for sanding and grinding a variety of materials such as wood, most metals, and plastics. It is affordable, versatile, and has good durability. However, it may not be as effective for harder materials such as stainless steel.

Example - 2" Aluminum Oxide Die Grinder Sanding Discs

Zirconia Alumina:

Zirconia alumina, aka “Zirc”, is tougher than aluminum oxide and is used for sanding harder materials such as stainless steel, cast iron, and titanium. It has a longer lifespan and is more heat-resistant than aluminum oxide, making it ideal for heavy-duty grinding and sanding applications. Zirconia is also a great choice for high-pressured grinding and machining applications.

Example - 4-1/2" Curved Flap Disc


Ceramic abrasive material is designed to handle extremely tough sanding applications. It is ideal for grinding hard metals, such as steel and titanium, ferrous metals, and carbon steel. It is extremely durable, self-sharpening (friable), and resistant to heat, making it a good choice for high-speed grinding.

Example - 4-1/2" Ceramic Resin Fiber Sanding Discs


Diamond abrasives are the most durable and longest lasting abrasive materials. Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substances, making them capable of grinding and sanding extremely hard materials such as concrete, stone, and glass. However, diamonds are obviously very expensive, making these the most expensive abrasive material.

Silicon Carbide:

This abrasive material is razor sharp and ranked just slightly below diamonds on the hardness scale. Like ceramic, silicon carbide is also friable/self-sharpening, giving it the ability to have faster removal rates than other abrasives. It is best suited for sanding non-ferrous metals such as brass, copper, and titanium. It is also suitable for grinding glass, plastics, and refinishing hardwood floors. It is known for its aggressive cutting action and excellent finish. However, it is not as durable as other abrasive materials and may wear out quickly.

Example - 5" Silicon Carbide Sanding Disc


Non-woven sanding discs are a bit different than the coated abrasives mentioned above. These discs are constructed with a nylon-webbing, usually impregnated with abrasive grains. They are less abrasive than coated abrasives, making them ideal for finishing surfaces. 

Example - 4-1/2" Paint Stripping Wheel

Tips When Using Sanding Discs

  • Different sanding discs require different backing pads. It's important that you use the backing pad that’s compatible with both the machine and the sanding disc you are using.
  • Angle grinders and other tools come with guards for a reason. Make sure to always reinstall the guard before turning on your equipment.
  • Whenever using sanding discs it is very important to wear appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
  • Sanding and grinding release very small particles into the air, some that can be very dangerous when inhaled. Make sure to wear a respirator and have good ventilation.
  • Let the disc do the work and don't apply too much pressure
  • Sanding discs, attachments like backing pads and the actual tool are all rated for different RPMs. It's important to verify all of your equipment works within the same RPM ranges.
  • To get the most out of your sanding disc, ensure it is properly cleaned after each use. This can be done with a sanding disc cleaning stick.

Speak with an Expert

Still need help selecting the right sanding discs? Speak with one of our experts about what you’re trying to accomplish and we’ll recommend the best product for the job. TOLL FREE 800-816-3824