If you’re on the fence about buying a SurfPrep sander, specifically the 3″ x 4″ Electric Ray with Vacuum Compatability, then I’m here to help! Here is why I love (and don’t love) the SurfPrep electric sander!
Dig more into the SurfPrep sander here! If you’re new here, welcome! I’m Natalie, a furniture painter that loves to turn old trashy furniture into treasure!
Why am I telling you this? Well, to help you understand where I’m coming from, and what I like or don’t like about the SurfPrep Sander, you kind of have to know what I use it for.
Actually, painting furniture has very little to do with actually painting, and a lot to do with what happens before, between, and after paint.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I also may earn from other qualifying purchases with other companies or get free product to review and use. All opinions are my own.
Before I Bought the SurfPrep
Before I can paint, I scuff sand each piece of furniture (by hand) with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the sheen from the old finish.
Otherwise the paint can peel or scratch off easily. Here’s more information on how to sand before painting furniture.
Because power sanders easily damage and eat through any raised details or edges, I have to sand A LOT by hand because furniture has a lot of details, grooves and trim.
When sanding by hand, here is the best way to sand curved surfaces.
After scuff sanding, there is a coat or two of primer, a couple of coats of paint, and/or a few coats of topcoat.
And each product recommends sanding in between coats for the smoothest most durable finish!
Can you see the pattern here? From start to finish, I spend the most time sanding furniture. I should really be called a furniture sander instead of a furniture painter!
And remember, almost all of those times, I have to sand by hand. Talk about time consuming!
What I LOVE about the SurfPrep Sander with Vacuum Capability
Let’s go through the things that I absolutely love about my SurfPrep 3×4″ sander. And then we’ll talk about the things that I don’t love.
Sand Trim and Details Quickly
I can’t say enough about this. Actually, this is the exactly why I got the SurfPrep sander!
The 1/2″ foam pads are amazingly flexible and allow you to sand curved surfaces, and go over trim and details without damaging them. But you can also get into the details while you’re at it!
I dread sanding each piece of furniture by hand. And it’s not just once that I have to sand each piece. I sand each piece of furniture at least 3 times. At least!
But now I can thoroughly sand a piece of furniture within a couple of minutes. Compared to taking 10-15 minutes to sand it.
Before the SurfPrep, I had this Dewalt orbital sander. It has a little bag on it to catch the dust, but let’s be honest. That little bag doesn’t really do much, does it?
So I bought a little vacuum attachment for it. Well, it wasn’t the right attachment, or I needed another part.
Something wasn’t right about it, so I had to hold the hose to my shop vac onto the end of the sander.
Yeah, I should have researched more and figured out what part I really needed. But Dewalt wasn’t clear on what part you needed, and I just plain got so confused that I gave up.
SurfPrep makes the vacuum connections so EASY!
The flex hose just twists into the SurfPrep vacuum port and then you attach the 1.25″ connector to the other end of the hose.
Then the flex hose slides snuggly onto my orange RIDGID 1.25″ hose! And whenever I need to use my vacuum hose to actually vacuum something up, I simply slide the flex hose off.
Check out my SurfPrep vacuum POV-8 review here to learn all about it and if it’s the right investment for you.
Does the shop vac make the SurfPrep Sander completely dust free? Nope.
From my experience, the dust hasn’t gotten in the air and everything around me dusty. I still get a small amount of dust on the surface that I’m working. But it sucks up MOST of the dust.
When you compare it to scuff sanding by hand though? It picks up so much of the dust!!
And when you compare it to the dinky little dust bag on other sanders, the SurfPrep sander with shop vacuum is amazing!
This is pretty self-explanatory. But really, it’s so much quieter than any other sander I have used! Now if only my shop vac wasn’t so loud. Then we would be in business!
(The new SurfPrep vacuum is very quiet though and it turns on and off with the sander. That is amazing!)
Has Different Speeds
Honestly, I knew it had different speeds before I bought it, and I didn’t think I would use them.
I was wrong. I find myself turning it to the lowest speed to sand between coats of paint when I don’t want to cut through the paint on the edges.
I obviously turn it all the way up when I want to quickly cut through the finish, down to bare wood. I love having the ability to make it faster or slower, and I never knew I would!
Doesn’t Wear Out Your Hand Like Cheap Sanders Do
I also love that it doesn’t vibrate like any other sander I have used. It has a lot of power, but your hand and arm don’t go numb because of it!
Can your hand and arm still go numb with the SurfPrep? Yeah, of course! If you sand for an hour straight, I’m sure it would. It might take two hours though! haha
But seriously. It’s so much more enjoyable to sand for a long time with the SurfPrep!
What I Don’t Love about the SurfPrep Sander
Now, if you’re looking for reasons to not like the SurfPrep sander, here are the things I don’t care for.
Well, let’s just talk about the elephant in the room. The price.
I had a hard hard time swallowing the price of this sander. Especially when I didn’t KNOW if it would be worth it. I thought it might be worth it, but I didn’t really know.
Looking back, I’m so glad I bought it, but that price tag was a tough one to swallow.
Placement of the Trigger
This might be a little picky, and maybe I just haven’t gotten used to it yet. But I’m not the biggest fan of having to hold in the trigger on top to make it turn on.
Sometimes I like to hold my sander on the side a bit, and that’s just not possible now with the trigger on the top. I’m sure that once I use it more, I will love that it’s on top, or at least get used to it.
Update: I have gotten used to having the trigger, and actually when I use a sander that doesn’t have the trigger, I miss how easy it is to turn the sander on and off. You don’t have to think about it. If I quickly want to set down the sander, it automatically turns off and I don’t have to flip the switch.
So, when it comes down to it, there are pros and cons for each type of option.
At first I was bummed about how long the abrasives last. I had heard so many good things about their abrasives lasting such a long time.
I kept thinking that maybe I’m spoiled, or maybe I’m doing something wrong.
Does the grit last a long time? Yes. But is it suuuper longer lasting compared to other quality sandpaper on the market? I don’t think so.
I didn’t feel like they really lasted much longer than my go-to sandpaper that I’ve used for years. (I still want to do a comparison test somehow to compare how long the grittiness actually lasts, but I haven’t yet.)
Then I compared the price.
The SurfPrep hook and loop film sheets cost about $0.36 each! (So only $0.05 more than the long-lasting orbital sanding discs that I love with my coupon code RAY10.)
I also LOVE these sanding screens. They stay sharper longer than the films and don’t get clogged as much. These ones are $0.50 each.
SurfPrep also has SurfPrep sanding screens, and as far as I can tell they are pretty similar in performance.
The SurfPrep sanding screens are about $0.66 each with my coupon code RAY10. And they fit the sander perfectly. My favorite 1/2″ thick foam pads cost about $1.25 each! Ouch!
But comparing this price to the other sandpaper I have used is comparing apples to oranges since these are foam and are what save me so.much.time sanding detailed furniture.
After I compared the prices for the long-lasting sandpaper that I have used for years and the SurfPrep film sheets that last just as long, I realized that I was really being picky and snobbish about their sandpaper.
It lasts just as long, and it’s just a little bit cheaper when you compare the hook and loop sanding discs to the hook and loop film sheets!
Testing SurfPrep vs Hand Sanding
I did a test to see how much time I can save by using the SurfPrep instead of sanding by hand like I usually do.
I realized how clog resistant the SurfPrep foam pads are compared to my favorite sandpaper!!
Here is a photo to show you. I sanded one half of this buffet with my favorite sandpaper, and the other half with the SurfPrep and foam pads.
Look how much more gunk is on the sandpaper on the left compared to the foam pads on the right!! I hope this helps you in your big decision!
The great people at SurfPrep gave me a coupon code to share with you to get 10% off! Use the code RAY10 at checkout. It works on everything but their vacuums I believe.
If you are still on the fence about purchasing your own, check out
- what happened when we put the SurfPrep sander to the test here
- and what you need to get started with a SurfPrep sander!
- Or check out this budget friendly SurfPrep sander alternative.
Check out this video I made about my SurfPrep sander.
More Sanding Furniture Resources
- Best Sanders for Furniture
- Best Sanders to Remove Paint
- SurfPrep vs Festool Sander Reviews
- Honest SurfPrep 5″ Orbital Sander Review
- Sandpaper for Furniture Painting
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