Best Orbital Sander: Orbital Sander Buying Guide
Even if you accurately cut each part of for your woodworking project, assemble it without any glue stains, apply the perfect stain, and lay down a beautiful coat of lacquer, your project won't look it's best if you leave planer and saw marks showing.
Orbital sanders are a main stay in woodworking and can help you get the sanding out of the way quickly. So, we're going to present some options to help you pick out the best orbital sander for your needs.
As for sanders, there are a number of options available: corded, battery powered, air powered, inline, orbital, and random orbital. In this article, we are going to focus on the tried and true orbital sander. Why not? They are economical enough to fit any craftsman's budget, and when used correctly will result in very smooth surfaces.
Choosing the Best Orbital Sander
So, what is an orbital sander?
As the name implies, the sander uses an orbital motion to do the work. The sanding pad is driven by a shaft that has an offset center mechanism. As the shaft spins, it moves the sanding pad around in a very minute orbital manner.
The pad is not spun, as it is loosely fixed to the sander body, but only enough to keep it in place. This allows the pad to move enough to get the job done.
You may have heard of random orbit sanders.
These are similar to the orbital sander, but the mechanism is a bit more complicated, so as to provide a very random sanding pattern.
Orbital sanders do not have this random pattern and if moved quickly across the surface, a spiral sanding pattern may be left in the material.
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that the orbital sander is not a good tool.
On the contrary, for the money spent you can get great results from these sanders, if you use the properly. Who doesn't like saving a little money, by not upgrading, if you don't have to.
The best orbital sander will do what you want, for a reasonable amount of money, without wearing out your arms and hands.
Uses for Orbital Sanders
If you're going to work with wood, you're going to want smooth finishes. Well, most of the time. This can be accomplished by hand sanding, but that takes more time than necessary and it's tiresome.
The orbital sander is a great tool for this job.
Sanding isn't the only thing that orbital sanders can do, though. They can also be used to polish, as well as remove rust and scale.
When working with soft materials, such as balsa wood and foam, orbital sanders can even be used for shaping. Just pick the right grade of sandpaper and go to town.
So, who are orbital sanders best for, beginners or advanced?
Easy answer, both. I've been woodworking for decades and have an orbital sander, a random orbit sander, and a couple of belt sanders. Actually, I have two orbital sanders, a quarter sheet sander and a “Mouse” finish sander. Both of the orbital sanders still get pulled out and used when they're best suited for the task at hand.
As mentioned above, orbital sanders can be used in a variety of situations. Wood, plastic, metal, foam, and many other materials can be worked on with an orbital sander. It's really all up to the craftsman's imagination.
Heck, I've even heard of folks strapping bottles of modeling paints to their orbital sanders, so they don't have to shake them by hand.
Types of Orbital Sanders
All orbital sanders work on the same principal.
A sanding pad is driven by a spinning shaft that has an offset drive system. This causes the pad to move in a minute orbital pattern.
Okay, so how do orbital sanders differ?
Here's a few examples.
Okay, so know you know a bit about the different types of sanders. Here's the next step in choosing a sander. For the remainder of the article, only electric sanders will be discussed.
What to look for in an orbital sander?
So, you're ready to buy a sander. There's a number of things to consider and we've put together a list for your review.
Best Orbital Sander Roundup
DeWalt is well known for quality power tools, and this sander is no exception. This corded sander will serve you well for a long time.
As the name says, it's a quarter sheet sander, so sanding sheets will be easy to come by.
This sander also has a dust collector port, which can be used with the included catch bag or a shop vac.
Either way, you'll keep the dust under control.
Sanding sheets are attached with spring clamps. Simply pull the lever up from the latch and lift the clamp.
Both spring clamps are well within the edges of the sanding pad, so they won't hang up on any part of your project.
- DeWalt, a name well known for quality
- 2.4 amp motor
- 14,000 rpm sanding speed
- Dust collector port
- Some people complain the clip mechanism does not hold the sandpaper well
Black & Decker is another well known name in the power tool market. I've got a B&D router that my mother bought for my father for their first anniversary. That was 35 years ago and the router is still going strong.
Definitely different, in that this sander is a “Mouse” sander, so sheets are not going to be so easy to come by.
That's not a big deal, if you stop up when you buy the sander.
The neat thing about “Mouse” sanders, they have a very pointed tip on the pad which makes it easy to reach into tight corners. Quarter and half sheet sanders will get the big jobs done, but mouse sanders can really reach into tight spots, where the other two can't.
- Black & Decker, a name well known for quality
- 14,000 rpm sanding speed
- Dust collector filter
- “Mouse” design allows sanding pad to fit in tight corners
- Dual style grip (Pistol and palm) allows for the most comfortable for the user
- Dust collector port only accepts the supplied filter
- Smaller foot print, due to mouse shape
Makita is another well known name in the power tool field. A while ago I really tried to wear out Makita sanders and cordless drills while working in a cabinet shop.
Nope, I moved on before either died. Makita tools last. Me, I left the cabinet shop years ago.
This is another ¼ sheet champ, with 14,000 rpm in sanding speed. The housing allows for a number of grip techniques providing comfortable use for hours.
- Another name well known for quality
- Deals are available with storage/carry case
- Dust collector filter
- Sanding pad is not the stoutest
Wen is not a well known name, but don't count this sander out, especially with a 2.0 amp motor and 15,000 rpm sanding speed. Wen's sander also includes a dust collector bag.
Another positive for the Wen is the dual sanding sheet mounting systems.
One can use the clamps for regular sanding sheets or use hook and loop back sanding sheets.
The low cost of this sander provides big bang for the bucks.
- 2.0 amp motor
- 15,000 rpm sanding speed
- Dust collector bag
- Low cost
- Sanding sheets mount via hook and loop or clamps
- Unfamiliar brand name
- Square dust collector port, cannot attach shop vac
We had to include at least one cordless sander and this one is by Ryobi, which is also well known for quality power tools.
As one suspect, this sander is going to cost more than the corded versions, plus the sander comes without a battery and charger.
Not a problem, as they are readily available, and the battery fits many other Ryobi tools.
This sander has the lowest sanding speed at 11,000 rpms, but still provides enough power to get the job don. It is also a “Mouse” style sander, so it will work well in tight spaces.
Keep in mind, it uses the special shaped sanding sheets. This is the only sander that does not provide for dust collection.
- Well known brand name
- Quality production
- No cord to drag around or tangle up
- Battery and charger sold separately
- Down time when battery needs charging
- No dust collection system