If you’re new to woodworking or DIY construction or repair projects around the home, then finding the best orbital sander can be challenging since you probably aren’t familiar with how these sanders work, what features to look for, and how to choose one that will be the best fit for your next project. Most woodworking projects involve many stages and sanding is often a big part of these projects. Whether you’re building a new table, renovating your kitchen, or building a deck, one of the final stages, and a crucial one, is sanding. But if you don’t have much woodworking or carpentry experience, then choosing a high-quality sander can be an overwhelming process.
My buyer’s guide and reviews of popular sanders are designed to help you through this process, so you’ll not only learn about the features in an orbital sander that you should look for, but you’ll also get a look at 6 models that are approved by the pros.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes important information for each sander that made it onto my list, their best features, and how each sander rated.
Orbital Sander Comparison Chart
Best Orbital Sander-Bosch Orbital Sander
If you’re looking for the best orbital sander, Bosch delivers. In terms of vibration control, the Bosch orbital sander features a patented suspension system that reduces vibration, giving the user more control over the sanding process, while improving comfort. The sander also comes with two dust collection systems. The first dust collection option consists of a micro filter dust canister, complete with a screw-on cap and an integrated paper filter, or you can choose the other dust collection method, via the vacuum cleaner hose connection. The vacuum connection option allows you to control the airflow, so you can adjust it based on material type.
This 3.3 amp Bosch orbital sander also comes with a variable speed control dial to match sanding speed based on the type of project you’re working on. This model comes with a tube-shaped dust canister, removable front handle, adapter for a vacuum hose, sand pad, 5-millimeter pad wrench, and a 5-inch soft backing pad.
- Variable sanding speed
- Sanding pad included
- Compatible with a shop vac
- Can collect dust
- Big and bulky
- Requires two-handed operation
This Bosch sander comes with some great extras and a high-powered motor that makes this orbit sander a great choice for projects of all sizes. While it may not be able to compete with the best random orbital sander in terms of overall power, this orbit sander’s variable speed control and powerful motor work together to minimize swirl marks, for easier, more efficient sanding jobs of all sizes.
Best Cordless Orbital Sander-Enertwist Cordless Orbital Sander
This cordless sander is powered by 20-volts, and includes EC variable speed control, with a one-touch operation for faster variable speed control changes. Users can choose from three speed settings: low, medium, and fast. The orbit sander is engineered for faster material removal, for a finer finish. Equipped with a brushless motor that offers up to 50 minutes of runtime when it’s on the highest speed setting and 100 minutes of runtime on the lowest speed setting, this cordless model is highly portable and compact.
The compact design allows you to access tight spaces and corners, effortlessly. The hook and loop system consists of an 8 hook and loop design. The design allows you to easily and quickly change out the sandpaper pads in the middle of a job. The dust-sealed switch is designed to improve the lifespan of the power tool.
- Ergonomic grip
- Efficient dust collection
- Variable speed control
- Includes sanding pads
- Perfect for any sanding project
- The power button is difficult to press
While keeping a power tool’s runtime in mind can make you rush through a job, a cordless orbit sander is a must for those delicate fine woodworking projects. This cordless sander comes with some great extras, including 9 pieces of sandpaper, a two-year warranty, a fast charger, lithium battery, variable speed control, and a 30-day money-back warranty. If portability and maneuverability are priorities, then this model is a must-have.
Best Variable Speed Control Orbit Sander-DEWALT Rotary Sander
This 6-amp motor and variable speed control orbit sander deliver the type of high torque you need for the most challenging sanding applications. The orbital sander spins at 0-3,700 OPM with a variable speed dial that makes this orbit sander one of the most versatile models on the market. The adjustable dust collection shroud can be connected to a vacuum, for fast and efficient dust management. The soft grip, mid-handle, and side handle make this orbit sander easier to maneuver and use, minimizing hand and wrist discomfort. The orbit sander also accepts 8-hole 5-inch hook and loop paper, for faster paper changes in the middle of a job.
- Eliminates dust particles
- Variable speed control
- Prevents swirl marks
- 6 amp motor
- Promotes long sanding sessions
- Heavy vibration can make the orbit sander difficult to control
This is an orbit sander that comes loaded with some great features. The efficient dust collection unit will eliminate dust particles, so you can breathe easily and see your workpiece. This orbit sander comes equipped with 6-amps of power, designed to shorten any sanding process. The variable speed control system allows you to choose the speed you need, based on the type of material you’re working on.
Most User-Friendly Orbit Sander-GALAX PRO Variable Speeds Orbit Sander
The Galax Pro high-performance 2.5 amp motor powerful orbit sander features up to 13,000 RPMs, delivering the type of strong and reliable power to the sanding disc that’s needed for smoother results. This orbit sander is perfect for smoothing rough surfaces on plastic, metal, or wood, or removing varnish or stains. The orbit sander is capable of working on larger surfaces and comes equipped with a 125 MM diameter sanding pad. The built-in dust collection unit will collect debris to prevent dust from obstructing your view and your workpiece during a challenging sanding job.
- Prevents swirl marks
- Rubberized palm grip
- Dust bag
- 13,000 OPM
- 5 amp motor
- Variable speed control
- Cannot fit in tight spaces
The ergonomic design, variable speed control, sealed switch, dust bag, rubberized palm grip, and powerful motor come together to create an orbit sander that won’t quit on you, overheat, and a model that can handle a wide variety of sanding applications. Powerful, easy to use, and able to get the job done in a fraction of the time that low-powered orbit sanders can, this model is packing some serious power and works well for both DIY and pro use.
Best Pneumatic Orbit Sander-DFESKAH Air Orbit Sander
This pro-quality pneumatic orbit sander features easy palm operation, 12,000 OPM, and variable speed controls. The orbit sander dust collection unit keeps the air and your workpiece free from dust particles, so you can see your work. The orbit sander operates on 90 PSI air pressure and features a ¼ inch air inlet. This is a dual-action orbit sander is lightweight, has a low center of gravity, which makes it easier to control, and has a motor that’s precision balanced.
- Variable sanding speed
- Efficient dust collector design
- Perfect for sanding jobs of all sizes
- Includes sanding pads
- Powerful sander
- 12,000 OPM
- Dust bag needs to be emptied repeatedly for big jobs
The biggest drawback for this pneumatic sander is the small dust bag, which cannot hold must sawdust. However, if you don’t mind repeatedly emptying the bag during a sanding job, this orbit sander from DFESKAH is still a great buy. This little sander will come in handy for a variety of applications, is beginner-friendly, and a great buy for the price.
Best Value-AirVANTAGE Industrial-Grade Orbital Pneumatic Sander
This is an industrial-grade orbit sander that’s designed for longer than average operating hours and daily use. The motor is capable of generating 0.24 HP, with 10,000 RPMs. The lightweight design will be one of this model’s highest selling points, since it reduces user fatigue and makes it easier to handle, control, and maneuver the sander. The design is well-balanced, with minimal vibration, which will also prevent user fatigue and allows you to easily control this little sander throughout the sanding process.
- Includes sanding pad
- Variable speed control
- Precision balanced motor
- Prevents swirl marks
- Low price
- Non-vacuum model
This industrial grade orbit sander is built tough, despite its smaller, lightweight design. This model comes with the sanding pad of your choice, and an airflow consumption rating of 90 PSI. This is also a non-vacuum model, which may be a deal-breaker for the woodworker searching for a powerful dust collection feature. However, this is an industrial-grade model that’s designed for long use, so it won’t overheat and provides the type of reliable performance that all pros are looking for.
Orbital Sander Buyer’s Guide
Sanding will give a workpiece a clean, smooth finish. It also preps wood for painting or staining. Because of this, you need an efficient, powerful, and reliable sander.
While an orbital sander may not be ideal for stock removal, they’re a must-have power tool for rounding sharp edges or achieving ultra-smooth surfaces.
Before you start shopping for orbital sanders, it’s always a good idea to consider your requirements. There are many different models available, each of which offers different features. While one orbital sander might be suited for a certain type of job, another might not have the power that you need to get the job done.
What Can You Use an Orbital Sander for?
- Orbit sanders will come in handy for jobs where a random orbital sander won’t fit. They will also be the best choice for fine woodworking projects where only light sanding is needed. They’re perfect for prepping a surface for sealing or painting, or for getting rid of a layer of paint.
- These sanders will also be useful when you’re working on a wood floor and need a sander that can get into corners and along baseboards.
- Orbit sanders are the best choice for light to moderate heavy-duty projects. These projects may be the final smoothing of wood or smoothing out a curved surface.
- You can also use your orbital sander to smooth out imperfections in drywall joint compound, metal, plastic, and wood.
- These power tools are much easier to control compared to a belt and random orbital sanders, which makes them a popular choice with those new to woodworking.
- This type of sander is also significantly quieter compared to other types of sanding power tools. Easier to control, and lightweight, it’s almost impossible to ruin your workpiece with an orbital sander. However, because of the sander’s meek operation, this tool is not recommended for use when removing heavy stock. Instead, it’s designed for ultra-smooth sanding, rounding sharp edges, or even sanding off tough wood putty.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself to help you determine which orbital sander will meet your needs:
- What will you be using the orbital sander for? If it’s for a small project and you won’t use the sander often, then you may want to search for a low-powered, cheaper model. If you’re working as a carpenter, then you may need a more powerful and durable orbital sander, one that can be used daily.
- What types of surfaces will you be sanding? If you’re sanding a large wooden floor, then you’ll need to go with a heavy-duty sander. If you’re sanding down a plaster wall, then a low-powered orbital sander should be sufficient.
- How often will you use the orbital sander? If you’re just purchasing the sander for one-time use, then search specifically for features that are required for that particular job. If you need to do more sanding in the future, then you should consider how versatile the sander’s features are.
Once you have a clear idea of what you’re going to be using the orbital sander for and what your needs are, then it’s time to start looking at the best orbital sanders available.
When you’re shopping for orbital sanders, you’ll find that there are several ratings and metrics to consider, such as amps, OPM, and RPM ratings. You must know exactly what these metrics mean and what you need to look for in each category. Below, I’ll go over basic power needs, power sources, and must-have features that can add value and versatility to your sander.
The orbit sander’s power rating is usually provided by a motor amp rating. The amp rating typically ranges from 2.5 up to 3 amps. This will give you an idea of the motor’s power inside the sander. Some models with a low spinning speed can have more power compared to sanders that have a higher spinning speed if they are equipped with a powerful motor.
Orbital sanders have a few types of power options:
- Electric corded
The electric corded models are a good choice for people who work in limited areas. Corded models typically have a power rating of 2-5 amps.
The battery-powered sanders are a better choice if freedom of movement is important or you need to work on a project that’s far from an outlet and you don’t want to deal with running extension cords. Cordless models often have a power rating of 18 volts, although you’ll also come across 20-volt orbital sanders.
Pneumatic orbital sanders operate via an air compressor. This air-powered sander is often the go-to for professionals and larger jobs such as sanding floors.
Dust Collection/Dust Port
When you’re shopping for an orbital sander, consider the dust collection design. After power, a sander’s ability to efficiently gather shavings is incredibly important to its performance. While most orbital sanders on the market today will come with a built-in dust collection unit, not all of them work very well, so you’ll find sawdust and shavings still flying all over your workstation and workpiece.
When it comes to dust collection, the key things to look for are:
There are major differences in unit sizes across different brands of sanders, so pay attention to a power tool’s dust collection capacity.
How Easy is it to Clean and Empty a Dust Collection System?
Many sanders will come equipped with a one-hand twist removal design that makes it fast and simple to clean and empty a dust collection system.
How Efficient is the System?
Read orbital sander reviews to get unbiased information regarding how weak or powerful a dust collection system really is. If the system is only able to suck up 50% of dust and shavings, pass it by and look for an orbital sander that comes equipped with a more efficient system, one that’s more efficient and powerful.
Warranties for orbital sanders range from 12 months up to 3 years. Higher-priced models tend to come with longer, better warranty coverage compared to lower-priced sanders.
Load Orbit Speed
Load orbit speed is the number of times the sanding disk will orbit in 60 seconds. Orbit speed is measured in orbits per minute. The higher the orbits per minute rating, the finer the sanding results.
The square foot of the power sander allows it to go up against edges and in corners. When sanding across the grain, even when you’re using 100-grit paper, you still need to show extra care. These sanders have a square foot that accepts a quarter of 9 x 11 sheets of sandpaper, which is why these tools are often referred to as quarter-sheet sanders. To create some sanding action the sander’s foot rapidly vibrates in small circles.
Its square shape is one of the sander’s best features. Its shape allows you to access tight areas that other types of sanders can’t.
Because the orbit sander is not considered an overly aggressive sander, it’s difficult to remove too much material. Compared to using a belt sander, the orbital sander leaves cross-grain marks that are less obvious. This means it’s much harder to accidentally ruin your work. The scratch pattern and performance differ from model to model and brand to brand, so make sure you test the sanding pattern instead of just assuming that yours will not leave any visible cross-grain scratches.
The biggest disadvantage to using this type of sander is that the sanding marks are more visible compared to that of a random orbital sander. Another drawback is that they don’t remove a high volume of material. While some designs available are better than others, the clamps that secure the sandpaper in place are less convenient compared to sander’s that come with press-in-place options that are often found in the best random orbital sanders.
Control and Speed
The transmission or gearbox determines the speed at which an orbit sander can run. For most orbit sander models, the speed ranges between 1600 oscillations and 26,000 oscillations per minute. Most people don’t need that much of the upper range. For stronger orbit sanders, 11,000 is more than enough. You need a power tool that has a high max operating speed, but even more important is different speed levels to choose from.
Basically, you should choose an orbital sander with a variable speed setting for timely and proper control and safety. More speed options to choose from means a more versatile sander that can adapt to any project. Keep in mind, not all materials require the same speed for achieving the same sanding results. After all, it’s control over the speed and sanding process that will determine how smooth the results will be.
The variable speed setting allows you to decelerate or accelerate the speed whenever you need based on the material you’re working on. Slower speeds are required for a smooth and silky finish as well as when working on veneered materials.
Models that come equipped with variable speed options are more expensive than single-speed orbit sanders. However, you’re paying for the machine’s versatility. Low-priced models will come with only one speed and they are specifically designed to prep a surface before painting.
Typically, an orbital sander will have a single sanding plate. The plate is usually a riveted pad that has 6 to 8 holes that work as extraction points when you’re sanding. When you buy a sanding plate, the number of holes is not important. For most models, there’s no mechanism to change out the plate. However, top-of-the-line orbital sanders will come with an easy changing mechanism that you can use when you’re swapping out a plate based on the type of material you’ll be sanding. This feature is crucial for reversible materials, however, it also makes the sander pricier compared to a regular orbit sander.
For some, portability will be an important factor. If you’re looking for a portable model make sure you choose one that comes with a good carrying case. There are several models of orbital sanders that come with some type of case to protect the tool during storage and transport. If the model you’re interested in doesn’t come with one you can easily purchase one separately.
When you’re shopping for an orbital Sander, it’s wise to have the following safety features available:
Dust Sealed Switch
A sealed switch will prevent the dust from entering inside the switch, which can affect the on and off action.
Of course, it’s wise to choose a balanced sander, which will make it easier for you to handle the tool with comfort, regardless of the type of material you’re working on. At the same time, the orbital sander shouldn’t vibrate excessively. Harsh vibration can result in hand cramps or user fatigue if you use the sander for a prolonged period of time. Excessive vibration can also have a negative impact on the finish, in addition to the accuracy of the sander on finer workpieces.
A tool that offers lower vibration will offer a better finish which means a lower risk for scratches and other types of damage.
This feature prevents you from accidentally switching the tool on.
Sanders that come equipped with a pad brake ensures that there’s no accidental gouging.
Some models will come with knobs or screws to make tracking adjustments fast and easy.
Do You Need an Orbit Sander or a Random Orbital Sander?
If you’re new to sanding or woodworking in general, then searching for the best random orbital sander or orbital sanders can be very confusing and a little frustrating. There are definitely some differences between these two sanders. This confusion is made worse since the terms random orbital sanders and orbital sanders are often used interchangeably. Below, I hope to clear up some confusion between these two types of sanders, so you can choose the right type for your next project.
Random Orbital Sander
The random orbital sander is heavy-duty and offers more power than a standard orbital sander. It can be used to sand paint off furniture, clean up between coats of finish, prepare a new molding, and much more. It can also clean and smooth composite materials and metals. Random orbital sanders owe their versatility to their unique design. On the random orbital sander, you’ll find a sandpaper disc that spins in a circle as the entire pad moves in an oval-shaped loop. Because of the design, no abrasive particles are able to follow the same path twice. This results in a finish that’s free from swirls, even if you use the random orbital sander across the grain. While the random orbital sander is faster than an orbital sander, they aren’t able to aggressively remove a lot of material as a belt sander can. So, if you want to remove heavy-duty material, such as shellac from an old table, you’ll want to use a belt sander.
Woodworkers looking for a random orbital sander should pay attention to pad size, body configuration, and motor size, to find a model that will suit their workload. If you have a shop vacuum cleaner, you can get a random orbital sander that features built-in dust control and connect the shop vac to the sander for fast and efficient operation.
Are Random Orbital Sanders Better than Orbit Sanders?
For some jobs, yes. The random orbital sander comes with a ball-bearing mechanism that allows the sandpaper pad to randomly rotate. If the pad comes across any hardpoints on a surface, it just goes around it and works at the spot a little at a time with small, precise orbits. The turning ellipses design prevents large scratches on a surface, creating a uniform surface. It will give woodwork a smoother finish with its methodic, uniform material removal.
Essentially, the woodworker can make good use of both the random orbital sander and the standard orbital sander, depending on material type and surface type.
Hand Sander/Palm Sander Vs Orbit Sander
The biggest differences between orbit sanders and a hand sander are power and size. A hand sander is much lighter and smaller. An orbit model is better for working on bigger pieces, while a palm sander is best suited for smaller pieces. Because they’re bigger, the orbit sander can get the job done faster than a palm sander, but the hand sander can provide a much smoother result, so the hand sander will be invaluable for finer woodwork projects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is Better an Orbital Sander or Random Orbital Sanders?
For fine woodworking projects, always go with orbital sanders, especially if you’re a beginner. You’ll have ultimate control over how much material the orbital sander removes.
Is Variable Speed Orbital Sander Worth it?
Yes. Variable speed orbit sanders will give you more control over how much material it sands down and how quickly. This will be a must-have feature if you work on a wide range of wood types. Variable speed significantly minimizes the risks of sand-through.
Can I Use an Orbital Sander on Wood?
An orbital sander can be used for a variety of smoothing and sanding needs. These tools are easy to use, lightweight, and can produce a swirl-free finish on surfaces including wood, plastic, and metal.
Can I Use Orbital Sander on Walls?
Yes. Because an orbital sander doesn’t remove as much material as other types of sanders, such as a belt sander, if you have fine work to do on delicate materials, such as plaster, an orbital sander is a great choice. However, if you have a heavy-duty sanding job and you have to remove a large amount of material off the walls, then you’ll want to go with a higher-powered sander.
There are many different brands and models of orbital sanders available on the market today. Each model features a different sandpaper size, motor power, and speed controls. While a larger sander may require half a sheet of sandpaper, compact versions require 1/4 size of sandpaper. Orbital sanders also come with a myriad of features such as different anti-vibration mechanisms, dust elimination systems, electronic speed controls, different grips, and decreased motor noise.
For the first-time buyer, the variety of options can make it challenging to choose the right one. However, if you do your research, know your requirements, and use this buyer’s guide to help you choose a model based on those needs, then you should have no trouble finding an orbital sander that works for all of your woodworking needs.