Whether you are a professional carpenter or you dabble in DIY projects, an orbital sander is a handy tool that you are going to want to have in your tool box. Also known as quarter-sheet sanders, orbital sanders feature a flat surface, which sandpaper is attached to. The flat surface is attached to an electronic component, which is rotated via a motor that is also attached to the sander. They are easy to control and make the task of sanding a whole lot less cumbersome because you don’t have to worry about straining your hand while holding the sandpaper and manually moving it back and forth over the surface of the item you are sanding.
While an orbital certainly makes sanding a lot easier, finding one can be a difficult task. There are so many on the market that finding the one that best meets your needs can be daunting. To help you find the best orbital sander to meet your needs, we put together this hand buyer’s guide, which offers a wealth of information to help you choose the right sander for you.
Types of Orbital Sanders
There are two main types of orbital sanders, and both types offer different features and benefits:
- Orbital sheet sander
- Random orbital sander
Orbital Sheet Sanders
Orbital sheet sanders have been used for generations, and they are extremely handy and easy to use. An orbital sheet sander is designed to be used with partial sheets of standard sandpaper. The sandpaper is attached to the base of the sander via either an adhesive backing or hook-and-loop style fasteners. Once turned on, the sander uses a motor, which moves the sanding pad back and forth in a circular motion at a high speed. They are less expensive than orbital sheet sanders, but the downside is that they can leave rough patched and spots on the wood.
Random Orbital Sheet Sanders
A random orbital sheet sander works by sanding the object being sanded in a random fashion. Doing so provides a smoother finish and eliminates sanding spots that are often behind from regular sander belts. A random orbital sander has an offset drive bearing, which allows the sanding pad to work around the surface of the wood in both an elliptical and circular motion. Another major benefit of a random orbital sander is that you aren’t restricted to only sanding with the grain, which you have to do with a sheet sander.
There are three different types random orbital sanders:
- Palm Grip: As the name suggests, this type of orbital sander is held directly in the palm, providing you with a excellent control; plus, they are easier to hold. It is ideal for use when working on tight spaces, such as a window or door frame.
- Right Angle: Offering more power, the right angle orbital sander connect the sanding pad to the motor. The overall speed of the sander is slower, but the sander can be pushed harder against the surface of the wood and won’t damage it, making it an ideal tool for removing finishes or other elements from a surface, such as glue or paint.
- Large Inline: With the most powerful motor of all orbital sanders, two hands are needed to use this tool. It offers variable speeds, which gives you a great deal of control over the speed that the sander provides.
Orbital Sander Considerations
In order to ensure you purchase the best orbital sander for your specific needs, you are going to want to take a few factors into consideration. By considering these factors, you can ensure that your orbital sander will provide you with the power and the handling that you need to get the job done the right.
Orbital sanders are made in various sizes, which range from around four to six inches. The size you choose will have a direct impact on how much space you can cover while you are sanding. To determine the size that will work best for you, consider the type of projects you will be working on. Smaller sanders offer more versatility because they can be used more easily in compact spaces; however, a larger sander will cover more area more quickly.
Corded or Cordless
Orbital sanders come in both cordless and corded models. If you like the idea of being able to have the freedom to use your sander anywhere without having to have a power source nearby, a cordless model may be a good option for you; however, cordless models usually aren’t as powerful as the corded variety. If you do opt for a corded orbital sander, do consider the length of the cord, as it will impact how much room you have to move with your sander. A longer cord means that you won’t have to be right on top of an electrical outlet while you are working, look for an orbital sander that offers a longer cord.
Orbital sanders can operate with high to low vibration levels. Lower vibration means quieter operation, which is a plus if you don’t want to be drowned out while you are working; plus, the lower the vibration, the better control you will have. However, keep in mind that a lower vibration level means that it will take longer for the sander to complete the job.
The faster it is to change the sandpaper, the more convenient your orbital sander will be to use. Typically, orbital sanders that attach the paper via a hook and loop attachment allow for the fastest and easiest sandpaper change.
Different orbital sanders operate at different speeds. The speed impacts how efficiently the sander will smooth the surface. Sanders that offer higher amperages and revolutions per minute (rpms) tend to be more efficient at smoothing a surface quickly. If you plan on using your sander for multiple projects, your best bet is to choose one that offers multiple speed settings, as it will be more versatile, allowing you to remove finish from a surface quickly and to smooth fine surfaces with ease.
The weight of the sander will have a direct impact on how easy this tool is to control, and how comfortable it is to work with. Lighter sanders tend to be easier to manipulate and are much more comfortable to work with.
If you are going to be using your orbital sander in tight spaces, opt for one that has a more compact height. The shorter the sander, the easier it will be to get into and operate in tight spaces, such as between shelves and on stairs.
If you want to have the smoothest finish possible, an orbital sander that delivers swirl free results is the best bet, otherwise the movement of the sander will leave imprints on your surfaces.
Orbital sanders range in price. Typically, the more power the sander offers and more options it features, the more expensive the tool will be. Make sure that you consider how much you want to spend before you start shopping for your orbital sander so that you can make sure you don’t over extend your budget.
Orbital Sander Features
Orbital sanders can be basic, or they can offer an array of features. These features are designed to enhance your experience; however, the more features the sander offers, the more expensive it will be. If you don’t need some of the following features, skip buying a sander that offers them so that you aren’t paying for something that you don’t need.
Dust Gathering Features
The majority of orbital sanders will feature some type of dust bag or canister, which will help to keep your work area clean while you are sanding; however, if you really want to step up the dust removal and ensure your surface is as dust-free as possible, opt for an orbital sander that allows you to connect the tool to a vacuum. These sanders feature a connector that will attach the sander directly to a shop vacuum, so when you are using it, the dust and debris will automatically be whisked away.
A Sealed Switch
A sealed power switch can increase the life span of your orbital sander. Because this tool creates so much dust and debris, that dust and debris can collect on the power switch and impact the on / off function, thus impacting the operation of the tool. A sealed switch will prevent the dust and debris from building up, which will increase the life span of your orbital sander.
A trigger lock will allow you to keep the sander locked in the on position without having to keep the trigger pushed in. This feature will allow you to have maximum use of your hands so that you can better guide your sander and have better control over it.
An orbital sander that is balanced tends to be more comfortable to operate and easier to use. A balanced sander emits less vibration, which provides you with better accuracy and a smoother finish, which is ideal if you are going to be working on pieces that require a finer and more precise finish.
A portable sander that offer pad breaks will prevent the tool from creating gauges in the material you are sanding.
An orbital sander that offers a tracking adjustment feature will allow you to quickly and easily adjust the tracking of the tool, which makes it easier to use.
Best Orbital Sander Brands
Many manufacturers make orbital sanders, which can make it difficult to find the best one for your specific needs. We conducted extensive research and tested out a variety of brands and we found that the following offer the best features and provide the most exceptional results, making them the best of the best brands in orbital sanders.
Bosch is one of the leading providers of power tools, and we found that their orbital sanders delivered some of the most powerful results. Using the most cutting edge technology and updated features, Bosch creates some of the most innovative orbital sanders available.
For more than 100 years, Makita has been manufacturing a wide range of power tools, and they are one of the most trusted brands out there. We found that this company offers a wide range of orbital sanders that boast a variety of features and suit all price ranges. When we tested the Makita orbital sanders, we found that they provided some of the smoothest results.
Creating a range of power tools, Ingersoll Rand creates outstanding orbital sanders. They manufacture several different types of orbital sanders that offer an array of features, suit every budget and work on a variety of surfaces.
This company has been manufacturing power tools for generations. Their orbital sanders offer innovative designs and cutting edge technologies, making them some of the best on the market.