Are Orbital Sanders Better? You Must Know

Orbital sanders are one of the most common types of sanders used for woodworking, home improvement, and DIY projects. But are they better than other sanders, such as belt sanders, random orbital sanders, or palm sanders? The answer depends on what kind of sanding task you need to accomplish, and what features you are looking for in a sander.

The main advantage of orbital sanders is that they are versatile, easy to use, and produce a smooth finish without leaving swirl marks or scratches on the surface. They are also ideal for sanding corners, edges, and tight spaces, thanks to their square-shaped sanding pad. Orbital sanders are suitable for prepping surfaces before painting or staining, as well as for light to medium sanding jobs.

However, orbital sanders are not perfect. They have some drawbacks that you should be aware of before choosing one for your project. Here are some of the main disadvantages of orbital sanders:

  • They are not very powerful or aggressive, compared to other sanders. They can take longer to remove a lot of material, especially on hard or rough surfaces. They are not recommended for heavy-duty sanding or stripping tasks.
  • They can create a lot of dust, which can be harmful to your health and the environment. You need to use a dust collector or a vacuum attachment to minimize the dust emission and keep your work area clean.
  • They can be noisy and vibrate a lot, which can cause fatigue and discomfort to your hands and arms. You need to wear ear protection and gloves to reduce the noise and vibration effects.
  • They can be expensive, depending on the brand and model. You also need to buy sandpaper sheets or discs that fit the size and shape of the sanding pad. You need to replace the sandpaper frequently, as it wears out quickly.

How to Choose the Best Orbital Sander for Your Project

If you decide that an orbital sander is the right tool for your project, you need to consider some factors before buying one. Here are some of the most important features to look for in an orbital sander:

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Power: The power of an orbital sander is measured in amps, which indicates how much electricity the motor uses. The higher the amps, the more powerful the sander. A higher power rating also means a faster sanding speed and a better performance on hard surfaces. However, a higher power rating also means a higher price and a higher energy consumption. You need to balance the power and the cost, depending on your budget and your sanding needs. A good range of power for an orbital sander is between 2 and 3 amps.

Speed: The speed of an orbital sander is measured in orbits per minute (OPM), which indicates how many times the sanding pad moves in a circular motion in one minute. The higher the OPM, the smoother and finer the finish. However, a higher OPM also means a higher heat generation and a higher wear and tear of the sandpaper. You need to adjust the speed according to the type and condition of the surface you are sanding. A good range of speed for an orbital sander is between 7,000 and 13,000 OPM.

Variable Speed: A variable speed feature allows you to change the speed of the sander according to the sanding task. This gives you more control and flexibility over the sanding process and the quality of the finish. A variable speed feature is especially useful for sanding different materials, such as wood, metal, plastic, or drywall. A variable speed feature is usually controlled by a dial or a trigger on the sander.

Dust Collection: A dust collection feature is essential for any sander, as it helps to reduce the dust emission and to keep your work area clean. A dust collection feature can be either a dust bag or a dust port. A dust bag is a cloth or plastic bag that attaches to the sander and collects the dust. A dust port is a hole or a nozzle that connects to a vacuum hose or a shop vac. A dust port is usually more effective and efficient than a dust bag, as it can suck up more dust and prevent clogging. However, a dust port also requires a separate vacuum device, which can add to the cost and the space of the sander.

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Ergonomics: The ergonomics of a sander refers to how comfortable and easy it is to use and handle. The ergonomics of a sander depends on several factors, such as the weight, the size, the shape, the grip, the balance, the noise, and the vibration of the sander. You need to choose a sander that fits your hand size and shape, and that feels comfortable and stable to hold and maneuver. You also need to choose a sander that is lightweight and compact, so that you can use it for longer periods without fatigue or strain. You also need to choose a sander that is quiet and smooth, so that you can work without disturbing others or damaging your hearing.

The Best Orbital Sanders of 2024

Based on our research and analysis, we have selected the following orbital sanders as the best ones of 2024. We have considered their power, speed, variable speed, dust collection, ergonomics, and other features, as well as their price, performance, reliability, and customer reviews. Here are our top picks:

Best Overall: Makita BO4556K 2.0 Amp 4-1/2-Inch Finishing Sander with Case. This orbital sander is powerful, fast, smooth, and versatile. It has a 2.0 amp motor that delivers 14,000 OPM, a variable speed control dial, a built-in dust port, and an ergonomic design. It comes with a durable case, a dust bag, and a punch plate. It is easy to use, handle, and maintain. It produces a high-quality finish without swirl marks or scratches. It is suitable for a variety of sanding tasks, such as wood, metal, paint, or drywall. It is affordable, durable, and reliable. It has a one-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. It has excellent customer ratings and reviews.

Best Cordless: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Cordless Random Orbital Sander. This orbital sander is convenient, efficient, and powerful. It has a 20V MAX lithium-ion battery that provides long-lasting and cordless operation. It has a brushless motor that delivers up to 12,000 OPM, a variable speed control trigger, and a dust-sealed switch. It has a low-profile design that allows for close and comfortable sanding. It has a hook-and-loop sanding pad that makes changing sandpaper easy and quick. It has a one-hand locking dust bag that attaches securely to the sander and the vacuum. It has a rubber overmold grip that reduces vibration and fatigue. It is compatible with other DEWALT 20V MAX tools and accessories. It comes with a battery, a charger, a dust bag, and a carrying bag. It has a three-year warranty and a 90-day money-back guarantee. It has very good customer ratings and reviews.

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Best for Small Jobs: BLACK+DECKER BDEQS300 1/4 Sheet Orbital Sander with Paddle Switch Actuati. This orbital sander is compact, lightweight, and easy to use. It has a 2.0 amp motor that delivers 16,000 OPM, a paddle switch activation, and a tri-layer filtration system. It has a soft-grip handle that provides comfort and control. It has a 1/4 sheet sanding pad that is ideal for small and detailed sanding jobs. It has a high-performance dust collection that keeps the work area clean and clear. It comes with a sandpaper sheet and a paper punch. It is inexpensive, reliable, and effective. It has a two-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. It has good customer ratings and reviews.

Conclusion

Orbital sanders are better than other sanders in some aspects, but not in others. They are versatile, easy to use, and produce a smooth finish without swirl marks or scratches. They are also ideal for sanding corners, edges, and tight spaces. However, they are not very powerful or aggressive, they can create a lot of dust, they can be noisy and vibrate a lot, and they can be expensive. You need to choose the best orbital sander for your project, based on the power, speed, variable speed, dust collection, ergonomics, and other features of the sander. You also need to consider the price, performance, reliability, and customer reviews of the sander. We hope that this article has helped you to understand the pros and cons of orbital sanders, and to find the best orbital sander for your needs. Happy sanding!