Charles, a high-income earner, decided to get some furnishings for his recently acquired home and walked into the nearest furniture store, looking for the best wood work it had to offer. After walking around the store and feeling the surface of the furniture on display, he left without spending a single dollar. The next day, he walked into another furniture store. This time, after feeling the surface of the displayed items, he picked a complete rustic oak dining set, a wooden coffee table, and a mahogany rocking chair. Lots of money spent, right?
As a carpenter or wood worker, you wouldn’t want to lose the opportunity to sell your work to a potential “Charles” just because you refused to get the power tool that would offer you the best finishing solution for uneven and rough surfaces. This power tool is known as an orbital sander. You may want to debate its importance, but if you think carefully as to why Charles left the first furniture home, you would realize that no one would willingly spend hard-earned money on a rough table, chair, or any other wooden material as they could be rather uncomfortable and nasty to touch.
An orbital sander does the same job as a belt sander, but it operates by making use of an orbital motion which is usually powered by an amp-rated motor with a variable speed control. It’s a vital power tool that enables woodworkers to produce smooth surfaces without leaving any sanding marks behind.
Unlike Charles, who shops for his wooden furniture from professional woodworkers, you may be a hobbyist who’s interested in building that furniture from scratch. You, also, will need a good power sander when it’s time to finish your furniture, so don’t hesitate to get that orbit sander. It is an absolutely essential tool in woodworking, just like an angle grinder.
Before we go into other details in this buying guide, we'd like to point out that we saw other brands that make great orbital sanders. However, because we are limited to just five brands per review, we didn't include them in our highlighted products. Just so you know, Chicago Pneumatic
, and Black + Decker are top brands that also offer great sanders.
Here's an important note for folks who would be using their sanders just once in a while: The Black & Decker BDERO100 Orbital Sander
is a great option and comes at a very low price (but don't let that fool you—it's top-quality, such as we've come to know B + D for).
Most times, the ultimate decision to purchase an orbital sander solely rests on the price, irrespective of its features. But it is usually advisable to get an orbit sander that has the features required to produce a better work outcome no matter the cost.
An orbit sander that is capable of smoothing out tough surfaces with a good dust collection system, while leaving behind fewer scratches, can cost about $200. Another that handles just the basics without all the bells and whistles can go for as little as $30.
The level of dust management system, size, speed, and control of an orbital sander are some of the features that may affect the price. While you may be tempted to seek out cheap orbit sanders, it is important to note that the chances of not being satisfied with the services offered by them are quite high. The orbit sanders we’ve featured were carefully selected and are capable of giving you that pristine surface you desire.
Making the right choice of orbital sander from a pool of several types is not always easy, which is why you need to know firsthand the important features that make the perfect choices. Knowing the key features is the first step to determining how well they will perform. Below are some of the factors to be considered before selecting an orbit sander:
- Sander type
- Speed and amperage
- Dust management system
- Size and dimensions
- Comfort and control
- Extras (grip variations, additional case, polishing pad, grit size)
To know how these features can affect your choice, keep reading…
Construction and Design
It’s absolutely vital to check out the construction and design of an orbital sander before purchasing it. Some of the factors we think you should consider include what type it is, its speed options, its amperage, and its size/dimensions. Let’s take a closer look.
There are two versions of orbit sanders available: sheet orbit sanders and random orbit sanders. The sheet sander is different from the random orbit sander in that it makes use of square or rectangular-shaped sandpaper. When powered on, the sheet sander operates in a little round pattern, with scratching being reduced if the sheet sander is pushed along the grain of the wood. Small spirals tend to occur if the sheet sander is pushed against the wood grain, requiring re-sanding. Orbit sheet sanders are available in several models and they offer different features such as dust elimination, different grip styles, and electronic speed controls.
The random orbit sander, on the other hand, operates by sanding a material in a random orbit cycle. It features an offset drive bearing that makes the sander’s pad act around the surface of the wood in both an elliptical and small circular pattern. Apart from its sanding pattern that leaves no swirl marks, the random orbit sander also prevents direction restriction, which allows you to sand diagonal to, against, and with the wood grain. There are also 3 style options of random orbit sanders: the palm-grip that is easy to hold and maneuver, the right-angle orbit sander for additional power, and the large in-line sander for large sanding projects.
An orbit sander with variable speed control is important if you’re working with materials other than wood, especially delicate materials. Because a higher speed will result to higher heat and vice versa, it is sometimes necessary to make use of the lower speed option which is safer for materials that are fragile. An orbit sander with a variable speed option can also help regulate the quantity of material removed during the sanding process. This is an important option if you are sanding thin materials. A lower speed also allows more control, preventing the sander from skipping off the surface or rounding off corners.
The amperage of an orbit sander is the strength of an electric current that passes through the sander for a time period without exceeding the temperature limit and damaging the sander. More amps can be beneficial due to allowing the sander to run for quite a while without heating up so much. The amp rating on orbit sanders usually ranges from two amperes to more than five amperes.
Size and Dimensions
The size and dimensions of an orbit sander affect its portability and ease of holding. The most popular orbit sanders are usually five or six inches wide, with the five-inch sanders typically closer to the surface that requires sanding and therefore more efficient when compared to other widths.
Performance and Ease of Use
In the way of performance and ease of use, we suggest that you pay attention to the availability of a dust management system, any warranties or guarantees the sander has, and what other features it comes with. Below, we go into more detail on each of these factors.
Dust Management System
For wood work or any other material that may require sanding, it is very important to make plans for the dust and particles that may accumulate throughout the course of sanding. A dust management system allows you to keep your work space clean while preventing you from inhaling the dust particles that can be dangerous to your health.
Most orbit sanders, especially random orbit sanders, come with a dust collection bag or canister that accumulates and retains the dust particles. If you insist on purchasing an orbit sander without a dust-trapping mechanism in place, it is advisable for you to get a dust mask to prevent you from inhaling the dust particles. A dual-cartridge respirator should always be used if you are going to be sanding vanished or painted surfaces as these fumes may cause damage to your respiratory system.
When purchasing a power tool, it is sometimes necessary to take note of the available warranty and guarantee associated with that product. The presence of such on an orbit sander often gives you the confidence to buy the sander, knowing that the manufacturer has you covered in case of any malfunctioning or defects.
Depending on the manufacturer, you could get a 90- or 30-day money-back warranty on your orbit sander. This means that your money may be returned to you if the sander fails to meet your level of satisfaction. You may also see orbit sanders with limited warranties varying from a period of one to three years. Other times, the manufacturer may offer a one- or two-year free service contract.
Please note that the different options of warranty don’t mean that one sander is better than the other, it just means that the manufacturer wants to boost your purchasing confidence.
There are several other features that can increase the performance of your orbital sander and they include an additional carrying case which makes portability easier, and pad brakes which are useful in avoiding gouges on the surface you’re sanding. Some orbit sanders possess a trigger lock which allows you to work freely with the orbit sander by keeping it clasped in the “on” position.
For more comfort and control, it is best to get a balanced orbit sander as it ensures that vibrations and hand fatigue are reduced. A sander with a comfortable grip will also ensure that your hand doesn’t get cramped after holding it for extended periods of time. If you want your orbit sander to last long, it is advisable to get one with a sealed switch. The sealed switch will prevent dust and particles from getting into your sander and causing it to malfunction.
When choosing a sander, you should consider a few things: ease of use, noise level, holding feel, and warranties or guarantees. As far as smooth finishing is concerned, however, if you have carefully read our buying guide, making the right choice won’t be too difficult.
Now that you have taken the time to read this review, you should be better equipped with the right kind of information to help you choose the right sander, so feel free to place your order. Please, note that the five brands that we have chosen do have other amazing sanders and you are free to check them out if the ones featured here don’t have all the qualities you need.