Orbital sanders are a crucial tool needed to finish furniture and other wood projects so that you don’t end up with those ugly sanding marks. We found that the DeWalt Orbital Sander was the best price / performance pick. We have taken three of the best orbital sanders on the market that are clear customer favorites, and reviewed them for you here. You’ll find out what is good about each and even find out what customers are saying about these preferred models. There’s no need for you to search all over the internet; we’ve already done the searching for you in order to bring you this orbital sander review that will educate you on these tools and show you which are best.
Orbital Sander Comparison
Black & Decker BDERO100
BLACK & DECKER BDEQS300
|Soft Sanding Pad|
Orbital Sander Buying Guide
What is a Orbital Sander?
Orbital sanders are popular tools with woodworkers, cabinet makers and professional carpenters that are used to remove the finish from a piece of furniture or to smooth a new project without leaving telltale swirl marks that other sanders can leave. Orbital sanders are easy to use and every woodworker should plan on having one in their tool collection.
Why do you Need a Good Orbital Sander?
Having a good orbital sander on hand in your workshop will make easier work of finishing you may need on furniture you’re making or refinishing. They are super easy to use so even if you are new to sanding you can learn to use one relatively quickly. If you are already familiar with them, and have a professional business or are a contractor, you know that speed is important and a good quality orbital sander definitely can provide that.
There are many different types of sanders available and as with many types of tools, certain styles work better for certain tasks than others. Before you purchase one make sure you know what you will want to use it for. Asking yourself questions such as those listed below will help guide you in your search:
- What types of surfaces and materials do you work with most often?
- Do you want a cordless or a corded sander?
- What features and options are important or necessary for you?
- Are you using the sander for hobbies or professionally?
- Are you new to using a sander?
The answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices and make it easier to find the best sander for you.
Types of Orbital Sanders
There are two main types of orbital sanders: sheet and random orbit. Each one has its strengths that make it better for specific jobs versus the other type.
Orbital Sheet Sander – Sheet sanders have been around for over 50 years now and are still used regularly to finish construction projects today. Orbital sheet sanders are easy to use and come with many features including dust elimination, electronic speed controls, various grips styles, lower motor noises and lower vibration too. There are also different sizes of orbital sheet sanders. You can choose from large sanders that will use about half a sheet of standard sandpaper or smaller units that can use a ¼ or even a 1/6 size sheet of standard sandpaper. When using a sheet sander you will go with the grain of the wood and not across it or you will leave sanding spots that can damage the piece you are working on.
Random Orbital Sander – Random orbital sanders work by sanding the workpieces in a random fashion, hence their name. This provides a much smoother finish and won’t leave those common sanding spots that can be left from regular belt sanders. Random orbital sanders have an offset drive bearing which makes the sanding pad work around a wood surface in both an elliptical and circular motion. One of the benefits to a random sander is that the user is not restricted to only sanding with the grain the way they need to with a sheet sander. They can literally sand their piece in all directions and still finish with a beautiful result. It is recommended that users start with a coarser grit sandpaper and gradually reduce the coarseness until they are at the finished product which will be a beautifully smooth surface.
Types of Random Orbital Sanders –
There are a few different styles of orbital sanders that users may opt for which include:
Palm Grip – This style of orbital sander is great for finishing window frames and other fine surfaces. These units offer the user more control over where it sands and they’re easy to hold as well. Even for very narrow projects, the palm grip orbital sander makes simple work of your project which users love.
Right Angle – This style of orbital sander provides the user with more power. The gears of this unit connect the sanding pad to the motor. In a right angle sander, the overall speed is lower but it can be pushed harder against the surface of the wood without damaging it which makes them perfect for removing paint or glue.
Large Inline Sander – This style is for big projects that need the features that a large in-line sander provides. They have the most powerful motors available in a sander and the user will need two hands to operate it. In-line sanders also have variable speeds to give the user as much control over the speed of the sander as possible.
Important Features for an Orbital Sander
Fast Paper Change – One of the best and most useful features of an orbital sander is how fast and easy it is to change the sandpaper. The most common method of attachment for these units is called the hook and loop method which is extremely easy to operate and makes sand paper changes super easy and fast too.
Variable Speed – How smooth of a finish you achieve is largely determined by how much control you have over the sander and sanding process. With variable speed options you can slow down or speed up the speed according to what you are working on. Slower speeds are required for materials such as veneer so you reduce the likelihood of what is called sand through. Lower speeds are also better for a smooth, silky finish. Variable speed orbital sanders cost a bit more than those without this option but the extra price is well worth the control you will gain.
Vacuum Options Available – Most sanders come with a dust bag or canister to help keep your work area clean during the sanding process. Onboard dust collection through those two methods is fine but the most effective way to get rid of dust and keep your area clean is by connecting the orbital sander to a good shop vac. You will need a connection on your sander that is compatible with standard vac sizes which are 1 ¼”, 1 ½” and 2 ½”. Your lungs will benefit from the cleaner air in your shop as well.
Sander Grips – The only way you can really know how a sander is going to feel in your hand is to try it out. You can do this by going to your local home improvement store and checking out a few different models. Most home improvement stores have several styles on display for users to look at and handle. You can actually turn them on and see how they fit in your hand. You want to test how easily your fingers can wrap around the machine and turn it on and off. You also want to see how heavy it is to hold and whether the handle fits in your hand comfortably. Some sanders might have a soft grip design for added comfort. The more comfortable your sander is to hold and use, the longer you can use it without becoming tired or getting hand cramps.
Power Cord with Plenty of Length – Some tools have short little cords that will require the use of extension cords but there are some models that come with a long cord that accommodates you not having to be next to an outlet.
Sealed Switch – With all the saw dust that can be generated from sanding, having a unit with a sealed switch adds life to your sander. Sawdust getting into your switch can affect the on/off function and cause it to not work correctly. Sawdust can also get in your eyes, nose, and mouth and cause discomfort and even health problems for those with asthma or allergies. Wearing a mask and using the proper ventilation and dust catchers (canister or bag or shop vac attachment) will reduce dust while you are working on your projects.
Balanced – You will love how easy it is to use your sander and how comfortable it is when it is balanced. You also want to avoid sanders that vibrate excessively because they cause a lot of user fatigue when they have to be used for any length of time. Vibration is something that can affect accuracy and finish, especially on finer pieces that need precision sanding. The less vibration the tool has, the better finish you will end up with. There will also be less room for damage or scratches.
Trigger Lock – This feature allows users to keep the sander locked in the on position without having to keep the trigger pushed in. This frees up your hands for guiding and controlling the sander through the sanding process.
Portability – Being able to take your orbital sander with you to the jobsite or anywhere you want to do sanding work is much easier if you have a good carrying case. Most sanders will have a case of some kind included with the sander. If not, there are cases you can purchase that will accommodate the sander as well as its cord. Having this carrying case will come in handy if you travel, if you work at different homes as a professional carpenter or cabinet maker, or if you are in construction and work on the job site every day. Whatever your situation is, having a portable orbital sander will make your life much easier and also prevent damage to the sander when it is not in use.
Pad Brakes – The benefit to a unit having pad brakes is that it prevents gouging which occurs when the material becomes heavily notched by touching the sander to the surface and lifting it back up again.
Tracking Adjustment – Some orbital sanders feature knobs or screws that help the user to easily and quickly make fast tracking adjustments. These are good features to have and make using the sander even more convenient.
Just like with any power tool, there is a right way and a wrong way to use an orbital sander. Care must be taken to prevent accidents and injuries from occuring. Children should not use these sanders without adult supervision. Below are some safety tips that will help users stay safe during use.
- Hold the sander firmly
- Don’t lay it down on the workbench while it is running
- Orbital sanders are not waterproof so be sure that you don’t use it around wet areas or on wet pieces of work.
- Don’t operate the sander with wet hands
- Ventilate your work area to prevent saw dust from being inhaled
- Wear protective eye gear to prevent sawdust and wood pieces from getting into your eyes
- For corded models, be certain that the sander doesn’t run over the cord during use. Keep the cord safely out of the way during use.
Warranties and Guarantees
When you shop for the right orbital sander for your needs, make sure to buy a model that offers a money back guarantee. Most brands do offer this and you will likely recieve anywhere from a 30 day to a 60 day guarantee. This is very beneficial as it allows the user to try out the orbital sander to be sure they like it.
A warranty covers the user in the event of damage to the sander or if it stops functioning. Be certain to read your warranty carefully to ensure that you do what is needed to keep it active. You might want to get it serviced regularly although smaller tools don’t always require this. Working on the sander yourself could void the warranty so be sure to read all that fine print.
Now that you have the information needed to understand one sander from another you are ready to begin your search for the right orbital sander for your needs. Be sure you understand your needs BEFORE you search so that you can get a sander that will fulfill those needs. Getting one that isn’t powerful enough can be frustrating and a waste of money. Instead, take the time to write down your needs and be sure to find an orbital sander that will give you a little more of what you need rather than less.
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