Also known as an orbital sander, a sheet sander is designed to work with a part of standard sandpaper sheets. According to several sheet sander reviews, the ability to work with standard sandpaper is a key benefit, as sandpaper sheets are readily available at any hardware shop. This makes a sheet sander useful as well as inexpensive even today, for sanding or smoothing wood, metal, and other materials. This guide will help you find the best sheet sander for you. We have also featured short, sheet sander reviews towards the end.
Bundles of full-sheet sandpaper usually cost less than particular sanding disks or belts for a random orbit sander and a belt sander, respectively. Moreover, a quality sheet sander costs 50% less than a good random orbital sander.
An orbital sander is usually a perfect choice for light to moderate duty projects of sanding. These projects may be final smoothing of wood, smoothing of curved surface that larger sanding tools cannot do, and sanding between layers of finish. With some extra care, orbital sanders are capable of sanding joints at which two wood pieces convene at a right angle.
With suitable sandpaper cut into sizes fitting into the sanding pad of the tool, you can smooth out imperfections in plastic, metal, drywall joint compound, and in car body. One of the biggest benefits of orbital sanders is that they can fit into tight areas or corners that a random orbital sander cannot perform or makes it difficult to do. Moreover, it is easier to control such a tool while sanding edges, or sanding with a light touch.
- 1 Working of Sheet Sanders
- 2 Sheet Sanders versus Random Orbital Sanders
- 3 Choosing the Best Sheet Sander
- 4 What to Look for ?
- 4.1 Factor 1: Types/Styles
- 4.2 Factor 2: Brands
- 4.3 Factor 3: Motor
- 4.4 Factor 4: Power Source
- 4.5 Factor 5: Speed and its Control
- 4.6 Factor 6: Sanding Plate
- 4.7 Factor 7: Sanding Disks
- 4.8 Factor 8: Size
- 4.9 Factor 9: Ease of Paper Change
- 4.10 Factor 10: Grip or Ergonomics
- 4.11 Factor 11: Dust Collection and Vacuum Option
- 4.12 Factor 12: Portability
- 4.13 Factor 13: Safety
- 5 5 Best Sheet Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
- 6 Conclusion
Working of Sheet Sanders
For 50 years, a sheet sander has shown efficiency and excellence in modern construction jobs. It features a sanding surface in the orbital motion for delivering a fine finish, typically on large surfaces. However, the removal rate is lower than that of a belt sander.
A sheet sander features a sandpaper piece either in a rectangle or square shape. The sandpaper sheet is cut into quarters or halves, and is clamped securely onto the tool’s flat base. If you do not wish to cut the sandpaper, there are also pre-cut sandpaper pieces available.
Once you turn the tool, the pad operates in a small circular pattern. While sanding, you tend to push the tool along the surface and lead it with the wood grain to alleviate scratching. In case you try to go against the grain, a number of small spirals become inevitable after which you have no option but to re-sand the surface.
A sheet sander is also known as a quarter sheet sander, palm sander, or a pad sander, as it utilizes quarter sandpaper sheets held by spring-loaded clamps against the rectangle or square, flat pad. This sandpaper usually measures 9 by 11. For producing a sanding action in any direction, the pad vibrates in orbits or small circles.
Such a tool is relatively quieter than other types of sanders. It is also easy to control and light in weight. According to several orbital sander reviews, it is almost impossible to ruin the work piece with a sheet sander. However, due to its relative meek operation, a sheet sander is not handy for removing heavy stock. It is rather designed for ultra-smooth sanding on wood, sanding off tough wood putty, rounding sharp edges, and removing dried coats of varnish or paint.
Sheet Sanders versus Random Orbital Sanders
A random orbital sander has become a strong newer candidate in the recent years. As compared to a sheet sander, it sands faster, generates fewer swirl marks, and results in less numbness in hand. A random orbital sander also known as a dual action sander features a random orbit for sanding with almost a swirl free finish.
A dual action movement accomplishes such an orbit wherein the sanding disk rotates at a high speed and the circular sanding pad moves together in an elliptical orbit to prevent any spot on the disc to pass through the same path again. On the other hand, a sheet sander has no such dual orbit motion but rather a circular orbit motion. It is also smaller as well as lighter than a random orbital sander.
In terms of sanding aggressiveness, a sheet sander removes material less aggressively and is easier to control. Although it occasionally leaves behind a few swirl marks due to its circular orbit and not random, they are not that noticeable if you do not keep the tool for a prolonged time in any one spot and a suitable proper grit sequence is employed.
The chance of damaging the surface is higher with a random orbit sander due to its aggressiveness. Therefore, a random orbital sander is not suggested for sanding between coats. For such a sanding task, a sheet sander is recommended. Moreover, a sheet sander reaches up to those tough or narrow areas where a ransom orbital sander cannot reach.
In terms of cost, a sheet sander is less expensive. It is also more affordable to operate due to usage of standard sandpaper sheets. Despite this, you get the best result with either tool, by using a sequence of progressively finer grits. For instance, you may begin sanding with the help of 100 grit paper and then replace it by 150 grit as well as by 200 grit for finishing.
In terms of vibration, a sheet sander vibrates relatively more due to which its prolonged use may lead to hand numbness and fatigue. Therefore, frequent breaks and use of a gel-filled anti-vibration glove are suggested. However, these solutions are also recommended for a random orbital sander whose extended use coupled with vibration can cause the aforementioned symptoms.
In terms of dust production, a sheet sander wins. A random orbital sander features round sanding disks with holes as well as a pad due to which it hooks up to a dust collection system. This facilitates not only performance efficiency but also production of less sanding dust. However, relatively, a sheet sander usually generates less dust. Nevertheless, it is still wise to buy any tool with dust collection capabilities.
Choosing the Best Sheet Sander
A variety of orbital sanders is available in the market, each of which varies in terms of the desired sandpaper size. While large sanders demand half sheet of standard sandpaper, small versions require sixth or quarter size of sandpaper. Similarly, sheet sanders come with a myriad of features such as different grips, electronic speed controls, dust elimination, anti-vibration mechanism, and decreased motor noise.
So many things to choose from can confuse the first time buyer or a consumer with not specific things in mind. However, such confusion can go away if you know your requirements or needs and map them exactly to the buying factors discussed below.
Before that, you need to know your needs by replying to the following questions:
- Are you a beginner for a sanding task?
- Are you using a sheet sander for the first time?
- Will you be using the sander for household, hobbyist, or professional tasks?
- On which kind of materials you will be using the tool frequently?
- Do you need to carry the tool frequently to different places?
What to Look for ?
Factor 1: Types/Styles
The palm sander is the most common style of sheet sander in demand. However, you might come across a few larger, two-handed models for heavy-duty sanding tasks.
Factor 2: Brands
At times, most of us tend to ignore the importance of choosing a branded sander. However, although a bit costly, it is worthy to spend on a branded sander, as it proves to be highly affordable in the long run. This is due to the fact that branded products come with good warranty, high quality design, and ability to perform efficiently. More importantly, the famous brands have their own channel of service shops for quick repair or replacement of a part.
Therefore, before you go ahead and apply the buying factors, it is essential for you to know about the top brands offering best sheet sanders. Broadly, the leading brands for all power tools are also the reliable brands for sheet sanders.
For orbital sanders, the brands with which you cannot go wrong are DeWalt, Bosch, Festool, Dynabrade, Porter-Cable, Makita, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Rockwell, and Metabo. This order of listing does not carry any ranking but their sanders do!
Festool sanders are designed specifically for intermediate sanding as well as rapid removal of stock elimination. They are convenient to handle in hand, do not vibrate much, and are usually lightweight for facilitating sanding for longer durations. Dynabrade sanders are famous for their ergonomically designed handgrip, lightweight design, less noise level than the traditional ones.
Porter-Cable orbital sanders come with lots of sanding power, low-vibration design, and dual plane features. Bosch orbital sanders ensure finest sanding quality on even, big wood and metal surfaces with high removal rate and minimum vibration.
Your choice simple depends upon the features you want within the set budget.
Factor 3: Motor
The motor is the most critical component of any orbital sander but it is the only aspect that you cannot inspect at the time of purchasing. However, what you can ensure is that you buy a motor with highest possible power. Usually, the makers mention only the input power that indicates the demand from a power outlet under ordinary operating conditions. Well, this is something that is insignificant for you to know, as you need to be familiar with the output power.
The output power is what the unit offers to its sanding plate. On an average, this power is around 3 amps. Nowadays, some makers have started mentioning the output power, so do check that out or ask for it.
Most of us also think that bigger motor is generally better when it comes to buying a power tool. However, this is not universally true for all tools. Do you think that a big motor is essential in a palm sander requiring only light pressure for sanding? So, you need to choose the motor accordingly, as smooth operation is indispensable.
Factor 4: Power Source
According to power source, orbital sanders are split into three categories namely, cordless, corded, and air powered tools. Corded ones are most common as well as the cheapest types of sheet sanders. They are also more powerful than cordless models that are famous for portability and encompassment of same capabilities as the corded unit.
Consider a cordless one in case of absence of hose or power outlet although you will end up paying more than the corded equivalent. In case you select a corded model, ensure that its power cord has enough length to reach up to the outlet without you having to buy an extension cord. A few tools seriously come with short cords.
An air powered model is a heavy-duty unit powered from an air compressor. These units are commonly used in factories and shops where compressed air is easily accessible.
Factor 5: Speed and its Control
The gearbox or transmission decides the speed at which a sheet sander can run. For most sheet sander models, this speed ranges between 1600 Oscillations Per Minute (OPM) and 26,000 OPM. You do not need that much of upper range. For strong models, 11,000 OPM is just enough. It is important to have maximum operating speed but even more important is to have the different speed levels to choose.
In short, you should choose a model with variable speed setting for proper, timely control and safety. More number of speed levels simply indicates more adaptability, as not all materials need the same speed for getting the desired sanding results. After all, it is the control over the speed and sanding process, which determines how smooth the outcome will be.
With variable speed setting, you can accelerate or decelerate the speed whenever you want as per the material you are working on. A slower speed is necessary for silky finish as well as on veneered materials so that there is less of sand-through.
Sheet sanders with variable speeds are a bit more expansive than those without it. However, you pay for versatility and they are perhaps the best sheet sanders, as per many sheet sander reviews. Cheaper models come with only one speed and they are specifically designed for giving a smooth finish prior to painting. This is why they are called finishing sanders as well.
Factor 6: Sanding Plate
Usually, an orbital sander has only one sanding plate. This plate is typically a rubber pad having six to eight or even more holes that act as dust extraction points at the time of sanding. While buying a sanding plate, the number of holes is insignificant.
In most models, there is no mechanism to change the plate. However, the upscale or best orbit sanders come with easy pad changing mechanism wherein you utilize the pad that is designed for each kind of material to offer the desired outcome. This feature is essential for versatile materials and efficient performance but makes the tool costlier than regular orbital sanders.
Factor 7: Sanding Disks
For orbital sanders, two types of sanding disks are available namely, adhesive and hook-and-loop. The hook-and-loop ones are made for orbital sanders that come with a hook-and-loop sanding plate. Nowadays, most orbital sanders come with such a plate that is replaceable as well. This is because hook-and-loop plates tend to wear with time.
On the other hand, adhesive disks need no special plate due to which you can use them on any orbital sander. There is no difference in terms of sandpaper or grit quality on either disk. The only major difference is that you can use the hook-and-loop discs more than once due to corresponding system being reusable, while you can use adhesive disks only once.
For buying the either type, you need to remember the number of holes in the plate. Avoid purchasing those cheap adhesive disks that do not have holes, as they get blocked quite quickly and that the dust extraction system does not run in absence of holes.
Factor 8: Size
Orbital sanders are usually available in two sizes namely, 5 inch or 120 mm and 6 inch or 150 mm. This size is decided by the size of the sanding plate. The 5-inch ones are more common and are good for all sanding types. They are vital for final finishing, as bigger models do not offer the required smooth finish.
The 6-inch tools are typically heavy-duty units used commonly for removing rust on big surfaces. They are not preferred for small projects demanding smooth finish. You can remove the rust and paint from your car more quickly than with 5-inch model.
Those 5-inch models deliver much better finish than the 6- inch ones, as the plate on the latter features a much bigger orbit to leave behind bigger swirl marks. The 5-inch models generally feature 1/8 inch orbit, while the 6-inch ones have 3/16 inch orbit.
Factor 9: Ease of Paper Change
Most orbital sanders come with clamps for holding a quarter-sheet of standard sandpaper. This is an efficient and affordable feature that allows you to utilize any kind of paper such as aluminium oxide and garnet instead of special pre-cut sheets. Most models come with wire levers facilitating for tool-less paper changes although a few mechanisms are quite simpler and easier to use.
It is a convenient and efficient feature to change the sandpaper easily and quickly. The hook and loop method makes this possible.
Factor 10: Grip or Ergonomics
Most sheet sanders come with a twin-grip style due to which you can hold the unit from around the waist/barrel or from its top. Such a style allows changing the grip, either for preventing hand fatigue due to grasp for a prolonged time or for suiting the sanding situation. Many models come with rubber over molds, which ensure more comfortable gripping as well as less vibration.
It is best to try how a sander fit in your hand so that you get an exact idea of grip and comfort level. You should feel the wrap, turn the unit on and off, and see how bulky or light the unit is. However, this option is not applicable if you buy online. In that case, you should rely on some genuine sheet sander reviews by customers.
If you are looking for additional comfort, consider buying a model with a soft grip design. Such a design ensures more comfortable hold as well as use, and consequently, longer use without hand cramps or fatigue.
Factor 11: Dust Collection and Vacuum Option
It is a fact that a few orbital sanders lack the ability to gather dust due to which the left behind sawdust may results in wood scratches while sanding. Therefore, it is essential to buy an orbital sander with dust collection capability and a plastic plate with punch pins for making holes in the sandpaper sheet for collecting the dust.
These days, it is actually easy to find an orbital sander with a dust extractor. In most models, the holes on the sanding plate extract the dust to an attached canister or a bag, which works efficiently for less dust produced during smaller jobs. For bigger tasks, your sander should be connected to the vacuum hose. For regularly emptying the canister or bag, you need a dust extraction system.
Although small, even the best sheet sanders generate fine dust. Thus, a built-in dust collection is indispensable. In this mechanism, a fan via holes pulls the dust, which you punch with a punch plate and subsequently blows the dust into a bag or canister through a pleated filter. For more efficiency, many tools come with ports, which connect the tool to a vacuum hose.
Although the onboard dust collection is good, it is more effective to connect the tool to a good shop vacuum for maintaining cleanliness. For that, ensure a proper connection on the tool that is compatible with standard sizes of vacuum namely, 1.25, 1.5, and 2.5 inches.
Factor 12: Portability
This factor is essential for you to consider if you wish to carry your sander to another shop, job area, or other place. For portability, consider choosing a model with a good carrying case. A variety of orbital sanders come with some kind of carrying case. If not, you can easily buy one to put in both the cord and the tool.
A carrying case is truly handy when you travel whether as a cabinet maker or a professional carpenter to different places every day. Regardless of your role, it is likely to make your life much simpler as well as avert damage to the tool when not in use.
Factor 13: Safety
While choosing a sheet sander, it is wise to have the following safety features:
- Sealed Switch: This one adds life to your tool regardless of the amount of saw dust that sanding can generate. It prevents the dust from entering into the switch and subsequently affecting the on/off action.
- Anti-vibration Balancing: It is wise to choose a balanced, and not wobbly, sander that will make it easier for you to sand with comfort, regardless of the material. At the same time, the tool should not vibrate excessively, as that can lead to much fatigue when utilized for a prolonged length of time.Excessive vibration can also negatively affect finish as well as accuracy on finer work pieces. The lesser the vibration, the better is the finish as well as less risk for scratches or any other damage.
- Trigger Lock: This utility keeps the tool secured while in the ‘on’ state without keeping the trigger pushed. This means your hands are free to control the tool while sanding.
- Pad Brakes: This feature ensures that there is no gouging at all.
- Tracking Adjustment: A few models come with screws or knobs to make tracking adjustments fast for making life with sander easier.
5 Best Sheet Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
This corded sander from Japan is perfectly designed for boat developers, cabinet workers, and furniture makers. It features a variable speed motor running at anywhere between 4,000-10,000 OPM (no load speed) with big trigger switch for simpler operation and minimized vibration for additional comfort. There is also an integrated through-the-pad system along with a vacuum hose and disposable dust bag for more effective dust collection for cleanliness. The sander uses widely available hook-and-loop or half sheet abrasive paper. The ergonomically contoured grips contribute to several hand placements as well as minimize fatigue. The tool also comes with a big cam-lock clamping lever to ensure quick paper changes.
With 20% faster removal of stock, this sander is ideal for heavy-duty sanding tasks such as removing paint from metal or wood, or smoothing a surface for a final finish layer. The tool is efficient enough even for small or big home restoration or refurbishment tasks and it requires little space in your working area. The0 amp motor spins at a speed of 16,000 OPM for faster removal than the rest of quarter sheet sanders. You can sand flush on any or all three sides, for gaining accurate outcome at the time of sanding vertically. The compact design contributes to both optimal control and comfortable handling, while the Filtered Dust Collection ensures faster completion of sanding tasks than before. The soft grip body ensures comfort while sanding for a longer time.
This American model is perfectly designed for finishing tasks with just one hand, with its 14,000 OPM and 2.4 amp motor, 1/16-inch orbit pattern, and light weight design. Its body features an ergonomic grip and a bag to collect dust and keep your working area clean. At the same time, sealed ball bearings and a sealed switch keep the tool operating for a longer time. Because it works with regular sandpaper, you can rely on it for selecting an ideal grit for any task. You can achieve the desired control during the extended period of work, through its body grip and textured anti-slip top. There is also a dual-plane anti-vibration fan for enhancing handling as well as alleviating fatigue. The versatile body also comes with a sealed switch, dust bag, as well as a sealed ball-bearing construction to prevent dust from entering into the parts and consequently extend tool’s life. The bag comes with a built-in vacuum adapter for using the tool even with a shop vacuum.
Packed in a frustration-free box, this sander comes with a 2.0 amp motor running at 13,500 OPM for delivering you a superior finish as well as precise sanding into corners. While the dual plane, low-vibration design minimizes fatigue, a dust-sealed switch keeps dust accumulation inside at bay to ensure longer life of switch. The tool also comes with sealed ball-bearing construction suitable for sanding into corners, less aggressive removal than random orbital sanders, and fine finishing before coatings.
With 4-amp motor, this one seems to be one of the most powerful sheet sanders ensuring smooth finish as well as smooth handling. The tool comes with an elite suspension system along with the rough die-cast aluminum housing for gear, to offer utmost comfort via the proprietary Vibration Control design. You now need not make efforts to remove the canister, as the screw off cap is easy to remove for quick dust removal at a high rate. There is also a built-in vacuum hose connection that comes with an elite airflow control. The tool also features a variable-speed dial for best performance, translucent micro filter canister and paper filter for easiest emptying, and paper clamping system ideal for perfect paper fit (also stick-on one).
So, have you found your best sheet sander? Well, if not, you can go through some more sheet sander reviews on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models as per your needs for choosing the most suitable one.