Since the past few years, wood working power tool producers have come up with many inventive products that have pushed the limits up to which a woodworker can go to give the most amazing outcome. This holds true especially for sanders. Previously, a user was supposed to hold a sandpaper piece and rub the wood physically for making it smooth. This guide will help you find the best random orbital sander for you. We have also featured short, random orbital sander reviews towards the end.
A random orbital sander has become a critical tool for several woodworkers. In fact, due to the significant advances in these sanders since a few years, professionals and hobbyists both consider having a random orbital sander as the first sander in their toolbox.
This is due to the fact that it utilizes a round sandpaper disc to sand in rotary as well as orbital motion. By blending these two motions simultaneously for sanding, the tool alleviates swirl marks, which otherwise tend to spoil a fine finish.
With this tool, you can rapidly sand wood with a whirl-free finish by spinning the disks as well as moving them simultaneously in small ellipses. This gives you the power of a belt sander with a mildness that prevents damage of delicate pieces. Such a sander can sand quite smoothly as well as quickly, with the additional bonus of random action, leaving only a few sanding marks, unlike a sheet sander, palm sander, or a belt sander.
The tool is capable of sanding the socks off your former vibrating sander while removing furniture paint, cleaning up in between finish layers, and preparing novel molding. It is also possible to smooth as well as clean a metal or a composite material such as a solid countertop.
- 1 Working of a Random Orbital Sander
- 2 Random Orbital Sander versus Orbital Sander
- 3 Random Orbital Sander versus Sheet Sander
- 4 Random Orbital Sander versus Belt Sander
- 5 Choosing the Best Random Orbital Sander
- 6 What to Look for ?
- 6.1 Factor 1: Types
- 6.2 Factor 2: Brands
- 6.3 Factor 3: Motor
- 6.4 Factor 4: Size
- 6.5 Factor 5: Dust Collector
- 6.6 Factor 6: Sanding Disk, Sandpaper, and Sanding Plate
- 6.7 Factor 7: Vacuum
- 6.8 Factor 8: Prompt Paper Change
- 6.9 Factor 9: Variable Speed
- 6.10 Factor 10: Sander Grip
- 6.11 Factor 11: Sealed Switch
- 6.12 Factor 12: Balance
- 6.13 Factor 13: Power Cord
- 6.14 Factor 14: Portability
- 6.15 Factor 15: Other Features
- 7 5 Best Random Orbital Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
- 8 Conclusion
Working of a Random Orbital Sander
The ability to sand in a fully random orbit at the maximum speed of up to 25,000 Revolutions Per Minute (RPMs) is the unique feature of these sanders. Such a motion enables the tool to leave a clean smooth finish. The motion is also responsible for making such a sander versatile.
The sandpaper disc turns in a circle, while the complete pad loops in an oval motion. This mechanism ensures that not a single abrasive particle goes twice along the same path. As a result, you obtain a swirl-free finish despite sanding across the grain.
Although the random orbits perform more rapidly than vibrating sanders, they are incapable of removing much material aggressively. In case you want the latter, consider having a disc sander for a curved surface and belt sander for a flat one.
Random Orbital Sander versus Orbital Sander
Yes! These both tools are different although they are interchangeably or confusingly used in the woodworking world. Unlike an orbital sander that has a square pad, a random orbital sander has a circular pad. As a result, a random orbit sander is more suitable for delicate work, although they are also relatively harder to control.
Random Orbital Sander versus Sheet Sander
Random orbit and sheet sanders both are types of orbital sanders. Each of them has unique pros that make it more efficient for a certain tasks than the other. An orbital sheet sander is easy to use and helps in finishing a construction project. It comes with several features such as various grip styles, low vibration, low noise level, electronic speed controls, and dust elimination.
You can even find different sizes of these sanders. Large ones utilize almost half a sheet of sandpaper, while small ones employ 1/4 or 1/6 size sandpaper sheet. While using this tool, you do not go across the wood’s grain, but go with it so that there are no sanding spots to damage the work piece.
On the other hand, a random orbital sander sands the pieces randomly and offers a smoother finish without any sanding spots. It features an offset drive bearing for making the pad perform circularly as well as elliptically around a wood surface.
A plus point of this sander is that you are not confined to only grain sanding as in the case of a sheet sander. You are free to sand all over the surface in any direction and yet achieve a striking outcome. Keeping these facts in mind, you should accordingly make the right choice from the two types of sanders.
Random Orbital Sander versus Belt Sander
Both these tools are useful for rapid sanding. However, a belt sander is bigger and faster than any orbital version. It also can be used to sand any larger or flatter wooden surface such as a worktop or floor. However, a belt sander leaves behind directional markings and that it is not feasible on more intricate pieces such as chair, and smaller wooden items.
Choosing the Best Random Orbital Sander
Having a random orbital sander of good quality in your workshop will make finishing task for almost any furniture project much easier, whether it is making a new one or refinishing an existing one. Such a sander is super easy as well as quick to use even if you are a starter. However, it might not be that easy to choose the best model because there are several varieties of such sanders to choose from.
A few varieties are better for a few tasks, while others are designed for efficiently performing the remaining jobs. What does this statement indicate? Well, it tells that the buyer needs to know which variety or style is suited for which task and accordingly choose a model as per the desired features, specifications, and set budget. In simple terms, you need to consider a few factors and map them to your needs, for judging which model is the best orbital sander for your kind of work.
Thus, the essential step before mapping the buying factors is to identify your needs or requirements. For this purpose, you need to answer the following questions:
- Are you using a sander for the first time?
- Will you be using the tool for professional or hobby purpose?
- What types of materials or surfaces you will be working with, frequently?
- Do you need a portable or corded model?
- Which options or features are necessary for you to have?
Replying these queries aids you in narrowing down your choices to reach up easily to the right random orbital sander. This is because you know for what you will use the tool. Well, let’s now explore the buying factors.
What to Look for ?
Factor 1: Types
In terms of style, there are different types of random orbital sanders. Although all of them perform superbly, each one is a bit different. You need to recognize the differences prior to choosing the best random orbital sander. Each of these sanders is capable of rendering great performance for most tasks. You just need to ensure that the chosen one best suits your needs. Here are the three types of random orbital sanders.
- Palm Grip: Focusing on the name, this kind of sander is quite compact to fit into your palm for an easy and comfortable hold. Also known as the palm sander, this orbital sander is ideal for finishing fine surfaces such as window frames. The tool is even better for sanding small or narrow areas where other types of sanders cannot reach or fit. It ensures more than desired control over the sanding area despite being small.
- Right Angle: This kind of random orbital sander is ideal for those who are looking for much power. It features gears that link the sanding pad to the motor. Although the overall speed is usually a bit slower, such a sander is capable of being pressed harder against the surface, without any risk of damage. As a result, a right angle random orbital sander is ideal for discarding tough substances, such as paint or glue from a piece.
- Large Inline: This kind of sander is ideal for big sanding projects demanding upscale features that this tool offers, without fail. Such a tool comes with the most powerful motor running at a variable speed. You need to use both your hands to run this sander but you obtain much control over the sander’s speed.
Factor 2: Brands
Well, it is rational to consider a brand always when you have to buy a sander. Doing so always assures quality, efficient performance, and good warranty and after-sale service. For buying the best random orbital sander, the top brands that you should consider are Festool, Bosch, Black & Decker, DeWalt, Clarke, Dynabrade, Makita, Milwaukee, Porter Cable, Hitachi, and Ridgid.
Control is dictated by the way in which the tool operates. Having a jumpy or wobbly model is the last thing anyone would want. If you see these unwanted moves, the cause lies in the orbit diameter, the level of aggressiveness, motor, and gearing. Eliminating the risk of these moves is the smoothest collection of Festool.
The random orbital sanders of this brand seem to have a smaller orbit diameter and are least aggressive. One of its latest models finishes a surface beyond 180- or 220-grit sanding. Most of its random orbital sanders are perfect for intermediate sanding and rapid stock removal. They are convenient and lighter for incessant sanding jobs.
On the other hand, Ridgid models seem to have a larger orbit diameter and perform more aggressively although without wobbling. Coming to the Bosch models, they are innovative but are perhaps tougher to control. The latter aspect is also applicable to the Craftsman sanders, which is expected due to large diameter of the orbit. The Bosch models might be a bit wobbly but are pretty balanced.
Dynabrade models are famous for their ergonomically designed handgrip and lightweight design. They are quiet in operation and ensure proper control. Porter-Cable models are known for their copious sanding power, low-vibration mechanism, and dual plane capabilities.
Factor 3: Motor
This is a vital factor to consider, as it converts electricity into motion. Most random orbit sanders have AC motors also known as series or universal motors. By taking an input power between 200 and 750 Watts from the power outlet, these tools usually produce less power measured in Watts.
The power output is considerably less at the sandpaper than the input power, because of the internal components’ efficiency. Usually, high quality models are efficient enough to consume less input power for generating the same power output. Thus, always look for output power value, although the models come labeled with input power values.
You also need to consider the motor size, as it finally decides the amount of power in the tool. The more the size, the more powerful is the motor to apply more speed. Such a motor also tends to last longer. Another aspect to consider is Orbits Per Minute or OPM, which indicates how rapidly the tool can vibrate. When the tool vibrates more rapidly, the sanding operation is quicker and more amount of wood is discarded.
On an average, you will find most models having a motor of 3-5 amps and 7,000 – 12,000 OPM. All these models are promising for most projects. Many of these models are corded but you can choose a cordless version for ensuring portability at the cost of less power than the former ones. For heavy use, a pneumatic version is ideal although it shall be relatively costlier. These versions are driven by compressed air and are suitable for industrial or factory tasks.
Factor 4: Size
Although the random orbital sanders are available in different sizes, most woodworkers choose the 5-and 6-inch ones. This measurement indicates the disk diameter, which is located at the tool’s bottom.
A few models will allow swapping the pad size to utilize a range of disk sizes. You can do so with the help of an Allen key (a hexagonal cross-section tool for driving screws and bolts with a hexagonal socket at the head) located at the base’s bottom. A majority of random orbital sanders come with a hook and loop paper changing system, which means now there is no need of messy adhesive sprays.
Factor 5: Dust Collector
A random orbital sander produces a huge amount of dust. Therefore, almost all modern versions come with built-in dust collecting mechanism that takes the dust into the small holes of the sandpaper. If a vacuum device is present, the tool collects all the debris into the attached container
If the useful vacuum is already there, you need sandpaper with special diameter and style suiting to the feature. Each random orbital sander needs its own sandpaper. For removing the debris while sanding, the sandpaper aligns nicely with holes in the base pad of the sander.
Factor 6: Sanding Disk, Sandpaper, and Sanding Plate
You can judge the suitability of a sanding disk for the tool by evaluating it on the basis of two criteria namely, its diameter and number of holes within. Proper matching of holes from sandpaper to tool allows efficient operation of the dust extraction feature.
After matching them up, you need to choose the grade as per the undertaken application. The grade is indicated by the quantity of sand granules per square inch of sandpaper. A lower grade indicates coarse, while a higher grade signifies finer sand granules. For example, for metal and wood, you can choose a fine, medium, or coarse grade sandpaper; while for glass and ceramics, you can even choose a polish-sanding grade.
Coarser ones are ideal for removing a lot of material, while finer ones are for applying the final sanding process prior to applying the final finish. It is recommended to start with a coarser grit of sandpaper and then follow up to a finer one, so that you move from rough sanding to finer finished sanding, in the beginning. You can choose the right grade as per the sander model and surface you will be working on.
You can consider purchasing sanding disks of different grit sizes, or in a combination of sizes. A majority of packs will have circular disks that you can effortlessly attach to your tool. A sanding disk is fitted to a sanding plate that oscillates for sanding. Usually, the disk is a 5-inch diameter area of sandpaper and attaches to a foam rubber pad. It has a round pattern of six to eight holes affixing to the dust accumulation holes of the pad. You can buy such disks with different grit levels, including low to fine grades (60 to 220).
You can fit the disk to the plate in one of the two ways namely, hook-and-look system (Velcro) and peel-and-stick Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA). Of the two, the most common one is the Velcro one on portable sanders and you can easily get cost-efficient disks for the same. However, it is subject to wear and consequently replacement.
You can choose either a softer or harder plate. A softer one is for sensitive and polishing sanding of even a curved surface, while a harder one is for a flat surface demanding more sanding capacity. Nowadays, almost all random orbital sanders have a universal plate that can sand all normal applications.
Factor 7: Vacuum
It is true that most random orbital sanders have an attached canister or a dust bag to ensure cleanliness while sanding. An onboard dust collection in this way is good, but the most effective method of keeping dust away is connecting the tool to a shop vacuum of good quality. Therefore, check out for a compatible connection area on the tool you choose, which can go with the standard vacuum sizes, such as 1.25″, 1.5″, and 2.5″.
Factor 8: Prompt Paper Change
It is useful to look for how easy and fast a random orbital sander can change the sandpaper. While at work, the sander always outlives the sandpaper. As per the paper’s grit, it can wear out quite rapidly. Thus, it makes sense to choose a model that facilitates a simple and quick change. The hook and loop mechanism is the most common method of affixing sandpaper, as it is extremely easy and fast by peeling off one and applying the next.
You can use this mechanism in case you can work a zipper. If the sandpaper has not worn out, the hook-and-loop mechanism allows reusing the sheet. Most sanders come feature such a mechanism of eight holes.
An assortment of paper types /sanding frits is available for a variety of sanding jobs. While a few shall loop over the belt, the rest shall stick to the sander’s bottom through their adhesive rear. Regardless of what you prefer, just ensure that you are able to change the paper fast for keeping disruptions away.
Factor 9: Variable Speed
The transmission or gearbox determines the speed of the tool, which ranges from 1,600 to 26,000 OPMs. The bigger this range is; the greater are the capabilities of the tool. Therefore, it is best to choose a model with variable speed settings.
Control over the tool and its sanding procedure largely determines how smooth the finish will be. The key to a smooth finish is control whose critical aspect is variable speed. This setting allows increasing or decreasing speed according to the type of material you are working on.
Slower speed range is ideal for materials like veneer for alleviating the probability of sand-through as well as for a smooth and soft finish. However, random orbital sanders having variable speeds are a bit costlier than those without it, although that additional cost is worth the control you achieve. After all, the freedom to control and adjust the speed allows using the tool exactly as you desire.
Factor 10: Sander Grip
It is rational to choose a sander that will feel comfortable and non-slippery in your hand. Your fingers can easily wrap around the tool and switch it on or off. At the same time, the tool should not be so heavy to hold. A few models come with a soft grip design for giving you extra comfort. You need to ensure that the tool is more comfortable to use and hold so that you can use it longer without experiencing cramps or getting tired.
It is actually a bit tough to gauge how a tool will feel in hand. Nevertheless, there are several variables to check out, such as hand strength and size. Along with the right size, check out for a soft over mold on the grip, which helps in alleviating both fatigue and vibration during extended work time.
Random orbit sanders have either a single or dual handles. It is advisable to get a model with dual handles, as it delivers relatively more control while at work. You can easily remove the second handle in case you need to work close to a wall. The smaller palm grip sanders come with one handle, but the bigger ones can have either one or two handles. You can still run them with one hand.
Factor 11: Sealed Switch
Sanding produces a lot of dust that can reduce the lifespan of the tool. However, this is exactly reversed if you choose a model with a sealed switch. This type of sander also prevents the problems caused while turning the tool on or off due to accumulation of dust into the switch area.
Factor 12: Balance
A nicely balanced sander is essential for using the tool comfortably. At the same time, you should look for a model that does not vibrate tremendously; as such vibrations can lead to fatigue, especially during prolonged work. Vibration also affects finish and accuracy, particularly on finer pieces. As a rule of thumb, lesser the vibration, the better will be the finish and lesser will be the damage or scratches.
Factor 13: Power Cord
If you wish to buy a corded model, ensure that the cord is not too short to make you purchase an extension cord. Therefore, choose the one that has a long cord.
Factor 14: Portability
Choose a lightweight model with good carrying case if you wish to take the random orbital sander to another shop or anywhere else. Most sanders come with a good carrying case. If not, you can easily buy one such case that can even accommodate its cord.
Factor 15: Other Features
Do consider having a trigger lock to keep the tool locked when it is in ‘on’ state, without keeping the trigger pushed. As a result, your hands are now free for controlling the sander. Another useful feature to look for is pad brakes that keeps gouging away when the material is heavily notched upon. Additionally, look for a model that allows quick and easy tracking adjustments through knobs or screws.
5 Best Random Orbital Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
This lightweight model delivers clean and smooth finishes through its proprietary Controlled Finishing System regulating speed and alleviating gouging, anti-slip top, and a 3-amp motor running 12,000 OPM on different work pieces. A dust bag with vacuum adapter inside and sealed switch keeps dust away with or without a shop vacuum remover. The motion and 3/32-inch orbit keep unsightly swirls at bay while removing significant amount of material. The model also features an anti-vibration design as well as, great grip for superb control. It accommodates 5-inch, 8-hole abrasive paper with hook and loop mechanism, which facilitates disks to go back and forth easily. The unit also has a dual-plane fan that enhances the sanding process such that you work with least fatigue.
Zeeway: “The sander is not too heavy, and the vibration is well balanced, so my hand did not fall off after three hours of sanding. Yes, the sandpaper discs are somewhat expensive, but when you factor in how well and fast this thing works, it may be a wash.”
This one features a high, efficient removal rate as well as high quality finish. It is compact enough to bring you near to the working surface, which ensures top maneuverability around projects. The unit comes with a hook and loop system for quick paper changes, a dust sealed switch and hybrid canister for extending lifespan by keeping away all dust, and an ergonomic design for fatigue-free work. This versatile unit can work on different types of surfaces, including the curved surfaces. Consider this tool if you are a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kind of homeowner and are fine with 6 ft 5 in. long cord.
Jason D.: “Super easy to use, easy to hold, and works like a charm. I’m really surprised / happy to get something this useful for the inexpensive price this sander goes for.”
This one is compact and lightweight model ideal for a variety of professional and self sanding projects with its skid of features and versatile, flawless outcome on any material with maximum speed. It comes with proprietary Controlled Finishing System, 1.9-amp motor at 12,000 OPM, dual-plane fan, and accommodation for 8-hole hook-and-loop sandpaper, dust-sealed switch, and sealed ball-bearing construction.
Mr. Consumer: “Work horse! Have used this as part of several large sanding jobs and it just keeps going. Quality tool!”
This one is a perfect choice of contractors and finish carpenters. It features 3 amp motor, variable speed setting of 4,000 to 12,000 OPM, ergonomic rubber palm grip for working in confined and corner areas, big trigger switch, big random orbit action, and pad control system.
Jason Paul Kraus: “I’ve used a lot of different Electric random orbit Sanders. This one is one of the best that I’ve used.”
This one is designed to deliver exactly what the most cabinet makers, finish carpenters, and woodworkers want, ranging from efficient performance to precise outcome. While the optimized pad orbit and rotation ensures ultra-smooth finish and fast removal, the proprietary pad dampening and pad braking systems leave no place for swirl marks. Finish quality is refined by a soft backing pad. Other features include hook-and-loop disc attachment with more than 35,000 long-life hooks, vacuum adapter, 2.5 amp motor with 7,500 to 12,000 OPM, and anti-spillback canister.
CHRIS: “By far the best sander, why would you want to spend hundreds of dollars on a FESTOOL SANDER.”
So, have you found your best random orbital sander? Well, if not, you can go through some more random orbital sander reviews on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models , and let us know what you think