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Orbital Sanding Tools: More Than Just Wood-Smoothing Devices

Orbital sanders may be commonly associated with wood-smoothing tasks, but these versatile power tools offer so much more. From stripping paint and removing rust to polishing and cleaning flea market finds, these tools have become a staple in workshops for various purposes. If you’re in the market for a reliable orbital sander, read on for our expert advice, user reviews, and maintenance tips.

The Top Power Sanders for Your Needs

  • Best Overall: Bosch ROS20VSC Random Orbital Sander

  • Most Versatile: DeWalt DWE6421 Random Orbital Sander

  • Best Value: Ryobi P411 Orbital Sander

  • Best Cordless: DeWalt DCW210D1 Random Orbital Sander

  • Ideal for Craftsman Fans: Craftsman CMEW231 Random Orbital Sander

Understanding Your Sander

Most of the sanders we tested are random-orbit types with round pads measuring 5 or 6 inches in diameter. The random orbital motion of these sanders reduces the chances of leaving swirl marks on the surface. It also allows you to move the sander both with and against the grain. Additionally, we tested an orbital sander with a square pad, which works at a slower pace and sands corners effectively.

One key difference between these types of sanders is how they handle sandpaper. Random-orbit sanders use sandpaper discs that attach to the base with hooks and loops. On the other hand, orbital sanders use peel-and-stick sandpaper, which comes either precut or in sheets that you can cut to fit. You can also attach an abrasive sheet to the sander using the clamps on its sides. Both types of sanders typically come with a dust bag to capture most of the dust produced. For better dust control, opt for a sander with a round exhaust port that can be connected to a shop vacuum hose.

Battery-Powered or Corded: Which One to Choose?

Our evaluation included both battery-powered (cordless) and corded sanders. Initially, we were concerned that the battery would make cordless sanders too heavy. However, after weighing both types, we found that they are about the same weight, especially when considering the cord’s heft. If you often work on job sites or frequently use cordless tools, a cordless sander offers convenience and mobility, especially when climbing ladders or scaffolds.

On the other hand, if you primarily work on a bench for long sanding sessions, particularly with direct access to an outlet, a corded sander is a better choice. In this scenario, cord drag is not an issue, and mobility is less of a concern. For example, when sanding furniture, you can focus on perfecting the sanded surface by working your way down through each grit.

Our Testing Process

To provide accurate recommendations, we thoroughly tested each sander. We used pieces of oak, maple, plywood, and softwood, drawing rectangles and sanding them with an 80-grit disc. Afterward, we emptied the dust containers to assess their capacity. To gauge the sander’s efficiency, we wiped down the work surface to see how much dust was missed. Furthermore, we evaluated factors such as vibration, gyroscopic effects upon lifting the sander, and whether there were any swirl marks left on the sanded surface.

While all the sanders we tested are suitable for homeowners, it’s worth noting that professional-grade models like those from Makita, DeWalt, Bosch, and Metabo-HPT generally vibrate less and offer increased durability. However, for most household applications, the Ryobi sanders and Craftsman models, along with a high-quality abrasive sheet, are more than sufficient.

Scroll down to read our detailed reviews. And if you’re new to sanding, we have included a brief tutorial on how to use a sander and how to protect yourself from the unavoidable sanding dust. To find the perfect orbital sander for your needs, visit Quill And Fox.