The Best Orbital (Sheet) Sander-Buying Guide

Unless you’re an experienced woodworker or DIY-er and you know exactly what you want, finding the best orbital sander can be a daunting task. There is so much choice that most of the time you don’t even know where to start.

 

the best orbital sander

 

The market is huge and it takes some time to do proper research. Technology advances at a fast pace and there are new solutions introduced all the time. The power tools produced a few decades ago were made to last years. Nowadays you can hardly find one that will last as long

That’s why it’s important to do your research. But….. Who’s got time? Buying guides like this are made for this exact purpose. To make your life easier and help you make an educated choice so you can enjoy using your tool instead of wasting time looking for one.

 

 

To start you ask a few questions.

#1. What kind of sander do I need?

#2. What make and model?

#3. Where to find them and how do I get the best deal for my money?

I’m here to walk you through the whole process starting with some definitions mainly for those who just begin working with power sanders.

 

What is an Orbital Sander?


This is where people often get confused thinking that orbital sander and random orbital sander are the same. They’re not. I think because the name is quite similar it causes confusion.

Orbital sanders are also called sheet sanders, finishing sanders or sometimes palm sanders.

Although they’re usually used for fine finishing rather that heavy material removal, in my opinion, they’re a good choice for beginners.

Mostly because they’re lightweight, easier to handle and it’s less likely that you’ll oversand between coats of stain or damage a workpiece.

And if you’re in need of smoothing the rough pallet planks just put on a good quality coarse sandpaper and you’re good to go.

Some will say if that’s the case you’re using a wrong type of sander. But I think that if you’re just starting out with woodworking having one good quality orbital sander is better than none.

 

What is the difference between orbital sander and random orbital sander?


First of all, it’s a base plate shape. Orbital sanders are usually rectangular or square which makes them best for inner corners.

You can also find detailing sanders that have a delta-shaped base plate. They also called mouse sanders and are specifically designed for tight spaces. Random orbital sanders are round.

The second and most important thing is the way they work. The base plate in orbital sanders vibrates in tiny circles or orbits.

The pad in random orbital sanders vibrates in “random orbits” similar to orbital sanders as well as spins in circles. This makes them more versatile as you can achieve fairly good material removal as well as smooth finish.

BLACK and DECKER BDEQS300

 

And I’m sure as you’ll learn about sanders you’ll want add a random orbit sander or a belt sander to your tool collection.

 

The Pad Size


There are 3 sizes of sheet sanders available:

  • 1/2 sheet using a half of 9×11-inch sandpaper (4 1/2 x 9-inch)
  • 1/3 sheet using a ⅓ rd of 9×11-inch sandpaper (3 2/3 x 9-inch)
  • 1/4 sheet using a quarter of 9×11-inch sandpaper (4 1/2 x 51/2-inch)

 

The half-sheet orbital sanders are the heaviest ones but great for large surfaces. Accordingly, the 1/4 sheet ones are the most lightweight and compact and 1/3 sheet one something in between.

As I mentioned before the orbital sanders vibrate/oscillate in small orbits and a swirl pattern is usually left after sanding if you not going with the grain of the wood.

 

What to Look for in an Orbital Sander?


A Power Source

You can find two types of power source – corded a.i  mains operated and cordless -battery operated.

You must know that power source will determine sander’s motor power and weight of the tool. Battery operated tools tend to be less powerful and heavier due to a weight of the battery itself.

Typically I’d say that corded tools are the way to go, but with battery technology improving at a fast pace is advisable to consider cordless tools especially when portability is important for you.

Base plate

It’s the most important feature for a great flat surface finish. It’s the place you attach the sanding paper to. Usually with clamping or hook and loop system(some models accept stick on paper as well).

Makita BO370 sandpaper clamping system

 

Most nowadays models have holes in the base for sawdust removal (reduces surface scratches).

It’s important to remember that the foam part of the base plate will wear after some time so you’d either have to get a replacement or buy a new sander.

So my advice for you is to consider this feature and cost of replacement pad before buying as some pads can be quite expensive to replace.

Dust Collection System

As I wrote above most modern sanders come with some kind of dust collection system in place. It can be a dust bag with or without shop vacuum attachment/adapter or Microfilter Dust Canister. A sawdust is collected through the holes in a base plate.

Trigger Switch and Trigger Switch Lock

Most of the 1/4 sheet sanders have a switch that is rubberized for better dust protection. The bigger ones (1/3 sheet and 1/2 sheet) usually have a trigger with a lock on a side for easier control.

Speed Control 

Whilst small, compact orbital sanders have just a single speed, some of the bigger ones like 1/2 sheet can have a variable speed which is usually controlled by a trigger switch or speed control dial


Rubberized Grip and Handles

Smaller sanders usually are held from the top or in some cases you can wrap your hand around the sander’s body. The bigger ones have pistol/barrel grip handle and sometimes an additional handle at the front for better control(mostly in random orbital sanders).

Vibration reduction

It’s important to have when working for longer periods of time as it reduces user fatigue and tingling sensation in the hands.

Sandpaper

The orbital sanders use regular sheets of sandpaper that are cut to size. Of course, you can buy paper sheets that are already cut for you with holes already in them. They usually cost more. But you can always punch the holes with a punch plate.

There are also a hook and loop systems and stick-on sandpaper sheets. These solutions are more time-saving but are more expensive.

If you’d like to learn more about sandpaper and sanding please have a look at my article about sanding tips.

Now Let’s Talk Best Orbital Sanders!


 

1. PORTER-CABLE 380 1/4 Sheet Orbital Finish Palm Sander


PORTER-CABLE 380

Key Features

  • 2.0 Amp motor moves at 13,500 OPM, providing a superior finish
  • Dual plane, counter-balanced low-vibration design reduces user fatigue
  • Dust-Sealed switch Provides longer switch life
  • Design reduces user fatigue

 

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Efficient and fast
  • Low-vibration design reduces user fatigue
  • Uses regular cheap sanding paper what makes it cost efficient

 

Cons

  • The dust collection is not great
  • Dust collector won’t stay in place






This sander is an update from a Porter Cable 340 model which has been discontinued. It features 2 Amp motor with a speed of 13 500 OPM which is in the middle of speed range for orbit sanders. It has enough power to give you a nice finish.

No fancy features mean it is pretty straightforward to use. Fits well in your palm and is easy to operate and therefore It’s a great compact sander for beginners.

Attaching sanding paper is pretty easy too, using 2 metal clamps. You can use a stick on sandpaper as well. It’s a good solution in case the clamps won’t hold the paper properly after some time. And to be honest that may happen if you use the sander on the regular basis.

You just have to keep in mind to take care when removing the stick on paper so you won’t damage the pad. Saying that all part are pretty cheap and easy to replace.

Sanding sheets are widely available and all you have to do is buy full sheet size ones and cut them in 4.

 

Check Price Here

 

Of course, it’s not a Makita or Bosh but the low-vibration design seems to be doing its job in reducing user fatigue. So even if you have arthritis or suffer from the carpal tunnel you should have no problem using it for longer periods of time.

Dust collection isn’t great and the collector won’t stay on all the time but in my opinion, for this price, you can’t really complain. In most cases, unless you can hook the sander up to a shop vac the dust collection is pretty poor. And it doesn’t matter if you spend $40 or 4$200.

This is a good entry level orbital sander. A solid power tool for a modest price great for finishing furniture or any around the house DIY project. Great for beginners. If you’re looking for something more on the professional side Porter Cable 330 may be more suitable.

 

2. DEWALT D26441 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander

 

DEWALT D26441 2

Key Features

  • 2.4 Amp motor sands at 14,000 OPM, providing a superior finish
  • Textured anti-slip top and body grip provides ultimate comfort and control during use
  • Dust-sealed switch protects against dust ingestion and sealed 100 percent ball-bearing construction provides longer life
  • High capacity dust bag with built-in vacuum adapter
  • counter-balanced low-vibration design reduces user fatigue

 Pros

  • Very low vibrations
  • Replaceable brushes
  • Wire paper clamp easy to operate and holds paper securely
  • Built-in shop vacuum adaptor

Cons

  • The dust collection is not great with a dust bag
  • The switch can be awkward to use

 



This ¼ orbital(sheet) sander from Dewalt has a 2.4 Amp power motor and 14000 OPM which is a bit more than Porter Cable. Although It has plenty of power for any finishing tasks it seems quieter and easy to handle, especially with higher grit paper.

When using coarser paper it can be little harder to control, though. The anti-slip top and body grip make using it a bit more comfortable.

You’re able to hold it from the top which, I think is the most optimal, as well wrap your hand around the body. Keep in mind that the position of the cord can make it a bit awkward. If that’s your preferred way of holding an orbit sander Porter Cable 330 would be perfect for you as it’s built to hold it that way.

The rubberized knob and counterbalanced low vibration design reduce user fatigue (numbness and tingling after longer sessions).

Dewalt offers here a sander with sealed 100 percent ball-bearing construction and replaceable brushes which can be very appealing to more heavy duty users. The dust sealed switch seems like a great idea but in most cases can be awkward to use but that is the case in any sander with some kind of rubber covered switches.

 

Check Price Here

 

Clamping system uses a wire clamp to hold sandpaper in place and in most cases does the job. However, If you’re using film paper which is slicker you can find that the clamps won’t be able to hold the paper tight enough.

As with many other sanders, you can use adhesive paper but as I said before, take care when removing the paper so you don’t damage the pad.

This sander has a dust removal system in place. You can use a cloth bag provided or you can hook it up to shop vac using a built-in vacuum adapter for two different diameter vacuum hoses. Don’t expect amazing results with the bag attached but that goes for nearly any sander with some kind of dust bag or container. Removal of dust improves with a shop vac attached.

Great little sander for moderate usage.

 

3. Black & Decker BDEQS300 1/4-Sheet Orbital Sander

 

 

BLACK+DECKER BDEQS300

Key Features

  • 2.0 Amp motor moves at 16000 OPM, providing a superior finish
  • High-performance dust collection with tri-layer filtration to provide a clean work surface
  • Paddle switch activation for easy on/off during application
  • Design reduces user fatigue

 

 Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Budget-friendly
  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Uses regular cheap sanding paper what makes it cost efficient

Cons

  • The dust collection is not great
  • Not much power

 

 

The Black and Decker BDEQS300 1/4-sheet orbital sander runs at 16,000 orbits per minute with 2.0 Amps of power high enough for efficient finishing tasks. But don’t expect it to be able to do every sanding job.

If you’ve got small, occasional projects to do, this compact, light and ergonomically designed sander will do just fine. Its size and weight make it perfect for tight spaces and around the house jobs like sanding doors or cabinets.

This sander features paddle switch activation which is something I’ve never come across. You’ll find it on top of the sander and you activate it simply by pressing down naturally with the palm of the hand while using the sander.

If you find it a bit awkward you can lock it in either the on or off position for one-handed use.

 

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Similar to Porter Cable and Dewalt’s wire clamps hold sandpaper in place and you can use regular sheets of paper cut in quarters as well, what makes it very cost efficient. Just remember to punch holes in it for dust removal.

Speaking of which is not that great with the dust bag provided. But this is no surprise here. To make it work a bit better try not to press down too hard as this way the dust won’t be suction into the bag. But from my experience don’t expect too much.

It is a small, super light sander best for buffing or light sanding. Great for beginners with no sander experience for basic projects and weekend work.

 

4. Makita BO4556 Finishing Sander

 

Makita BO4556K

Key Features

  • 2.0 Amp motor moves at 14000 OPM for fast and smooth finishing sanding
  • Large and easy to use paper clamps for fast and efficient paper installation
  • Precision engineered all-ball-bearing construction for reduced vibration and noise
  • Contoured, rubberized palm grip design for improved operator comfort and control

Pros

  • Comfortable to use
  • Efficient and fast
  • Low-vibration design reduces user fatigue
  • Thick wire clamps make changing paper easy and quick
  • Dust collection bag works quite well

 

 Cons

  • Odd shop vacuum port size
  • Dust collector won’t stay in place

 

This lightweight (2.6 pounds) orbital sander from Makita features a 2 AMP motor that delivers 14,000 OPM for quick and smooth finishing sanding. It has enough power for any sanding tasks and with all-ball bearing construction running it at full speed transmits only small vibrations.

It feels good in a hand and ergonomically designed rubber overmolds make it comfortable to use in both hand positions-from the top and around the body. The rubber sealed switch that Makita designers made somehow work properly, prevents dust contamination.

 

Check Price Here

 

The wire clamps holding paper are thick and make changing paper easy and quick although it might take some time to get used to. It holds sheets tightly and securely.

The dust collection bag – works quite well but sanding is naturally messy, so it is impossible to have ALL the dust be caught in it. Its port fits Makita’s smallish 3/4″ shop vac hose or you can use paper disposable dust bags as well.

Makita BO4556b comes with a nice plastic case for convenient storage and fits everything snugly with some room for sandpaper.

The sander is powerful and very smooth, with low vibration, good balance, and is easy to control. It has many positive users reviews and is a great choice for anyone.

 

5. Makita BO4900V Variable Speed 1/2 Sheet Sander

 

Makita BO4900V

Key Features

  • Variable speed control dial (4,000-10,000 OPM) enables user to match the speed to the application
  • Uses commonly available 4-1/2″ x 9-1/8″ hook-and-loop or 4-1/2″ x 11″ half sheet abrasive paper
  • Minimized vibration and contoured grips for added comfort
  • Ergonomically designed contoured grips offer multiple hand placements and reduce operator fatigue

 

Pros

  • Variable speed allows to adjust it according to your needs.
  • Efficient and fast
  • Low-vibration design reduces user fatigue
  • Perfect for large surfaces
  • Very good dust removal with the bag or shop vac
  • Easy to control with any grit

Cons

  • Pretty heavy
  • Expensive punch plate that is not included
  • using paper dust bags creates additional cost
  • Higher price point

 

 

 

This Makita sander is the biggest and most expensive one of all the listed sanders. It’s more of a pro tool but I’ve decided to include it mostly because it’s a quality ½ sheet orbital sander. And there aren’t many of these on the market.

With 2.9 Amp motor it has the most power but at the same time speed ranges from 4000 up to 10000 OPM. And yes it has variable speed so you can adjust it according to your needs.

This sander is perfect for large surfaces and keeps almost everything sanded flat and true. It has minimized vibrations and it’s well balanced allowing for smooth operation.

It’s very easy to control using any grit and with contoured grips and multiple hand places, it’s easy on your hands reducing user fatigue.

Weighing 6.2 lbs. it’s the heaviest sander on this list and while for some users, this can a big obstacle it has its advantages. The weight helps both with the sanding pressure and dampen some of the vibrations.

 

Check Price Here

 

Another great thing about this sander is that it uses hook and loop system as well as large cam-lock clamping lever so you should never have a problem with slipping sandpaper that doesn’t stay in place.

Dust removal system includes a paper bag which you don’t really see often. It’s a bit more convenient as you don’t have to empty the bag but just replace it with a new one.

But if you’re annoyed by any kind of dust bags which usually don’t give you much suction you will be able to set up a shop vac connection.

Just don’t forget to punch some holes in the paper for better results. However, if you choose not to, the holes at the edges of the mounting block will collect the dust as well. Of course not as effective as with punched holes.

The only drawback is that the punch plate is not included in the kit and is quite pricey (around $40).

To move around it, you can use a Festool one if available or use an awl to punch the holes.

Overall it’s a great sander. Not for beginners or occasional work, though. But if you’re a serious woodworker or DIY-er it’s worth every penny as it will definitely reduce your working time a lot.

 

6. Makita BO3710 Finishing Sander

 

Makita BO370 finishing sander

Key Features

  • 1.7 Amp motor moves at 11000 OPM, providing a superior finish
  • Built-in counterbalance system engineered to reduce vibration
  • Large 2-finger trigger switch with conveniently-located lock-on button for continuous use and increased operator comfort
  • Efficient through-the-pad dust collection system for a cleaner work environment

Pros

  • Well built, solid and durable
  • Powerful enough to tackle any finishing job and beyond
  • Reasonably priced
  • Excellent dust collection with a vacuum attached
  • Easy paper changes with a great clamping system

 Cons

  • No box or bag included
  • only 70% of sawdust collected when dust bag attached
  • Odd sized port for attaching shop vacuum hose and no adapter included

 

 

It’s reasonably priced and you can see and feel its quality. This sander operates at 11000 OPM which gives you smoother finishes. Although it only has 1.7 Amps, it’s powerful enough to go for a longer period of times even with coarse grit sandpaper and it’s easy to control when using any grit.

The baseplate of this Makita is a simple cast and it’s much thicker and stronger than most of its competitors. Because it’s bigger at ⅓ sheet it gets the job done quicker as well.

t does an extremely good job on the corners and the pressure is distributed evenly – the whole area below the plate stays in contact with the workpiece all the time resulting in a very even flat surface.

 

Check Price Here

 

This model has a dust bag included. It doesn’t do a great job and usually collects around 70% of sawdust. This changes with the shop vac attached. The only downside is there is no adapter so you have to shop around to find one.

This sander is fairly quiet and the rubberized, ergonomic handle makes it easy to navigate. The trigger can be easily locked so you can use one or both hands.

You can use regular paper sheets rather than hook and loop which makes it cheaper to run and the sanding paper change is a breeze with the awesome clamping system.

This feature is particularly important to me because changing the sandpaper in my old sander was a nightmare. You should see a number of sheets I simply damaged because of this. Not mentioning the wasted time. So you’re saving money, time and you’re not stressing out because of silly little thing like this.

This is one of the best orbital sanders on the market. Solid, well made and affordable. It will make your job easier and faster. But if you think it’s a bit too big for your needs consider Makita BO4556 2 Amp Finishing Sander or Bosch 1297D 1/4-Sheet Orbital Finishing Sander.

 

7. PORTER-CABLE 330 Speed-Bloc 1/4 Sheet Sander

 

Porter-cable-330-sander

Key features

  • Ergonomically-designed sander with solid metal frame design for a long lifetime of solid performance
  • Sands at speeds as high as 14,000 orbits per minute
  • Comfortable design minimizes vibration and allows for hours of fatigue-free operation
  • Measures 4.5 by 5 by 4.5 (HxWxL) and weighs 4lbs

 

Pros

  • Virtually no vibrations – great for longer sanding sessions
  • Metal frame nad heavyweight – adds downward pressure
  • Extremely durable and solid
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Quiet compared to competitors
  • Excellent finishing results
  • Small orbit (5/64″) for a cleaner finish
  • Cheap, easy to find replaceable part
    s

Cons

  • Shortish power cord
  • Not great for using overhead due to weight
  • No dust collection built-in
  • Paper clamps that require a tool to operate
  • No rubberized knob on top

 

 

With its 1.2 Amp motor, it might not be the most powerful of sanders but it still will do a great finishing job. A single speed and 14000 OPM it’s typical for most generic sanding tasks.

 

It’s got a 1/4 sheet baseplate with heavy and pretty stiff metal clamps that require a special tool to operate. This tool is included with the sander and if you worry you may lose it you can always use a screwdriver. This may seem like a lot of effort to change a sandpaper sheet but there are several upsides to this feature.

 

First, the paper is gripped a lot tighter than in most palm sanders. The second thing is, that you’re able to use the old trick and mount several paper sheets at once and when the first one wears out all you have to do is tear it out and you have a fresh sheet ready to use. Pretty handy, isn’t it?

This base also accepts PSA type sandpaper (stick-on/pressure sensitive adhesive).

 

Check Price Here

 

This is one of the examples where the designers decided to go for durability and quality materials. A full, solid metal frame will last years and for a hobbyist or DIY-re even decades. This makes it quite heavy and difficult to work overhead but on the other hand, the weight adds more pressure when sanding and it’s a great feature when needed.

 

When you look at Porter-Cable 330 it’s not very obvious but the rubber vibration dampeners built into the base and heavyweight do a very good job on reducing vibrations. The base plate is well isolated from the outer housing allowing working longer without fatigue.
Surprisingly this sander hasn’t got any built-in dust collection. It’d require you to work on top of a downdraft sanding table. It can be an issue for some users that haven’t got access to one. But that is the case with this sander. You get very well made and solid tool with easily available replacement parts but no fancy features.

 

What is your preferred brand/type of sander? Have you got any tips or advice for finding a perfect tool? Leave a comment in a box below 🙂

Kasia

6 thoughts on “The Best Orbital (Sheet) Sander-Buying Guide

  1. Those are great questions in time to ask about where to get the best sanders out there. It seems to me there is always a trick to finding discount deals through various marketplaces, and Amazon can sure provide one of those options here as to the best brand for sanders, Porter Cable

    1. Hi, Andrew!
      Thanks for stopping by. I agree that Amazon has a very generous range of power tools as well as loads of accessories. You are able to find orbital sanders for any type of user from a beginner to a pro. I do like the idea of having pretty much everything in one place. It’s easier to hunt for a bargain and saves a lot of time.

      As for Porter Cable, it’s a decent brand with long traditions and affordable range of power tools. Some of the pros might not agree, though 🙂 but I think if you need a reliable tool for a DIY project Porter-Cable can be a way to go.
      Kasia

  2. Nice review!

    I’ve got a Bosch, delta sander. Wonderful device, I don’t know what I did before I got it. It really gets into all the little nooks and crannies – and it’s fairly powerful as it’s corded.

    It was on offer when I got it – normally I would recommend Makita tools – but I’m very happy with.

    Anyone who doesn’t have one of these will be in for a pleasant surprise if they pick one from your list. Saves a lot of time and effort.

    1. Hi, Jim!
      I’m very glad you liked it 🙂 I recently got a VonHaus RO Sander after my cheap no brand orbital sander died. This brand is not very well known but I wanted a variable speed RO sander and only this one fitted well within my budget. It works fine so far and makes smoothing pallet wood out so much easier. Although I really want to get Makita BO3710 as well 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      Have a great day!
      Kasia

  3. Hello Kasia,

    I would go for the Makita BO4900V even though it is considerably expensive. Well, I am quite concern with dust removal and I think this is an exceptional one compared to the other models just because it’s efficiency and the effectiveness which can deal with any types of superb usage of dust bags and heavy duty presence.

    1. Hi Tar,

      this sander is surely one of the best out there, although I must admit it’d be a bit too much for me. I don’t do that many projects at the moment, so I’d go for its little brother the Makita BO3710. It’s still big enough to tackle any project and has exceptional dust removal system as well. Not as pro though and the price is more budget friendly 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kasia

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