An essential part of any woodworking or “do it yourself” project is sanding. Whether the project involves building chairs, tables, cabinets, etc., you will eventually have to bust out the sander. So why a random orbital sander instead of other types of sanders?
A common problem with sanding is the sanding mark that spoils the appearance of the finished product. A random orbital sander eliminates this problem by moving in truly random path during sanding.
Best Random Orbital Sander – Makita BO5041
So, having a good sander is vital for home projects and home repair. If you do not already own a sander, or are interested in getting a better sander, you may want to consider buying an orbital sander.
Top 3 Random Orbital Sanders
Random Orbital Sander Reviews
Orbital sanders are great power tools to have around the house; after all, you never know when you will need to do some sanding. To help make the process of buying an orbital sander easier, I have compiled this helpful guide; it will tell you everything you need to know about orbital sanders.
What is a Random Orbital Sander?
A random orbital sander is a power tool that is used to sand and finish woodwork, furniture, metal surface etc. This types of sanders have a round head which moves in orbit (vibrates in a circular pattern) while the sanding head also rotates. This creates a truly random pattern without any swirl marks and hence the name.
This is why you should use an orbital sander over belt sander for finishing the wood.
Know your sander.
Before you go ahead and click that buy button, you should know that there are types of sanders that people often get confused with.
- Orbital Sander
- Random Orbital Sander and
- Palm Sander
Here, we are talking about the best random orbital sander. If you not sure which one to pick, see the difference between a random orbital vs orbital sander vs palm sander here.
How do Random Orbital Sanders work?
Sanders are great for taking off rough edges and smoothing out rough pieces of material. You will often see the word “random” used in front of an orbital sander; that is nothing to worry about.
In a random orbital sander, the sanding pad vibrated or moves in small orbits and at the same time the round sanding head revolves around the axis of the sander. The square pad on a sheet sander only moves in a certain pattern causing swirl marks on the work. But a random orbital sander has no pattern, thus why the word “random” is used.
The reason for using a random orbital sander is that regular belt sanders or sheet sanders can often leave “sanding spots” (also sometimes called “sanding marks”). These can ruin furniture really easily and they will ruin your smooth finish appearance.
By using a random pattern, random orbital sanders can avoid creating these sanding spots or swirl marks. It is much easier to get a smooth finish, with no scratches, by using a random orbital sander, as opposed to a standard belt or sheet sander.
Tip: A helpful tip I feel everyone should know before using a random orbital sander, is to use a pencil to create lines on the material you are about to sand. Because orbital sanders run in a random pattern, it can be a bit difficult to make sure you are sanding everything; so by running a pencil lightly across the material, you simply have to erase all the pencil marks to know that you have sanded everything evenly.
Buying Guide: What Features to Look For?
Following are some of the key features you should look for when buying a random orbital sander.
Type of Grip
As you can probably tell from the name, these are orbital sanders that are very easy to hold in the palm of your hand. They are very compact and very lightweight compared to other types of sanders and other types of orbital sanders. The palm grip random orbital sander is the most widely sander for woodworking and finishing.
So, if you are planning on using your orbital sander for small projects primarily (like sanding small furniture or small parts of drywall), then you should consider getting a palm grip orbital sander. They are ideal for smaller projects, and are a bit cheaper than other orbital sander types.
Note: Do not get confused the palm grip version with palm sanders. By palm grip, I mean random orbital sander with a palm grip. This has round polishing head. On the other hand a palm sander is a ¼ inch sheet sander with rectangular base. See the comparison between a random orbital sander vs palm sander for a detailed explanation.
Pistol grip orbital sanders comes in different sizes. The most common one is the pneumatic random orbital sander with a pistol grip. These are lightweight air tools that you often see at automotive repair shops.
They are good for spot sanding and polishing auto body bumpers, doors etc. The main advantage of a pistol grip sander is its ability to sand hard to reach spots and curves such as headlamps, door jambs etc. The pistol grip ROS is easy to handle for longer period of time since it is light weight and provides a firm grip.
On the flip side, you need an air compressor and working with the pneumatic pipe on your way is not always comfortable. Unlike palm grip sanders, it is difficult to apply constant pressure on a pistol grip sander due to its design.
This feature may not seem major, but when using the sander the ability to lock the trigger comes in very handy. If you are planning on using the sander for a long period of time, a trigger lock is essential; as it allows you to continue working without keeping your finger on the trigger.
This feature is usually included with smaller sanders, but you can find it for sanders of all sizes if you look hard enough. Clamps allow you to clamp an orbital sander in place; so that rather than bringing the sander to the material, you can bring the material to the sander. This is great for when you need precision sanding; it will come in very handy if you decide to start sanding smaller, more delicate items.
If you have ever used a sander before, then you know just how much sawdust is produced when you use a sander. The orbital sander when compared to a belt sander generates less dust, but still creates a lot of fine dust. So, I would advise anyone looking to buy an orbital sander, should look for one that comes with a sawdust removal system.
Some sanders have a built in filtration system; but I recommend looking for a sander that lets you hook up your vacuum to the sander, so that the sawdust is collected immediately. Some orbital sanders even have the ability to sync up with your vacuum, so if the sander turns off, the vacuum turns off, if the sander turns on, then the vacuum turns on.
Staying on the subject of sawdust; you should look for an orbital sander that has a sealed switch. Sawdust has the annoying habit of getting into sander or other power tools, and causing them to malfunction. A sealed switch will prevent sawdust from getting inside your orbital sander and causing damage to the motor.
One of the more important features to look for is speed control. Not every sanding job is going to require your orbital sander to be running at max speed; so get a model with some form of speed control or speed settings. Not only does it make your orbital sander more versatile, but it will also prevent the orbital sander’s motor from burning out quickly.
As with every other power tools, the random orbital sanders are also powered by three different sources.
- Corded electric sanders
- Cordless (battery powered) Sanders
- Pneumatic or Air Powered
These are the most popular ones. There are several advantages for a corded sander.
They are comparatively cheaper. The un-interrupted power supply allows you to continuously work all day. They are powerful.
The disadvantage is of course the electric cord causing disturbance and safety concerns. In addition to that, if you are in a place where an electric plug point is far, you have to use extensions which may result in additional safety issues.
Cordless Random Orbital Sanders
The obvious advantage of cordless or battery powered sanders is the convenience. They offer lot of portability and allows you to work at difficult places.
On the flip side, the cordless versions are often expensive and you need to factor the additional cost and weight of extra batteries. From time to time you may also run of batteries; so you must get spare batteries.
These are orbital sanders that are powered by compressed air. They are very powerful and are able to do a wide variety of sanding jobs.
They are inexpensive and easy to maintain. When compared to the coded electrical counterpart, the pneumatic random orbital sander is an equally good in terms of power and versatility.
On the negative side, these type of sanders require air compressor which may not be ready available at the workplace. They also offer limited speed control when compared to electrical sanders.
Most power tools manufacturers make random orbital sanders. When someone asks for my advice on best brand for a cordless tool, I usually tell them to stick with the brand they already use because in most cases they can use the spare battery and charger.
However, in case of corded tools, you can go for a different brand. For sanders I tend to stick with Makita, Dewalt or Bosch.
- Top 3 Random Orbital Sanders
- Random Orbital Sander Reviews
- What is a Random Orbital Sander?
- Buying Guide: What Features to Look For?