There are a number of different power sanders to choose from. The most basic of which is the belt sander – a table- or bench-mounted, stationary tool where you bring the material to the sanding belt to smooth and shape. But if you’re looking for something more compact and much more portable, then you’ll want to take a look handheld power sanders.
If you’re truly serious about upgrading your DIY game, then getting a random orbital sander should be high on your list of must-have power tools. A random orbital sander can give your wood-based art a smooth, silky finish will very little effort.
Orbital Sander vs. Random Orbital Sander
First of all, there are some things we need to clear up. There are two compact, palm sanding tools that cause quite a bit of confusion to first-time buyers and newbie DIY-ers.
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The first is a regular orbital sander. This tool is used for finishing jobs, and they don’t pack the equipment to remove tons of rough material with each sweep of the tool. An orbital sander features a square pad that helps the tool reach corners so sanding assembled furniture and window sills is a breeze.
An orbital sander’s sanding pad moves in a front-to-back motion, thus leaving they scratch mark in its wake. It’s essential that you gradually progress from coarse to grit sanding pads in order to eliminate these unsightly marks from your finished product.
Random Orbital Sander
Random orbital sanders are completely different from regular orbital sanders. First of all, it comes with a round pad, so it’s not as great for sanding corners or making pointed edges. However, what it lacks in sharpness, it makes up for dramatically in every other regard.
The motion of the sanding pad isn’t a front-to-back or even a side-to-side. Instead, the pad spins at high speed while vibrating in random directions, practically eliminating scratch marks. However, you’ll still need to progress from coarse- to fine-grit sanding pads in order to truly give your product a smooth finish.
Finally, don’t let the “sander” in the tool’s name fool you. An orbital sander is much more than a handheld tool that sands the surface of wooden boards. With the right attachment, you can use your sander for a number of different applications, including but not limited to grinding, shaping, and removing layers of paint.
Random Orbital Sander Buying Guide
The hundreds, if not thousands, of random orbital sander models available on the market today can make finding the “right” sander a pain. This buying guide will assist you in finding what’s best for you based on what project you have on hand. In this article, we’re going to split this guide based on three common tasks: wood sanding and shaping, metal grinding and buffing, and paint removal.
Random Orbital Sander for Wood
One of the most common uses for random orbital sanders is obviously sanding wood and giving it a smooth, splinter-free surface. In this section, we’re going to discuss what qualities make for a good random orbital sander for wood-based projects.
The strength of the motor indicates how effective the tool will be at sanding your workpiece. The higher the motor’s amperage rating, the better it will be at sanding all sorts of materials. Since wood is pretty soft, the random orbital sander doesn’t need a super-strong motor. Something with at least two amps will suffice.
Variable Orbiting Speed
Speed plays an important role in giving wooden boards a beautifully smooth finish. We highly advise finding a model that can reach speeds of at least 10,000 OPM (orbits per minute).
Furthermore, to increase the tool’s versatility, we recommend that you find a model that comes with a variable orbiting speed dial or speed presets opposed to a fixed speed unit. You can always crank up the speed when rough sanding old boards and drop the speed when working with more delicate materials.
All power sanders, including random orbital sanders, produce a ton of sawdust. In order to keep the sawdust from going airborne and getting into your lungs (always wear proper PPE), random orbital sanders come with suctions on the circular pad that pick up sawdust as soon as it’s produced. As for models without dust collection systems, they may still be worth the investment cost, but you’ll have to spend time after sanding to clean up your workspace.
The random orbital sander’s disc size an important thing to consider if you plan on sanding and smoothing large surface areas. If this is the case, then you can’t really go too big. However, note that a larger disc means having to be careful of how much downward pressure to apply to give the entire surface an even sanding.
The standard disc diameter is 5 inches which is just right for most sanding jobs. It’s small enough to give you full control when working, but it’s also large enough as to not cause frustration due to slow work.
Even though cordless power tools are all the rage, there’s nothing worse than getting in the groove of things and having the battery die out on you in the middle of work. The easiest solution if you decide to get a cordless random orbital sander would be to invest in multiple rechargeable batteries – one powers the unit while the other(s) wait their turn in the charging station.
However, in order to truly increase productivity, we’d recommend getting a corded unit. As long as there’s a constant flow of electricity coming from your workshop’s power outlets, you’ll have an infinite, uninterrupted amount of work time (minus resting to prevent motor burnout).
Random Orbital Sander for Metal
The “sander” in the tool’s name can be misleading since random orbital sanders are used for much more than just sanding jobs. These tools can also be used for metalwork, specifically buffing and grinding. This short guide will discuss what aspects make for a quality random orbital sander for preparing metal objects.
In order to grind and buff metal effectively, the random orbital sander needs to come with a beefier motor than two amps. A stronger motor not only makes the tool more efficient – e.g. quicker rotational speed – but it also helps counteract the resistance of hard materials like metal. A reliable motor for grinding and shaping metal would be at least five amps.
When grinding away at metal, the speed of the random orbital sander’s disc determines how much or how little it removes when left in one spot. Obviously, you never want to leave the disc on a single area on your workpiece’s surface as it could end up removing more material than you originally planned, especially when the tool is cranked to its highest speed.
We recommend avoiding a single-speed sander if possible and opting for one with preset speeds or a variable speed dial. These two systems will give you maximum control in removing as little or as much material without going under or overboard. This is with the assumption that you’ve set the tool to the appropriate speed, of course.
Orbiting Action Distance
The thing that makes random orbital sanders so versatile is the orbiting action. The pad doesn’t just rotate at high speed, but it also oscillates in random directions. The distance at which the sand moves when it oscillates plays a role in ensuring that your workpiece is not left with ugly scratches, something that is extremely important when buffing metal or plastic. The standard orbiting distance is 1/8 of an inch. It’s okay to go slightly under 1/8, but anything over that will produce hard-to-remove gashes in metal.
Buffing and Grinding Attachments
Some random orbital sander models don’t come with buffing pads or grinding attachments. This means you’ll have to purchase them separately.
When shopping for buffing pads, make sure that the pad is compatible with your random orbital sander. The safest way to do this is by purchasing a pad that comes from the manufacturer of your tool, though many pads that are sold separately can be fitted on sanders of most makes and models.
Random Orbital Sander for Removing Paint
The ability to remove paint is another thing that makes a random orbital sander such a handy tool to have. Whether you need to strip paint from your car’s body, metal, plastic, or even wood, a random orbital sander is the tool to have. The lightweight, compact design makes it ideal for reaching spots that just aren’t as accessible by other power sanders. Next, we’ll go over the various factors that make a random orbital sander ideal for removing paint.
Removing paint is arguably the easiest thing that a random orbital sander can do. Paint isn’t that difficult to remove, even by using sandpaper and elbow grease, but this tool definitely makes the job go by much quicker.
That being said, if you’re using a random orbital sander exclusively for removing paint, it doesn’t need a tremendously large motor. Like sanding wood, you could get by with a 2-amp unit, but we recommend going slightly larger since removing paint is only one small aspect of the total capabilities of a random orbital sander.
Removing paint can be done at both high speed and low speed. What you need to be mindful about is whether cranking the tool to its maximum speed setting is a good idea since it has a higher risk of removing thin layers of the material right below the paint. Because of this, we advise that you find a random orbital sander that works as slow as 5,000 RPM for removing thin layers of paint and as fast as 10,000-plus RPM for removing thicker coats of paint quicker.
Whether you’re removing paint from wood, plastic, or metal, it’s a good idea to find a random orbital sander that has suctions holes on the pad. This’ll suck up any removed paint particles, preventing it from going airborne or falling to the ground. We’d recommend against dust collection bags since and instead opting for a unit with onboard dust ports since shop vacs and dust extractors work better at suctioning both tiny and larger particles.
Even though all random orbital sanders are naturally compact and lightweight, if you plan on using the tool to remove paint, try and find the lightest, most powerful unit available. Random orbital sanders can remove paint from almost any object – furniture, cars, fences, etc. – so it needs to be able to maneuver in tight spaces without the motor housing bumping into adjacent surfaces.
After reading this guide, you should be able to distinguish between orbital sanders and random orbital sanders by their sanding pads. Orbital sanders user square/rectangular pads that are great for fitting into corners but also leave deep scratches in your workpiece. Random orbital sanders use circular pads and a wide variety of attachments for more than just sanding. In this article, we’ve focused on random orbital sanders as the more versatile and better sanding option.
Random orbital sanders can do a wide variety of tasks, including sanding wood, buffing, and grinding metal, as well as removing paint. Throughout this article, we’ve talked about how different random orbital sanders excel at particular job, though if you find a model that features a 5-plus-amp motor, an onboard dust port, a variable speed dial that delivers between 5,000 and more than 10,000 OPM, and is small enough to fit in tight spaces without needing to bend your arm at irregular angles, then that would be the best option to get.
Basically, when looking at various random orbital sanders, there won’t be a ton of difference in their design and capabilities. Minor features (variable speed dial or preset speeds, dust collection bag or port, disc size) don’t matter as much as the aforementioned specs. Thankfully, they’re not hard to come by. When it comes to random orbital sanders, bigger in terms of motor size and speed is always, ALWAYS better.