10 Best Orbital Sanders | March 2017
- adjustable front grip for corners
- two-finger trigger switch
- poor dust pickup
- ideal for working in corners
- comes with cloth dust bag
- not strong enough for some pro uses
- floating rotor design
- easily converted to a vacuum tool
- expensive for its simplicity
- good vibration control
- professional-grade quality
- requires both hands for accuracy
- soft-start system
- pad is incredibly durable
- 1-year unconditional warranty
- full surface contact
- 2mm orbital stroke
- ergonomic grip conforms to your hand
|Model||RTS 400 EQ|
- variable speed dial
- superlative dust capture
- translucent microfilter
The Right Tool For The Job: The Orbital Sander
An orbital sander can save you hours of work and prevent the sore muscles associated with laborious hand sanding. These compact but powerful devices use motion and vibration to save you time and help produce a smooth, even surface on myriad types of wood and certain other composite materials.
Technically known as "random orbit sanders" (and sometimes referred to by the acronym ROS or called ROS sanders), these tools have now been in use for well over three decades. Unlike a belt sander, which must be constantly moved by its operator to ensure an even sanding that does not remove too much material from any one area of a surface, an orbital sander is constantly experiencing two kinds of motion: the sander's head moves in both a small elliptical pattern, thus the term orbit, and spins its disc-shaped head.
Orbital sanders are suitable for use on almost any wooden surface, regardless of its grain, hardness, or shape. A deft hand is required to prevent the over-sanding of edges, corners, and design elements, but with practice and skill, a good orbital sander can be used on almost any shape or pattern of wood.
Choosing The Right Orbital Sander
For most do-it-yourself types, and even for the devoted hobbyist carpenter, there's no need for a super-powered orbital sander. These tools range in price from less than thirty dollars all the way up to the three hundred dollar and above mark, but for smaller jobs and for infrequent use, the lower priced sander will suffice.
The higher end models become more appealing once you begin to deal with larger projects, such as finishing work on flooring, for example. Many lower-end orbital sanders don't feature speed control settings, which can be a drawback when working on multiple types of surfaces.
The shape of a sander plays a big role in how it will best be used. Many orbital sanders are designed to be grasped on their bodies, with one hand controlling the sanding. When more precision is needed, or for those with a weaker grip due to age or infirmity, a model with two grip points might be a better choice. Also consider sanders with dedicated handles and dual finger triggers if grip is an issue for you. Weight also varies from unit to unit, and should be considered by the tool's primary operator.
Beyond speed control, grip and weight, and price tag, consider the fact that some orbital sanders offer more than 3 amps of power, while others offer a half an amp. If that doesn't matter to you, then you're in the half amp category, FYI.
How To Use Your Orbital Sander
Second only in importance to choosing the right tool itself is choosing the right sand paper for a given job. The higher the grit of a paper, the finer (AKA smaller) its grains of sand will be. High grit sand paper leaves a smoother, more polished surface, and is great for the last few passes of a job.
On the other hand, trying to use fine grit paper on rough wood or painted surfaces is basically a waste of time. Choose rough, low grit sand paper for the first few passes of most projects, and pay attention to the paper throughout the process, regularly turning the sander off to check the paper's condition. Sand paper quickly loses its "teeth" and can fill up with paint, dust, and dirt, making it ineffective.
The most effective sanding uses lots of sand paper; just accept that you'll be going through many pads and change them often -- they're not very expensive, and fresher pads mean better quality work with less risk of damage to the surface. And thanks to the hook-and-loop (e.g. Velcro) attachment system used by orbital sanders, switching out sanding pads requires only a few seconds.
To avoid gouging a surface with the edge of the sander (or simply uneven sanding), you need to keep the sander off of the surface on which you're working until it is at full speed, and you need to move away from the surface before you turn the sander off.
One of the most common mistakes inexperienced craftsman make is to allow a sander to touch a surface when it's not at full speed, which often leads to uneven pressure along the edges. Of course, it's the moment of initial contact that is most likely to lead to damage a surface even when the sander is running at full speed; a firm, steady grip is critical, as is knowing which way your sander is going to pull your hands when it first touches down.
You would be wise to practice sanding plenty of surfaces -- both wide, flat surfaces as well as edges and corners -- before you ever work on a prized piece of furniture or an elegant piece of moulding. Pallet wood is cheap and rough, and makes a great practice surface, as does any left over lumber at a building site. Just watch out for nails, screws, and staples, as even the most industrious orbital sander can't handle metal.