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Orbital Sander vs. Finish Sander: What Is The Difference

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Written By John Gibbs

 

 

 

» Power Tools » Sander » Orbital Sander vs. Finish Sander: What Is The Difference
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When it comes to sanding, there are two main types of sanders that are used for different purposes: orbital sanders and finish sanders. Both sanders have their own unique benefits that make them ideal for different applications. Here, we will take a closer look at the difference between orbital sanders and finish sanders to help you decide which one is right for your next project.

What's the difference: Orbital and random-orbital Sanders for Fine-Finish Sanders
A finishing sander that is small and handheld is used to smooth out woodworking projects but can also be used on metal, plastic, and other materials. Orbital sanders and random orbit sanders have their own unique benefits that make them ideal for different applications. Here, we will take a closer look at the difference between orbital sanders and finish sanders to help you decide which one is right for your next project.

Random Orbit Sanders: General Overview

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A random orbit sander is a handheld power tool that is used for sanding wood and other materials. It is called a random orbit sander because the sanding pad orbits in a random pattern. This helps to prevent the sanding pad from becoming too hot and causing damage to the material.

It consists of a circular pad that spins in a random orbit. The sander is held against the workpiece and moved in a random pattern. This motion helps to avoid creating patterns in the wood. Random orbit sanders are used for a variety of sanding tasks, such as removing paint, stain, or varnish from wood. They can also be used to sand down a rough surface or to smooth out a finish.

Random Orbital Sander Pros and Cons

ADVANTAGES
  • Random orbital sanders are much easier to control than traditional sanders, making them ideal for beginners;
  • The random motion of the sander head prevents gouging and provides a much smoother finish;
  • These sanders are much less likely to leave behind swirl marks than traditional sanders;
  • Random orbital sanders are much quieter than traditional sanders;
  • These sanders can be used with a variety of different sandpaper grits to achieve the desired finish.
DRAWBACKS
  • The random motion of the sander head can make it more difficult to control than a traditional sander;
  • The random orbital motion can cause the sander to vibrate, which can be uncomfortable for some users.

Characteristics of Random Orbital Sander

A random orbital sander is a type of hand-held power sander that uses a random orbital motion to achieve a smooth, even finish on wood surfaces. It is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of sanding applications, from light sanding to heavy-duty stock removal.

Speed

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One of the most important things to consider when choosing a random orbital sander is speed. The speed is measured in orbits per minute (OPM), and the faster the sander, the more orbits it will make in a minute.

Most random orbital sanders have variable speed settings, so you can adjust the speed to suit the material you are sanding and the desired finish. For example, you would use a slower speed for sanding a soft wood like pine and a higher speed for sanding a hardwood like oak.

Sanding Mechanism

The sanding mechanism is what makes a random orbital sander different from other types of hand-held power sanders. Unlike a belt sander or a palm sander, a random orbital sander does not have a linear sanding motion.

Instead, the sanding pad of a random orbital sander moves in a random orbital pattern. This random motion is what gives the sander its name. The random orbital motion is also what makes a random orbital sander so effective at achieving a smooth, even finish.

Sanding Grit

The sanding grit is the size of the abrasive particles on the sanding pad. The larger the grit, the coarser the sandpaper. For example, 40-grit sandpaper is coarser than 60-grit sandpaper.

The sanding grit you use will depend on the material you are sanding and the desired finish. For example, you would use a coarse grit like 40-grit for sanding a rough surface or for removing paint and a finer grit like 120-grit for sanding a smooth surface.

Power

Random orbital sanders are available in both corded and cordless models. Corded models are powered by electricity, and cordless models are powered by batteries.

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Corded models are more powerful than cordless models and can run for longer before needing to be recharged. Cordless models are more convenient because they are not tethered to an electrical outlet, but they may need to be recharged more often.

Best Uses

Random orbital sanders are versatile tools that can be used for a variety of sanding applications. They are ideal for sanding large surfaces because of their size and power.

Random orbital sanders can also be used for sanding in tight spaces and for sanding curves and other irregular shapes.

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Finish Orbital Sanders: General Overview

An orbital sander is a power tool that is used for sanding down wood, metal, and other surfaces to create a smooth, level finish. The sander uses a circular motion to remove material from the surface and can be adjusted to different speeds to control the amount of material removed.

Orbital sanders are available in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be handheld or mounted to a workbench. The type of sander you choose will depend on the project you are working on and the amount of space you have to work with.

Finish Orbital Sanders Pros and Cons

ADVANTAGES
  • They are very powerful and can sand very quickly;
  • They are very easy to use and control;
  • They don’t create as much dust as other types of sanders;
  • They are very versatile and can be used for a variety of tasks.
DRAWBACKS
  • They can be dangerous if not used properly;
  • They can be expensive if you buy a high-end model.

Characteristics of Finishing Sanders

Orbital finishing sanders have a square sanding pad that spins in a circular pattern. This type of sander is less aggressive and is better for finishing work, such as preparing surfaces for staining or painting.

Speed

One of the most important things to consider when choosing an orbital finishing sander is speed. These sanders typically have two speed settings: low and high. Low speed is typically around 1,500-2,000 orbits per minute (OPM), while high speed is around 3,000-4,000 OPM.

Sanding Mechanism

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Orbital finishing sanders typically have a rectangular sanding pad that oscillates or “orbits” in a circular motion. This motion, combined with the sandpaper, produces a smooth, even finish.

Sanding Grit

The grit of the sandpaper you use will determine the smoothness of the finish. Coarser grits (around 40-60) are best for removing paint or other finishes. Finer grits (100-180) are best for final sanding before painting or staining.

Power

Orbital finishing sanders are powered by either an electric motor or compressed air. The electric models are the most common, and they come in both corded and cordless varieties. The cordless models are more expensive, but they offer the convenience of not having to be tethered to a power outlet.

Best Uses

Orbital finishing sanders are best used for tasks that require a smooth, even finish. This includes shaping edges, removing paint and varnish, and sanding down rough surfaces. They can also be used to create a distressed look on wood furniture.

Which sander to choose: Finishing (Sheet) Sanders or Random Orbit Sanders

When it comes to woodworking, a bad finish can easily ruin all of your hard work. That’s why having a good sander is so important. If you’re working on a small project, such as sanding a tabletop or a dresser, a finishing sander is a good choice. These sanders are lightweight and easy to maneuver, so you can get into all the nooks and crannies.

If you’re working on a larger project, such as a floor or a deck, a random orbit sander is a better choice. These sanders are more powerful and can handle tougher jobs. They’re also great for getting into tight spaces. If you are still not sure which sander to choose, we recommend starting with a finishing orbit sander. They are more versatile and easier to control.

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FAQ

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What is the difference between a finishing sander and an orbital sander?

Finishing sanders are designed to remove very small amounts of material from the surface being sanded, and as such, they are typically much less aggressive than other types of sanders.

Orbital sanders, on the other hand, are designed to remove larger amounts of material from a surface. As such, they are much more aggressive than finishing sanders and are typically used for tasks such as removing paint or varnish from a surface.

What are orbital sanders best used for?

Orbital sanders are best used for quickly removing material from a workpiece. They are also good for creating a smooth, even finish on a workpiece.

Which sander is best for finishing?

There is no one “best” sander for finishing, as the best sander for the job will depend on the specific project and the type of finish you are looking for. However, some common sanders used for finishing projects include orbital sanders, hand sanders, and belt sanders.

Conclusion

Both orbital and finish sanders have their own unique benefits that make them ideal for different types of projects. It is important to know the difference between the two types of sanders before choosing the best one for your project. Thank you for reading! I hope this article helped you understand the difference between orbital and finish sanders.

References

  • Random orbit sander – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_orbital_sander
  • Grit (What Is the Difference Between the Different Grits of Sandpaper?) – https://home.howstuffworks.com/difference-between-grits-sandpaper.htm?srch_tag=7hnaapvr5wryq7qevg254cdddd4spsen
  • Compressed air (Comparative Emissions of Random Orbital Sanding between Conventional and Self-Generated Vacuum Systems) – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232248076_Comparative_Emissions_of_Random_Orbital_Sanding_between_Conventional_and_Self-Generated_Vacuum_Systems

 

About John Gibbs

Hello everyone! My name is John Gibbs. I am 60 years old and have been in the family construction business all my adult life. Construction is not only my profession but also my passion. I know everything about building and repair materials, tools, advanced methods, techniques, and approaches. I will share the same knowledge with you in my articles.

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