For many, sanding is everyone’s least favorite job. However, for most woodworking and home projects, it’s basically inescapable. But using the best palm sander on your next DIY or woodworking project can give you back the hours you would’ve wasted by manually sanding.
Using sandpaper and sanding blocks can be a very inefficient and frustrating way to sand. The blocks are hard to hang onto and the paper is difficult to use. While both sanding blocks and basic sandpaper can get the job done, with a palm sander, you’ll spend more time enjoying the fruits of your labor and less time sanding.
These power tools work by simultaneously moving the disc in a circle and spinning it. This type of random action is what will prevent those unsightly swirl marks we all dread, and instead, will provide a beautiful, natural-looking finish.
So, if you’re looking for a new model for your next woodworking project, one that’s beginner-friendly and loaded with some serious power, then choosing this style of sander will be a perfect fit.
But considering how popular DIYing is these days, not to mention the rise in the popularity of woodworking itself, the market has been flooded with these power tools, making it difficult to choose the right model for the job, not to mention your budget.
That’s where I come in. I’ve reviewed the latest sanders on the market, narrowing it down to the top five. Many of the models I looked at were lacking in one area or another, whether there were no variable speed settings, the motor caused too much vibration or the sander just wasn’t up to snuff. But the models that made it onto my list are the best of the best. Each of these sanders has something special to offer, whether it’s a more beginner-friendly design, extra power, a larger surface area, or just a stellar performance.
It’s my goal to help you find a model that will meet your sanding needs, your skill level, and one that won’t hit your wallet too hard.
Below you’ll find a comparison chart, which details some of the similarities and differences between each of these models including cost, rating, surface area size, a corded or cordless design, and the OPM rating.
Palm Sanders Comparison Chart
|Product||Power source||OPM||Sanding size area||Cost||Rating|
Picking a Winner
This type of power tool can be used for all types of sanding jobs. It’s more than capable of handling bigger jobs such as sanding hardwood floors or stripping down paint. When you’re shopping for a new model, it can be difficult to know which model is tough enough for the jobs you have waiting at home. You can rest assured that each model on my list can handle whatever DIY job you throw at it. Below you’ll find summaries for each of the models I’ve reviewed, including specifics regarding some of their best features and what earned them a spot on my list.
Best Overall-DEWALT DWE6423K Variable Speed Random Orbit Sander
This model by Dewalt has it all. It features variable speed settings, intuitive controls, and a lightweight design that will allow you to use this model for a longer period of time without user fatigue. It’s a great tool to use for jobs of all sizes ranging from refinishing your nightstand to tackling hardwood floors. It will be right at home in your garage or in your woodworking shop. Powerful, easy to use, and designed for the beginner and experienced woodworker, this model is a steal for the price.
Best for Woodworking-BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander
This is one of Black and Decker’s leading models and for all the right reasons. It’s lighter than average, so it’s perfect for working on new woodworking projects or even refinishing furniture. This sander is also a great option for small to medium-sized jobs and will be a nice addition to your woodworking shop, thanks to its lightweight design combined with variable speed controls, both of which will allow you to achieve the type of pro results you’re striving for.
Best Budget-Makita BO5030K 5″ Random Orbit Sander
This Makita sander comes with variable speed control, a lightweight design, and a powerful motor. This is the type of sander you want to rely on for those difficult woodworking jobs that everyone dreads. The tough three amp motor will allow you to handle even the toughest jobs, offering an impressive 12,000 OPMs. The sander’s controls are easy to access, so you can quickly adjust the speed setting based on application, such as refinishing or removing old paint.
Top 5-Inch-Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander
The ROS20VSC by Bosch is not only a sander, but it can also be used for polishing metal as well, which is one of the top reasons you’ll find this model in many pro automotive body shops. It also comes with variable speed settings, so you can lower the power for delicate woodworking jobs and crank it up for bigger projects such as refinishing furniture or hardwood floors. It’s a great buy for the price and has the type of lightweight ergonomic design you’ll need for bigger jobs that require several hours of continuous use.
Best Pneumatic-Hutchins 4500 6-Inch DA Super Sander
The Super Sander by Hutchins is the only air-powered model to make it on my list. This unique sander is high-powered, easy to use and features a low-vibration motor that promotes user comfort, while giving you more control during operation. While this is definitely a model that would work well for the pros, if you have a woodworking shop or DIY projects to tackle, then this model can help you get the job done, and all for a price you can afford.
The best palm sander could be one of the most important tools in your woodworking shop. This type of sander features a design in which the angle of rotation on the disc and head used on the sander can be changed. Basically, you can use this sander to take care of a variety of woodworking jobs.
The type of random sanding options you can choose from will ensure that you can easily handle even the most difficult surfaces.
If you’re new to woodworking, then the difference between a palm sander, also referred to as a random orbital sander, and a standard orbital sander, may be confusing.
The orbital sander isn’t as versatile. It spins its discs in a circle, which is the only way it can move. With the palm sander, this disc will oscillate around and spin in circles. This will keep the pattern more random, which helps to prevent scratches, resulting in a much smoother surface.
If you’re interested in using this type of versatile sander, you should learn about the different features available in order to determine if this sander is right for you.
The palm sander’s motor typically varies from just two up to six amps. This is the type of power you’ll need to handle bigger projects. Keep in mind that how this kind of power translates to the sander’s performance will depend on the specific model. Even if two different models have the same amps it doesn’t mean they’ll offer the same type of performance. What really matters here is how the sander utilizes power.
Orbits Per Minute
Orbits per minute, or OPM is a measurement that focuses on how fast the sander’s discs spin. The higher the OPM the faster the sanding process will be. Some models feature a single-speed design and will only perform at around twelve thousand orbits per minute. Other models are variable and can have an impressive range that allows them to handle more delicate tasks. Since these sanders don’t always operate at a higher speed it can be much easier to control them.
More on Variable Speed
Models with a variable speed knob allow you to change the speed setting for a smoother finish. Variable speed provides users with more control and can also help to prevent sand-through. While a variable speed sander will cost more, this is definitely a feature that’s worth having.
These sanders come in a few different power options:
By far, the pneumatic palm sander is the most powerful, but to use one you’ll need to hook it up to an air compressor. This is the type of sander that’s often used in a professional setting.
Cordless and corded models can also be used in a pro setting, but both are also commonly used by DIYers or home woodworking shops, so I’ll focus more on those types here.
The sander’s power source will impact it’s reliability, power, and weight. Corded models will offer more power compared to cordless sanders and will also be more reliable because you won’t have to worry about the battery running low or carrying a spare battery pack with you. However, the cord itself can be an issue and can get in the way when you’re working.
The base plate is where you’ll attach the sandpaper. There are usually three options to choose from. The base plate is the part of the sander that determines its sanding area size, which is available in two size options-five or six-inch. Models that have a sanding area that’s smaller than five inches are usually referred to as finishing sanders.
If you decide to go with a corded model, then the length of the cord is going to matter. A longer cord will allow you to reach a wider surface without having to use an extension cord. So, before you buy, be sure to check out the length of the cord in order to determine if it’s a model that will work for you.
Sanding Disc Options
How the sanding discs are attached is another option to consider. Some models require discs with adhesive that allows the disc to stick directly to the base plate. However, this type of sandpaper disc can be unreliable since they can wear out and fall off when the machine is in use. Many brands are now using a type of loop and hook system to attach the sanding paper. This is a much more reliable setup and it’s also easier to use. Sanders that use the loop and hook sanding discs can be more cost-effective since you can reuse the discs several times. Changing out the discs is very simple. Many sanding jobs will require you to use different types of grit. With the loop and hook system changing out the discs is basically a matter of peeling off one piece and adding the next. If you’re lucky and you didn’t wear out the disc, you can set it aside and use it again.
Most models will come with their own self-contained dust collection system, which can be modified into a vacuum setup. These will usually come with some type of attachable bag that collections sawdust via the port. Usually, you can remove this bag and use a wet vac instead. The additional suction will be more efficient in terms of keeping your workpiece and workspace nice and clean.
Many sanders will come equipped with a rubberized trigger that comes with a lock for improved control during operation.
Smaller models are usually held from the top or they’re small enough that you can wrap your hand around the entire sander. Larger models will have a type of barrel grip handle and an extra handle located at the front. This extra handle provides the user with more control during operation. While the handle design may not seem like a big deal, if you have plenty of jobs to do around the home or you spend hours sanding down your latest projects in your woodworking shop, then a comfortable grip can really matter. Sanding can be a difficult, lengthy job. Because of this, you’ll want to find a sander that’s comfortable to hold for longer periods of time.
If you’re planning on sanding only horizontal surfaces, such as a floor, then the weight of the sander may not be a big deal. However, if you’re going to sand vertical surfaces such as the sides of a shelf or other types of vertical furniture that will require you to move the sander up and down, then a heavier sander can end up being a big problem.
In this case, a heavy sander can easily cause user fatigue and pain and soreness in the arms. This can shorten the amount of time you’re able to use the sander, which is definitely not something you want if you’re trying to finish a project. Because of this, I recommend searching for a model that’s lightweight and easy to use.
Every type of sander causes a lot of vibration, whether you’re dealing with orbital, disc, or belt sanders. These sanders are no different. Since it oscillates and rotates it tends to produce quite a bit of vibration. This is why some models come with vibration control, which can help to minimize vibration, and, in turn, improve user comfort.
Do I Really Need a Random Orbital Sander?
Many beginner DIYers aren’t sure if buying this type of sander is worth it, thinking they may not use it often enough. However, beginners often fail to realize just how versatile it really is.
- These power tools can make it incredibly easy to remove old paint off of plastic, metal, or wooden surfaces.
- Their compact size and versatility allow them to easily access tight spaces. It can be incredibly difficult to sand down tight corners manually.
- Using one can also speed up the progress on your latest project. Now, you can sand down even larger surfaces in a fraction of the time compared to manual sanding.
- Another major reason many people choose these sanders is the type of consistent results they provide.
Mistakes to Avoid
This is one tool that every beginner DIY woodworker should have. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to think of another tool that will be quite as useful or one that you’ll find yourself relying on for every project. Its design is simple, which makes it very beginner-friendly.
It’s also a huge improvement over the orbit sander, which is its predecessor. This power tool uses a special type of sandpaper disc to get a project nice and smooth as fast as possible and with minimal swirl marks. But with this type of power, you can also expect to make some mistakes using it in the beginning. However, many of these mistakes can easily be avoided with a little know-how.
Take it Slow
If you’re used to manually sanding down your work, you’re just learning how to sand furniture, or maybe you’ve relied on a belt sander in the past, then you probably think you have to keep things moving. However, with this type of sander, you need to take it slow. The ideal speed should be around one inch per second. While this may feel tedious and incredibly slow, it’s what it takes to allow the random oscillations to do their job. This is also the best way you can avoid any swirl patterns and achieve a more uniform look.
Avoid Pressing Down into the Wood
You don’t need to use any type of pressure when you’re working in order to get it to sand properly. Avoid bearing down. The weight of your hand and the sander itself is more than enough to get the job done. If you press down too hard on it you may end up slowing down the sander and damaging the surface of the wood.
If the model you choose comes with a dust collection system, make sure you swap out the bag and use a vacuum instead. Doing so will significantly cut down on the amount of airborne sawdust you’re breathing in and can also make the sander work more efficiently. This will also allow the grit to be in constant contact with your project, instead of the sawdust.
Never Tilt the Sander
When you notice a burn mark or high spot you may be tempted to tilt the sander and bear down on the blemish in the wood. However, since these sanders are designed to make a flat plane uniformly smooth, tilting the sander can damage your workpiece.
The different sandpaper grits should be used as a team. Each grit should be used in order to remove the scratch pattern from the previous one. This means you need to work your way up, through the different levels of grit. However, that’s not to say you have to go through every grit fineness. Purchase sanding discs in:
These should be more than sufficient for most projects. The one hundred grit will help to prepare the surface for the finish, but you shouldn’t need to go any lower than that.
A Perfect Finish
You can’t use a sander for a finish-quality surface, at least when it comes to hardwoods. These tools can leave very subtle swirl marks that may appear under the finish, even if you’re very careful. Because of this, you want to finish with the same 220 grit you used with the tool, but do so by hand using a basic sanding block. For more information, click here to read my article on how to use orbital sander.
Regardless of which model you choose from my top five list, you can rest assured that it will be the best palm sander to get the job done. I hope my buyer’s guide and in-depth reviews of the five best-selling models will help you on your search for a sander that’s equipped with all of the important features and specs you need to get through a project faster and more efficiently, with pro looking results.