A random orbital sander is a great tool to have around no matter what your preferred surface to work on is. They’re the best technology around when it comes to making sure that you get a clean smooth finish on the workpiece.
There’s a lot of them around, however, and someone who’s investing in their first would do well to get some suggestions and do their research before they make the leap.
Victoria, Homethods Author
Best Overall !
For the novice woodworker or DIYer who doesn’t have a huge budget, this small sander stands out from anything near the price point but don’t expect it to work miracles.
The Black & Decker BDERO100 is a great little machine if you just need something cheap to help out around the house. This sander has a compact and ergonomic design but lacks some of the bells and whistles you’ll find attached to more expensive models.
The tool accepts 5” hook and loop discs which allows for quick switching while you’re getting the job done. It performs with 2 amps at a solid 12,000 rpm which makes it a little bit underpowered for heavy duty jobs but allows you to get a good finish if you don’t have to power through a ton of material.
Unfortunately, the filter system is a bit subpar if you’re just going to use the filter which comes with it. You might want to consider making sure that you have a shop vac if you’re planning on using it indoors.
Easy to handle
Hook and loop
Dust filter is subpar
This compact DeWalt sander comes in with a big amount of power in a small package. You’re looking at a 3.0 Amp motor with 12,000rpms that’ll make short work of any kind of finishing sanding you might want to accomplish and even has some cutting power for medium duty jobs.
It takes hook and latch pads as well, which is great for those with larger projects to finish.
The filter bag, while not perfect, works a lot better than many of the cheaper options and can be detached easily with one hand when it comes time to empty it. You’ll still want to use a vacuum for prolonged sessions though, or at least wear a mask.
The only glaring flaw is the single speed motor, but it can be overlooked for most people.
If you want a solid, powerful, compact sander with some impressive ergonomics then the DeWalt DWE6421K is a good match.
3 Amp motor
Hook and latch pads
Convenient carrying bag
Needs extra pieces for vacuum attachment
The Bosch ROS20VSC has a lot going for it, and if you’re looking to pick up a versatile compact orbital sander then you’re in luck. The 2.5amp motor comes in a variable speed, ranging from 7,500 to 12,000rpm which allows you a lot of control over your sanding.
It also has a hook and latch system with 5” pads for quick changing. The filter bag is pretty impressive and if it still generates too much dust for you then you can quickly hook it up to a 1 ¼” shop vac in order to virtually eliminate the dust in your workshop.
The constant response circuitry is also nice, keeping the RPM level at a constant even when you’re pressing on a surface. It’s the little things that count and in this instance Bosch definitely delivers.
The focus on this one was definitely in the ease of use, the ergonomic handle outperforms most compact random orbital sanders by quite a bit and will leave your wrists alone during those longer jobs.
As a compact sander for light duty jobs, this Bosch stands out. It’s easy to use, has variable speed, and takes care of business but you’ll need something with some more power for serious cutting.
Variable speed motor
Comes with carrying bag
Awesome dust catcher
A bit underpowered
Off balance for some users
For heavy duty polishing and sanding, this Porter Cable sander offers some serious advantages. The 4.5 amp motor powers a 6” adhesive disc and comes with a variable speed ranging from 2,500 to 6,800rpm.
This isn’t the beast you need for serious woodworking, but the lower RPM range actually works to its advantage when it comes to taking care of metal. You’ll be able to finish and polish automotive parts or metal furniture with the same tool if you opt to add this one to your bench.
With a high-quality body and plenty of power you’re in good hands here, but the low RPM and adhesive pad-type makes it suitable for different types of work than any of the other sanders on this list.
The side handle is also a nice touch, letting you keep control over the powerful motor and really get some pressure on the work piece if it’s required.
For metal work, this random orbital sander is a great addition to your tool set, but if you really need to get some serious woodwork done there are better tools on the market.
Ideal for metal work
Low speed is ideal for polishing
Side handle for bearing down
Not ideal for woodwork
No dust collection
Once in a while there’s a tool which is a shining star in its class. If you’re looking for a random orbital sander that’s ideal for woodwork, then you’re in the right place.
This 3.3 amp, variable speed sander ranges from 4,500 to 12,000 rpms and lays down enough power for nearly any kind of wood. The entire frame is built of die-cast aluminum and the integrated dust collector is awesome, collecting pretty much everything without needing you to attach a vacuum.
It’s designed for heavy use, and it shows. The ergonomics are pretty much spot on and the 6” hook and loop discs allow you to go over large areas in a small amount of time, with the powerful motor letting you bear down and get some serious work done.
The only real issue here is that it tends a bit towards the heavy side which can make it a bit cumbersome on smaller projects but for the majority of people it’s great for larger surfaces.
For heavy woodworking, you really need look no further than the Bosch 3727DEVS.It’s heavy duty, versatile, and will allow you to make short work of both sanding out scratches and getting a silky smooth finish.
Excellent dust collection
Hook and loop system
When Should You Use a Random Orbital Sander?
Random orbital sanders are best for finishing a piece where you don’t need to be aggressive for stripping things down. Their unique motion pushes them in a semi-random ellipse which means that you won’t have repetitive patterning when you’re stripping things down, instead ensuring that there’s a fairly uniform surface instead of gouges and swirls left over.
Larger random orbital sanders fit a niche somewhat between palm sanders and belt sanders, allowing for a smooth finish and removing a substantial amount of material.
The sanders both vibrate and move their pad in an ellipse. This means that you can usually avoid the circular marks left by finishing sanders without having to finesse the entire device to avoid them.
If you’re only going to buy one sander for your workshop make it a random orbital. They’re not perfect in all respects but they offer the best of all worlds in a single electric sander.
What to Look for in a Random Orbital Sander
Since they’re fairly complex devices, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re looking for to ensure that you end up with a sander that will meet your needs handily. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as hard as you’d think to make sure that you end up with a great sander, but suiting one perfectly to what you’re planning on doing can be a little bit harder.
Random orbital sanders come with two different varieties of pads, and they aren’t interchangeable between sanders.
Hook and loop sanders use a Velcro pad. These pads are more expensive overall, but the convenience of changing them out is great if you’re planning on a lot of high volume sanding.
Stick and peel pads, on the other hand, are cheaper but take more time to change. It’s up to you if the lower cost is worth more of your time while you’re in the workshop, of course.
Most of these sanders come with either a 5” or 6” disc. Smaller discs make more sense if you’re doing a lot of detail work, and larger ones are better if you’re planning on working big, flat surfaces.
Try to figure out what you’ll be doing more of while you’re picking out your sander for the best results, if in doubt it’s usually better to go with a smaller pad. They’ll be cheaper when you purchase them and can fit into details better.
A single speed random orbital sander will generally run from 10,000-12,000 rpm. It’s a good speed for general sanding, but variable speed allows you to do a lot more.
Finish sanding is best done in the range from 6,000 to 10,000rpmsand polishing is usually done even lower at 4,000 to 6,000. This means that a variable speed sander can be quite a lifesaver when it comes to making sure that you have the optimal tool for the job.
The size of the sander itself will vary pretty widely, depending on what you need to do. In general smaller sanders will not only use smaller discs but also allow you to work with details much easier. They’re limited in how much force you can apply, however, and are best used for finishing and polishing rather than heavy duty jobs.
Larger sanders will allow you to use more force during the course of your job, making cutting into things a little bit easier as well as allowing for wider control on flat surfaces.
Let’s face it, sanders throw off a lot of dust when they’re in use. Without some form of dust collection you’ll probably have to use a respirator, but most random orbital sanders worth their salt will have some form of dust collection built in.
There are a couple of types of common dust collection mechanisms. Built in bags can be handy, but you’ll still want to wear a mask in almost all cases. They’ll collect dust as things go along in a filter or bag.
Vacuum ports require a separate shop vac to take care of things. These ports are the best option for a workshop which already has the tool ready, and you’ll be able to work comfortably with only a light mask in most environments using one. They also limit the agility of the sander a little bit, so it’s something of a trade-off.
Which sander you decide to go with is mostly based on what you’ll be using it for. Visualize the kinds of things you see yourself doing most frequently before you drop the money and you’ll be a lot happier. The best sander, after all, is one which you find yourself using frequently and without discomfort.