Power Sanders 101

By: Julie Day
Random orbit sander, detail sander, and palm sander.

My random orbit sander, detail sander, and palm sander all receive a lot of use!

Orbital Sanders

Orbital, or oscillating, sanders are the simplest and least expensive handheld sanders. They sand by vibrating, which moves the sandpaper in tiny circles or orbits. Orbital sanders include:

Orbital palm sander

Orbital palm sander

  • Palm Sanders: Sized to hold either a quarter-sheet or half-sheet of standard sandpaper.
  • Detail Sanders: Small sanders, usually pointed on one end, for getting into hard to reach corners.
  • Floor Orbital Sanders: Large orbital sanders used for sanding wood floors.

Orbital sanders remove less material than other power sanders, making them perfect for finish sanding. The main disadvantage of orbital sanders is that they can leave small circular scratch marks in the work that may not be evident until finish is applied. Orbital sanders work best when moved with the grain of the wood.

Sandpaper: Some orbital sanders use standard sandpaper sheets while others require special self-adhesive or hook-and-loop sanding pads.

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