If you’re trying to buy your first random orbital sander, then this article is for you. To me, it’s the most useful of all the different types of sanders since I use it for almost all my projects.
Woodworkers and auto body workers use it because it produces the best finish on any surface. It’s not the type of sander you need when you want to remove lots of material from a surface. It’s best for producing that final mirror-like finish on a surface.
A random orbital sander produces a very smooth finish because of the motion of the abrasive disc. It combines two motions – circular motion and orbital/elliptical motion.
This combined motion produces constant irregular overlapping circles, thus preventing any form of repetitive patterns or swirl marks on the surface because no single part of the abrasive travels the same part twice.
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When buying a random orbital sander, you can either choose from a corded-electric model, a battery-powered or cordless unit and a pneumatic or air-powered one.
Whether it’s corded, cordless or pneumatic, they all produce the same results. The main differences between them is price and handling.
Corded units are less expensive, lighter in weight, easier to handle due to their smaller frame, and are best for workshop use. Cordless units are heavier due to the extra battery. They’re heavier and have quite a larger frame which makes them more difficult to hold for a long time especially when sanding vertical surfaces. They’re also more expensive due to the cost of the battery and charger. Sometimes the batteries and charger costs as much as the unit itself.
However, if you already have batteries and charger from a certain tool brand, you can just buy the bare tool instead, since most top tool brands like Dewalt, Makita, Bosch, Milwaukee and Ryobi now make batteries that can be used on any of their cordless tools.
A very good pneumatic random orbital sander is usually more expensive, although there are very cheap ones. They cost more than most corded and cordless units. However, they’re mostly used in fabrication and auto body workshops for sanding car panels and other metal parts. They usually have smaller profile and are easier to hold and maneuver over surfaces.
The drawback with pneumatic sanders is that you need a very big air compressor that may cost you more than $2000. That’s why for most craftsmen, a good corded electric or cordless random orbital sander is what you need.
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How to Choose the Best Random Orbital Sander
There are many types, manufacturers and brands of random orbital sanders out there. If you want to choose the best one for your project, here’s what you should look for.
When shopping for a random orbital sander, it is recommended that you can adjust its speed. The variable speed option helps you to either speed up or slow down the motion of the sanding pad, depending on the type of material you are sanding and the type of finish you want to achieve.
It is very important because it helps you dictate the pace at which you want to sand and the amount of material you wish to remove.
If you need to remove a lot of material from the surface, then you increase the speed. On the other hand, if only light sanding is required, then you can reduce the speed to match the amount of material you wish to remove.
Random orbital sanders oscillates and rotates at the same time, thus they produce a lot of vibration. However, some produce more vibrations than others. Most of the time, it’s the cheaper ones that vibrate a lot.
Too much vibration makes it difficult to hold it for a long time, and might require you to wear gloves so it doesn’t cause blisters in your hand.
Some random orbital sanders however (like the Mirka listed above), produce less vibrations than others, because they’ve been fitted with dampeners that reduce the vibration.
So, if you need a unit that’s easier to use and more comfortable to handle, then check for features like this.
Dust collection is a very important issue when it comes to sanders in general because a lot of dust is produced when you sand a piece of wood or metal.
So it is important that the dust produced is collected efficiently, so that it will not be on the work surface and certainly not in the air for you not to breathe in.
The sander will not work efficiently if the dust being sanded off is not being removed simultaneously from the work surface.
If the dust is still on the surface, then the sandpaper will not contact the surface directly, which will ultimately wear out the sandpaper faster, making it less effective and cause you to do more work.
So, ensure the one you choose have a good dust port that can be connected easily to a shop vac or your dust collection system.
If you’ve only be sanding horizontal surfaces, like when you are sanding a floor, the weight of your random orbital sander might not be a big issue to you.
On the other hand, if you are sanding vertical surfaces like the side of your kitchen shelve or other vertical furniture that require that you move your sander up and down vertically, then the weight of your sander will come to effect pretty quickly.
In this instance, too much weight can easily create fatigue and tiredness in your arms, thereby shortening the time you can sand with the sander, and ultimately reducing your output.
So, go for as less weight as possible. Your arms will thank you for it.
Changing sanding grit paper
It will be quite unusual to use one sandpaper or one grit size of sandpaper from the start to the finish of a project.
You’d definitely be swapping out different sandpaper, maybe after one wears out or maybe when you need a different grit size for a better finish.
Hence, the ease at which you can swap out this sandpaper is very important. The easiest way to remove and attach sandpaper to the sanding pad is through hook-and-loop.
So get a sander that accepts hook-and-loop sandpapers so that you can easily swap out sandpapers and reduce tool downtime.
Handling – Good grip
Sanding takes quite a bit of time depending on the size of the project. That means you’ll be holding the sander for quite some time. If you’re not able to grip it properly or if the grip point is too wide for your hand, holding it for a long time may cause you to feel some discomfort or fatigue in your hand, especially when sanding a vertical surface.
So, if possible try to hold the sander first and feel how comfortable it is in your hands,
If you’re buying online, make sure you check for one with smaller grip point or handle so that your hand can wrap around it properly. If you can wrap your hand around the handle properly, then you can use it for a long of time conveniently without experiencing fatigue.
Here in this article, I’ve listed 7 of our tried and tested random orbital sanders, so that you can choose the right one for your projects.
1. Mirka Direct Electric Random Orbital Sander (DEROS) – Best Pick
Speed: 4000 – 10,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 5.0 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 2.2 lbs, Type: Corded Electric
Paying over $600 for a tiny random orbital sander might sound ridiculous, but I’ll assure you it’s not for the Mirka DEROS (Direct Electric Random Orbital Sander).
The first thing you’ll notice about it is that is has a very small profile when compared with other sanders. Although it uses a 5 inch sanding disc, the body is designed so that it can fit easily into confined, hard-to-reach spaces.
Apart from the small profile, what really makes the Mirka DEROS stand out from other ones is it’s vibration control. During operation, most random orbital sanders vibrate a lot. The Mirka however, does not. The entire motor housing is coated with rubber which dampens all the vibration produced. This minimal vibration along with the fact that it’s very lightweight (weighing just 2.2 lbs.) makes it easy to hold for a long time without feeling any discomfort in hands.
Another reason why this Mirka DEROS stands out is because it connects with a shop vac seamlessly to ensure there’s no dust on the work surface when you’re working with it. Hooking up a shop vac to it is easy and it’s very efficient.
The handle/body design is symmetric, which means both the left and right side of the sander looks and feels the same. That’s why you can use it comfortably whether you’re right-handed or left-handed.
It feels comfortable in the hand and the surface finish it leaves is extremely smooth.
|Very good low-profile design makes it easy to fit in tight spaces.||It doesn’t come with blades.|
|Easy to grip and use even when sanding vertically.|
|Very good dust collection. Shop vac can be connected easily.|
Related: The 10 Best Oscillating Spindle Sanders For Sanding Curves In Wood
2. Festool 576070 ETS 125 REQ-Plus Random Orbital Sander – Runner Up
Speed: Variable speed, Orbital Length: 2.0 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 2.4 lbs., Type: Corded Electric
The ETS 125 REQ-Plus is not Festool’s top of the line random orbital sander. That will be the Rotex RO 150 FEQ Dual-Mode Sander.
However, what you get with the ETS 125 is a more streamlined and budget friendly but also top-quality random orbital sander from the same brand.
With the Festool ETS 125, you can produce the finest of finishes on any surface it’s used to work on because it has a very fine sanding stroke of 2.0 mm.
No matter the size of your hand, it will fit right in, because it’s very compact and lightweight (weighing just 2.4 lbs.), suitable for extended vertical and overhead use on any type of surface.
The pad speed can be adjusted easily, making it a very versatile tool for working on different types of surfaces such as wood, plastic and even metal.
Festool random orbital sanders are designed to drastically reduce the impact of the vibration of the motor and orbiting sanding pad on the user’s palm.
This is evident in the ETS 125 REQ-Plus, as the balanced vibration stop design helps ensure a smooth operation, user comfort, and ultimately helps produce the better finish results on surfaces.
The ETS 125 REQ-Plus also features a highly efficient Jestream dust removal system that helps clean up the air and work surface during operation.
|Very little vibration.||It’s a bit pricey as with most Festool Tools.|
|Easy to grip and maneuver.|
|Excellent finish quality.|
3. Bosch GEX18V-5N – Best Cordless Random Orbital Sander
Speed: 6000 – 10,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 1.25 mm, Disc Size: 5 inch, Weight: 2.4 lbs, Type: Cordless
One thing common with most random orbital sanders is that they can be quite difficult to hold because of how bulky the body or frame is. Fortunately, the Bosch GEX18V-5N is nothing like that.
It features a very slick palm grip build that allows the user maximum control and comfort when held in the hand. This is the main reason I like the Bosch GEX18V-5N – it’s very easy to hold in your palms, without them getting sweaty.
Apart from that, it also powerful and performs very well when used on any surface. It’s an 18V cordless sander, although it’s sold as a bare tool.
Dust collection and control is also very easy with the GEX18V-5N. The 5 inch sanding disc has 8 holes that allows maximum suction, ensuring all the dust is collected properly when a shop vac is connected.
Another reason why I like the Bosch GEX18V-5N is that it doesn’t vibrate as much as some other units I’ve used. It works steady and feels very comfortable in the hand whether you’re using it on a horizontal or vertical surface.
The speed is also adjustable. There’s a speed selector dial at the side you can use to adjust the speed from 6000 OPM (oscillations per minute) to 10,000 OPM. This gives you the freedom to use it for different applications.
Overall, I’d say this Bosch GEX18V-5N beats most of the cordless random orbital sanders I’ve used.
|Very slick palm grip. You can hold it a long time without experiencing fatigue.||It doesn’t come with the battery and charger.|
|Produces a flawless finish.|
|Controls are easy to access.|
|Very good dust collection.|
|It produces very little vibration.|
4. Metabo HPT SV13YST
Speed: 9000 – 13,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 2.8 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 3.1 lbs., Type: Corded Electric
The Metabo HPT SV13YST comes equipped with every feature needed to achieve great finishes with a random orbital sander.
It’s got a powerful motor, variable speed and a good design. The motor in it is a 2.8 Amp motor producing a max speed of 13,000 RPM, allowing the user to work on really hard surfaces with ease.
The speed can be varied from 9000 RPM to 13,000 RPM, with 6 speed settings, allowing the user freedom to adjust the tool to suit the project in hand.
It’s lightweight, weighing just 3.1 lbs which makes it very easy to maneuver over a surface and reduce user fatigue. Apart from the weight, the palm-style, soft grip design helps minimize vibration and makes it very comfortable to grip during use.
For convenience, it also comes with a dust collection hose connector and adapter to connect it easily to a shop vac, thus reducing cleanup time and increase abrasive life.
|Powerful and produces a flawless finish.||The dust bag doesn’t fit properly.|
|It’s quite inexpensive.||Too much vibration.|
|Feels sturdy and reliable.|
5. Makita XOB01Z 18V LXT
Speed: 7000 – 11,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 3.2 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 3.6 lbs., Type: Cordless
If you’re looking for a mid-range cordless random orbital sander to carry out projects, especially out there on the job, one of the best I’ll recommend is this Makita XOB01Z. It’s a sander designed to reduce the time you spend sanding and improve the surface finish on your projects.
Performance-wise, it’s really very good and it’s not that pricey, just over 80 bucks. So, if you already have some Makita batteries and charger, you won’t have to spend more than that, unless it’s your first Makita cordless tool.
It makes use of a 5 inch sanding disc and has a 1/8 inch orbital action, which makes it easy to cover a surface quickly and leave a good finish on it.
One cool thing about it is that you can adjust the speed to suit different types of projects or applications. Although, I wouldn’t call it variable speed because, it’s just those 3 speeds and nothing more. It can be adjusted to a low speed setting of 7000 OPM, a medium speed of 9500 OPM and a high speed setting of 11,000 OPM.
The high speed setting is ideal for taking away lots of material while the low and medium and for smoothing the surface.
It comes with a dust back that collects the dust as you work, although if you want it to be more efficient, you can always remove the dust bag and connect a shop vac instead.
I’ll tell you it’s quite heavy, and gripping it while working on a vertical surface is not easy, especially if you have small hands. So, keep that in mind.
Overall though, performance-wise, it’s a very good random orbital sander you can use for projects out there on the job site and maybe even in the shop.
|It performs really well. Very good surface finish.||It not easy to grip. Not comfortable to hold for a long time.|
|Not very noisy.|
|It’s suitable for jobsite projects since it’s cordless.|
6. Dewalt DWE6423K Random Orbital Sander
Speed: 8000 – 12,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 2.5 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 3.0 lbs., Type: Corded Electric
With a range of 8000 to 12000 Max oscillations delivered per minute by a 3 Amp motor, the Dewalt DWE6423K random orbital sander comes equipped with everything you need to conquer your sanding projects.
It features a hook and loop sanding pad that allows you to swap out and replace sandpapers easily without any downtime.
Dust collection is very important with random orbital sanders, that’s why the DWE6423K comes equipped with a one-handed dust bag.
Although this won’t cut it for easily collecting large amounts of dust and keeping a clean work surface, you can easily attach your dust collector or vacuum to get every dust off as you sand your project.
The sander features a dust sealed switch to prevent dust from finding its way or penetrating inside and getting it damaged.
If you’re really looking for a good electric sander to tackle your projects with, this Dewalt DWE6423K is one of the best ones you can go for.
|Very good surface finish.||It doesn’t come with any sandpaper.|
|Easy to hold.|
7. 3M 20317 Pneumatic Random Orbital Sanders
Speed: 12,000 OPM, Orbital Length: 4.8 mm, Disc Size: 5 Inch, Weight: 2.0 lbs, Type: Pneumatic
This is a pneumatic sander manufactured by 3M. These sanders don’t use batteries or electric power, but are rather powered by compressed air from air compressors.
You use these guys when the application exceeds the capability of standard electric and battery powered sanders.
They’re smaller and lighter than standard electric sanders but they’re the elephants when it comes to power.
So, if you’re working in an automobile workshop or in an industrial setting, then this is the sander you need.
Take note though, that this particular 3M sander is a non-vacuum sander. That means it’s not connected to a dust extractor or vacuum system and it’s used when dust extraction is nothing of concern to you.
|Very easy to handle.||Requires an air compressor with a big tank.|
|It’s very powerful.|
|Suitable for high-speed bodywork and metal fabrication applications.|