If you want to introduce someone to DIY, a Random Orbital Sander makes a perfect present. Used to sand, smooth or polish wooden, metal, and other surfaces, it is just about the safest and simplest power tool, yet it is a challenge to attain mastery with it.
A couple of the most boring and tedious home improvement tasks, sanding and finishing, become less tedious and much quicker if you use a Power Sander. Hand-held power sanders are of four main kinds: Belt Sander, Detail Sander, Orbital Sander, and Random Orbital Sander.
From among these the Random Orbital Sander can be called perhaps the gentlest in sanding action and certainly the most sophisticated in its devising, as it produces the smoothest and finest finish – provided the operator handles it with the right technique. It can even polish your automobile to a fine sheen. But that’s not all! The circular base of a Random Orbital Sander, which is the sanding plate, is meant to wear sanding disks which are available in varying grits. Next, most models of these power tools can be operated at different speeds.
So even if you want to do some rough-and-ready sanding or removal of stock or paint, you can utilise this same gentle and sophisticated tool by simply choosing a sanding disk of coarse grit and setting a high speed on the sander.
Random Orbital Sanders are called as such not because the disk rotates – that is a given. They are so named because the disk itself goes round and around; it revolves around its own axis or makes an ‘orbit.’ These orbits are elliptical but are also random; that is, they do not trace the exact same path in succession. Hence the name.
Sanding disks attach to the sanding plate with the hook-and-loop interface. Velcro is the most well-known brand name for such interfaces and fasteners.
Last update on 2021-04-22 / All Pricing & Imagery from Amazon Product Advertising API
Underneath we evaluate five 125-millimetre DIY or hobbyist class Random Orbital Sanders. They range from budget-friendly, inexpensively-manufactured functional machines to expensive, precision-made, high-end models.
Unbeatable performance, lightweight, comfortable, flawless, effective – what can one say about this top, top Dewalt kit except a stream of compliments?
Cost: Price not available
Dewalt’s 280-Watt kit is a feather-light 99.8 grams. It has a 3-ampere motor that drives the sanding pad at from 8,000 to 12,000 orbits per minute (OPM). The speed is adjustable through the 5-speed dial on the side of the handle.
Dewalt says a ‘separate counterweight reduces vibration.’ Counterweight or no counterweight, this sander is so low in vibrations that, compared to other sanders, it seems virtually vibration-free. On this criterion it is best-in-class. The moulded rubber grip further increases comfort.
The switch is shrouded to make it dustproof.
Some random orbital sanders are notorious for suddenly doffing their sanding pads but this one makes it a habit of keeping them on.
Dust collection as it stands is very effective. It can be made even more so by connecting the port with a shop vac (or Dewalt’s own dust collector).
Most importantly, the removal of stock and sanding are remarkably even. This kit is easy on the hand but also feels solid in hand and is of excellent build quality.
The 4-metre cord is another plus point, especially as many another sander comes with a 2-metre cord.
With no perceptible flaws and unbeatable performance, choosing Dewalt’s DWE6423 as our top pick was not too difficult.
Included is a fabric dust bag and one 80-grit sanding pad.
Dewalt provides a 90-day money-back guarantee, a three-year limited warranty, and one year of free service.
- Among multiple ‘pros,’ the most important is the consistent and even sanding of this super-reliable kit.
- Feather-light, nearly vibration-free kit gives the smoothest of rides.
- It’s flawless – a truly striking plus point.
Six speeds, 300 watts, generous accessories, easy on the hand and easy on the pocket – just how does Meterk produce such amazing value-for-money kits?
Meterk’s value-priced sander has 300-watts of power and a 2.5-ampere motor. It has a 6-speed dial on the top to adjust its speed from 6,000 to 12,000 OPMs. At 1.4 kilo it is quite light.
The on-off switch is billed as ‘dust-proof,’ and it is certainly almost dust-proof. What isn’t ‘almost’ is that Meterk’s kit performs as well as and feels as comfortable as many a much more costly random orbital sander. The semi-ergonomic rubberised handle contributes a lot to the comfort. As for the performance, the MKRS01 is fully as powerful as its specs indicate. Sanding is easy and trouble-free.
Dust collection is not the best but it is quite effective and a bit better than that of other kits. Unfortunately, the dust compartment’s catch is flimsy so one must remember to be careful when removing and inserting the dust compartment. Otherwise, this kit’s build quality is really good which is unexpected in view of its low cost.
It is supplied with 6 80-grit sanding pads and 6 180-grit sanding pads. The power cord is 2 metres in length.
On all counts, this sander is much better than one can reasonably expect at its price and it is an easy choice as our Value Pick. Meterk will build up quite a following if it keeps producing power tools that are such sharp value.
Meterk provides a 2-year warranty which it also quaintly phrases as a ‘quality promise.’
- High power and high performance match those of costly sanders, but the low price does not.
- Dust-collection is a cut (or two) above average.
- Variable speed on a bargain-priced kit is a huge plus.
- Dust compartment’s catch is flimsy and can break.
With pronounced plusses yet also a couple of clear defects, Makita’s costly kit is oddly flawed yet excellent; some will dislike it, others will be delighted.
Makita’s 300-watt kit is a mixed bag. It operates at 8,000 to 24,000 strokes per minute and has a speed of 4,000 to 12,000 OPMs. The orbit has a diameter of 1/8 inch.
This is a largeish sander and it’s also heavier than the norm at 2 kilos meaning that you do not need to exert any pressure as it sands.
The dial on the top selects the speed and the lock-on button allows you to remove your fingers from the trigger. This sander maintains constant speed under load. One drawback is that the speed dial is not firm and it is all-too-easy to inadvertently move it during operation.
Makita’s BO5041 produces vibrations that are uncomfortably palpable; at least they are more pronounced than those of a few other modern random orbital sanders. The rubberised gripping areas, on the other hand, make operation comfortable. The adjustable auxiliary handle is an unusual and welcome feature.
Operation-wise, this is a really good kit because at high speeds you can get rid of stock and layers in no time yet the finish left behind is level and quite smooth.
The automatic brake can be temperamental and sensitive. On some units, if a precise amount of downward pressure is not exerted the machine will not start or will auto shut-off.
The hit-and-miss dust collection is the weak link in the chain. Moreover, the supplied dust bag is weak and troublesome to empty.
This kit is unusually well designed and the build quality is excellent. The two or three features unique to it are counterbalanced by a couple of flaws, which, probably, make this kit a tad overpriced.
This sander comes with a dust bag, a sanding disk, and a too-short power cord. (Note that in the U.K., the BO5041 comes with a dust bag and not the pictured clip-on plastic receptacle.)
Makita provides a one-year guarantee extendable to three years if the product is registered within 30 days of purchase. The guarantee covers personal use of the product and not business or trade use.
- Lock-on button for continuous operation and circuitry for constant speed under load.
- Quick removal of stock yet level and smooth finish at higher speeds.
- Adjustable auxiliary handle.
- Dodgy dust collection and equally dodgy dust-collection bag.
- The intensity of vibrations compares unfavourably with other sanders.
- The automatic brake can now and then bring the sander to a stop.
Basic, rugged, and functional – TECCPO’s kit lacks refinement and the sanding plate is sub-par but at a budget price, it’s a smart buy for heavy sanding.
Cost: Price not available
TECCPO’s bargain-priced 280-watt kit has a 2.4-ampere motor. It has a fixed speed of 12,500 OPMs with a random orbit of 2.5 millimetres in diameter. At 1.32 kilogrammes it is quite light.
The handle is covered with a decent rubber saddle, making handling more than acceptable.
TECCPO claims their kit has a ‘microfilter system that captures particles as small as 1/2 micron,’ and we have no gripes about its dust collection, which is at least a match for those of more expensive models, if not better.
The gripe we do have is that the sanding plate’s hook interface is of inferior quality and is not long-lasting. Some units will not retain their sanding pads, flinging them here and there.
It has no advanced features worth the name but then, this is a bargain-basement kit. And so, at its low price this solid and rugged sander must be recognised as a pretty good value for money, especially if you want an ‘angry’ sander to remove stock and layers and do not need slower speeds. Upping its value a little, it comes with 6 80-grit sanding disks, 6 180-grit sanding disks, and a washable pure cotton dust bag.
The cord is 2 metres long.
TECCPO provides a 2-year warranty (also) phrased as a ‘quality promise.’
- Lightweight – both in weight and in price.
- Good dust collection.
- Generously supplied with a dozen sanding disks and a very good dust bag.
- The sanding plate’s hook interface is unreliable and sanding disks may not stay attached.
- No features to speak of on this low-priced rough-and-ready customer.
- Cannot vary the speed.
One of Bosch’s entry-level power tools, what this kit lacks in features and reliability, it makes up in performance, effectiveness, and can’t-resist price.
Bosch’s PEX 220 A sander has a 220-watt motor that drives the sanding plate at a fixed 24,000 OPMs with an orbit diameter of 1.25 millimetres. This inexpensive model does not have variable speed. It weighs only 1.4 kilogrammes.
The sanding plate may be of magnesium as claimed but on some units, it is problematic and is also not durable. Sanding pads cannot securely be attached to the plate and they come loose during operation.
The dust collection compartment needs to be emptied regularly for acceptable dust extraction and collection operation. And that’s all it is – acceptable. It does not have a port for connecting a shop vac so an adaptor must be purchased.
The best thing about Bosch’s entry-level sander is its performance. For a sander with an underpowered 220-watt motor, it is surprisingly effective. The rubbery soft-grip makes it easy to hold and operate. Unfortunately, this particular item does not reflect the rigorous quality control that Bosch is trusted for because some units develop one or another fault and become unusable. On the other hand, its build quality is excellent. It is robust, well-finished, and made of quality materials.
Its lack of variable speed makes it unsuitable for polishing or for sanding smaller objects with curved surfaces, but it is a good budget buy for rough-and-ready sanding.
Included in the package is all of one 80-grit sanding pad.
- In view of its specs and price, its power and performance are surprisingly good.
- Very comfortable and very easy on the hand.
- High-quality build and finishing.
- Some units develop faults to the extent that they become unusable.
- On some other units sanding pads do not stay attached and come loose.
- Cannot vary the speed.
How A Random Orbital Sander Works
A Random Orbital Sander has a circular sanding plate at its base on which the user fits a sanding pad of the desired grit. The tool works by making a dual movement: the sanding plate rotates and revolves – makes an ‘orbit.’ Moreover, its orbits are elliptical and ‘random;’ that is, it does not revolve exactly the same way in succession. The sanding pad on the rotating and revolving sanding plate sands or buffs the surface with this dual motion. It is up to the user to move the sander along the workpiece but with the sander doing the difficult work, the user has it easy!
If the sanding plate only rotated or it rotated and revolved but always made the same orbit, swirl marks would be left on the workpiece. The advantage of a (well-made) Random Orbital Sander is that it does not leave such swirl marks (unless some addled user is less interested in his sanding and more in his beer – on which point, do not mix sanding activity with food and drink!).
Many orbital sanders can be set to different speeds. The option to set slow, medium, or fast speeds coupled with the ability to use sanding pads in a wide range of grits gives this power tool a lot of versatility because it can be used for many tasks from fast removal of stock or layers all the way to gentle buffing of delicate surfaces.
How To Use An Orbital Sander On Hardwood Floors
Although a hand-held Random Orbital Sander, because of its small size and sanding pad, is not designed to sand hardwood floors, if you have the time and the patience and the floor’s area is small, it can be done and is done. You need to follow three rules:–
- Keep it flat and keep it moving.
- Progress from coarse to fine grit.
- Clean between sandings.
When you sand a floor or any flat surface, you need to apply gentle pressure and keep the sander flat and level. Do not tilt it at all. You also need to keep moving the sander and not let it stay stationary. Move it slowly along the grain of the wood and make elliptical motions such that each ‘virtual ellipse’ half overlaps with the previous ellipse.
You will need to make three or four passes on the floor using different grits. The grits you use will depend on the type of wood and the condition of the floor; that is, how uneven or bumpy it is. As a general rule, sand with 60 grit at a high speed on the sander to remove some stock and level the floor. Then sand the floor at medium speed using 120 grit sanding pads as the ‘sanding’ step. Finally, sand it at a low speed using 240 grit sanding pads as the polishing step.
After each step, make sure to vacuum the floor to remove all the dust and particles and wipe it clean.
How to Polish Your Car with a Random Orbital Sander
Quite an array of hook-and-loop polishing and buffing pads are available; these turn random orbital sanders into polishers and buffers!
First, wash and clean your car.
Begin by attaching a polishing foam pad or polishing sponge to your random orbital sander. Put a small quantity of auto-body polish on the pad evenly around: squeeze a thin streak of polish around the pad, dab it down, and you’re ready to go.
Choose a middle speed on your sander and begin. Slowly make ’S’ or ‘8’ shaped movements as you polish. Tilt and turn the sander along with the curvature of the car’s body so as to keep the sanding pad parallel as far as possible with the surface you are sanding; avoid angular contact between the sanding pad and the surface.
After you are done polishing, you can also remove polish residue and buff your car to a fine sheen with the random orbital sander itself.
Attach a lambswool polishing bonnet to the sanding plate and turn on the sander at a slower speed. Make the same type of motions as you did while polishing but take a bit more time as you move along. Done properly and with the right pads and technique, you will not need to finish by hand – except when there any grooves and channels that the sander cannot reach – and you will end up with a glossy, shiny car.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.