The Best Orbital Sanders For Woodwork

The random orbital sander has multiple uses around any woodworking project. You might find yourself reaching for it many times a day, and so getting the best sander for your needs is not something to consider lightly. We’ve compiled a list for those looking to buy an orbital sander, to help guide you in your purchase.

What To Look For?

Assuming you’ve already established the difference between a regular orbital sander and a random orbital sander(which we are focusing on), there are a few features to keep in mind when choosing between different models. Choosing between corded and cordless may seem like a simple question, but the answer depends on your intended use. While cordless models offer more freedom of movement, you might find long sessions of sanding difficult if your battery is dying out too fast. Whether you’re mainly working indoors or outdoors also factors into your decision – cordless being easier for outdoors woodwork.

You might compare power, dust extraction, weight, and many other features. This guide is our personal opinion, and ultimately you should be comfortable using the tools you buy. Choose specifications that suit your needs, and don’t forget to pick up the sander and get a feel for it; some tools simply might not be comfortable for you.

Testing Methods

We’ve compared more than just the prices of these sanders. Using a variety of wooden blocks, we were able to test each random orbital sander using the same grit size to compare more accurately. Taking notes on dust collection, vibrations, speed, and swirl marks; each machine got a thorough checkup. Most of these models are cordless, but that is just a coincidence – there are many great corded random orbital sanders available.

We tested these tools with more than one person handling them, to compare how effective their different designs were ergonomically. Extra features were taken into consideration as well, along with price.

Top Orbital Sanders

Our Choice:

DeWalt MAX XR Brushless 20V 5 Inch Cordless

After rigorous testing, and comparing different models, we were generally impressed with this model.

Power at Minimal Vibration

This sander was strong enough to handle big jobs efficiently, while it gave us very little vibration. Even at lower speeds, there was no significant increase in vibration. It’s cordless, with approximately 1 hour battery life, which is not too bad. Its speed can easily be varied between 8000 to 12000 oscillations, so you can easily use it for a wide variety of projects – both fine and coarse sanding.

Design Features

The sander felt light and compact at a mere 1.9 lbs. Don’t worry about losing your grip though, we found the rubber grip handle effective at keeping it stable. It was easy to control the sander. Also, we noticed it sits lower than other models we’ve tested, which allowed us to more thoroughly use the sander.
The power switch was cleverly designed to keep out sawdust, which is a nice touch.

Sanding And Dust

The sandpaper pad is as the industry standard, easily changeable. We found that the dust bag was very easy to connect (you can do it with one hand). I must say I was disappointed that they did not provide an adaptor for attaching it to a vacuum, but nonetheless, it wasn’t hard to use it with a separate adaptor. The vacuum hose attaches securely, so my work area was practically dust free.

Tight On Cash?

BLACK+DECKER 5” Random Orbital Sander

This Amazon bestseller has a rock bottom price, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck.

Simplicity

Black and Decker have always been market leaders in power tool manufacturing, and there’s a clear reason why. Don’t let the price tag fool you, the simplicity of this tool is paired with high efficiency, and it’s a high quality machine. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy extras, but it does the job well.

Quiet But Handy

The Black and Decker 5” Sander is not very noisy, but can be used effectively for a variety of light woodworking purposes. At 4 lbs, it is not too heavy, but weighted enough to give you some control while sanding. It also oscillates for up to 12000 opm, which is the rough standard that the best sanders aim for.

Drawbacks and Verdict

It isn’t made for heavy duty work, so keep it light. Some users reported that it fell apart after using it for a long time. Durability is apparently a problem with this model, but the price makes it worthwhile if you aren’t doing extensive sanding. Skip this one if you are looking for a professional-grade sander. However, if you’re only going to be doing light DIY-work, there is no need to splurge on a more expensive model because this one does the job just fine, and it’s easier on your wallet.

Need Something More Aggressive?

Makita XOB01T

A Powerful Workhorse

You will be pleasantly surprised using this model, because even though it has a significantly lower maximum speed (at 11,000opm) than other models, the machine was able to sand wooden surfaces quickly, efficiently, and powerfully. We had no trouble using it on a variety of wood types, and at both high and low speeds.

Design Features

The entire system was ergonomic and very comfortable to handle. The addition of a brake pad makes for a better overall result, and the touch button for switching speeds was easy to use. If you’re worried that the touch control would accidentally be activated, don’t – they are positioned well and pose no risk of randomly being touched.

Drawbacks and Verdict

Possibly the only major drawback of this model compared to others, is the battery life. 40 minutes isn’t too little, but nonetheless the competitors have a longer battery time. On the other hand, we found that it charges fast enough.

It does take some getting used to, because it has a powerful motor and needs pushing forward for correct use. Get this tool if you want to work more efficiently with a well-designed sander.

Large Projects

Milwaukee Electric Tool 2648-20

For projects with many wide surfaces and a lot of sanding, we found that this is the best model. It’s the first cordless model from Milwaukee, but they nailed it nonetheless.

Best Features

Even though it has a considerably higher weight, it doesn’t feel too heavy. Using this sander felt like it was doing the work for you, and it was probably the most powerful we’ve tried. Dust Collection works at an excellent level. It’s perfect for large jobs, the battery was even able to withstand around 50 minutes of continuous use – not bad for a powerful sander. There was minimal vibration with this model.

Design

The design might be a little awkward, as the dust bag is sticking out in the back. This makes maneuvering the sander in tight spots a little tricky. The power switch is conveniently at the thumb level, and you don’t need a firm grip to handle the machine due to the good design. After a day using this sander, we felt little to no hand strain.

Compact Sanders

Chicago Pneumatic CP7200 Mini Random Electric Sander

For woodwork that involves a lot of hard to reach areas in need of sanding you’ll need a smaller, compact sander.

Features

Although it is only 3 inches in diameter, this sander is fast working and efficient. It comes with advanced technology and innovation to give you the best results. We found that it is extremely light weight, and easy to handle. The motor is powerful, and all our research suggests it is durable as well. The price point is not too bad either.

Design

As previously mentioned, the machine is not heavy at all. Handling it felt comfortable due to the superior design – it is conveniently designed at an angle so you don’t need to arch your body to reach tight spots in your woodwork. The button is placed perfectly at the index finger’s level, and was sufficiently responsive, allowing for better control of the machine. It is corded, but that does not pose any problems as its main purpose is for smaller, hard to reach parts of woodworking. We did, however, note that the cord was not particularly long – something which we always look for in corded power tools.

Verdict

This might not be the ideal random orbital sander for large projects or every day use, but there are certainly projects that can take advantage of it’s compact size. For those who anticipate their projects to have a lot of small areas that need sanding, consider this model to keep handy in your workshop.

With these 5 random orbital sanders, you can choose the most suitable sander for your woodworking project. They are the best models we have had the privilege of testing, but each has a purpose and can be used for a different purpose

Erin Emanuel