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The Best Orbital Sanders for Woodworking in 2021

Buying the best or anything requires a bit of research. But choosing the best random orbital sander is a harder decision than most tools because of the split between corded vs. cordless, dramatic quality differences in tools and features like dust collection.

And while there are budget orbital sanders that will work for almost all jobs, any woodworker that is tackling furniture or cabinet-grade projects will want to look at higher end tools. 

Perhaps you’re wondering what the difference is? Don’t all sanders just go around? 

Well, in random orbit sanders you’ll need to pay attention to features like:

  • Vibration is the #1 enemy of a good wood finish
  • Speed controls are a must for higher vs. lower grit sandpaper
  • Size matters as most sanders are 5″
  • Top brands that will offer hook and loop replacement in 5 years
  • Dust extraction port to improve sandpaper performance
  • Motor and design n for all-day sanding durability (hint: right angle)

ProductDescriptionShop
Best random orbit sander - MakitaBEST SMALL SHOP: Makita BO5041CHECK PRICE
Best random orbit sander - FestoolPROFESSIONAL PICK: Festool 576070CHECK PRICE
Best random orbit sander - Black DeckerBUDGET OPTION: Black + DeckerCHECK PRICE
Best random orbit sander - BoschFAST STOCK REMOVAL: Bosch GET75-6NCHECK PRICE

Best Random Orbital Sander: Important Features

Types of Wood Tools

Before you buy any tool its important to research the features. 

While your first consideration may be budget, there’s sometimes a feature or two that make your tool work better or longer for just a few bucks more.

So when it comes to random orbit sanders, here’s the top features to consider:

  • Sanding disc size
  • Dust collection
  • Corded vs. cordless
  • Variable speed range and control
  • Shape and size of handle(s)
  • Trigger switch location
  • Comfort and ergonomics
  • Ability to sand into corners

Types of Random Orbital Sanders

You might be thinking there is only one type of random orbital sander.

But, as with most tools, there are distinct variations in the design and power source of an orbital sander.

1. Basic Corded Random Orbit Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Basic Corded

Odds are really good you’ve either used or own a sander like this. With the basic features like a cloth dust bag, standard 5-inch size and variable speed control this popular sander is the one you’ll see from all major brands to import knock-offs.

When should you buy this sander? Well, any DIY’er with just a project or two a year is safe with this budget friendly type of random orbit sander.

2. Heavy Duty Random Orbit Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Heavy Duty

Shown: Makita BO5041 

While a smaller random orbit sander is great for small jobs, when your woodworking takes you into larger projects then a heavier duty random orbit sander is a must.

As you can see this inline drive sander features handles for control. And, with this heavier design feature more power, less vibration (vibration can cause swirls, the #1 enemy of orbital sanding).

3. Air Powered Random Orbit Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Air Powered

While not known to many woodworkers, your air compressor can power a random orbit sander. But the trade-off? You guessed it, a louder background noise and less dust control.

So, unless you’re working outdoors, keep these types of sanders to what they are generally best at: metalworking. 

4. Professional Orbital Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Professional

Among woodworkers there is always a debate about the best of anything.

And, somewhere on that list comes Festool.

While price is their number one complaint (quality and innovation cost money, after all), these tools just plain perform better:

  • Lower vibration
  • Better dust control
  • Better storage
  • Integrates with dust extraction

5. Cordless Random Orbital Sanders

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Cordless

With every tool from drills to even table saws going cordless it is little surprise you’ll find a cordless random orbit sander.

Featuring all of the capability of the basic sanders these ultra-portable sanders are a great choice for basic sanding needs. However, if your projects are larger and require more intense, vibration free sanding its worth careful comparison to a heavy duty or professional sander.

6. Detail Orbital Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Mouse Sander

With these corner-accessing sanders now widely available there is a bit of debate if its a random orbital sander or a palm sander.

But we view it as close enough to be considered a random orbit sander due to its design, hook and loop paper and orbital action.

While not a replacement for a standard 5-inch sander, these sanders are great for anything from new project sanding to refinishing furniture. Since their design comes to a point, a mouse sander can reach into the corner to easily sand areas a rounded orbital sander can’t.

7. Right Angle Drive Orbital Sander

Types of Random Orbit Sanders - Right Angle Drive

For heavy duty, all-day sanding a more powerful continuous duty motor is required.

And that is where professionals turn to a right angle drive that features:

  • Better ergonomics
  • More efficient cooling of the motor and housing
  • Improved dust control
  • Some models have “turbo” modes, like the Bosch, that remove stock 3-6x faster 

Trouble finding the best deal? Check out Woodcraft for a great selection. And, for some tools, they offer up a regular 10% discount for new buyers.

Random Orbit vs. Palm Sander

Random Orbit vs. Palm Sander
Palm (or sheet) sanders use square or rectangle paper

While both a palm and random orbit sander oscillate, they are different in that:

  • A random orbit sander uses a round sanding disc that spins and is oscillated to create a “random” pattern
  • Meanwhile a palm sander uses a half or quarter sheet of standard sheet sandpaper that is then oscillated

But why choose one over the other? Well, you’ll need both. Most woodworkers prefer to start with an random orbit sander for scratch and stock removal. And then switch to a palm sander for the final sanding.

Choosing the Best Random Orbit Sander for Your Shop

Budgets are important, and when it comes to woodworking tools there are potentially tens of thousands of dollars in tools to consider.

So the trick with tools is to buy what you’ll need now and thru it’s intended life. And, while generally under $150, the best orbit sanders generally fit a few categories:

  • Budget random orbit sander for occasional use
  • Professional random orbital sander
  • Portable orbital sanders
  • Random orbit sanders for tight spots
  • Best random orbit sander for fast stock removal

Budget random orbit sander for occasional use

Best random orbit sander - Black & Decker

Overview

If your projects aren’t that frequent, large or require a lot of wood removal then a basic corded orbital sander is a great place to start. And, as a basic unit, these sanders are readily available for around $50.

Key features:

  • 5″ hook and loop pad
  • Dust collection
  • Variable speed control

Models to Consider

  • Dewalt DWE6421 – is a newer version of a Dewalt sander I’ve owned over 10 years and have replaced multiple hook and loop pads
  • Metabo HPT – checks the box on all the basic features at a budget price.
  • Bosch ROS10 – is the entry model to the popular line of Bosch sanders
  • Makita BO5030K – is an upgrade pick that you’ll find in serious woodworker shops.

Don't invest in an non-brand import, even for a budget tool. Why? If you do end up using your random orbit sander more than expected you'll eventually need a new hook and loop pad. Which you'll always find for long-running brands.

Professional random orbital sander

Best random orbit sander - Festool

Overview

For the best possible finish professionals will turn to high grade brands like Festool.

But, with precision machines known for their durability comes a cost. However, you’ll have features like:

  • Reduced vibration for smoother finishes
  • Improved ergonomics for longer use
  • More efficient and longer-lasting motors
  • Lightweight
  • Soft start to avoid sudden jumps
  • Lastly, some units are built for connections to dust extractors

Models to Consider

  • Festool 576070 – is from the popular maker of the Festool Domino and comes ready to connect to a dust extractor.
  • Festool 571782 Rotax – steps up to the top of the line from Festool and is dust collector compatible.

Portable Random Orbital Sander

Best random orbit sander - Makita cordless

Overview

Like almost all tools from drills to cordless table saws, orbital sanders have went cordless. And, for a lot of professionals these are either a second sander for the jobsite or a touch-up sander for smaller jobs.

But the primary benefit?

No black cord dragging around on your workpiece edge leaving marks on a finished surface. And yes, that’s my pet peeve with the entry level sanders.

Key features:

  • Dust collection
  • Random speed control
  • One-handed grip
  • 5″ orbit sander

Models to Consider

  • Makita XOB01Z – features one-touch speed control for easy change in speed.
  • Black + Decker – is the budget-friendly option that fits the 20V battery ecosystem.
  • Milwaukee 2648-20 – features variable speed and a see-thru dust collection box.

Random Orbit Sanders for Tight Spots

Best random orbit sander - Detail sander

Overview

As you may know, this is technically a detailed sander.

But, with the same form and random pad movement it’s worth mentioning as (another) sander you’ll want to have around for getting into corners.

Because, after all, a round random orbit sander won’t fit into a corder.

Models to Consider

Unfortunately, big name manufacturers aren’t after this niche sander space. So, look to Black + Decker and Skil as two of the popular brands.

Best Random Orbit Sander for Fast Stock Removal

Best random orbit sander - power speed sander

Overview

While my preference is to use a belt sander, then a random orbit followed by, lastly, a quarter sheet palm sander that’s not always possible.

In part, belt sanders are notorious dust generating machines. 

So when you need fast stock removal you’ll want to look to the right angle sanders that feature:

  • Eccentric modes for faster stock removal
  • Dust collection port
  • High amp motors for power and durability

Models to Consider

  • Bosch GET75-6N – this 6-inch sander features “Turbo mode” that accelerates, well, wood removal
  • Festool 571782 – features an aggressive mode for fast stock removal 

Random Orbit Sander Accessories

Random Orbit Sandpaper

Apart from the best sandpaper, you’ll also need to consider a few unique products that will make your (compatible) random orbit sander work better.

Random orbit sander accessories - dust extractor

Surprisingly not every woodworker knows about dust collectors.

But you should.

Basically, these are highly specialized dust collectors that suck dust from high-producing dust generators. Like a random orbit sander. 

Key features:

  • Most feature HEPA filters for maximum filtering
  • Can help with OSHA compliance (check your model for specs)
  • High CFM is better, and for single tools these can go as high as 150 CFM
  • Lastly, power tool activation to start with a compatible power tools switch

Random orbit sander accessories - down draft table

If you haven’t guessed, dust is a #1 issue with random orbit sanders.

So, another option to help keep dust down is a downdraft table that (usually) hooks into your dust collector to keep small particles out of the air.

Do you need one if you have a dust extractor? Yes – since the extractor will not pull all of the dust.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are random orbit sanders available in cordless?

Yes. There are many makers of cordless random orbit sanders, including popular brands like Dewalt and Ryobi.

What is the standard size of sandpaper?

Almost all random orbit sanders are 5″ in diameter.

How do I choose a random orbit sander?

Choosing a random orbit sander is best matched to your use, need for electric power vs. portability and speed of stock removal.

What is the best entry-level random orbit sander for a small workshop?

A 5″ corded random orbit sander is generally the best entry-level sander as it is inexpensive and allows for future upgrades to professional units.

Summary

Choosing the best random orbit sander requires understanding your projects – both now and in the future.  However, with these tools generally starting under $100 there’s plenty of room to try and upgrade later.

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