What You Need to Know: Orbital vs. Palm Sander

If you’re going to be doing a lot of sanding you want to make sure you have the right tools. It can take a lot of work and effort. So, you definitely don’t want to put in more than you need to. With all the different sanding tools out there you may have a little bit of trouble figuring out which one is best for your needs. We’ve narrowed it down a little, to orbital and palm sanders. Orbital sanders, to put it simply, are able to rotate in an orbit and a rotary motion, which means you won’t get marks on your finish.

On the other hand, a palm sander moves in an orbital pattern. The way that the two different saws move the sandpaper is what makes them something different. If you were just to look at them otherwise you might not notice a difference. But there’s got to be more to it than that, right? Well, there are a few things that you’ll want to take a look at when it comes to choosing an orbital or palm sander and we’ll take a look at those right here.

Uses for Each: Orbital Sander vs. Palm Sander

There are slightly different uses for each of these sanders. So, you’ll want to take a look at what your average project actually entails. You’re going to want to take a look at things like power, capabilities and the specific type of projects that you might want to attempt. After all, you don’t want to get one kind of sander and realize you actually needed the other.

Advantages of Each

Power is one of the first things that you’re going to want to take a look at. It’s one of the areas that an orbital sander actually comes out on top. The orbital sander has more power to it. That means it’s capable of doing a little bit more. It can actually take several layers off a project with no problem. Which means it’s great for more intense work. On the other hand, a palm sander is just designed to take a little of the surface.

Cost is another area you’re going to want to look at. When it comes to keeping your cost down you’ll likely want to take a look at palm sanders. They’re designed with a little less power and that means you’re going to be paying for less power. However, if it won’t do the job it’s not going to be worth what you save on it in the short run.

Next, take a look at the type of finish you actually want to leave on your project. If you’re not concerned about the swirl or even if you really want that swirl (some people like the look) then a palm sander is a good option. If you want something that looks more finished and sleek you’ll want to opt for an orbital sander that takes care of all of those marks.

For anything that you’re going to need to get deep into corners of you’ll need a palm sander because it has square edges, where a palm sander gives you a round surface. That means you’re not going to get into the corners of a drawer (for example) with a palm sander. Still, you get a bit more control out of that palm sander.

If you’re still not sure, you can take a look at this video from the WoodWorkers Guild of America and find out more about different types of sanders.

Orbital Sander vs. Palm Sander: Our Top Picks

BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander

If you’re going to choose your own sanders you want to make sure you have high quality and so we’ve tried to find some great options. The top pick we found when it comes to orbital sanders is the Black + Decker BDERO100, which is a 5” sander offering a high removal rate and a great finish.

There is a hook-and-loop system to it that makes it easy to switch out the paper as needed and the switches have dust seals that keep out any kind of debris. More importantly, it’s extremely efficient, getting rid of plenty of rough material but staying small enough that you can easily maneuver it as needed. Not to mention emptying it out is super easy.

DEWALT DWE6411K 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander Kit

When it comes to a palm sander we like the Dewalt DWE6411K. It is a ¼ sheet sander. That means you’ll be able to put approximately ¼ of a sheet of sandpaper onto the face. This allows you to get into the corners and other hard to reach places on your project. It has a 2.3 amp motor and can get you 14,000 orbits per minute.

It’s also a small unit so you don’t need to worry too much about how to store it or how to take it along with you. Which is convenient. With this system, there’s a rubber dust cover over the switch that keeps it from taking in any dust. You even have a dust port system that lets you attach a vacuum hose right with the sander to keep it even cleaner and ready for anything you need to do.

Bottom Line

When it all comes down to it you can choose either type of sander for your next project. However, if you’re going to be working with a fine finish you may want to opt for an orbital sander. It will give you the smoothness you need without hurting your finish in the long run.

If you’re just looking for something to sand down the edges and you’re not concerned about your finish you can opt for a palm sander. You can opt for this too if you’re trying to get good clean edges. After all, a palm sander gives you a square sheet of sandpaper and therefore the ability to get into a corner. They also work best for a little bit of finish work rather than taking off layers. Only you can really decide which one of these is going to work best for your next project.

About Brandon Potters

Hi, I’m Brandon and I can’t express how excited I am that you chose The Saw Guy as your resource for project ideas, tool reviews, and all-around guide to the world of DIY. I spent years in the construction industry refining my knowledge of various trades and even spent a few years working at a major hardware store. ​If there is anyone who can help you make a well-informed, unbiased, budget-conscious decision, it’s me and my team.

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