Palm Sander Vs Orbital Sander: What’s the Difference in 2024

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Are you hesitant about investing in a palm sander or an orbital sander? You might be thinking, ‘Do I really need another power tool?’

However, when it comes to achieving the perfect finish, having the right sander can make all the difference. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between palm sanders and orbital sanders, weighing the pros and cons of each.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a professional woodworker. In this article, explain the best option of a palm sander vs orbital sander.

So, let’s dive into the debate and discover which sander will give you the edge in your sanding projects.

Key Differences Between Palm and Orbital Sanders

When comparing palm sanders and orbital sanders, it’s important to understand their key differences in terms of size, power, finish quality, cost, and sanding pad shape.

Palm sanders are smaller and compact with square pads designed to fit into tight spots and corners. They’re great for eliminating small imperfections and providing a clean finish.

On the other hand, orbital sanders are larger, handheld tools that use round sandpaper pads. They’re more powerful and efficient for larger projects, with the ability to remove material quickly. Orbital sanders, especially random orbit sanders, provide a smoother finish without swirl patterns, making them suitable for achieving a clean, blemish-free surface.

In terms of cost and versatility, orbital sanders tend to be more expensive due to their power and capabilities, making them ideal for a wider range of projects. Palm sanders, on the other hand, are generally more affordable and suitable for specific, light-duty sanding tasks.

Additionally, palm sanders use rectangular sanding sheets, allowing them to reach corners and edges more effectively, while orbital sanders use circular sanding discs, making them suitable for efficient sanding on larger, flat surfaces.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Palm Sander

BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander 2.5 Amp 5 In. Corded Variable Speed Random Orbital Sander/Polisher Kit with Dust Collector and Soft Carrying Bag, Blue

BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander

Pad dampening system eliminates swirl marks.

Easy disc attachment with Bosch’s Hook and Loop system.

Variable speed control for precise matching to the task.

Best Overall Orbital Sander

DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander, 12,000 OPM, Brushless Motor for Extra Long Run Time, Bare Tool Only (DCW210B)

DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander

Brushless motor provides runtime and efficiency.

Variable-speed control allows for matching speed to the application.

Low-profile height for precise sanding.

BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander

Reasons to Buy

Reason #1 – Pad dampening system eliminates swirl marks.

Reason #2 – Easy disc attachment with Bosch’s Hook and Loop system.

Reason #3 – Variable speed control for precise matching to the task.

Reasons to Avoid

Reason #1 – Not suitable for varnish or paint removal.

The BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander is the best choice for those seeking a smooth finish on both flat and contoured surfaces. Its pad dampening system is specifically designed to eliminate swirl marks, ensuring a flawless result.

With Bosch’s signature Hook and Loop disc attachment system, attaching sanding pads is a breeze, providing a secure and reliable grip.

The powerful 2.5 AMP motor allows for variable speed control, allowing you to match the speed to the task at hand.

Additionally, the micro filter system effectively traps fine dust and particles, ensuring a clean and tidy work area.

The kit includes everything you need, from sanding pads and discs to a dust canister and carrying bag.

With its exceptional performance and comprehensive kit, the BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander is the top choice for achieving a professional-quality finish.

Best For: Those seeking a smooth finish on both flat and contoured surfaces.

Brand‎BOSCH
Product Dimensions‎9″L x 5″W x 6″H
Grit Type‎Fine
Voltage‎120 Volts
Power Source‎Corded Electric
AC Adapter Current‎2.5 Amps
Grit Number‎80
Maximum Rotational Speed‎12000 RPM
Item Weight‎3.5 Pounds

DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander

Reasons to Buy

Reason #1 – Brushless motor provides runtime and efficiency.

Reason #2 – Variable-speed control allows for matching speed to the application.

Reason #3 – Low-profile height for precise sanding.

Reasons to Avoid

Reason #1 – Requires a stripper before sanding to avoid gumming up the sanding pads.

For those seeking a powerful and versatile sander, the DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander is the ultimate choice. With its brushless motor, this orbital sander provides both runtime and efficiency to get the job done. The variable-speed control allows you to match the speed to the application, ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 OPM.

Its low-profile height allows you to get close to the work surface for precise sanding. The replaceable 8-hole hook-and-loop sanding pad makes paper changing quick and easy. The sander also features a dust-sealed switch to protect against dust ingestion and ensure long switch life.

With a comfortable sanding experience provided by the texturized rubber overmold grip, this sander also includes a one-handed locking dust bag. Overall, the DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander is a top choice for its power, versatility, and convenience.

Best For: Those in need of a powerful and versatile sander for various sanding applications.

Brand‎DEWALT
Product Dimensions‎8.8″L x 5.7″W x 6.3″H
Grit Type‎Fine
Voltage‎20 Volts
Power Source‎Battery Powered
AC Adapter Current‎5 Amps
Grit Number‎220
Maximum Rotational Speed‎12000 RPM
Item Weight‎0.09 Kilograms

Finishing Capabilities

To achieve the desired finish, consider the finishing capabilities of both palm sanders and orbital sanders. When it comes to sanding, paint removal, and refinishing, orbital sanders are the superior choice. They excel at removing paint, stain, and poly from surfaces, making them ideal for woodworking projects and furniture refinishing. With the proper sandpaper and technique, orbital sanders can strip down to bare wood, creating a smooth and even surface for refinishing. Additionally, orbital sanders are efficient for larger projects, as they provide a smoother finish without swirl patterns.

On the other hand, palm sanders are better suited for precision tasks on smaller pieces. Their compact size allows them to access inside corners and tight spaces that orbital sanders may struggle to reach. While palm sanders aren’t suitable for varnish or paint removal, they’re excellent for eliminating small imperfections and achieving a polished finish on smaller surfaces.

Ultimately, when choosing between the two sanders, consider the size of your project and the desired finish. For larger pieces and panels, or when paint removal is needed, an orbital sander is the way to go. For precision work on smaller pieces and accessing tight spaces, a palm sander is the better option.

Speed Variations

Random orbital sanders and palm sanders offer variable speed settings, allowing for increased control and precision in different sanding applications. This feature is particularly useful when working with different materials and finishes, as it enables you to tailor the sanding action to achieve the desired results. Adjustable speed variations in orbital sanders allow you to manage the intensity of sanding, preventing over-sanding or excessive material removal. This is especially important when working on delicate surfaces that require a lighter touch. By adjusting the speed, you can also avoid creating unwanted scratches or swirl marks on the surface.

Palm sanders with variable speed settings offer similar benefits. They allow you to achieve different surface finishes by controlling the speed at which the sandpaper sheets rotate. Whether you need a smooth finish or a more textured one, the ability to adjust the speed ensures that you can achieve the desired outcome. Additionally, the ability to control the speed on both orbital sanders and palm sanders makes them suitable for a wide range of projects and materials.

Price Differences

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If you’re considering the price differences between random orbital sanders and palm sanders, it’s important to keep in mind the quality and features you’re looking for in a sander. High-quality random orbital sanders typically cost around $75, while palm sanders are slightly cheaper at around $60. However, there are lower-priced options available for both types of sanders, with some models even featuring variable speed settings.

When choosing between a random orbital sander and a palm sander, consider the size of your projects and the desired finish. Random orbital sanders are versatile and can handle larger projects with ease. They create a swirl or elliptical pattern, which helps to avoid noticeable scratches.

On the other hand, palm sanders are compact in size and perfect for smaller projects. They use a hook-and-loop system for attaching sandpaper, making it quick and easy to change grits.

Weight and Size Considerations

Consider the weight and size of the sander, as it plays a crucial role in determining the suitability of the tool for your specific project. Here are some key considerations regarding weight and size when choosing between a palm sander and an orbital sander:

Palm Sanders:

  • Smaller and lighter: Palm sanders are compact and lightweight, which makes them ideal for precision tasks on smaller pieces.
  • Access tight spaces: The compact size of palm sanders allows for easy access to inside corners and tight spots.
  • Light-duty finish work: Palm sanders are perfect for light-duty finish work, such as sanding wooden edges or tabletops.

Orbital Sanders:

  • Larger projects: Orbital sanders are better suited for larger projects due to their larger size and more powerful performance.
  • Smoother finish: Orbital sanders provide a smoother finish without swirl patterns, making them suitable for DIY enthusiasts looking for a professional-looking result.
  • Efficient sanding: The larger size of orbital sanders allows for faster sanding, as they cover more space with each back and forth motion.

Considering the weight and size of the sander is essential to ensure that it aligns with the requirements of your project. Whether you need a compact palm sander for precision work or a larger orbital sander for bigger DIY projects, making the right choice will help you achieve the desired results efficiently.

Task Size Suitability

When determining the suitability of a sander for your project, the size of the task plays a crucial role, building on the weight and size considerations discussed earlier. For larger surfaces and projects that require aggressive removal of paint and varnish, an orbital sander is the better choice. Random orbital sanders are efficient for large projects, providing a smoother finish without swirl patterns. They’re ideal for stripping down to bare wood and creating larger, random patterns of scratches. With their power and speed, orbital sanders are well-suited for tackling larger surfaces.

On the other hand, if you’re working on smaller pieces or need to access inside corners, a palm sander is more suitable. Palm sanders are compact and perfect for light-duty finish work. They’re better for precision tasks on smaller pieces and for reaching tight spaces. Palm sanders, such as sheet palm sanders, are milder in comparison to orbital sanders, making them better for finishing wood without staining. They’re also more suitable for detailed areas where a larger sander may be too cumbersome.

Consider the size of your projects and the desired finish when choosing between an orbital sander and a palm sander. Larger tasks may require the power and speed of an orbital sander, while smaller and more intricate projects may benefit from the precision and maneuverability of a palm sander.

Dust Collection Efficiency

Random orbital sanders typically have a higher dust collection efficiency compared to palm sanders, thanks to their random motion and pre-drilled holes for dust collection. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Random orbital sanders have a unique random pattern of motion, which helps minimize swirl marks and maximizes the surface area covered by the sanding pad. This random motion allows for more efficient dust collection as it prevents the buildup of sawdust in one area.
  • The sanding paper of random orbital sanders often comes with pre-drilled holes for dust collection. These holes allow the machine’s vacuum or dust collection system to efficiently capture the sawdust, keeping the work area cleaner and reducing the need for manual cleanup.
  • Palm sanders, on the other hand, may have lower dust collection efficiency compared to random orbital sanders. Their smaller size and less powerful motor can limit their ability to effectively capture and contain the sawdust, especially when used for larger projects.
  • Higher-end random orbital sanders may feature advanced dust collection systems, such as micro-filter dust canisters or bags. These systems further enhance the dust collection efficiency of the machine, reducing airborne particles and maintaining a cleaner work environment.

Considering the dust collection efficiency is crucial when choosing between a palm sander and a random orbital sander, particularly if you’re working in an indoor or enclosed space. A machine with better dust collection capabilities will help minimize airborne dust and keep your work area tidy.

Power Comparison

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Orbital sanders offer significantly more power and speed compared to palm sanders, making them the preferred choice for larger surfaces and faster material removal.

The random orbital sander moves in a circular motion with a small orbit, which prevents any swirl marks on the wooden surface. This makes it better suited for removing paint, stain, and poly, as it creates larger, random patterns of scratches that are easier to blend in.

On the other hand, palm sanders are better for precision work on smaller areas, edges, and corners. They’re ideal for eliminating small imperfections and accessing tight spaces.

If you’re working on a project that requires a smoother finish without swirl patterns, the random orbital sander is the way to go. However, if you need to distress or lightly sand between coats, the palm sander is more suitable.

When comparing the power of the two sanders, the orbital sander takes the lead with its ability to tackle bigger tasks and remove material at a faster rate.

Pros and Cons of Palm Sanders

Moving on to the pros and cons of palm sanders, these compact tools offer several advantages and limitations compared to their more powerful counterparts.

Advantages of Palm Sanders:

  • Compact size: Palm sanders are smaller and more lightweight than orbital sanders, making them perfect for light-duty finish work.
  • Precise sanding: With their square pads, palm sanders can fit into tight spots and corners, allowing for precise sanding in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Cost-effective option: Palm sanders are generally cheaper than random orbital sanders, making them a budget-friendly choice for woodworking projects.

Limitations of Palm Sanders:

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty projects: Palm sanders aren’t designed for stripping thick layers of material, limiting their use for more demanding tasks.
  • Limited material removal efficiency: Due to their lower power and torque compared to orbital sanders, palm sanders may not be as efficient in removing material quickly.
  • May leave squiggly lines: When used for stripping, palm sanders can leave behind squiggly lines, requiring extra care to achieve a smooth finish.

Pros and Cons of Orbital Sanders

When considering the advantages and limitations of orbital sanders, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of this powerful tool.

Orbital sanders have several pros that make them a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike. Firstly, they create a smoother finish without swirl patterns, making them ideal for achieving a polished look on large surfaces. Additionally, they’re efficient for large projects, as they can cover more area quickly and effectively. The round sandpaper pads of orbital sanders create a uniform finish without noticeable edges, ensuring a professional result. Some models even offer variable speed settings, providing versatility for different types of wood and finishes.

Orbital sanders are also ideal for tasks such as smoothing unfinished wall panels for painting, sanding large, flat pieces of wood, and stripping varnish or paint from furniture.

However, there are also some cons to consider when using orbital sanders. Firstly, they can’t get into closed corners, limiting their effectiveness for detailed or intricate woodworking projects. Additionally, orbital sanders have a higher cost compared to palm sanders, making them a significant investment for beginners or occasional users.

Random orbital sanders may also leave squiggle marks behind when used for stripping, requiring extra care and technique. Lastly, they aren’t suitable for light-duty tasks or precision work, as they’re designed for larger surface areas. Orbital sanders aren’t as effective in reaching tight spaces compared to palm sanders, which may compromise their versatility for detailed work.

With the wide range of orbital sanders available in the market, popular brands like DeWalt and Bosch offer convenient and built-in features that cater to different sanding needs.

Palm Sander vs Orbital Sander – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a palm sander and an orbital sander?

Palm sander and orbital sander are both power tools used for sanding. The main difference lies in the motion they make. Orbital sanders move in a circular motion, while palm sanders typically move back and forth in a small size circular pattern.

Can palm sanders and orbital sanders be used for the same applications?

Orbital sanders can also be used for more delicate finish work, such as sanding between coats of paint or sealer. On the other hand, palm sanders are typically designed for more aggressive material removal.

What are the cost and portability differences between palm and orbital sanders?

Palm sanders generally cost much less than orbital sanders and are usually more portable.

Which type of sander is best for preparing a surface for painting?

If you plan to paint a surface, an orbital sander is often the best choice due to its ability to provide a high-quality finish.

Are there differences in the sanding speed and efficiency between palm and orbital sanders?

When it comes to sanding speed, orbital sanders are generally quicker than palm sanders due to their larger sanding surface area and faster motion. However, palm sanders are often more efficient for smaller, detailed areas.

Which type of sander is the smallest and most compact?

Among the two, palm sanders are the smallest type and more compact, making them easier to maneuver in tight spaces.

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AUTHOR

Ira Njoroge

Hey, I’m Ira Njoroge, the founder of MySpaceAffair. Early on in my life, I had a passion to embark on a mission to create a cleaner, and more organized household. With a bachelor's degree in engineering after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2015 and seven years as a General Contractor and professional cleaner, on top of my DIY Enthusiasm. I saw the need for a reliable information source for homeowners. My passion, diligence, experience, and hired professionals confirms the reliability of all the advice given in My Space Affair and I hope to provide you all with reliable and thorough content!