Although sanding isn’t the most exciting of home DIY activities, it is something that’s necessary for the proper finishing of your wood products and other projects. Electric sanders have taken most of the ‘elbow grease’ out of the equation for sanding but it still takes a steady hand and the proper type of tool to achieve your desired results.
Ideally, your home tool arsenal will have at least one of each of the three main type of sanders – belt sanders, orbital finisher, and random orbital. That being said, it could be argued that a standard orbital sander is apt to perform any and all of your basic sanding tasks that need to be done on a wide variety of materials and finishes.
So how do you find the best orbital sander for your needs? There are a number of considerations to take into account. First of all, you need a sander that is of the optimum size – do you do mostly finishing on small crafts or are you sanding down large boards for bigger scale projects? If your typical needs range from both small details to large projects, you’ll want an orbital sander that offers variable speeds. Some additional features increase the comfort of using the product such as:
- containing a dust collecting unit
- having ergonomic grips and thumb holes
- a battery operated sander compared to a corded one
Of course, budget will always be a concern as well. If your sanding needs are somewhat infrequent but you still want to ‘have one around’, it’s easy to justify going economical and affordable. Then again, you may be limited in your project capacities by selecting for price only. The best orbital sander is one that offers flexibility for projects both big and small, detailed and broad. Here are some units that fit that bill.
|Model||Black & Decker BDERO100||Dewalt D26453K||Porter Cable 382|
|Bosch ROS20VSC –||DynaBrade 56815|
|Weight||3.2 pounds||3.5 pounds||3.6 pounds||3.1 pounds||3.5 pounds||2 pounds|
|Motor Size||2.0 amp||3.0 amp||1.9 amp||3.0 amp||2.5 amp||pneumatic|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
|Warranty||2-year limited||3-year limited||3-year limited||1-year||1-year||Lifetime|
|Extras||Fabric dust canister||Cloth dust canister & carrying bag||Dust collector; vacuum attachment||Dust bag and hard tool case||Microfilter system & twist off canister||Vacuum conversion kits are extra|
Black & Decker BDERO100
For the price, there’s really no better orbital sander option than the Black & Decker BDERO100. It is very affordable and compact for easy storage and transport. Black & Decker is a trusted name in the tool industry and the unit comes with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty. Don’t be misunderstood, though, B&D BDERO100 isn’t a ‘cheap’ orbital sander. The product is just 7” X 5” X 6” and weights 3.2 pounds. It is the perfect 5” orbital sander for somebody with arthritis or for big projects (porch, deck, floor) which require sanding for hours at a time.
Not only that, the product simply performs. It is a corded unit (6′ 5” long) which kind of limits the user but otherwise the sander contains a dust canister and a hook-and-loop system for fast paper changes. It is ideal for sanding curves and can even fit in some corners with careful navigation. The price alone means there’s no reason not to add this little companion to your tool kit.
A big question that orbital sander consumers ask is, ‘what makes a particular product an upgrade’ which amounts to, ‘why the higher price?’ One of the biggest reasons for a jump in cost is that many orbital sanders come in kits, which is exactly what the Dewalt D26453K does. Not only do you get the 5” sander from another trusted name in tools (some would say the most trusted), but also included is a dust bag with a vacuum adapter as well as a toolbag for easy carrying. These items are nice because something to remember about orbital sanders is that there aren’t a lot of attachments and different heads that are used with the product – any extras are appreciated.
Accessories aside, this Black & Decker product performs on the inside as well. It features a 3 amp electronic motor (corded) with variable speeds for versatile sanding. This sander is also produced for comfort for the user as well with a lightweight anti-vibration design which includes a textured grip for comfort and control. The product may cost a bit more than some competitors, but it’s important to look at the complete ROI since there is a 3-year limited warranty and free servicing for the first year. Dewalt even offers you a 90-day money back guarantee if you try the product and don’t like it.
Porter Cable 382
There is a slippery slope when it comes to the Porter Cable 382. For one the product is a 5” random orbit sounder that bills itself with maximum sanding speeds and 12,000 OPM capabilities. Then again, the Porter Cable 382 contains a relatively small motor (1.9 amp) compared to many competitors in the industry. A majority of consumers have also expressed that the previous models of this product (343 and 333) offered better power.
Perhaps to understand orbital sanders the best it’s first important to recognize the brands. Familiar names like Porter Cable and DeWalt are brand extensions of a larger corporation – Black & Decker. The parent company wants to offer quality products across all their brands, but at the same time, they want to upsell you to their higher priced models. This is why a product like the DeWalt D26453K is going to outperform the Porter Cable 382.
To be fair, this doesn’t mean that the Porter Cable 382 is a junk orbital sander. In fact, as long as the consumer knows that the product is built for smaller scale jobs (instead of the larger ones as billed) then they should have a satisfactory experience. The 1.9 amp motor does have limitations, but 100% ball-bearing construction does offer smooth sanding. A dual-plane counterbalanced fan also helps to reduce user fatigue. This orbital sander is very affordable, and it does have a 3-year warranty which makes the Porter Cable 382 a pretty sound investment.
The price point for the Makita B050141K starts to rise but in conjunction so does the performance. A 3.0 amp motor enables a variable speed dial that can range from 4,000 OPM up to 12,000. This makes this sander one of the best in the industry for instances where you have varying materials (wood, metal, etc.). It can be easy to assume that this increased power makes the sander almost impossible to operate for long stretches, but ergonomics are accounted for also. The front handle is adjustable which increase comfort but also expands the ability to sand into corners. Rubberized grips on the handle absorb the shock while improving control on the sander. This 5” Makita model has increased performance but is also still lightweight at 3 pounds. An included dust collecting kit and hard tool case should be considered when evaluating the price as a whole.
The Bosch ROS20VSC might offer the best combination of performance and value of any orbital sander maybe in the industry. The price of this model is definitely in the middle of the pack for orbital sanders, but the 2.5 amp motor with variable speed capabilities between 7,500 and 12,000 OPM are definitely on the high side for the price point. This Bosch product has also integrated a microfilter system that catches fine dust and other particles as ½ a micron in diameter. The dust canister even shows the ‘full level’ so you only need to twist off and empty when needed.
The performance of this product is great, but it may lack in ergonomics a bit. The design is very basic, and the sander is a bit big with 12.5” X 8.5” X 6.5” dimensions. It is also a bit on the heavy side at 4.4 pounds. That being said, the approach from Bosch is that if you have a high-quality motor with variable speeds, that should be the driving force that determines comfort level instead of grips.
The DynaBrade 56815 is definitely on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it has one big difference – it’s pneumatic. Try as they might, corded electric orbital compressors can’t compete with the power and performance of air tools. The big advantage that air tools have is that they aren’t any bigger to achieve these better results. In fact, the DynaBrade 56815 weighs only 2 pounds.
Many reviewers call this product the best sander they’ve ever used. It is perfect for almost any industry and the finishing or prep work of virtually every material type. The composite rotor is stronger and also utilizes 5 blades which produce more usable power. The comfort of the DynaBrade 56815 is immediately noticeable thanks to the rubber-over-mold non-slip design. There is even a ‘Comfort Platform’ which provides hand and wrist support and a simple push-down button operation. Vacuum conversion kits are available as well.
Choosing an Orbital Sander Based on Price
Obviously one of the considerations for choosing any type of tool should be your budget. It’s important to look deeper into that though because lowest price doesn’t always mean the greatest value. The Black & Decker, for example, can be had for less than it costs to take the family to the fast food drive-thru. The 2.0 amp motor might not be enough to handle your needs, however. The Bosch orbital sander has a little larger motor at 2.5 amps, but with just a 1-year warranty you’re not getting as good of a value as you are with the 3-year warranty DeWalt model. To find the best orbital sander by price you need to weigh what your needs are (motor amperage) but also take into consideration warranty lengths. Sometimes that price becomes even more of a value when you consider the sander comes with a carrying kit that you a) don’t have to buy extra and b) preserves the wear and tear of your unit to make it last longer.
Choosing an Orbital Sander Based on Motor Capacity
If you have compressor capabilities in your home (either portable or stationary), then you might ignore motor capacity altogether and find yourself a pneumatic orbital sander. For most people, though, the convenience of electric/corded models is just to great. When it comes to the motor capacity of orbital sanders, we aren’t just talking about size. If we were, the 3.0 amp DeWalt and Makita models would ‘win out.’ Instead, we need to look at how that motor operates, specifically if it is a variable speed unit.
When you are sanding, there are times you want to go ‘full bore’ and there are occasions you want to ‘power down’ and save the aches on your hand and arm. Similarly, sanding a wide, flat piece of board has different requirements than trying to get into intricate corners and around delicate curves and edges. The DeWalt (7,000 to 12,000 OPM), Makita(4,000 to 12,000 OPM), and Bosch (7,500 to 12,000 OPM) sanders all feature this very helpful variable speed controls.
Choosing an Orbital Sander Based on Ease of Use
Ease of use isn’t all about weight, as most of these corded/electric orbital sanders are within 0.4 pounds of each other. Instead, the units with the variable speed abilities traditionally offer a better user experience as you can fine-tune the sander power instead of being either ‘on’ or ‘off’. Other ways that sander manufacturers smooth the ease of use include integrating a textured anti-slip top and body grip (DeWalt) and an ergonomic, rubberized palm grip and handle (Makita). Also while all these products contain a dust collector, a screw-on case like the Bosch features or a durable bag as seen on the Makita last much longer and collect more debris than the thin fabric canisters.
One thing about all the products listed here is that they are well-received by customers and very highly-rated. Whatever orbital sander you decide to go with, understand what you are purchasing. The best recommendation is to spend a bit more to get a more versatile sander that is reliable.