Whether you are an enthusiast DIYer or a professional woodworker, a sander is an essential component of your arsenal as it allows you to shape wood, remove paint from it, and produce a smooth finish. You always need to use the best sander according to your project and that’s why in this post you’ll learn about orbital sander vs palm sander and what makes them different from each other.
Although there isn’t much difference in how each of these sanders looks, there are quite a few distinctions in various aspects of the two, that separate one from the other. For instance, an orbital sander is relatively more costly than a palm sander and while the former is used for large-scale projects, the latter is used for small-scale projects.
In this guide, we will dive deep into all the differences between an orbital and a palm sander. So, let’s get started!
What is an Orbital Sander?
Usually square-shaped, an orbital sander possesses a spinning disc, that functions by spinning in small circles. Due to its shape, it can be easily used on all sorts of edges, corners, and curved pieces.
The greater the size of the sanding pad of your orbital sander, the larger the surface area you can deal with. The ‘quarter sheet sander’ size is the most commonly used sanding pad out there.
It is worth keeping in mind that since orbital sanders leave swirl marks, you should use them on furniture items, that you intend to paint later on.
Orbital sanders are generally great for stairs, baseboards, or anything else where another type of sander can’t reach.
Types of Orbital Sanders
There are two types of orbital sanders, namely random orbital sanders and finishing orbital sanders:
Random Orbital Sander
A random orbital sander works differently than a regular orbital sander as it spins and rotates at the same time, reducing the marks on the finished products.
It possesses a circular sanding pad instead of a squared one. Although it is not as robust as a regular orbital sander, it is much more versatile, meaning that you can use it for a greater range of products.
Finishing Orbital Sander
Finishing orbital sanders are the lighter and smaller variants of the tool. They are primarily used to access hard-to-reach edges and corners.
What is a Palm Sander?
Palm Sanders makes use of a back and forth, patterned motion to function. As you progress through the sanding process, you will need to feed fresh sandpaper into the machine as the older one won’t last for long.
Similar to orbital sanders, a palm sander is square-shaped. Hence, it works great in the corners and other difficult-to-reach places.
Although smaller than orbital sanders, palm sanders are much cheaper in comparison. Another advantage of being smaller and compact is that you can use a palm sander for detailed and precise work. A ‘half-sheet’ or ‘quarter sheet sander’ are the most common sizes for a palm sander.
Palm Sanders are generally great for working on small-scale projects, due to their lightweight and precision. Also, unlike orbital sanders, palm sanders don’t leave swirl marks, so you can use them on painted furniture without much worry.
Types of Palm Sanders
Electric Detail Sander
Having a triangular shape, an electric detail sander is a type of palm of sanders that looks quite different from it.
This type of palm sander is excellent for less common shapes and it also allows you to reach tricky spaces.
Orbital Sander Vs. Palm Sander – An In-depth Comparison
Now that we have gotten the basic definitions and types of both an orbital and palm sander out of the way, let’s draw a comparison between the different aspects of each.
Power and Speed
Measured in amps, power determines how robust your tool is while speed, measured in orbits per minute, determines how fast your tool rotates.
When it comes to an orbital sander, you want a motor of around 6 amp. For speed, the standard is around 10,000 orbits per minute. However, for larger workpieces, you will want a fast, although you will end up with less control and relatively more marks on your finished workpiece.
On the contrary, for smaller workpieces, containing intricate details and corners, 10,000 orbits per minute speed should work just fine. Some newer models of orbital sanders have adjustable speed settings, so you can choose a pace that suits you the best.
As for the palm sander, it is usually defined merely by its power rating. Speaking of, a 2.0-amp will work great for most of your projects concerning palm sanders. A motor of greater power rating than that is usually not required.
Coming to the grip of the tools, you can get different types of grips on both an orbital sander and a palm sander.
For orbital sanders, palm-grip handles are the most commonly used handles for the tool due to their lightweight and comfortable grip.
Pistol-grip handles give you the greatest control, as you use both hands to grasp them. That is why these handles are normally used professionally.
The most uncommon type of handles are the Jug-grip handles. These are suited to situations where you have to get underneath a workpiece to sand it.
Coming to Palm sanders, you would want to have comfort-grip handles to hold onto them with comfort and ease.
Both orbital sander and palm sander require to be equipped with normal sandpaper to function. However, the latter requires a much greater quantity of sandpapers at your disposal.
The process of sanding inevitably produces a lot of dust. However, some models of orbital sanders have either vacuum-powered or passive features to deal with dust collection.
A vacuum-powered dust collection system sucks up the dust as you work while in passive dust collection, you attach a dust collection bag to your regular vacuum hose for removal.
The modern orbital sanders may also have filters and sealed switches to keep the dust from interfering with the mechanism of the tool and reducing its life.
As for palm sanders, they aren’t as efficient as orbital sanders when it comes to dust collection. You are going to need a well-sealed dust bag along with your palm sander to deal with dust. You can also acquire a vacuum system for your palm sander.
A handful of modern palm sanders come with filters and sealed switches as well.
Corded Vs Cordless
Whether you want a corded sander or a cordless one, is dependent upon your personal preference.
The cordless version of either of the two tools, under discussion, is often preferred because while working, the cord does not get in your way. However, you will need to charge the battery of your cordless tool between uses.
On the other hand, corded tools are relatively more powerful as they receive continuous power through a power outlet.
Orbital Sander or Palm Sander – Which One Should You Go For?
The type of sander, you should go for, depends on the purpose you intend to use it for.
If you have a lot of woodworking tasks to tackle, especially large-scale, you will get by just fine.
The high power and speed of an orbital sander mean you can work much more quickly with this tool and use it for a variety of projects. As for the swirl markings left by a regular orbital sander, you can use a random orbital sander instead, to minimize their effect.
Although the orbital sanders are generally expensive, they have substantial warranties and they will serve you well in the long run.
On the other hand, if you are a bit tight on the budget, you are dealing with smaller workpieces, and you rarely have to tackle woodworking projects, then a palm sander is your best bet.
However, whichever sander that you go for, you should have a decent stock of sandpaper at your disposal.
Sandpaper is based on ‘grit’, which is in turn, based on a gradation scale. The higher the number on the scale, the finer will be the sandpaper and the smaller will be the grains.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Should I Spend on An Orbital Sander?
An orbital sander normally costs around $100-200. The exact amount that you will require, depends upon the number of features that you would like in your tool.
Can An Orbital Sander be Used as a Polisher?
Yes, you can, by attaching polishing cloths to the bottom of an orbital sander.
Can An Orbital Sander be Used on Drywall?
Yes, you can. You will require 180-220 grit sandpaper for the job.
Can I Use a Palm Sander on Drywall?
Yes, you can, but an orbital sander is more suited to this job.
How Do You Load Up a Palm Sander?
With the sandpaper measured and cut to the right size, simply open up the clamp clock and feed in the sandpaper. After that, tighten the clamp lock again and voila, your palm sander is ready for use.
To sum up, both an orbital sander and a palm sander are useful in certain specific domains of woodworking. The one that you need, depends on your purpose, preference, and budget. Whichever one you go for, however, be sure that you have the right sandpaper for the job.