What is a Random Orbital Sander?
Random orbital sanders are hand-sized power tools that combine the speed and cutting power of belt sanders with the ability to produce a finer finish than slow-speed orbital sanders. A random orbital sander spins the sanding disk at the same time that it is moving in small ellipses. By ensuring that no part of the abrasive material covers the same path twice on the same rotation, this type of sander does not leave swirl marks and produces an even finish regardless of the wood grain direction.
Types of Random Orbital Sanders
There are 3 main types of random orbital sanders. Electric and air-powered sanders are handheld tools, while orbital floor sanders are large, specialized tools that roll on wheels. In this article we will focus on corded and cordless electric sanders as well as on the top air-powered models.
Table of Contents
- Best Corded Random Orbital Sanders – Comparison
- Finding the Best Random Orbital Sander for the Money
- The Best Cordless Random Orbital Sanders
- The Best Air-Powered Random Orbital Sanders
- Finish Right with a Random Orbital Sander
Best Corded Random Orbital Sanders – Comparison
|Bosch 1250DEVS 5-Inch Random|
|Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random|
|DEWALT D26453K 5-Inch Random|
Finding the Best Random Orbital Sander for the Money
The random orbital sander is a popular power tool, and all of the top tool companies have made it a point to design good units. A bit of careful shopping will turn up the best random orbital sander for your projects at a good fit for your budget. Enjoy our review of the best random orbital sanders for the money.
1. Bosch 1250DEVS 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
For heavy jobs or as an addition to your professional woodworking kit, the Bosch 1250DEVS tops the charts in power and capability.
This dual-mode machine has a powerful 6-1/2-AMP motor that runs at 270-600 no-load RPM to drive the pad at speeds from 3100 – 6500 OPM. A flip of the lever switches modes from normal random orbit sanding that does a great job on fine finishing to very aggressive eccentric sanding that will remove a lot of material quickly. With this much power, grabbing and gouging are always concerns, so the 1250 DEVs has a soft start function that reduces torque on startup.
Other features that protect your finish are response circuitry designed to maintain pad speed when under loads and protect against overloads, and a pad dampening system that helps prevent swirl marks.
We also liked the overall feel this sander has while running at speed. The soft microcellular pad conforms to the work surface to provide a cushiony feel and a smooth polishing effect. The narrow 7.7-inch diameter tool body, rubber push pad, and auxiliary handle ensure perfect control at all times. The die-cast aluminum gear housing and its relatively high 7.35 pound of weight give this sander a very solid, stable feel when working. The 1250 DEVS comes at a high-end price point, but its top quality and capability certainly justify it.
- High power
- Dual modes
- Sturdy construction
- Passive dust collection system is nearly useless
- High price point
2. Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
The Makita BO5041K was a standout among the small, 3.0-amp sanders and we were actually surprised at the low price point.
The detailing and ergonomics of this machine put it at best in class. Rubber grips are everywhere they need to be, including on the adjustable front handle that swings out of the way for getting into corners. The two-finger trigger switch and large trigger lock button are just some of the small details that reveal Makita’s long heritage as a manufacturer of top-quality professional tools. The random orbit action is broad at 1/8 inch and helps you get the job done quickly. This sander comes as a complete kit with a hard-plastic carrying case, dust bag, and abrasive disc.
One of the first things we noticed about this sander is that the dust collection system works fairly well and the bag is of a practical size—a vacuum connection is still the only way to go, but the Makita beats out the competition dust-wise. A pad control system gives you smooth startups, and with a variable speed between 4,000 and 12,000 OPM, it is easy to adapt to both material hardness and the stage of finish.
This sander has a very balanced feel while operating, with vibration almost completely eliminated. The Makita BO5041K is likely to last for many years, and given its other strong points, it leads among the small sanders in terms of value for the money.
- Makita quality
- Superior ergonomics
- Good dust control
- Housing openings may collect dust
- Main handle is a bit small
3. DEWALT D26453K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
DEWALT comes through again with a variable-speed random-orbit sander that sets the bar high for quality build at a reasonable price.
This sander pulls plenty of power out of its 3.0-amp motor to run at speeds between 7,000 – 12,000 OPM without bogging down, no matter how hard the wood is. The variable speed adjustment lets you tune in to the material to reduce vibration and produce high-quality results. Textured rubber over mold grips on the handle and body keep you comfortable and in control during long work sessions. The 5-inch disk covers ground quickly, and the 8-hole hook-and-loop pad makes paper changes fast and hassle-free.
We like DEWALT tools, and this sander has the usual solid feel to it—while some users might think 3.5 pounds makes for a heavy sander, but the extra weight actually adds to its stability and balance when running the unit at high speeds. Startup is smooth and gouge-free thanks to the variable speed switch, and it does not take long to get the feel of this machine.
DEWALT tools have a reputation for durability, and sealed ball bearings in the motor, a dust-sealed switch, and a zippered carrying case help to prolong the life of this sander.We would like to see a longer cord to avoid the bother of running extension cords, and using a vacuum is a must for any sort of real dust control. Other than that, this sander offers the expected DEWALT value for the money.
- Solid build
- Good power
- Low vibration
- Operation is very dusty
- Seal makes power buttondifficult to switch
4. SKIL 7492-02 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
This model from SKIL offers a lot of features for a bargain-priced home owner-grade sander.It has a variable speed setting that lets you adjust the output of the 2.5-amp motor between 7,500 and 12,000 OPM. The machine has a set of pressure indicator lights that is supposed to keep the user from applying excessive force, but we question the usefulness of this feature. A pad brake, dust-sealed switch, and clear dust collection canister are other details that set the SKIL apart from most other sanders at this price level.
This sander handled fairly well, but did not compare to the Makita for balance. Once you get the feel for the machine, it removes material at a high rate, but it takes a careful touch to get a swirl-free finish. The dust canister was interesting—it is a good idea to be able to see how full it is. On the other hand, being rigid, it can get in the way at times and can also get knocked off, and the micro filter does nothing but make it more difficult to empty the canister. If you are looking for a basic sander at a low price point, the SKIL will do the job.
- Low price
- Well-sealed switches and housing
- Dust control canister is impractical
- Grip surface is too small
The Best Cordless Random Orbital Sanders
1. Makita XOB01Z LXT 18V Orbital Sander
Makita hits the top of the list again with this 18 Volt, 5-inch random orbital sander that comes as a bare tool at a decent price point.
It turns at a quick 7,000 to 11,000 OPM, comparable to a corded machine, and has three speed settings to let you go from rough to fine finish without a hitch. It has the same broad 1/8 inch orbit as the corded version, and it removes material at a high rate. A pad brake to reduce free-spin and a start-up control system are other great features this sander shares with its corded cousins.
This is a true palm sander, and is very small and mobile. It’s great for tight spaces and fine work, but users with large hands may find it uncomfortable. The machine does sand well, and we were able to get close to the stated 40 minutes of battery life out of it when doing finish sanding at low speed.
The dust collection system is weak, however, and it likely causes some loss in battery life. The sander weighs almost 3 pounds, which seems light at first, but can become awkward given that this is a tool with no handles. We found it a bit disappointing that no battery and charger are included in the base price, but this sander from Makita is still our favorite among the cordless models.
- Good battery life
- Battery is not included
- Grip surface is small
2. Ridgid R8606B GEN5X 18V Orbital Sander
The Rigid GEN 5X is another cordless sander that comes as a bare tool.This machine turns 18 Volts of lithium-ion battery power into 7,000 to 11,000 OPM controlled by a 6-speed variable dial. The GEN 5X shares features with Ridgid’s corded units including a soft start function and a pad brake system. The GENX motor technology is intended to help the tool maintain full speed under a heavy load, but in practice it takes a light touch to keep from bogging the sander, particularly as the battery drains.
Although this sander is average when it comes to material removal, it shines in the dust collection department—the Air Guard technology does seem to pick up almost 90% of dust as Ridgid advertises, but the best feature is the standard-sized 2.5 inch vacuum hose attachment. The ergonomics of this sander did not suit us, we found the grip surfaces to be narrow and strangely-shaped. We also had difficulty getting the advertised 40-minute battery life out of this sander, but strong points like 6 speeds and the Ridgid lifetime service agreement do make up for some of this tool’s shortcomings.
- 6-speed motor
- Effective dust control
- Free batteries for life
- Awkward ergonomics
- Goes through batteries fast under heavy loads
3. Ryobi P411 18V Random Orbital Sander
The P411 fromRyobi is a bargain-priced bare tool sander that covers the basics for the occasional user.This machine puts out a surprising 10,000 no-load OPM and can remove a lot of material fast in the hands of a competent user. Because it lacks a variable speed system, it takes some skill and practice to use this sander effectively, but it will do the job once you get the feel of it. The P411 has a large rubber over mold pommel grip and additional grip surfaces on the front face of the machine. A trigger lock switch lets you focus on operating the sander to the best effect.
We found the Ryobi sander to be a decent machine for its price point—it works well for rough cutting, but fine finishing gets difficult with no speed control. Ryobi claims that the sander can deliver 35 minutes of battery life, but we found that the amount of pressure used while sanding, as well as the nature of the material make a lot of difference.
This is not one of our favorite sanders, but if you already own a Ryobi tool collection and have the batteries, go ahead and add it to the tool box.
- High operating speeds
- Fair dust control
- Large grip surface
- Low price
- High vibration
- No variable speed
The Best Air-Powered Random Orbital Sanders
1. Dynabrade 56815 Dynorbital Supreme 5-Inch
The Dynorbital Supreme from Dynabrade is a best-in-class American made air-driven orbital sander with its all-steel construction made for the heaviest industrial applications.
The Dynorbital puts an incredible amount of sanding power in your hand at a featherweight 2.04 pounds. A 5-blade rotor turns 18 CFM of airflow into .28 HP to run the sander at 12,000 RPM. Composite rotor construction adds strength and lubricating qualities that add to its durability. The urethane weight-mated sanding pad rides smoothly over the work surface and conforms to variations to produce a perfect finish.
The Dynabrade sander is the only way to go if you want to get into high-production sanding or simply enjoy working with excellent tools. We drove it in the non-vacuum mode, but it can be converted to use a vacuum dust control system. This tool is smooth, quiet, and nearly vibration free. It can be operated for hours with very little effort and fatigue. Controlling the air power via a throttle lever takes some getting used to, but you will soon see the advantage of fast spin-up and easy speed variation.
Any of the Dynabrade orbitals represent the top-of-the-line, and any investment you make in one of these sanders will pay back handsomely over years of use.
- Top-of-the-line tool
- Intensive ergonomic design to support extended use
- High speed
- High price point
2. 3M 20317 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
The 3M 20317 is a professional-grade random orbital sander designed for high-production industrial environments.
Running on compressed air at 17 standard cubic feet per minute and 90 pounds psi at the tool head, the rotor in this sander generates .28 HP and drives the disc at 12,000 RPM for hours of continual use. The 3M orbital is intended for work on wood as well as metal, fiberglass, and composite materials, and will produce a completely scratch and swirl-free finish.
This 3M sander is an amazing tool that gives professional results in the hands of a skilled operator. It is extremely light at 2.35 pounds, and the rubber grip and ergonomic throttle lever are made for days on end of use. The unit is also far more quiet and smoother than any electric sander.
Note that this tool is made for use without dust extraction equipment, and requires you to have the proper air input set up. If you have the compressor needed to run an air sander like this and can go without built-in dust control, the 3M is the best choice at a mid-price point.
- Industrial-grade tool
- Intensive ergonomic design to support extended use
- Extremely high speed
- Needs a high-quality compressor
- No dust control
3. DEWALT DWMT70780 Dual Action Sander
The DEWALT DWMT 70780 gives you a lot of sander for a low price—it’s is one of the few quality brands that runs a 6-inch pad.
More commonly used for automotive body work, this sander can be easily re purposed for woodwork as long as you have an air supply. The 6-inch footprint helps you get a lot done quickly, and replacement abrasive discs are available at any auto parts store.
Its solid aluminum body can stand up to the toughest shop conditions, and a touch control trigger makes for easy operation. A key less disc release and large ergonomic handle help you get through long work sessions. This sander has a standard 1/4 inch air inlet, and be aware that it needs a professional-grade 15-20 CFM air compressor to drive it at full power.The DEWALT sander is built to last, and when powered up it cuts as well as any sander that goes for twice as much. One problem we had with this sander was with oil leakage—after lubricating the tool, oil sprays when you run the sander, making a mess if precautions are not taken. It is a good idea to set the tool inside an empty cardboard box and run it up to speed to remove excess oil. Other than that, this is a solid tool that will last for years.
- DEWALT quality
- Aluminum construction
- 6-inch pad
- Requires a lot of air pressure
- Leaks oil
Finish Right with a Random Orbital Sander
We took a long look at the top orbital sanders and came up with some great picks in all price ranges. In our opinion, air power is the way to go for serious woodworkers, but there are disadvantages to being tied to an air compressor—we will leave it up to you to choose the one (or two) you like best. Buy with confidence, because these are all good tools.