What Is A Random Orbital Sander?

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D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) projects are essential to the pride of our human existence, for they are deeply satisfying. You get to show off your skills, maybe test a skill you didn’t know you had, and save lots of money by renovating or doing your own maintenance.

Hand sanders are incredibly handy (no pun intended) tools to have around, especially when working with wood. You will save yourself a ton of time and energy by using a power tool instead of your own elbow grease.

Sanding and refinishing can be a real shore, but thank Tesla for inventing alternating current electricity so that we can get a little help. A handheld power tool enables you to get the job done quickly and effectively.

Electric sanders consist of either a belt or a disk that holds a piece of sandpaper, which quickly and effectively smooth down any raw edges or rough spots, and remove paint. Wherever there’s a surface to skim, there’s a sander.

The sanders are typically five to six inches in diameter and are capable of stripping paint, removing scratches, and finishing edges. Find some practice wood to get the feel of the sander before delving into your project. These take gentle guidance but otherwise do all of the work.

Random orbital sanders are typically handheld and powered by electricity, but you can also find air-powered sanders and floor sanders that roll.


Here is an example of a random orbital floor sander – perhaps you’ve seen one during your travels.  If not, now that you’ve seen one, you’re sure to start seeing them everywhere, because that’s just how the universe works!


The main point to a random orbital sander overall is that it provides a streak-free look to your wood, because the sander travels in – you guessed it! – random orbits.  Random orbital hand sanders are extremely popular these days, and a number of big manufacturers make them such as Bosch, DeWalt, and Makita.  Anyone interested in woodworking really ought to have one.

The following video, by ehowgarden, provides us with some basic tips on how to use the random orbital sander.

Random Orbital Sander History

The random orbital sander was invented in 1982 as a synthesis of belt sanders and finishing sanders. Belt sanders are fast and almost combative, like they’re in attack mode.

They are typically used for coarse removal of flat surfaces and run at high speed. Meanwhile, finishing sanders are slower-moving and used for fine detail in the final stages of a project. And, somewhere in the middle, we have random orbital sanders, which somehow combine the efforts and qualities of each.

Sanders are necessary to completing a good sanding job, and if you’re only in the market for one woodworking tool, we recommend a random orbital sander. It can remove paint, smooth out scratches or gouges, and serve as a finishing sander. It’s random elliptical swirling helps eliminate any marks that a regular orbital sander would leave.


Smoother Than Ricardo Montalban

A random orbit sander features a rounded palm grip or D-grip at the top or side, which you use to gently steer the mechanism. This sander is relatively lightweight, making it easy to control with one hand while you adjust your project with the other. It uses a round pad, which vibrates in small circles while the entire mechanism rotates.

This tool is like a two-in-one, as you can complete all kinds of projects like smoothing out large gouges or gently finishing a piece of furniture. Due to this dual rotation, a random orbital sander does not leave swirling patterns or any evidence behind. This makes for a very convenient tool. You don’t even have to worry about the direction of the wood grain!


Using a random orbital hand sander does require some care and attention. It can be a little more difficult to control than a regular orbit sander, and takes a little longer than a belt to strip, but you are essentially doing two jobs at once with one very powerful accessory.

Remember the reason you bought this tool in the first place: it does the work for you. Combined with the right sandpaper, it should only require your hand’s direction. If you find you’re working it too much, check the wear on the sandpaper. 

Make Sure To Get The Right Sandpaper

There are different kinds of sandpaper available for hand sanders. Be sure of the kind of paper your sander accepts. There is hook-and-loop paper, which is very easy to swap out when you need to replace it.

Hook-and-loop can be attached and removed like Velcro. You can also buy adhesive disks, which you simply stick to the bottom of the sander and remove when needed, but not all models accept this kind of sandpaper.

Random orbital sanders can come with a dust collection bag, which is very convenient for preventing messy dust getting everywhere. Watch this great video by the WoodWorkers Guild Of America to get some excellent tips around this topic.

Wear A Mask

Even with a dust collection feature, it is always recommended to be wearing a protective mask and goggles while using the sander. Those tiny splinters can go anywhere, and random orbital sanders are known to create more debris than a standard orbital sander.

It may be helpful to clamp down your project while you work on it, to prevent any slip-ups. Be sure to read the user’s manual, wear safety equipment, and have a safe, fireproof working area. It is essential to test the sander on a scrap piece of wood and get a feel for it before you begin your project.

For homeowners and DIYers, we recommend the random orbital sander for its maneuverability and efficiency. With a random orbital sander, the possibilities of the world are literally in the palm of your hand.

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