The Best Random Orbital Sanders for DIYers and Pros
Achieve smooth results on carpentry projects large and small with the right sander for the job. Ahead, read our top tips and recommendations for navigating the available options.
One of the first rules of woodworking is to sand in the direction of the woodgrain to avoid creating cross-grain marks that compromise your home project’s finished look. But when a woodgrain pattern changes—for instance, on a parquet floor where grain direction varies from board to board—it’s difficult to sand without causing at least some blemishes.
In these situations, one of the best (and quickest) solutions is to use a random orbital sander—a tool that features a sanding pad that simultaneously spins and oscillates (orbits) in an ellipse pattern. That magic combination of spinning and oscillating dramatically reduces the risk of sanding marks.
Keep reading to learn more about the key features of these power tools, and to find out why we’ve chosen the below as our top-favorite picks among the best random orbital sander options available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Makita 18V Random Orbit Sander
- BEST VALUE: DEWALT Random Orbit Sander
- BEST FOR PROS: Dynabrade Air Random Orbital Sander
- BEST FOR TIGHT SPOTS: Chicago Pneumatic Mini Random Orbital Sander
Key Shopping Considerations for Choosing a Random Orbital Sander
When shopping for a random orbital sander, there are several features to keep in mind to help you choose what best suits your needs.
Many random orbital sanders have a single speed, but some models feature variable speeds that alter the sander’s aggressiveness. A higher speed is helpful when you want to quickly grind down roughness (as when removing varnish from an old bookcase). A lower speed is better suited for fine sanding (to achieve a smooth surface on a tabletop, for example). A lack of variable speeds shouldn’t be a deal breaker, however, as success can be achieved simply by using the appropriate sandpaper grit (coarse to deal with roughness, medium for smoothing, and fine for finish work).
Standard disc size for random orbital sanders is 5 inches in diameter, and you’ll find a wide variety of generic 5-inch sandpaper discs in any hardware store or home improvement center. You can also find sanders with smaller 1- to 4-inch discs that are handy for sanding in tight spots. For larger projects (such as sanding a hardwood floor), 6-inch or larger discs are your best bet. Depending on the size and model of your sander, you may have to purchase brand-specific sandpaper discs.
Some random orbital sanders come with attachable dust bags that collect some of the wood dust generated while sanding. Others include attachments that can be connected to a standard wet/dry vacuum hose for dust collection. These collection methods won’t remove every speck of dust (you should always wear a dust mask when sanding), but they can greatly reduce it, so they’re good options to look for, especially if you’ll be sanding indoors.
Random orbital sanders are powered in one of three ways: electrical cords, rechargeable batteries, or compressed air (pneumatic). Each method has its benefits.
- Corded: Because there’s no battery to recharge, corded sanders are always ready to go as long as there’s an electrical outlet nearby. Just plug in your corded random orbital sander and get to work.
- Cordless: These sanders are great when you’re far from a power source, such as when you’re building the kids a treehouse and don’t have an extension cord long enough to reach. With a cordless sander, however, you’re limited to the battery run time (usually 30 to 45 minutes on a single charge). Most users keep a spare battery on hand.
- Pneumatic: Powered by compressed air, pneumatic sanders are a good choice for the woodworker who has a central air compressor to power a number of air tools. Small, pancake-type air compressors, however, are not always powerful enough to run a sander without frequent stops to recharge with air. For the best results, use your pneumatic sander with an air compressor that can produce an air volume of 40 cubic feet per minute (CFM) or higher.
A typical 5-inch random orbital sander weighs about 2 to 4 pounds. Mini sanders weigh as little as 1.5 pounds, while larger random orbital sanders can weigh 7 pounds or more. Lighter sanders create less hand and wrist fatigue, especially if you’re sanding a vertical surface, such as wood paneling.
Most random orbital sanders feature a top palm grip that makes it easy to maneuver with just one hand. If you’re going to be doing a lot of sanding, however, you may want a model with an additional side grip that allows two-handed control.
Our Top Picks
BEST OVERALL: Makita 18V Random Orbit Sander
When electrical outlets are scarce, or when you need free range of motion to complete your project, the variable-speed Makita 18V Random Orbit Sander is your best choice above all. On low speed, the rechargeable, 18-volt lithium-ion battery has a run time of up to 40 minutes, and the tool performs admirably for up to 20 minutes on high speed. The 5-inch sander weighs in at a mere 2.9 pounds and features an ergonomic palm grip, making it effortlessly easy to use.
BEST VALUE: DEWALT Random Orbit Sander
If you’re looking to limit airborne dust as you sand, check out the corded DEWALT Random Orbit Sander. The sander comes with a detachable dust collection bag and features two speeds (high and low) so you can switch to more power when sanding down especially rough surfaces. This 5-inch, 4-pound sander’s motor is designed for reduced vibration, and it features a rubberized palm grip; both design features help reduce hand fatigue, making the tool easier to use over the duration of your project.
BEST FOR PROS: Dynabrade Air Random Orbital Sander
If you’re creating a workshop of pneumatic tools, the 5-inch Dynabrade Air Random Orbital Sander will make a fine addition. Weighing in at just 2.04 pounds, the Dynabrade is easy on the hands and lightweight enough to use for extended periods. This single-speed sander features an ergonomic palm grip and fits a standard 3/8-inch air compressor hose.
BEST FOR TIGHT SPOTS: Chicago Pneumatic Mini Random Orbital Sander
The Chicago Pneumatic Mini Random Orbital Sander makes it easy to sand in tight spots with limited room to maneuver. This single-speed mini sander features a molded rubber trigger grip and weighs just 1.5 pounds. Designed for small areas, the Chicago sander comes with interchangeable 1-inch, 2-inch, and 3-inch backing pads and 60 sandpaper discs (20 per pad size). The sander connects to a standard 3/8-inch air compressor hose, and it comes in a molded plastic case for storage.