The Tool Geeks

Palm Sander vs Orbital Sander: Do You Know The Difference?

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You can’t escape sanding if you work with wood. Either you are a woodworker that deals with furniture like chairs and shelves or you work on and install wooden floors, pillars, and walls, one thing is for sure. You will need to sand.

There are different types of Sanders out there. The palm sander, disc sander, orbital sander, belt sander, and the likes. This post is going to examine the differences between two sanders the palm sander vs orbital sander.

If you are planning on getting a sander that is convenient to use, both these sanders will be on the top of your list. So which of the two should you get?

Well, that answer depends on a few factors. Luckily, this post will compare both saws and help you figure out which of the two you will need. So let’s get on with it. First, let’s check out orbital Sanders.

What Is an Orbital Sander and What Is It Used for?

Orbital sanders are usually square-shaped. The name orbital sander comes from the sander’s motion while sanding. Orbital sanders spin the sanding disc in small circles (or orbits), hence the name “orbital sander.”

Orbital sanders are popular because they are great on flat surfaces and the sander can also reach tight corners and edges due to the flat and square shape of the sander. Orbital sanders use the normal type of sandpaper. They do not need any special sandpaper to be used. They come in both corded (electrical) and battery-powered models.

Orbital sanders are usually confused with random orbital sanders. You might be going through the sanders at your hardware store and you come across random orbital sanders. They are not the same as orbital sanders.

While they also sand, the movement is very different. Random orbital sanders spin and rotate at the same time, hence the name “random.” Random orbital sanders also use circular-shaped sandpaper or disc sandpaper to sand while orbital sanders use square-shaped sandpaper. Now let’s check out palm sanders.

What Is a Palm Sander and What Is It Used for?

Palm sanders are also known as sheet sanders. Palm sanders are smaller than orbital sanders. The palm sander fits directly on your palm, hence the name “palm sander.”

Palm sanders like orbital sanders also use square-shaped sandpaper to sand wooden surfaces. This makes it possible to reach corners, edges, and tight spaces with a palm sander given its small structure and the shape of the sandpaper.

If you want to sand a piece of furniture without any intention of painting it afterward, then the palm sander is your pick. The small size however is like a double-edged sword. While it gives the palm sander increased accuracy, it also limits the palm sander to small-scale tasks and small surfaces.

If you want to tackle a large or broad wooden surface, a palm sander wouldn’t be your first pick.  Palm sanders like orbital sanders also come in both corded (electrical) and battery-powered models.

Palm sanders are popular in the hands of beginners and woodworkers that deal with precision work. A palm sander is an amazing power tool but how good is it when compared to an orbital sander? Let’s find out.

Palm Sander vs Orbital Sander: Head to Head

Both the orbital sander and the palm sander are amazing power tools. Both can reach tight corners and they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

However, when it comes to buying one, it is a good idea to know where both sanders stand when compared to each other. So let’s do a vivid comparison.

The Power

In terms of power, the orbital sander is more powerful than the palm sander. Orbital sanders will remove material quicker than palm sanders.

Orbital sanders will also remove more material than palm sanders. Though it should be stated that orbital sanders are not exactly known for removing large materials either.

Both sanders are considered to be gentle sanders but in this comparison, the orbital Sander is more powerful and will still remove more material than palm sanders.

The Finishing

In terms of the finishing, palm sanders win. Palm sanders due to their lightweight and small structure are more suited to finishing surfaces.

Orbital sanders will not give you the same type of finish as a palm sander. Orbital sanders are more suited to rough work.

If you want to finish a piece of wood, a palm sander is better than an orbital sander. Palm sanders are used on wooden surfaces like cabinets and shelves that wouldn’t need to be stained.

The finish of a palm sander is so good that you can choose not to stain the wood after you sand with the palm sander. Orbital sanders on the other hand will not give you that luxury. If you sand with an orbital sander, you will still need to stain or finish the surface afterward.

Related Read — Best Sanders For Stairs

The Speed

In terms of speed, the orbital sander is quicker than the palm sander. Orbital sanders can orbit as fast as 10,000 orbits per minute which is quick.

The increased speed of the orbital sander is because of its power and larger size. Since palm sanders are smaller, it’s easy to understand why they aren’t as quick as orbital Sanders.

The speed of the sander determines how quickly you can finish the task. Though speed matters, it is advised to start slow with both sanders because an increased speed means the sander will move very fast and if you are not experienced, you can lose control of the sander and ruin your finish. Not to mention the possibility of getting yourself injured.

The Cost

Of course, when you want to buy a sander, the cost is always a factor. When it comes to price tags, orbital sanders are more expensive than palm sanders. Though there is a wide variety of both power tools out there, palm sanders are always a cheaper option.

The Size and Weight

When it comes to sanding a surface with a sander, the size and weight of the chosen sander matters because that’s what determines if the sander will be handy and convenient to use or not.

In terms of size, orbital Sanders are bigger than palm sanders. Palm Sanders are so small that they can fit underneath your palm. Though there are bigger palm sander models, the usual palm sander is smaller than the orbital sander.

Orbital sanders are also heavier than palm sanders. The regular 5-inch orbital sander can weigh up to 5 pounds. On average, an orbital sander weighs 4 pounds.

Palm Sanders on the other hand weighs between 1.5 pounds for the mini models and 4 pounds for the larger models. On average, a palm sander weighs just about 2.5 pounds. Though both sanders are considered lightweight and handheld Sanders, orbital Sanders can boast of a bigger size.

Related Read — Sander vs Planer

The Size of the Task the Sander Can Deal With

In terms of the task, orbital sanders can deal with larger surfaces than palm sanders. Palm sanders are more suited to sanding tabletops, stools, cabinet doors, and the likes.

The reason for this is the small structure and power of the sander. Orbital Sanders on the other hand can deal well with larger surfaces.

If you want to sand a countertop, a shelf, dresser, or any slightly large wooden surface, an orbital sander is your best bet.

The reason for this is because orbital sanders are bigger, heavier, and more powerful than palm sanders. This makes it possible for the sander to tackle larger tasks and broader surfaces.

Dust Collection

Sanding produces a lot of dust. As you sand, you are removing some of the wood by converting it into sawdust. This means you will need some sort of dust collection unit to prevent your workspace from getting messy.

While both Sanders are usually designed with a dust collection unit. The dust collection unit of a palm sander is smaller than that of an orbital sander.

This means if you are working on a larger task, you will need to improvise. A general rule with all sanders is the bigger the sander, the bigger the dust collection unit. So if you are using a palm sander on a large surface, get ready to empty the dust collection unit regularly because it will get filled quickly.

Related Read — Sander vs Grinder

Cost of Operation

Though many people don’t consider this because both saws aren’t costly to operate, the palm sander will cost you more to operate than the orbital sander. This is because palm sanders use more sandpaper. Don’t be fooled by the small structure of the palm sander.

Palm sanders use more sandpaper than orbital sanders. With a palm sander, you will need to replace the sandpaper being used regularly while sanding because the sander renders sandpaper dull quickly.

One possible reason for this is because palm sanders use higher grit sandpaper. Since the palm sander is more suited to finishing tasks, the sander has to use fine-grit sandpaper and fine-grit sandpaper by nature, which gets dull quickly.

Don’t fret though. This is just a comparison. A pack of sandpaper will cost you under $10. So even if the palm sander will cost more to operate, the total cost is still very much affordable.

Should You Buy an Orbital Sander or a Palm Sander?

It all boils down to this question. Which of the sanders should you get? Though the answer to this question ultimately depends on you, your answer will be influenced by a few factors. Let’s examine these factors.

Your Task

This is perhaps the biggest determinant of the sander you get. If you intend to sand a large or broad surface, then an orbital sander is your pick.

If you will be working on a smaller surface, then you can go for the palm sander. Asides from the size of the surface, the type of finish you are going for also matters. If your goal is to achieve a very smooth and fine surface, a palm sander should be your pick.

Palm sanders as stated earlier are more gentle and produce smoother results. Orbital sanders on the other hand are more suited to rough work like stripping finish from the wood.

Also, if you have a large-scale task on your hand such as if you are renovating your house, an orbital sander is better because you will be tackling more projects.

How Frequently Will You Be Using the Sander?

If you want a sander you will use occasionally, then go for a palm sander. There is no point wasting the extra cash on an orbital sander if you wouldn’t use the sander frequently.

But if you are a professional woodworker that will need to sand regularly. An orbital sander will be the best one for you.

Though the final decision on which sander to get depends on you, I hope this post helps to make your decision easier. If you have any questions or comments about the topic, please leave them below and I’ll attend to them as soon as possible. Have a nice day.

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