Introduction To Random Orbital Sanders and Pad Sanders

Random Orbital Sander 

A random orbital sander is a type of power sander that uses a round sanding pad that moves in a random orbital. This motion helps to reduce the risk of sanding marks or scratches on the workpiece, as the sanding pad moves in a non-linear pattern.

Random orbital sanders are typically used for sanding and finishing wood, metal, and plastic surfaces. They are well-suited for tasks such as smoothing rough edges, removing paint or finish and preparing surfaces for staining or painting.

Pad Sanders 

Pad sanders were first introduced over 50 years ago and they’re still around. It’s because they’re still the easiest, simplest, and quickest way of smoothing rough wood. They are generally fitted with square or rectangular pieces of sandpaper. But for cleaning warehouses and workspaces, experts recommend using top-of-the-line scrubbing machines. 

A pad sander, when turned on and in use, makes a circular sanding motion to reduce the wood’s roughness. However, it can leave scratch marks especially when the machine stands firmly against the wood’s grain, so you may even have to sand it more to remove these marks.

Difference Between Random Orbital Sanders And Pad Sanders 

Random orbital sanders and pad sanders are both types of power tools that are used to sand surfaces smoothly. However, they operate in slightly different ways and are used for different tasks. 

Random orbital sanders  Pad sanders 
Random orbital sanders have a round sanding pad that rotates in a random orbital, meaning it moves in a circular pattern while also vibrating or oscillating. Pad sanders have a rectangular sanding pad that moves in a fixed linear pattern.
Random orbital sanders are generally used for fine sanding and finishing work, as they leave a smooth finish. They are generally less expensive and less powerful than random orbital sanders and are best suited for sanding large, flat surfaces.
They are also good for sanding curved or irregular surfaces. They are not as effective at sanding curved or irregular surfaces and may leave deeper scratches or swirl marks on the surface being sanded.
They are more versatile and produce a smoother finish. They are more suitable for the initial preparation of surfaces

Key Features of Random Orbital Sanders

Circular sanding pads on wooden background

Speed Control

 A lot of random orbital sanders offer a variable speed control that enables the operator to alter the speed of the sanding pad to suit the material being sanded or the desired finish.

Dust Collection 

Many random orbital sanders have a dust-collection mechanism to keep the workspace clean and limit the amount of dust that the operator inhales. This may take the shape of a dust bag or a connection to a shop vac.

 Ergonomic Design

 They are designed with an ergonomic grip or handle to make them more comfortable to use for extended periods. Not all of them have ergonomic design though and the ones that have it tend to cost more.

Power Source

They can be powered by electricity, batteries, or a combination of both. Some models are corded, while others are cordless. Choosing between the two mainly depends on whether you prefer portability and ease of use over more power and price.

Size and Weight 

Random orbital sanders come in a range of sizes and weights, from small, lightweight models suitable for fine sanding and finishing work to larger, heavier models suitable for tougher sanding tasks.

 Key Features of Pad Sanders 

Sanding Disc Pads

Large Sanding Pad

Pad sanders typically have a larger sanding pad than orbital  sanders, which allows them to cover a wider area more quickly

Back-and-Forth Sanding Action

 Pad sanders use a back-and-forth sanding action, which makes them effective at removing material quickly.

Clips or Velcro to Hold Sandpaper

Some pad sanders have clips or velcro to hold larger sheets of sandpaper in place, rather than using individual sheets, that are cut to fit the sanding pad.

Variable Height Adjustment

An adjustable sanding pad height allows you to adjust the sanding pad to suit the contours of the surface you are sanding.

LED Lights 

Built-in LED lights help you see the surface you are sanding more clearly.

Which One to Choose: Random Orbital Sanders Or Pad Sanders?

Sanding Pads Disc

The choice between a random orbital sander and a pad sander will depend on the project requirements. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which type of sander to use: 

  • Surface area: If you need to sand a large surface area, a pad sander may be the better choice because it has a larger sanding pad and can cover a wider area more quickly. If you need to sand a small or curved surface and want a better finish, an orbital sander may be the better option because it has a smaller sanding pad and is more maneuverable.
  • Finish quality: orbital sanders are generally better at creating a smoother finish because they use a circular/random sanding action. If you need to create a very smooth finish, an orbital sander may be the better choice. If you are simply looking to remove material or rough up a surface, a pad sander may be sufficient.
  • Sandpaper size:  orbital sanders typically use sheets of sandpaper that are cut to fit the size of the sanding pad, while pad sanders often use larger sheets of sandpaper that are held in place with clips or velcro. If you prefer the convenience of using larger sheets of sandpaper, a pad sander may be the better choice.

FAQs

How do I maintain my sander?

To maintain a sander, clean the dust bag or filter and keep the sanding pad clean, replace the sanding pad when it becomes worn or damaged, and lubricate the sander’s bearings according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

What is the main difference between a random orbital sander and a pad sander?

Random orbital sanders move in a random, elliptical pattern and are more efficient at removing material, while pad sanders move in a back-and-forth pattern and are better suited for fine sanding and finishing tasks.

Can a pad sander be used for heavy-duty sanding tasks?

Pad sanders are generally not recommended for heavy-duty sanding tasks, as they are not as efficient at removing material as dedicated tools such as belt sanders.

Conclusion 

Random orbital sanders and pad sanders are both useful tools for sanding wood and other materials. Both types of sanders have their advantages and are suitable for different types of sanding tasks. In general, it is best to choose a sander that is appropriate for the type of sanding task you are doing. If you need to remove a lot of material quickly, a pad sander may be the better choice. If you are looking for a smooth, even finish, a random orbital sander may be the better option. It is also important to choose the right grit of sandpaper for your project and to maintain your sander by regularly cleaning it and replacing the sanding pad as needed.