Palm Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which’s Better for Sanding?

Sanding is one of the final tasks you must do on a finished product for you to obtain a smooth wood surface in any woodworking project. Therefore, one thing is certain whether you are working on furniture such as chairs and shelves or installing wooden floors, pillars, and walls. You’ll have to sand. Conversely, the task has to be done correctly, and for you to do so, you must have the appropriate tool. There are different types of sanders available, but in this post, we will compare the differences between two sanders: palm sander vs. orbital sander.

What’s a Palm Sander?

Palm sanders are the smallest type of sanders available, so small that they can fit easily into the palm of your hand. As a result, they are quite light compared to other tools. Besides, they’re incredibly easy to handle when using them on wood and are often far less expensive than other types of sanders. 

Palm sanders are triangular in design and can easily fit into tight spaces, making them suitable for precise work on oddly shaped woods. Conversely, when using this tool, you don’t need to apply a lot of force to it. Rather, allow it to do all the work and glide across the surface.

Why Would I Need a Palm Sander?

If you are working on smaller projects or don’t use a sander frequently, a palm sander might be an excellent option. Palm sanders are versatile enough for most modest DIY tasks, yet they are lightweight and ideal for individuals on a low budget. In addition, due to their tiny size, they’re great for working with accuracy, and they don’t leave markings as an orbital sander does. Therefore, a palm sander is better if you want to sand down a painted or treated wood piece.

What’s an Orbital Sander?

An orbital sander is a portable handheld tool that rotates the sanding disc in small circles called orbits. They are often square in design to allow them to fit into tight corners and against edges. Also, they aren’t very aggressive, so you can use them on delicate tasks and remove little quantities of material. Additionally, they do not leave any markings, so as long as you’re cautious, they won’t affect the final aesthetic of the piece. 

Orbital sanders are ideal for preparing a surface for painting or removing paint before putting on a new coat. However, due to the markings they leave, they aren’t suitable for use if you don’t plan to paint the wood and want an uninterrupted finish. Besides, they are available in various sizes, strengths, and costs, depending on the manufacturer and supplier.

Why would I Need an Orbital Sander?

Orbital sanders are ideal for dealing with baseboards, staircases, or any other surface that has corners that other types of sanders may struggle to reach. You can also use them for anything that requires paint or varnish to be scraped away. Therefore, if you have purchased a used piece of furniture that you want to refinish, an orbital sander will prepare it much faster than sanding it by hand.

Palm Sander Vs. Orbital Sander: Similarities

1. Portability

When compared to other sanders, both orbital and palm sanders are portable. Nonetheless, a palm sander is more portable than a random orbit sander due to its smaller size.

2. Clean finish

After sanding, both orbital and palm sanders provide the woodwork with a clean finish. In addition, they leave no swirl traces on the wood.

Common Differences Between Palm Sander Vs. Orbital Sander

  • Orbital sanders are ideal for working on large projects, while palm sanders are preferably for small projects.
  • Orbital sanders are heavy-duty tools, while palm sanders are smaller and lightweight
  • Orbitals can be an inversion, while palm sanders are less expensive
  • Orbital sanders will get bigger sanding projects done much faster, while palm sanders produce a much smoother result.

What Makes a Palm Sander an Outstanding Tool?

1. Power

A palm sander is a bit more gentle than an orbital sander for power sanders. A 2-amp motor is enough for most projects that call for the usage of a palm sander. Any more powerful than 3 amps will cost you more money for something you may not need.

2. Corded or cordless

You can choose whether you want a corded or cordless palm sander. In addition, most power tools feature interchangeable batteries, which allow you to use the same battery in different tools. Therefore, this is something to watch if you’re collecting tools from the same manufacturer.

3. Size

The most popular palm sander size is a half-sheet or quarter-sheet sander. The smaller size is preferable for finer work, while the larger is preferable for larger surface areas. You can as well get miniature palm sanders. This size is ideal for very little, precise work that would be too huge for a bigger sander.

4. Handle and grip

Palm sanders are lightweight and simple to operate. However, you want to ensure that you can maintain hold of it while working. Therefore, look for a model with comfort-grip handles, which will make it easier to grasp onto and more comfortable to use.

5. Dust collection

One of the main disadvantages of a palm sander is the dust collecting mechanism; they are not strong. You want a model with a dust bag with a good seal, so read the reviews to see what other people say about the unit. Also, look for a unit that features sealed switches and filters to keep dust out of the sander. Besides, there are palm sander models with vacuum systems.

6. Sandpaper

A palm sander can use normal sandpaper. This is great since sandpaper is rather inexpensive. You will get through a lot of stuff, though! It has a clamp system to hold the sandpaper firm while you work.

Pros of palm sanders

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Less expensive than orbital sanders
  • You can use it with a normal sandpaper
  • If you have experience, it does not leave as many marks as an orbital sander
  • Portable and easy to use

Cons of palm sanders

  • Working with bigger pieces of wood is more difficult.
  • Usually uses a lot of sandpaper.

What Makes an Orbital Sander an Outstanding Tool?

1. Power and speed

Power is usually measured in amps for an orbital sander though you can still find models measured in “orbit per minute.” This indicates how fast the orbital sander will spin, with the typical being roughly 10,000 orbits per minute. So, if you are working on large pieces of wood, a quicker sander is a great option; however, you will have less control, and your finished item may have a few more marks. When working on smaller pieces with more corners and finer details, 10,000 orbits per minute is enough.

Besides, some models feature speed control settings that you can adjust. Going at a slower rate may be handy if you are working on a hard area and want more control, but going at a faster rate will certainly allow you to work much faster — thus, having the option will make the tool much more flexible.

2. Dust collection

When you work with wood, you’re going to make dust. Sanding generates a lot of dust, although certain models incorporate dust collecting mechanisms. They will either be passive or vacuum powered. Passive dust collection normally entails a dust collector bag that you can attach to the hose of your standard vacuum for removal. In contrast, a vacuum-powered collection usually sucks up the dust as you work. Also, orbital sanders provide filters and sealed switches to prevent dust from entering the machine and reducing the sander’s life.

3. Corded or cordless

Depending on your needs, you may choose between corded and cordless models. Some people choose cordless since they don’t have to worry about the cable getting in the way of their job. However, the disadvantage with cordless devices is that you must remember to charge the batteries between usage. Conversely, corded models may also be more powerful, so consider this when comparing different models.

4. Handles and grip

Orbital sanders come in different types of handles. Pistol-grip handles usually provide excellent control since you use both hands (one to apply pressure and one to direct). As a result, these handles are often on professional orbital sanders. Conversely, jug-grip handles are rarer and more suited for situations when you need to sand beneath a piece of wood. The most common ones are palm grip handles, which are lightweight and have a comfortable grip for convenience of usage.

5. Sandpaper

Using a peel-and-stick design or Velcro, you can attach regular sandpaper to an orbital sander. You don’t have to purchase special sandpaper with an orbital sander; you can use any regular sandpaper. This is amazing in terms of cost-cutting.

Pros of orbital sanders

  • Ideal for large projects since it works fast
  • Works well in small spaces
  • Because of the square design, you can easily fit into corners
  • Portable and lightweight

Cons of orbital sanders

  • Won’t remove a significant amount of material
  • It might leave behind marks