What is an orbital sander used for? We tell you about its best uses

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So, what is an orbital sander used for? We tell you about all its typical uses in this blog post

For someone who has to smooth larger surfaces or extreme roughness, a sanding machine usually speeds up work and is more fun than sanding by hand.

This blog talks about an orbital sander, one of the best power sanders because it easily gets into corners as well as up against edges.

Perhaps we should start by looking at exactly what is an orbital sander for the benefit of beginners.

What is an orbital sander?

A random orbital sander is simply a hand-held power sander that sands in a consistent circular/orbital action motion.

The most outstanding feature of orbital sanders is their square shape- this explains why the tools sand inside corners and flat edges better than a great deal of other types of sanders.

It’s also important to note that an orbital sander can work with multiple sandpapers- you can even outfit it with a rectangle sanding sheet cut appropriately.

However, most work with standard 1/4 sheet plates though there are options that use a third and even half of the regular 9×11-in sandpaper sheets.

We shall, however, concentrate more on the most popular orbital sander- the 1/4 sheet orbital sander.

Of course, there are corded and cordless versions of this wonderful sanding tool.

What is an orbital sander used for?

Now that we have recapped what an orbital sander really is, let’s go back to the question: What is an orbital sander used for?

The first thing you need to know is that the tool can be used for a wide variety of surfaces- wood, plastics, metal, and more.

And as previously mentioned, its greatest advantage is that the device gets into places the random orbital sander- the other common type of sander that it’s often confused with- can’t.

So, what are the best uses of an orbital sander?

Here are examples of specific projects you can make use of the tool:

1.     Prepping surfaces for painting/sealing

The tool works well when it comes to preparing woodwork (or sheet metal) for a smooth painting job or for a stain.

I must add that this is where most pros and DIYers find this sander most useful- it’s a fantastic device for sanding between layers of paint/finish since there is reduced risk of sanding right through the finish.

2.     Sanding wood to a smooth finish

The tool is effectively classified as a finish sander and it’s one of the best tools to use if you’re looking to create a fine finish for woodworking projects and elsewhere.

To be clear, the machine, for the most part, follows belt sanders (and sometimes a random orbital sander)- these two are mostly made for the removal of heavier material and scratches.

3.     A variety of other light sanding jobs

Because orbital sanders aren’t excessively aggressive –and their sanding surface is normally smaller- they don’t strip too much material so it’s not the right choice if you want to remove entire layers of paint/varnish.

You can however use the tool for lighter tasks such as knocking down a coat of paint, removing patches of rust, etc.


Pros and cons

Uses aside, here are the biggest upsides and downsides of selecting this tool:

Orbital sander pros

·         Uses readily available sandpaper

One of the coolest things about an orbital sander is that it doesn’t need special sandpaper.

As such, you can simply attach the abrasive sheet you have at hand- in any grit you want- and sand down materials wonderfully.

Bear in mind that attaching the sandpaper is straightforward- the spring loaded clips make it a breeze.

In addition, the sandpaper clamps down tightly and doesn’t come loose.

·         Perfect for tight spots

This is a reminder: the sheet sander pads (plus the added sandpaper) are square so this is the better tool if you need to get into corners and tight edges.

That means the tool is perfect for floors and stairs.

You can also effortlessly sand right up to baseboards when prepping for stain, varnish, or paint.

·         Easier to use

In general, you can control this compact, more affordable sanding tool with just 1 hand.

This is not the case with heavier duty sanders such as belt sanders- it’s a must to use both hands all the time for such tools.

·         Won’t damage the surface

Its reduced aggressiveness is a good thing because it won’t ruin your surfaces.

Orbital sander cons

·         Poor at removing massive material

We have already why it won’t remove loads of material.

·         Leaves more visible swirls in the finish

Compared to random orbital sanders, the sanding marks are more obvious.

How to use an orbital Sander

For the best results, try to sand with the grain at all times (or as much as you can).

This is because, as hinted earlier, it tends to leave more noticeable swirl patterns when you sand against the grain.

Also keep the tool moving the entire time and sand incrementally using finer grits of sand-paper.

Lastly, consider doing a follow-up by hand- this final touch is necessary for a near flawless finish.

Tip: Do not add any extra pressure to the sander to make it strip more forcefully- doing that not only slows down the process but also harms the final finish quality. Just let it do the work naturally.

What is an orbital sander used for?- Summary

An orbital sander is particularly ideal for corners and other hard-to-reach spaces due to its square-shaped pads.

And it’s, in essence, an amazing sanding machine for sanding between layers of paint/finish when prepping surfaces for painting, staining, or any other finish.

The tool is, indeed, tough enough to complete tons of small projects perfectly including sanding down a drywall patch.

All that said, the tool is not ideal for sanding larger pieces because of the smaller sanding surface area and reduced aggression.


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