An orbital sander is critical to your woodworking and epoxy projects because it’s small, powerful, and leaves no trace when used correctly. In fact, I believe orbital sanders are some of the most helpful tools for epoxy woodworking. However, how do you choose the best orbital sander for your needs?
The best random orbital sander for most people is the Makita BO5041. It has 3 amps to power the variable speed-controlled pad, an included handle (removable and adjustable) to optimize balanced operation, oversize sealed ball bearing motor construction, and accessible size for most grip abilities.
The instances in which I wouldn’t recommend the Makita BO5041 are if:
- You want the most bang for your buck, go with the SKIL 5” orbital sander (available on Amazon).
- You need a pneumatic sander, get the Ingersoll Rand 300G Edge Series (available on Amazon).
- You need a premium model for heavy use, get the Festool ETS 125 REQ-Plus (available on Amazon).
- You need a cordless option, grab the SKIL PWRCore (available on Amazon).
I’ll consider corded models for the main categories and provide my pick for the best battery-powered and pneumatic options. Plus, I’ll discuss four major factors to consider when buying a random orbital sander.
Best Overall: Makita BO5041 5” Random Orbit Sander
The Makita BO5041 random orbit sander tops the ranks for most people in most situations, thanks to its powerful versatility, ergonomic design, and lasting construction.
While lower-power models bog down with enough pressure and make divots in the piece, this sander delivers 3 full amps of power to ensure even sanding at every speed level.
The variable speed range includes lower speeds for sanding fragile or thin surfaces or if you want to work more slowly to get the details just right.
However, the extra power doesn’t translate to an increase in vibration, as most users report very little vibration discomfort, thanks to the rubber pads on the handle and top.
This sander includes an adjustable handle that collars around the sander body giving you custom placement, which enables you to balance the applied weight depending on your grip and application.
The Makita has a startup control system that prevents the unit from spinning away upon startup. It also has a pad braking system that stops the orbit fast rather than making you wait until it slows to a stop on its own.
Bottom line: The Makita BO5041 has lots of power, yet nearly everyone can use it safely. It’s a great choice for both delicate and heavy tasks.
- High-powered. Its motor produces a generous 3 amps of power to maintain consistent sanding at any speed.
- Broad speed range. From 12,000 OPM (orbits per minute) to 4,000, it can handle delicate projects and thinner surfaces.
- Accessible. A smaller form factor accommodates a broad range of grip abilities and angles.
- Durable. Makita used a proprietary motor with oversized sealed ball bearing construction to maximize longevity.
- Light but sturdy. The medium-lightweight construction maintains firm pressure across the pad for better control and cleaner results.
- Better control. Its adjustable and removable handle allows for greater control and more balanced pressure distribution on the pad. This also increases the range of grip and stance positions, which helps reduce hand fatigue and back strain.
- Comfortable to use. Rubber grips on top of the body and handle dampen vibrations so you can work longer.
- Predictable startup. The pad startup control system aids the user when starting the unit on a surface, so it doesn’t skate away.
- Safe and efficient. The Pad brake system eliminates the waiting time after trigger release, so you can move between applications faster and safer.
- Inconsistent dust collection. Users gave the dust collection mixed reviews, with around a third saying the suction had insufficient power or the port needed tweaking to fit a vacuum hose.
- Trigger squeeze. The two-finger trigger might be difficult for those with different grip abilities. Still, the trigger lock keeps it running, so you don’t have to squeeze for very long.
|Pad diameter||5 inches (12.7 cm)|
|Weight||2.1 pounds (0.95 kg)|
|Dimensions||10.8 x 4.8 x 6 inches|
|Variable speed range||4,000–12,000 orbits per minute|
Best Bang for Your Buck: SKIL SR211601 5” Random Orbit Sander
When you want many of the same features as more expensive options and want to keep costs down, the SKIL SR211601 gives you the best bang for your buck.
Power is one of the first sacrifices to keep production costs down, but with 2.8 amps, this sander has ample power to match the speedy 7,000–13,000 OPM.
Given its smaller size, the SKIL SR211601 can reach into corners and in between surfaces that larger sanders can’t. This aids in fatigue reduction as well since it’s a smaller area to grip over long periods.
This sander also boasts vibration reduction and a patented dust removal system—features not often found in lower price ranges.
Bottom line: This sander boasts a feature list typically found on more expensive models, but without their price tag and without sacrificing too much power.
- Affordable price. Second lowest of well-reviewed random orbital sanders, but with the features of more expensive options.
- Small. A greater number of people can use this model thanks to its smaller stature.
- Variable speed. Variable speeds up to 13,000 OPM for fine, smooth sanding on any surface.
- Good power. 2.8 amps power the sander to ensure even, effective sanding.
- Vibration minimization. To minimize hand fatigue from vibrations, this sander uses rubber grips in addition to a counterweight.
- Cyclonic dust box. Unlike a porous bag, the plastic cyclonic dust box prevents the collected dust from leaking. It’s also clear, so you can see when it needs emptying.
- Free paper. This kit includes three sanding discs, so you can put it to work right out of the box.
- Heavy. Weight is quite a bite heavier than other options on this list, which makes vertical sanding more tiresome.
- Dusty. Dust collection underwhelmed several users when it didn’t suck up or contain all the dust.
- Longevity. Some users complained that the unit did not last very long, indicating that this sander isn’t made for extended or heavy use.
|Pad diameter||5 inches (12.7 cm)|
|Weight||3.44 pounds (1.56 kg)|
|Dimensions||7.87 x 4.8 x 5.51 inches|
|Variable speed range||7,000–13,000 OPM|
Best Pneumatic: Ingersoll Rand 300G 6” Air Random Orbit Sander
The Ingersoll Rand 300G Edge Series random orbit sander is a lightweight powerhouse, delivering .2 horsepower to 10,000 OPM. It’s also durable and made from composite materials to last a long time.
A diffused rear exhaust system pushes more debris from the area at higher rates, keeping the work surface clean. It also includes a 360-degree swiveling adapter for when you need to move around without the vacuum hose twisting up.
Pneumatic tools tend to be loud, but this sander is quiet. Many users praise its low-decibel output and minimal vibration.
Bottom line: Pneumatic tools can be expensive, and while the Ingersoll Rand 300G isn’t cheap, it’s still fairly priced for a long-lasting, all-day tool made by a reputable brand.
- Lightweight. At 1.9 pounds (0.86 kg), it makes long days easier and gives you the freedom to sand vertically or upside-down.
- Variable speed. While it has variable speed, it is pressure-adjustable variable speed (which can be a con for some).
- Clean Pad. Diffused rear exhaust to clear more debris from the surface, eliminating scratches.
- Low vibration. Since there is no onboard motor, air sanders don’t have as much vibration as their electric counterparts.
- Quiet. Pneumatic tools can be loud, but this sander is quiet. Many users praised it for being quiet, especially compared to comparable orbital sanders.
- Vacuum system ready. It’s ready to connect to vacuum and dust collection systems with an included 360º swiveling adapter that prevents hose tangles.
- No variable speed increments. The pressure-adjusted variable speed gives you more freedom but doesn’t let you set repeatable speeds.
- Expensive. This is one of the more expensive items on this list; however, it is still a good value for an air sander, and the price is in-line with comparable entries.
|Pad diameter||6 inches (15.24 cm)|
|Weight||1.9 pounds (0.86 kg)|
|Dimensions||8 x 6.5 x 4.75 inches|
|Variable speed range||0*–10,000|
*This pneumatic sander has an “infinitely variable speed paddle,” which does not have set speed increments but relies on the pressure you apply to the paddle trigger.
Best Premium Model: Festool 574993 5” Random Orbit Sander
If you want a sander that will endure long work times and heavy usage, the Festool 574993 ETS 125 REQ-Plus comes close to an industrial-grade tool that you can use anywhere.
This sander is the most powerful electric model on the list. However, it is a finishing sander, so it’s still perfect for lighter projects.
One of the most impressive things about Festool is their jetstream technology, which blasts debris into the port and away from the sanding surface.
Most sanders come in a box, or if they’re part of a kit, they may include a bag. Festool wants your tools to last as long as possible, so this sander includes a sturdy Systainer toolbox for the sander and accessories.
As expected with a premium offering, the Festool keeps the work area safe by utilizing start and stop assists. No more worrying about the sander jerking away from you and dropping. No more standing around waiting for the sander to stop spinning so you can set it down.
Bottom line: This sander is a fantastic premium choice because it has all the bells and whistles. Plus, it’s backed by a warranty from a company with a good reputation for making great premium tools.
- High-powered. The Festool cranks out 7.5 amps of juice. If you need power, this has it for any material.
- Pad brake. This sander has a built-in pad brake for quick stops, which makes for cleaner, easier work. User comments report a stop time of around two seconds.
- Low vibration. Advanced vibration stop technology works by balancing out the unit to halt vibration where it starts.
- 36-month warranty. A lot can happen in three years.
- Stepless variable speed. Rather than assigning speed intervals to specific dial increments, this sander has a full range of available speeds between
- Compact ergonomics. With a small form and low weight, this sander can go anywhere and fit every grip.
- Excellent dust collection. The Festool uses jetstream air blasts to force the dust out of the way and into the collection system.
- Free storage. This kit includes a durable Systainer storage box with a locking lid.
- Cost. Most expensive on the list by far.
|Pad diameter||5 inches (12.7 cm)|
|Weight||2.4 pounds (1.09 kg)|
|Dimensions||15.5 x 11.6 x 7.4 inches|
|Variable speed range||6,000–12,000 OPM|
Best Cordless Option: SKIL SR6604B-10 PWRCore20 5” Random Orbit Sander
If you don’t sand for long stretches or need something cordless, the SKIL PWRCore random orbital sander fits the bill.
Batteries aren’t light, so adding a large lithium battery to a tool that houses a motor sounds like a recipe for a heavy sander. But at 2.67 pounds (1.21 kg), the SKIL SR6604B-10 is still lightweight enough for most applications.
A patented battery design keeps the pack from overheating and shutting the unit off. It also means a cooler battery during runtime, which improves efficiency and extends work time.
This sander has enough power to do most light-duty projects and can run for a solid half-hour before needing a fresh battery.
It also comes with a dust box instead of a dust bag, which prevents dust from leaking through the sides.
Bottom line: If you need a portable but effective cordless sander, the SKIL has enough power for most tasks and includes the battery and charger to save you money.
- Patented battery. The main complaint people have with cordless tools is runtime, and this proprietary design provides long runtime for a small battery.
- Fairly light. Just over two-and-a-half pounds in weight gives you solid downward pressure to maintain control and won’t be too hard to hold up on vertical applications.
- Decent power. This sander puts out a sufficient amount of power for most DIY applications, especially for a cordless.
- Battery included. Batteries are expensive, so an included one is nice.
- Charger included. The complete package so you can get started right away.
- Dust box. It uses a plastic dust canister with a microfiltration cylinder to minimize dust. This is especially useful for vertical or overhead applications where dust can go straight into your face.
- Limited power. It’s not as fast or powerful as corded options, so it can’t be used on as many applications.
- Size. It’s a bit larger than other models, given its battery backpack, which might make it a bit unwieldy for some.
|Pad diameter||5 inches (12.7 cm)|
|Weight||2.67 pounds (1.21 kg)|
|Dimensions||8.66 x 8.66 x 7.09 inches|
|Variable speed range||7,000–11,000|
Factors To Consider
There are four main factors to consider when buying a random orbital sander:
- Pad motion (random orbital vs. orbital)
- Power source (pneumatic, corded, or battery)
- Speed variability
I’ll explain all four below.
Random Orbital vs. Orbital Sanders
It’s important to note that random orbital sanders and orbital sanders are two distinct kinds of sander with orbiting pads. I’ve limited my list to random orbital only since they produce the best results for a greater variety of applications.
A random orbit sander executes two distinct movements. First, the pad spins around the axis, like a record player. Second, the axis itself orbits, moving the whole pad in an ovular pattern, at random.
As the pad spins and moves in continuous diagonal directions, the sandpaper evens out the marks left on the surface, so you cannot tell where they are. These work best for any wood grain.
In slow motion, you can see the pad spinning while simultaneously making ovular revolutions, giving it a ‘wobbly’ appearance.
A traditional orbital sander orbits the pad around the axis. Still, it doesn’t spin, so you won’t get as clean a finish because the pattern doesn’t vary enough to avoid all leftover sanding lines. You also have to mind the grain of the piece you’re sanding so you don’t create scratches across the surface.
Random orbit sanders will give you a cleaner finish for your epoxy and wood because the pad spins while moving around in an orbital fashion.
This multiplies the interactions between the fine lines, effectively scrubbing in every direction possible so that individual lines are indistinguishable to the eye and hand.
Suppose you sand in smaller spaces that a random orbital pattern won’t allow. In that case, a traditional orbit sander could work for your needs. It will also save you a few dollars as they run a bit cheaper than random orbitals.
Not every application needs more power from a tool. It just needs enough. If you work on smaller projects or projects requiring a gentler touch, a powerful sander could be too aggressive.
Pneumatic vs. Electric
An electric sander is moved internally, using a power supply to a housed motor. This adds weight and complexity to the sander, with more points of failure in the apparatus itself.
A pneumatic sander is lighter than an electric one because it doesn’t need a motor—the ‘power’ comes via air from a compressor. It is essentially a spinning and orbiting holder for a sanding pad.
Corded vs. Battery
If cords don’t suit your space, air compressor hoses (and vacuum hoses) will get in the way, too. Not to mention the space required for the compressor and its power cord.
Battery-operated sanders avoid the hassles of cords and hoses (unless you hook them up to a vacuum system). However, they have their own idiosyncracies to take into account.
For instance, batteries have become expensive. The rechargeable lithium ones for shop tools are even more so. If you plan to do much sanding, you may need multiple batteries, which may mean multiple chargers.
Cordless sanders are as powerful as corded ones, though higher power means faster battery depletion.
The ability to vary the speed at which the sander spins gives you better control depending on the surface and your operational comfort level. If the sander runs too fast, it can aggressively remove too much material or skate across the surface, leaving divots and gouges.
The top models with variable speed have counterparts without variable speed. So, if you don’t need it, you can buy the single-speed version and save an average of around $20.
Do consider what kind of speed variability you need. If you’re a learn from touching and doing, then an infinite speed wheel might work best since you can fine-tune to the exact speed necessary for the task.
On the other hand, if you want a wheel with set speeds, you don’t have to think too much about it, then consider buying a model with set speed increments that remove the guesswork.
The cordless models on Amazon have tool-only listings, so if you already have a compatible battery, you can buy the tool and not purchase a battery. Conversely, you can purchase multiple batteries and rotate them. This can save you much time (and frustration) when you need to keep working.
Running a sander or charging a battery might not use much power. Still, if you use a small solar panel to power the shed, it might be worth doing the math, especially for the sanders with higher amperage.
Sanders require paper, and many models include several discs to get you started immediately. Still, most sanders don’t come with paper. That’s not necessarily bad because you may not want a stack of unusable sanding discs.
Be careful when selecting your sanding discs, as they don’t all work on the same tools. The pad on which the paper adheres has holes to funnel dust and debris off the surface and into the vacuum hose. Different sanders have different hole configurations, so check for compatibility before purchasing.
Whenever you’re working with power tools–especially anything that produces fine particles like sanding, sawing, and drilling–you have to protect your eyes and lungs.
Sanding is notorious for producing large amounts of inhalable wood, metal, and epoxy particles. If you’re using treated lumber, the threat compounds because the chemicals infused into the wood fibers stay with the particulates. This means you can inhale not just wood dust but also lots of chemicals never intended to inhabit an animal body.
Further, your eyes are at risk because even if you’re using untreated lumber, tiny bits of wood can still cause an eye infection. At the very least, you’ll have a sore and scratchy eye to contend with, which makes long shop hours even longer.
A dust collection system works wonders for removing harmful debris. Still, not everyone has the space or budget to invest in a large system. Thankfully, you don’t have to get fancy to collect dust, as a shop vacuum hose connected to the sander’s exhaust can serve well as a dust collector.
But dust collection doesn’t always get everything. You’ll need to consider the cost of face masks and safety glasses rated specifically to prevent sanding debris from entering your airways and eyes.
After weighing user-friendliness, durability, power, and extra features against the competition, the Makita BO5041 is the best random orbital sander for most people.
Compared to other sanders on this list, the Makita BO5041 provides all the power and capability required by most projects. Order your Makita BO5041 from Amazon today.