What Speed Should You Use an Orbital Sander?

Speed is important when it comes to orbital sanders because you don’t want to go too fast, or you’ll end up with a lot of imperfections. You also don’t want to go too slow, or you may end up with an uneven surface. So, what speed should you use?

You should use a speed of 1 inch (2.54 cm) per second for orbital sanding. This will give you a good balance between speed and efficiency. Go any faster, and you’ll sacrifice quality by a large margin. Going any slower will waste your time.

This article will walk you through orbital sanding speeds and tips on getting the most out of your sander. Let’s get started! 

What Is the Best Speed for Sanding?

The best speed for sanding with an orbital sander is 10 to 12 feet (3.05 m to 3.7 m) per linear foot, which is about one inch (2.54 cm) per second. This is how you avoid pigtails and achieve a nice, even finish.

A pigtail is when the dust wraps around the sanding pad and causes it to dig in a circle, leaving a swirl mark. This usually happens when you press down too hard or go too fast, and the only way to get rid of the imperfection is to sand some more.

If you are too slow, it will take you twice as long to sand the wood, and you might end up with an uneven surface. This is why we recommend 1 inch per second as the optimal speed for orbital sanding.

How Fast Should an Orbital Sander Spin?

An orbital sander should spin between 10,000 and 12,000 orbits per minute (OPM). This is the sweet spot for getting the job done without sacrificing quality.

Most orbital sanders make 12,000 orbits per minute, but some models only produce 10,000. If you can find one that can pump out 12,000 OPM, you should go for it, as it will provide more flexibility.

The problem with the slower orbital sanders is that they tend to be less effective and can leave swirl marks. This means that opting for a faster but more expensive option is worth the investment.

Do You Need a Variable Speed Orbital Sander?

Variable speed orbital sanders are orbitals with speed control, which means you can easily match it to whatever you’re working on. 

For example, if you need to work on a project that requires precision, you should use a lower speed setting. And if you’re working on a rough one, you might want to use a higher speed setting.

Overall, variable-speed orbital sanders give you more control over speed. This can be helpful for specific projects. However, most people don’t need a variable-speed orbital sander, and a standard one will do the job just fine.

Should You Apply Pressure to an Orbital Sander?

You don’t have to apply much pressure to an orbital sander when working on a horizontal surface. This is because the weight of the sander should be enough to do the job. However, you can apply a little pressure when you want to smooth large rough areas quickly. Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up with swirl marks.

On the other hand, vertical surfaces are a whole new ball game. You will need to apply more pressure when sanding vertical surfaces because the sander’s weight isn’t enough to do the job.

In other words, you should use the lowest amount of pressure to get the job done, as this will help you avoid pigtails and other imperfections.

What Grit Sandpaper Should You Use?

The grit sandpaper you should use depends on what you’re working on. For most projects, I recommend using 80-grit sandpaper.

This is a good all-purpose grit that will remove most imperfections without taking too long. If you’re working on rough lumber, you might want to start with 60-grit sandpaper.

If you’re working on a restoration project, 100-grit sandpaper is usually suitable because this will remove imperfections without damaging the relatively smooth surface.

When working on hardwood floors, you might want to consider using 40-grit sandpaper. This will remove the old finish quickly without damaging the floor. You can then move up to 60-grit and 80-grit to remove tiny imperfections.

Differences Between an Orbital Sander and a Random Orbital Sander

Both orbital sanders and random orbital sanders are power sanders.

An orbital sander uses oscillation motion to sand, and it is a user-friendly handheld tool that is ideal for small projects.

Most people use orbital sanders to remove any unwanted substances from wood. They are also great for sanding down rough edges and preparing surfaces for paint jobs.

A random orbital sander uses a back-and-forth motion to scrub surfaces. These random sanders are great for smoothing wood because they don’t leave swirl marks. 

Overall, orbital sanders are pretty versatile. A random orbital sander, on the other hand, is an excellent tool for finishing your high-end projects.

If you are looking for an all-purpose sander, go with an orbital sander. However, if you’re looking for a tool that will get you buttery smooth results with minimal effort, go with a random orbital sander.

The Best Way To Speed Up the Sanding Process

If you want to speed up the sanding process, there are a few things you can do.

  • Use higher grit sandpaper. This will remove imperfections quickly, but you have to be careful about damaging the surface.
  • Don’t skip sandpaper grits. If you start with 60-grit sandpaper, don’t go straight to 80-grit. Instead, use 70-grit or 75-grit and gradually move your way up.
  • Use a random orbital sander. This type of sander is more efficient than an orbital sander and will save you time.
  • Use a power sander. A power sander is a type of sander that is powered by an electric motor. It is more powerful than a hand-powered sander and will save you time.

Why Your Orbital Sander Is Jumping

Your orbital sander is designed to ensure that your projects look polished and even. But why is it jumping around and leaving uneven lines?

There are a few different reasons your orbital sander might be jumping, and each requires another solution.

The first possibility is that the sandpaper is worn out. When the sandpaper is no longer abrasive, it can’t grip the surface you’re sanding and will start to jump. The solution here is simple: replace the sandpaper.

Another possibility is that the pad on your sander is damaged. A damaged pad can cause the sander to lose contact with the surface, leading to jumping. To fix this, you will need to replace the pad.

It is also possible that the speed you’re using is too high. If the sander is moving too fast, it can lose contact with the surface and start to jump. In this case, slow down the speed of the sander.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for the perfect speed to use on an orbital sander. It depends on the project you’re working on and your personal preferences. For example, some people prefer to use a higher speed for quicker results, while others prefer a lower speed for more control.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to experiment and find the perfect speed for your needs. Start with a lower speed and gradually increase it until you find the sweet spot. You’ll soon find the perfect speed with a little trial and error.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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