Orbital Sander vs Palm Sander

[Cover] Orbital Sander vs Palm Sander

In any project of woodworking, sanding is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked since it is the final step to finish a product so any erroneous action at this phase can ruin the whole process, and you don’t want that happening at the very end when you’re almost done. To make sure you execute it correctly, you must have the ideal sander for the task. The issue here is that there are two closely similar options, the orbital sander and the palm sander that their distinct use isn’t conveyed in their names. So, orbital sander vs palm sander; which should you get?

ORBITAL SANDER VS PALM SANDER: Palm Sanders Are for the Light Use       


Their name is derived from the fact that they can fully fit in the palm of a hand, which is thanks to their small size. This means that they are the light variant and their motors have lower power. Generally, they use sandpaper that has grit between 160 and 220.

Palm sanders are ideal for simple uses that don’t necessitate much power. Consequently, they shouldn’t be used for heavy-duty ones like trying to remove paint from wood. Furthermore, you must handle them carefully since they are designed it be used with a gentle touch. Applying too much force on them will potentially cause them harm, and also will cause you to use too many pads as they’ll wear out too fast.

Finally, courtesy of these characteristics, Palm sanders win the orbital sander vs palm sander debate when it comes to the price as they are cheapest out of the two variants.

Recommended Palm Sander:

DEWALT Palm Sander, 1/4 Sheet (DWE6411K), Yellow
  • 2.3 AMP motor of the electric sander sands at 14,000 OPM
  • Rubber overmold texture will provide a smooth and comfortable control while sanding
  • Improved paper clamp of the 1/4 sheet sander features for better paper retention

Orbital Sanders Are for Lower Grit, Higher Power


Orbital sanders, on the other hand, are the bigger variant that holds more power. They use sandpaper with grit that varies from 80 to 160. They are relatively small and gentle compared to big power sanders, but to palm sanders, they offer more power and are capable of heavier use. They can still be used with a single hand, although models high on the power spectrum have a handle provided so you can operate it with both.

They derive their name from the act of moving their heads in orbital patterns. The random orbital sander is a subcategory characterized by a random orbital pattern instead of a constant one. Their inherent advantage is that when using them, you can avoid leaving bad marks on the wood if you are briefly distracted from the job.

The ideal job for these tools is removing varnish and paint from wood, or preparing a wooden piece for a painting job. You can use orbital sanders on flat or curved surfaces alike since they are nimble enough to handle the latter. Contrary to Palm sanders, these tend to be a little heavier on the budget, which is justified by the higher power.

Recommended Orbital Sander:

DEWALT Orbital Sander Kit, 5 inch, 3 amp, Corded, 12,000 OPM (DWE6421K)
  • 3.0-amp motor of the orbital sander spins the pad at 12,000 OPM
  • Shorter height of the hand sander allows the user to get closer to work piece
  • Separate counterweight design reduces vibration for improved comfort of the electric sander


Both types of sanders are classified among the small ones when compared to other products, as they can easily fit into one hand. For light projects, they are ideal since they are both compact and powerful enough for finishing touches. They can even be used when dealing with a shaped variety of wood.

Of the two variants, Orbital sanders are the bigger brethren, albeit they cost a bit more, but they are coupled with sandpaper that has less grit, and they excel in ridding wood of unwanted varnish and paint. Palm sanders, on the other hand, are coupled with sandpaper that has high grit. Their motor has enough power to finish woodwork on pieces that you wouldn’t touch otherwise.

In the end, we have to mention that these types of sanders aren’t really a budget-friendly alternative to a sander made for getting rid of varnish and paint, which you might mistake them for when seeing their prices. You have to make the most bang for your buck after analyzing the advantages of each product. After all, there isn’t really a winner in the Orbital sander vs palm sander debate.

If you like this article, feel free to take a look at the rest of our tutorials and buying guides, where we review various tools and devices, from laser levels, cabinet table saws, and professional chainsaws to weed eaters, gas-powered leaf blowers, and angle grinders.


Jeffrey Alfaro

Jeffrey is a craftsman and writer who specializes in testing tools and covering the tool industry for construction and woodworking professionals.

View all posts by Jeffrey Alfaro →

Leave a Reply