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acerunner 02-02-2010 02:04 AM

Palm Sanders: Orbital vs triangle vs 1/4 sheet
what's the difference besides the obvious shape? What are each best at doing? If i were to buy only one, which should it be?

user1007 02-02-2010 07:09 AM

Not sure what you are planning to do with the sander. Whatever you decide on, at least stop in to a real tool dealer to appreciate quality differences.

You can get triangular detail sanders with orbital motion and that might be your best bet for an all around light duty sander. Get one with dust extraction holes. The triangular shape will get you into corners. I have a detail contour sander I use all the time for intricate shapes and things. Bought it at a parking lot sale for $14, marked down from $90 or something, thinking I MIGHT use it someday. Comes in handy all the time.

Vibrating 1/4 sheet sanders are workhorses but are noisy and dated technology. They don't have any dust extraction capablities. Since they use standard paper sheets your abrasive costs will be lower than having to buy custom shapes. This cost is probably negligible to a homeowner? Beware, the ones the box stores sell are plastic fantastic and tend to literally fall apart with any more than casual use. I don't use it anymore but still have my Dad's heavy metal thing. It is definitely an antique but still works. Nice metal plate and metal clips to hold the paper.

Orbital sanders come from spinning types to the palm sander you describe. The palm ones are handy. It really depends on what you are trying to do.

I really believe in quality tools. The only place I compromise is on things like my 5"D disc, variable speed, orbital sander I use for drywall finishing, plaster repairs, etc. I've found that fine drywall and plaster dust gets into the windings of the best of sander motors so tend to spend $40-50 on the things now. I have gotten 5 years or so out of this last cheapie though and I use it all the time. I will not be heart broken if I have to toss it.

hyunelan2 02-02-2010 07:14 AM

I like my detail finish sander (triangle). It does a good job of being able to get into tight corners and spaces.

The downside is you have to buy the Velcro-backed sanding sheets to attach, which cost much more than buying regular sandpaper.

Orbital, if random orbital as most are, does a good job of quickly finishing the area. These work best over large areas. You typically have the same issue as the triangle-shaped sander with having to buy Velcro or sticky backed sandpaper to attach to the pad.

Your standard palm sander that uses 1/4 sheets of sandpaper will be the cheapest to use, and probably get through most homeowner type needs. The only area it's going to suffer in is getting in close to edges. It may require follow-up with some hand-sanding, depending on the size of the sander you have. This is the one sander I don't have.

Kevin M. 02-02-2010 09:16 AM


Originally Posted by acerunner (Post 393183)
what's the difference besides the obvious shape? What are each best at doing?

If i were to buy only one, which should it be?

The palm sander would be my choice for all purpose sanding. For large flat areas or house siding the random orbital works better. I have a Porter Cable palm sander and a Bosch random orbital. They both run smooth with low noise levels. My friend has a cheapo Black and Decker, it is so loud and vibrates so much, I would rather hand sand than use that tool.

I think a decent palm sander will run you about $50.00 or $60.00. Bob P. posted a few links to tool review sites in the impact driver thread which have some good info. Or, go to the local contractor tool store and ask them what the hot seller is.


RegeSullivan 02-02-2010 04:11 PM

I use my orbital the most but I would not want to be without any of them. I use the detail sander the least.


PaliBob 02-03-2010 01:07 PM

Ace, I will second with Kevin's advice.

Here is a sampling of what's available:

acerunner 02-03-2010 02:24 PM

thanks for the info folks.
I have a 1/4 sander, but the sand papers wears out extremely fast. I think I will go for a random orbit next.

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