Palm Sanders: Orbital vs triangle vs 1/4 sheet
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.
Last edited by sdsester; 02-02-2010 at 08:12 AM.