March 8, 2021

Orbital Sander VS Palm Sander: Which One For What Job?

When choosing a sander between the Orbital and Palm sander, you need to consider the purpose. What is the job you have in mind for it? The tools are different in size, and you need to consider the size of the surfaces you will be working on. The grits, power, speed, and systems differ. 

Man using a palm sander in a workshop

It means that if you have a tight budget that cannot support a tool that uses more electricity, you will need to go for a machine that uses less power. More power means more speed.

For heavy-duty activities or quicker tasks, a more powerful tool will be ideal. I will help you choose the one that suits your budget and usability below.

Orbital Sander

It is an electrical machine for polishing surfaces. What makes the Orbital sander great is that it is versatile. You can use it for most activities, and you can use them to remove wood, and it might not be that perfect. 

What it is good at is polishing woodwork pieces. There is a difference between a random orbital sander and a regular orbital sander.

An illustration of an orbital sander

 Regular sanders work in an orbiting pattern, and Random sanders work unpredictably. There are no scratch marks left when working with a random orbital sander. 

Random orbital sanders work better on large surface areas, using them on a cabinet or cupboard. The size of the sanding pad determines the surface area that it can work on. The standard size is the ¼ sheet sander. 

Taking a closer look at what some sander tools do, you might notice that they do not give a perfect finish, and it is clear in activities that involve paint removal. As much as Orbital sander comes with discs, not all of them have the same motion capability. 

The reason is: the discs come in different models. Some of them lack the sanding faces that spin in the same movement. These will be ideal for rough surfaces. There are also big Orbital sanders that need you to use both hands. 


  • Versatile
  • Handy
  • Give a smooth finish.
  • Lightweight
  • Great for removing paint and stain


  • Slow
  • Removes less material

Palm Sander

A Palm sander is a powerful tool that is used to finish any wood piece. The type of sandpaper it uses determines the number of materials you can work on. A final look that is polished is what you get. 

The machine comes with pins that you can use to take a quarter sheet of the standard sandpaper. You will use a pair of scissors to cut the sandpaper. 

A knife can be a substitute. Depending on how you cut the sandpaper, you can get up to four pieces. The sandpaper has a way of vibrating when you are holding it, and it moves back and forth. 

It uses a variety of hooks than the Orbital sander. The hooks allow you to have precision in matching the holes with the inside holes used for dust collection.

I advise you to apply less pressure when working with the Palm sander, which eliminates the spinning movement. 

The absence of spinning motion slows down the performance. What is required for better performance is the weight on the tool and a little bit of energy from your hand to run the back and forth movement. 

The Palm sander is small, and palm sanders come in different types. What determines the type of sander you will have is comfort, the dust collection feature, and ease of use. 


  • Smaller
  • Lightweight
  • Works well on smaller pieces
  • It uses a variety of hooks
  • Affordable


  • Slow on large surface areas
  • Very small

Main Features

  • Dust collection bags
  • Sandpaper
  • Power and speed

Orbital Sander

Dust collection bags

The random orbital sander has a round sanding pad with round sanding discs that you can attach onto the pad using a hook. The holes on the discs are the ones that collect dust while you are polishing. It is important to remember to empty the dust bag. 


When you are using an Orbital sander, you can use any sandpaper. It is great in terms of cost as you can compare prices, and availability means attractive prices.

Power and speed

The reason why Orbital sanders attract steeper prices is that they have used more power. The measuring unit is in amps, and the more power the machine uses, the faster it becomes. 

Palm Sander

Dust collection bags

All sanders come with collection bags. However, Palm sanders with a vacuum will be ideal. An ideal tool will be the Genesis GP080 Palm sander with a vacuum, replacement sandpaper, and dust-proof switch (Source).


The type of sandpaper it uses determines the number of materials you can work on. A quarter sheet of sandpaper is the standard when you are using the Palm sander. You will not use the entire sandpaper at once, and you can get up to four pieces of sandpaper. The sandpaper has a way of vibrating when you are holding it. 

Power and speed

Less power is used with the Palm sander, which might be why it comes with affordable prices. Power determines speed. However, some models use more power and have greater speeds.

What could be better?

Orbital Sander 

The Orbital sander could have been quicker in removing material. 

Palm Sander

It could have been bigger.


  • They both work in orbiting motion.
  • You can find any of the two sanders under any budget.
  • The Orbital and Palm sanders have dust collection bags.
  • They work on wood
  • Ease of use to independent users
  • They have the same surfaces.
  • They are hand-held
  • They use standard sand-paper

Key Differences

  • Orbital sanders are square-shaped, whereas Palm sanders come in a rectangular shape. 
  • Orbital sanders are heavier than Palm sanders. Palm sanders are very small and lightweight.
  • As the name Orbital implies, the Orbital sander gives you circular and orbiting movements, whereas the Palm sander moves in orbiting motion only. This means that the item will be moving back and forth as it will be pulled by gravity towards another object. It creates a circular way in which the object keeps going around. In other words, orbiting movements are circular movements (Source). 
  • Palm sanders work well on smaller pieces since it is also smaller than the Orbital machine.
  • Orbital sanders are great on bigger items. They do not take long. This is why I recommended smaller pieces for Palm sanders.
  • Palm sanders are way smooth than Orbital sanders.
  • Orbital sander eliminates dust, but the Palm sander performs better. 
  • You can use a variety of hooks for Palm sanders than on Orbital sanders.
  • A palm sander is more affordable than an Orbital sander.


An Orbital sander is more expensive than a Palm sander. You can have a Palm sander under 50, whereas an Orbital budget starts ranging from 100. The Orbital sander comes at a steeper price because it has a wide range of facilities. You can have a model that has an attractive warranty or lower grit. 

The Rigid R2601 5-inch Orbit Sander is above 50. It has a better dust collection feature, and the base offers a powerful grip to multiple grip points. The speed control dial that ranges from 7,000 to 12,000 gives you a fast experience. It has a limited three-year warranty (Source). 

The Black+Decker Orbit Sander has an attractive price below 50 with a limited 2-year warranty (Source). The Black + Decker Electric sander is below 30, which does not mean that it is lesser than the mentioned models. It has a dust collector and good gripping (Source).

Pro Tip: You may also like Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander.

Final Verdict

An Orbital sander is a versatile tool. If you are working on a piece that does not need painting when you finish polishing, you may go for the Palm sander, and it works better on finished surfaces. 

Smaller items are also easier to polish with the Palm sander. When you are working on bigger surfaces, an Orbital sander will be ideal. A tight budget would attract a Palm sander, and for a beginner, the Orbital sander might be perfect. 

David D. Hughes

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