March 9, 2021

Orbital Sander Vs Sheet Sander

The Orbital Sander and Sheet Sander are two power machines used to polish surfaces using sandpaper. The process that takes place to bring smooth surfaces is called abrasion. They are complementary tools that help each other in the woodwork industry.

Man using an orbital sander

They both move an abrasive in a circular motion. However, they use different abrasive tools. The sanders work in different motions. A more detailed explanation of the two machines is below.

Orbital Sander

It is an electrical machine used for polishing surfaces. What makes the Orbital sander great is that it is versatile. You can use it for most activities. You can use them to remove wood, but 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.

 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. If I am to use it, I will use it on a cabinet or cupboard. An Orbital sander can work as a finishing tool. 

Blue orbital sander in use

Taking a closer look at what some sander tools do, you might notice that they do not give a perfect finish. It happens 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 being: 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 look
  • Lightweight
  • Not aggressive


  • Visible scratches
  • Removes less material

Sheet Sander

The Sheet sander is a machine that uses sheets of sandpaper to smoothen surfaces. They give a piece of wood a beautiful finish that is good-looking. The standard sheet sander used ¼ sheet pad sanders.

They come in square shapes. The devices are loaded with springs so that the sandpaper is held in place on the pad throughout the process. 

The square-shaped pads make it possible for the machine to work at 90-degree angles. You might be disappointed if you get a machine that does not quickly remove unnecessary or unwanted materials.

If you try that with a sheet sander, chances are very high that you will waste pieces of sandpaper. It will take more time as well. 

Unlike the Orbital machine, the Sheet sander moves in an easy back and forth movement. It is not time-consuming, and it is great for small pieces of material. Bigger sheet sanders are affordable than small ones. 

Standard sandpaper is affordable. Sheet sanders have a dust filtration bag that collects the substances from the process. The machine is ideal for light activities such as smoothing off materials. It is also functional when joining two pieces of wood that meet at a right angle. 


  • Availability
  • Affordable
  • Works well on 90-degree angles
  • Great finish
  • Quality tool


  • The narrow range of use
  • Leaves swirl marks

Main Features

  • Shape
  • Scratch pattern
  • Use of abrasive materials

Orbital Sander


It is a square-shaped machine that gets to the corners and edges of a work-piece. 


The scratch pattern that comes with the Orbital machine differs. What determines the difference is the type of brand. 

Abrasive material

The Orbital sander uses special sanding discs. The discs work in a circular motion. The movement gives a smooth and well-polished finish to the materials.

Sheet Sander


It also comes in a square shape. It allows an easier way of sliding materials through the machine. The square shits are also compatible with the squared machine.


A Sheet sander works in a back and forth motion, unlike a Sheet sander that moves back and forth.

Abrasive material

The name already implies the use of sheets during the process. Sanding sheets in different sizes are used by the Sheet sander. They come in a square shape, which complements the same shape as the machine.

What could be better?

Orbital Sander 

I appreciate that you can use Orbital sanders to polish wood, but it leaves circular marks on the item. It might not be attractive to you or a client. Therefore, a sander that leaves a smooth and good-looking appearance on an item would have been a better tool.

Sheet Sander

A wide range of use could have been better than focusing on joining wood pieces that can only meet at a right angle.

A Sheet sander that does not leave swirl marks would have been better. This transpires because of the style of pattern movement.


  • They move an abrasive in a circular motion.
  • They both use abrasive tools.
  • They work on the same type of material.
  • They are both power tools.

Key Differences

  • An Orbital sander uses special sanding discs as an abrasive, whereas the Sheet sander uses sandpaper sheets to take out the dirt.
  • The discs used by the Orbital sander come in multiple forms, whereas the sheets of sandpaper are uniform.
  • Sheets of sandpaper are affordable than discs that attract steeper prices.
  • Orbital sanders are more versatile than standard sheets.
  • An Orbital sander works in a circular motion, whereas the Sheet moves back and forth. It leads to different patterns on the woodwork.


Sheet sanders are more affordable than Orbital sanders. What makes them affordable is that they use less expensive sheets of sandpaper. As you continue to make the material finer, you will not lose more sheets. 

Final Verdict

The power machines have similarities that keep them in the sander category. They move abrasives in a circular motion, use abrasive tools, and work on the same material type. The types of material include wood. 

However, some differences set them apart, which lead to different users choosing one. Sheet sander uses sheets of sandpaper to take out the dirt.

Although they come in different sizes, they are uniform and more affordable. If you are running on a tight budget, this might be the best power tool to have. 

An Orbital sander makes use of special sanding discs as an abrasive. The discs that are used by the Orbital sander come in multiple forms. They attract a steeper price range.

An Orbital sander works in a circular motion, whereas the Sheet moves back and forth. However, they are worth the cost as they are versatile tools. If you do not hesitate to use your last penny on a versatile power tool, you can go for the Orbital machine.

David D. Hughes

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