Woodworking is all about detail, so why waste hours hand-sanding your project when you could strap a sheet of sandpaper to a palm sander and get the same result in half the time?
We show you the best palm sanders to make your woodworking tasks easier.
- Efficient brushless motor
- Ergonomic rubber-molded grip
- 14,000 OPM
- Enhanced paper clamp
- Easy vacuum attachment
- Anti-swirl technology
- Microfilter dust canister
- Variable speed control
- 12,000 OPM
- Includes a dust port
- Hook & loop system
- 14,000 OPM
- All-ball bearing construction
- Contoured & rubberized grip
What Are Palm Sanders Used For?
When you want to achieve super-smooth results, a palm sander is the tool to use. They are lightweight, small, and agile, enabling you to get into the hard-to-reach spaces so that you don’t compromise on quality.
Palm sanders are ideal for woodworking tasks, light car bodywork repairs, and removing rust. A palm sander is also the best tool to use when smoothing car panels after they have been filled. It’s the reason why they are often called finish sanders.
Types of Palm Sanders
There are two main types of palm sander you can buy. So, what makes them so different?
Orbital palm sanders are the ideal tool to use on small woodworking projects. The sanding pad gently moves in small circles, orbiting on a fixed axis. As it rotates, small amounts of material get removed from the surface of your project.
Orbital sanders have both circular and square pads, depending on your make and model.
Random Orbit Sander
Random orbit sanders look the same as an orbit sander, but the circular sanding disc operates differently. As the disc rotates, it oscillates, meaning it moves off-center. This random movement increases the effectiveness of the sander, making it better for larger projects.
Random orbit sanders do not give the same smooth finish as an orbital sander, and they have larger sanding discs that range from 5 to 6 inches.
How To Choose the Best Palm Sander
Cordless Vs. Corded
Most power sanders come in both these options. Corded sanders give an unlimited runtime with no loss of power, while battery-operated sanders free you from electrical sockets and allow you to work anywhere.
Which one you choose is a matter for you to decide, but here are the pros and cons of both.
- Go anywhere.
- No trailing power cord.
- No extension cable.
- More convenient.
- Advanced brushless motors.
- Requires batteries.
- More expensive.
- Power loss as batteries drain.
- Charge time.
- Zero power loss.
- No charging.
- More robust.
- Trailing cables.
- Trip hazard.
- Needs a plug socket.
- Restricted maneuverability.
Orbits Per Minute
The sanding pad of the palm sander moves in tiny circular motions, known as orbits. The amount of rotations it performs in a minute determines how aggressive the sander is. If the OPM (orbits per minute) are lower, the sander and the paper run cooler but remove less material.
If the OPM increases, the sander moves the pad faster and hotter, enabling it to remove more material. You choose the OPM based on the task you are performing and what you want the sander to do.
Any type of sanding produces harmful dust, which you risk inhaling. This causes serious damage to your lungs, eyes, nose, and throat. It could even lead to life-threatening diseases.
It is always advisable to wear goggles and an N95 facemask to give you added protection against dust.
Keeping that dust from your face is vital for your health, so how well the sander collects the debris is a high priority. Some sanders use a collection bag that clips to an exhaust port. It is a handy way of storing the dust and easier to manage the disposal of the debris.
Other models use a dry vacuum system that attaches to the exhaust port and channels the dust to a central container, well away from the work area. This method is more effective at keeping the dust at bay, but it does restrict where you can work.
A sanders power (measured in watts) is based on its operating voltage and current. Since the voltage is fixed, based on your wall outlet voltage, the current value (measured in amps) is a good indication of how effective a sander is.
You should expect your palm sander to have a 1 to 2-amp motor. This gives enough potency to tackle most finishing tasks with ease. The higher the amperage, the higher the power, and the faster the sanding pad moves, which removes more material.
If you have a cordless model, you should check out the voltage. Most battery-operated sanders are 18 to 20 volts. In reality, there is no difference between the two, except the way the voltage is measured.
If your palm sander has a 20V maximum, it means the makers judge it based on the maximum performance only. If the sander displays 18V, then it is a measure of the average performance.
When it comes to additional features, often it’s a question of budget. On the main, the more you pay, the better the features. It is not always the case, especially when you are spending more to get a specific brand of palm sander.
Look for pressure detection when shopping for a new sander. It tells you when you are applying too much downward force, and a light appears to warn you. It preserves the life of your tool and reduces the wear on your sandpaper.
Search for a sander with ergonomic handles and lock on/off switches. These features make using the sander more comfortable. Remember, you might use the palm sander for prolonged periods, so reducing hand and wrist fatigue is important.
Variable speed is another handy feature you should consider. Not all sanders have it, but those that do make it a lot easier to increase the speed of the sanding pad to cater to different materials and surfaces.
The Best Palm Sanders of 2021
Finding the perfect palm sander takes time and research. We scoured the internet to bring you our take of the 5 best palm sanders.
1. DeWALT DCW2108 20V Orbital Sander
This palm sander has the lot. It has variable speed, an ergonomic rubber-molded grip for better control and comfort, plus, a brushless motor to ensure longer battery life and enhanced efficiency.
You can choose to connect the sander to the dust collection bag or link it up to a central dry vacuum to remove the sawdust. This cordless palm sander has a maximum of 20 volts, giving it a maximum OPM of 12,000, which is enough to tackle the toughest tasks.
The replaceable hook and loop pad makes disc changing a breeze, and the lightweight construction reduces hand fatigue during prolonged spells of usage.
The only downside is you have to buy the battery and charger separately, which adds to your cost.
Why We Love It
This palm sander is a go-anywhere tool. Take it to the construction site, outside in the yard, and even to the cabin in the woods, and it works. It frees you from the shackles of electrical sockets and power cords.
Efficient Brushless Motor
If you are considering a cordless palm sander, a brushless motor has to be a priority. They increase the efficiency of the tool, which gives you a longer runtime between each charge.
Lots of Features
You get variable speed, so you can adjust between 8,000 to 12,000 OPM. You also get an ergonomic molded grip to increase comfort and decrease hand and wrist fatigue. Couple that with the fast-change sanding pads, and you have a useful tool.
Keep In Mind
Batteries and Charger Sold Separately
Paying extra for the batteries and charger will increase your spend considerably, making this sander less appealing in the value for money stakes.
|Weight (pounds)||2.5 (Excluding battery)|
|Dimensions (inches)||8.8 x 5.7 x 6.3 (Excluding battery)|
|Amps||20 volts (Portable varieties use voltage as an indicator)|
|Dust collector||Yes (Sold separately)|
2. DeWALT DWE6411K Palm Sander
Much like the cordless version, this DeWALT has an easy-to-attach locking vacuum port that connects with minimal effort. It also has a sealed starter switch to stop dust from getting into the tool and damaging the internal workings.
The motor is rated at 2.3 amps, making it powerful enough to handle the most challenging jobs, and it produces 14,000 OPM.
This sander also has a separate counterweight to reduce vibrations, making the sander quieter and more comfortable to use, as well as easier to control. And the rubber overmold grip adds to the comfort levels.
This model is slightly heavier than the cordless one, at 4.2 pounds, and it does require a power socket, so it isn’t a go-anywhere tool.
Why We Love It
14,000 OPM is more than enough to take on robust projects and tackle the harshest surfaces. Whether you are sanding wood, metal, or car body panels, this tool has you covered.
Enhanced Paper Clamp
The new and improved paper clamps are not only easy to use, but they also hold the sandpaper tight to ensure there is zero slippage during operation.
Easy Vacuum Attachment
Keeping dust away from your face is important for safety. The vacuum attachment clips onto the exhaust port with minimal effort and locks in place.
Keep In Mind
Build Quality Issues
DeWALT has used budget components in this tool, which has kept the price down but has led to some complaining about the sander’s reliability. While it maintains a high approval rating, it is something to bear in mind.
|Dimensions (inches)||7 x 6 x 10|
3. Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander
So, what makes this sander so unique? First, if you want to achieve the best results when working on car panels, you need to eliminate swirl marks. This Bosch has a pad dampening system that does just that on flat and contoured surfaces.
Second, it has a low vibration operation that reduces noise and increases control. Plus, the soft-grip handle makes the whole experience more comfortable.
The motor is rated at 2.5 amps, making it a powerful little unit, and the variable speed ranges from 7,500 to 12,000 OPM. The dust canister stores pollutants safely and easily detaches when it needs emptying.
Why We Love It
When working on car bodywork, getting a blemish-free finish is vital, so having a dampening pad that reduces swirl marks creates a professional result.
Microfilter Dust Canister
The dust canister collects dust, trapping it until it is ready to get emptied. The microfilter traps smaller microns of dust just 0.5 microns in diameter compared to other models, removing the hidden dangers from the atmosphere.
Car bodywork has contours and different surfaces, so having the ability to switch the speed up and down is a huge benefit. It makes the sander more versatile and efficient.
Lots of Accessories
This Bosch sander comes with a sanding pad, a sanding disc, a dampening ring, a dust canister, a vacuum adapter, and a carry bag.
Keep In Mind
Normally, lightweight is a good thing, except with sanders. The added weight helps to give a steady pressure to the process, although you wouldn’t want it to be too heavy. This sander goes the other way and feels too lightweight.
|Dimensions (inches)||9 x 5 x 6|
4. Black and Decker Random Orbital Sander
This Black and Decker orbital sander has a 2-amp motor that generates 12,000 OPM, which is impressive given the price of this model. It costs a fraction of similar models, making it an ideal beginner’s sander.
While it might lack power, it still reaches speeds to rival others. The dust collection canister is easy to empty, and thanks to its lightweight and compact dimensions, it should ease hand and wrist fatigue during prolonged usage.
Sanding drywall is a messy business, so even though it has a dust port, wear a facemask and goggles to protect yourself. The on/off switch is sealed to avoid any dust getting in and to preserve the sander.
Why We Love It
How Black and Decker manage to produce a palm sander at such a low price is beyond us. It costs a fraction of other models, making it the ideal tool to buy for occasional users and beginners.
Lightweight and Compact
When sanding materials like wood and metal, added weight helps, but drywall needs a sander with a more gentle approach, so a lightweight model is an advantage.
Easy Paper Changes
The hook and loop system ensures that sandpaper changes are easy and swift. It keeps you working for longer and reduces downtime.
Keep In Mind
To keep costs down, Black and Decker have used lesser quality components, reducing the tool’s reliability and shortening its usable life.
|Dimensions (inches)||7 x 5 x 6|
5. Makita BO4556K 2.0-Amp Finishing Sander
When finishing furniture, you need a palm sander that gives you precision rather than power. This Makita finishing sander is the perfect tool. It has an OPM of 14,000, an all-ball bearing construction to reduce noise and vibration, and an encased on/off switch.
The contoured, rubberized grip provides stability and better control while reducing the strain on your hands and wrists. It also has an efficient dust extraction system that draws the dust through the sanding pad into the bag.
The motor is 2 amps, generating plenty of power to see through most furniture-based tasks, and the large clamping lever makes it easier to swap and change sandpaper. This is ideal if you are working from low to high grit for a smoother finish.
Why We Love It
Makita is renowned for the quality of their tools, so to find a palm sander at this price is a real surprise. It only costs a little more than the Black and Decker.
Lightweight and Compact
This sander is small and lightweight, making it perfect for smaller detailed work like chair legs and tabletops. It enables you to reach awkward places.
This sander includes some key benefits, like the rigid aluminum foot with a dust-proof sponge for longer tool life. It also takes whatever punishment you can throw at it.
Keep In Mind
Because it is so lightweight, you are unlikely to find it useful for any other type of sanding. It is suited to detail and finishing work.
|Dimensions (inches)||7.21 x 16.7 x 8.07|
|DeWALT 20V Orbital Sander||Cordless||2.5 lbs||8.8 x 5.7 x 6.3″||12,000||20V||Yes||3-year|
|DeWALT Palm Sander||Vacuum Attachment||4 lbs||7 x 6 x 10″||14,000||2.3||Yes||3-year|
|Bosch Palm Sander||Auto Body||4 lbs||9 x 5 x 6″||12,000||3||Yes||1-year|
|Black + Decker Random Orbital Sander||Drywall||3 lbs||7 x 5 x 6″||12,000||2||Yes||2-year limited|
|Makita 2.0-Amp Finishing Sander||Furniture||3 lbs||7.21 x 16.7 x 8.07″||14,000||2||Yes||1-year|
How To Use a Palm Sander
Using a palm sander takes practice and time to develop a good technique. Here’s our take on how to use a palm sander.
1. Choose the Sandpaper
The type of sandpaper you choose depends on the task at hand. Sandpapers are graded in coarseness by their grit. For rough surfaces, you’ll need a 40 to 60 grit and for light finishing work opt for a 220 to 240 grit.
For general sanding, somewhere in the region of 80 to 120 should suffice. Now you’ve chosen your paper, let’s move on to the next stage.
2. Measure and Attach
Measure and cut the sandpaper to size and then insert one end of the paper into the sanders clamping lock. Repeat this for the other end to fully secure it in place.
3. Secure the Material
Make sure the material is clamped in place to your workbench. You wouldn’t want it sliding loose during the process. Now plug the sander in and turn it on. At this point, you should also put on your face mask and goggles for protection.
4. Start Sanding
Place the sander on the project and move it in straight, sweeping motions. Try and work in lines and always with the grain of the wood. Working against the grain creates blemishes and splinters, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
5. Increase the Grit
As you approach the end of your task, swap the sandpaper for a higher grit to achieve super-smooth results.
Palm Sanders FAQs
Is an Orbital Sander Good for Wood?
Orbital sanders are suitable for wood but in a limited capacity. Random orbital sanders are better because they remove more material and have larger sanding pads.
For light work and detailed sanding, an orbital sander is an excellent tool to use.
Is an Orbital or Random Orbital Sander Better?
If you level the playing field and kit out both with 100 grit sandpaper, the random orbital sander removes more material than the orbital version. This is thanks to the oscillating motion of the sanding pad.
What Is the Difference Between a Belt Sander and a Palm Sander?
It’s a question of size and capabilities. Belt sanders remove material from larger and rougher surfaces. You generally start with a belt sander and switch to a palm sander for the finer detail.
Palm sanders are much better suited to general duties and finishing work.
Will an Orbital Sander Leave Swirl Marks?
In the main, yes. Because the disc rotates, it can leave swirl marks on the surface of the material. Some sanders have anti-swirl features that reduce this, but it doesn’t eliminate it.
How Do You Prevent Swirl Marks When Sanding?
The easiest way to avoid swirl marks is to work slowly and methodically. The steadier you hold the sander, and the more evenly you apply pressure should help to reduce swirl marks.
You want to avoid debris trapping between the sandpaper and the material, so make frequent stops to sweep away any debris and check the base of the sander for small items that are stuck to the sandpaper.
If you want the smoothest sanding results, get a palm sander. They are compact, powerful, and useful. Whether you are sanding tables, making something wonderful in wood, or restoring an old car and need to fix the bodywork, a palm sander is the best choice.
Palm sanders are easy to master and relatively cheap to buy, so what are you waiting for?