1/4 sheet palm sander VS. random orbit sander

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Forum topic by Viktor posted 04-23-2010 10:27 PM 52595 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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464 posts in 3413 days

04-23-2010 10:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question sander

I am going to buy a sander (just one, and not belt type). What are the advantages and disadvantages of square sheet palm sander VS. random orbit sander in general (I do realize it will depend on the brand)? Finish quality, aggressiveness of the material removal, dust collection, operation cost, ergonomics, etc.

19 replies so far

View dmoney's profile


191 posts in 3074 days

#1 posted 04-23-2010 10:36 PM

I’m a beginner and have both. they were both really cheap, generic Tool Shop brand from Menards. I paid 19.99 for the palm sander and 29.99 for the ROS.
Now that I have both, I don’t think I could live without either. The dust collection is non-existant on both, I think that gets much better with higher priced, quality models. In my limited experience the palm sander leaves a nicer finish and the ROS hogs off the material easier. When I upgrade, it will probably be to a better quality ROS.

-- Derek, Iowa

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3475 days

#2 posted 04-23-2010 11:48 PM

I have both also, but if I could just choose just one, I would get the random orbital sander. Its a better finish sander. It can be aggressive depending on the grit used. I have a 5 inch Bosch orbital sander and a 6” Porter Cable. My palm sander is a Makita.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3174 days

#3 posted 04-24-2010 12:42 AM

I never understood why anyone would want a sheet palm sander vs a ROS. I guess for square corners, but in every other way a ROS seems better (finish, dust collection). Maybe a little palm sander like the B&D mouse (I have) is smaller and gets into a tighter spot. But my ROS gets 98% of the use.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View araldite's profile


188 posts in 3398 days

#4 posted 04-24-2010 01:19 AM

My experience is that square sheet sanders leave tiny curly scratches when sanding that are noticeable unless you sand way down in grit size. ROS just leave a, well, random scratch pattern that just looks flat.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3768 days

#5 posted 04-24-2010 01:35 AM

I have a Porter Cable 330 1//4 sheet sander and Bosch RO510 5” OBS. The PC for cracking edges and doing insides of cabinets. The OBS more for flat bigger areas. Porter Cable = $90 or less, Bosch = $70 or less. It is nice to have both. We are not talking major bucks here. Thanks for asking. Good luck on picking a sander.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3055 days

#6 posted 04-24-2010 01:36 AM

You cannot compare an apple and a banana. They both preform differently, one with circular motion, the other with vibration motion.I have a Makita BO4552 and a Porter-Cable 343K. They both work great. I suggest you buy both the sheet and orbit sander.

View jayjay's profile


639 posts in 3040 days

#7 posted 04-24-2010 01:42 AM

I’ve had 3 different 1/4 sheet sanders, porter cable, skil, and ryobi. None of which were really great IMO. 2 weeks ago I picked up Porter Cable 390k ROS, and I gotta say, I was blown away with how much better the ROS performed compared to the 1/4 sheet sanders I’ve used. Way less vibration, Way less noise, and MUCH more efficient. The dust collection is actually pretty good too. Plus I love not having to fiddle around with those annoying spring clips that never hold the sand paper in place.

-- ~Jason~ , Albuquerque NM

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3737 days

#8 posted 04-24-2010 02:50 AM

I have both, but generally only use the ros. The first time I used one I was amazed at how much better it worked over the old palm sanders I was used to. You can get a refurbished Dewalt palm for $30 at cpo.
I just bought another Dewalt ROS kit from Tyler tool on a %50 off sale for $30 also…

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2992 days

#9 posted 04-24-2010 03:15 AM

Depends on what you want to finish. For a glass finish on plywood veneers I use my 1/2 sheet pad sander (fine grit) (high rpm), for a sand job on rougher solid lumber I use my orbital sander. For getting into tighter spots I use 1/4 sheet pad sander. I would say my ROS gets more use than 1/4 pad sander.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Frankie Talarico Jr.'s profile

Frankie Talarico Jr.

353 posts in 3351 days

#10 posted 04-24-2010 03:23 AM

I have to say I use both. The ROS is much more aggresive, Even on finer grit papers. When I sand a project with wood that won’t take stain well I”ll hit it with some 280 on the vibrator. It also works extremly well on finishes such as laquer or poly. I normally use a 320 or lighter paper for that. Saves time on big panels and eliminates the sometimes evident sanding strokes. I’d say start with a ROS, but definetly get the flat sander too in the future. Sometimes you actually don’t want the power of an orbital.

ROS for material removal, like mentioned before
Flat sander for light duty quality sanding. Eventually you’ll find both work hand and hand

-- Live by what you believe, not what they want you to believe.

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3045 days

#11 posted 04-24-2010 03:49 AM

I bought a 1/4 sheet sander years ago. I never really liked it. Didn’t like messing with the clips and didn’t like ths scratches it left.

A little over a year ago, I bought a Bosch ROS and love it. Minimal vibration, minimal scratches (none really, if you sand up through the grits), and decent dust collection.

Although the velcro sandpaper pads for ROSs is a bit more expensive, it is worth it in my opinion. Very easy to change and dust channels/holes built-in.

In all honesty, I don’t see myself using my 1/4-sheet sander again in the near future. If I need to just hit something lightly with sandpaper, I’ll do it by hand. I suppose on a very large project, or panels, etc. I’d (maybe) use my 1/4-sheet again, but would probably still use my ROS and then if there were corner involved, probably still hand sand it with a block of wood and sandpaper.

I have not really used other ROSs, but I do really, really like my Bosch ROS.

If you have to pick one, my vote goes to a ROS.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#12 posted 04-24-2010 02:45 PM

I have a couple ROS and I have a “mouse” sander. The mouse sander works like a 1/4 sheet sander, but it has a point and uses H & L paper. I use a ROS whenever I can, but I use the mouse when I need to sand in tight spots.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3125 days

#13 posted 04-24-2010 09:49 PM

I use my ROS (PC 332) for about 90-95% of my sanding. I also have a PC 330, which I use for two things. One, sanding curved surfaces and bullnose edges. And two, sanding delicate finishes between coats, when I need to make sure I don’t sand through, or there are difficult areas to sand with a ROS. It also gets into corners, which is handy.

-- Gerry,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20472 posts in 3100 days

#14 posted 10-05-2012 12:38 PM

I have a couple 1/4 sheet sanders (Dewalt) and the newer one works better than the older one, BUT to remove material fast, I use my Bosch (1250DEVS) 6” dual mode ROS . It is heavier that the 2 little ones but it takes no time at all to take 1/16 off an uneven surface to clean it right up. For finish sanding of smaller parts, I use the Dewalt sanders, but I may get rid of the older one and buy a 5” ROS. I just don’t like the thought of having another size sand paper needed in multi grits!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Kelly's profile


2025 posts in 2939 days

#15 posted 02-18-2013 07:32 PM

This is an old post, but the information is still valuable. As such, I thought I’d toss in my experience and a bit of background information.

I have five quarter sheet sanders, two variable speed, random orbit sanders, three belt sanders and a detail sander.

I am giving the Dewalt to the neighbor. It needs a new pad and turns itself on without warning. I leave sanders plugged in, so that’s a problem for me, but not for him. I don’t know what I’ll do with the Bosch pad sander, since it won’t hold paper, a common problem with their quarter sheet sanders. It was garbage from the time of its purchase four years ago. Opinions posted on sites suggest they have not improved.

I use my two ROS often. They remove material fast and provide fine finishes. I buy ones with variable speed capability for the increased versatility. They can be used to polish and sand. I don’t use them for fine detail work around curves and such, because they act somewhat like gyroscopes, so are harder to control than an orbital sander..

As noted, the quarter sheet sanders are good for sanding operations that require a lot of movement across other than flat surfaces. Too, they will get pretty close to inside corners, but wont quite reach the full ninety degree edge.

For tight, inside corners and unique shapes a ROS cannot get near and a quarter sheet sander wont quite reach, I use my FEIN Multimaster. Of course, there are some good knock-offs of the FEIN tool these days.

Based on my hours of experience, a quarter sheet sander remains essential for anyone planning on addressing a variety of sanding situations. If scratch patterns are a problem, finer grit paper should remedy the problem. Of course, having a ROS, a belt sander and a detail sander would be no less essential to that collection.

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