Air sander versus 5" random orbital sander

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Forum topic by SweetTea posted 07-02-2017 11:40 AM 654 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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311 posts in 685 days

07-02-2017 11:40 AM

So I would like to get some opinions on which you prefer? An orbital air sander or a traditional random orbit? This would be used primarily for sanding face frames and cabinet doors.

I have never used an air sander. I have heard that they sand a lot quicker and that it is easy to take too much off too quick. I don’t know if that is true, so what are your opinions? I am in the market for a new orbital sander. Looking strongly at the Porter Cable 382. I would be willing to try an air sander if you guys could recommend a decent model in the sub $150 category.

16 replies so far

View jonah's profile


1727 posts in 3324 days

#1 posted 07-02-2017 11:56 AM

Air sanders are way, way more reliable, since there are few moving parts. They can be more aggressive. They are not usually built for dust collection though, which is a deal breaker for me. You can’t attach a shop vac to most/all air sanders.

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Bill White

4948 posts in 3986 days

#2 posted 07-02-2017 12:27 PM

And…...wait for it… need a MONSTER air compressor for air tools. I have some air tools that are used for smaller jobs, and even they use a lot of air.


View bigblockyeti's profile


5139 posts in 1746 days

#3 posted 07-02-2017 12:59 PM

Are you looking for something that definitely has dust collection? If so there are pneumatic options but they can get expensive, $150 should get a pretty good used one. Porter Cable used to make good tools and a handful of their current offerings are still built with some degree of quality but with many other formerly great tool companies, it’s become a buyer beware market. I can make no testament as to the quality of that particular model but anything stocked in any big box store would be a big red flag. The rate of stock removal on any given sander size is dependant on the orbit size, the grit used, the speed & the pressure applied, it makes zero difference if it is powered by air or electricity. As previously stated, pneumatic sanders are more reliable due to fewer parts and far less chance of dust ingress, they are also far less efficient requiring significant air flow. Unless you’re doing production work it’s unlikely the pneumatic option would be worth while.

View splintergroup's profile


2075 posts in 1247 days

#4 posted 07-02-2017 01:04 PM

I used air sanders when I did auto body work/painting in a former life. They are incredibly rugged, but they love/need large compressors. Compared to my air sander, modern electrics are lighter and much easier to handle, plus no worries about guiding the exhaust to keep any oil/moisture off your workpiece. I’d vote for electric.

View johnstoneb's profile


2938 posts in 2198 days

#5 posted 07-02-2017 01:21 PM

Air sanders like any air tool are air hogs. They are no more aggressive than a similarly powered electric. Big block covers the usage of both very well.
I am not sure that air sander have fewer moving part than electric but they don’t have a commutator and brushes to wear. Air toos do have to be lubed regularly and if over lubed can spray he excess oil on everything around including the object you are working on.
For a small non-production shop. electric is the way to go, unless you already have a large compressor in the 10 – 15 cfm range. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting on a compressor to build up.

Porter cable make a good sander as does Bosch.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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2983 posts in 615 days

#6 posted 07-02-2017 02:33 PM

Pneumatic sanders do have the advantage of being safe to use for wet sanding. I bought one years ago for that purpose, but I don’t recall the last time I used it. Any wet sanding I do is by hand now. I love those Preppin Weapon blocks for that.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8207 posts in 2602 days

#7 posted 07-02-2017 02:42 PM

For Face frames and doors get an electric one with dust collection.

View jbay's profile


2340 posts in 924 days

#8 posted 07-02-2017 02:55 PM

My go to sander is the Mirka 5”.
Very smooth and doesn’t vibrate my hand to death.
After using it I don’t think I would go back to an electric ROS except for using one on the job site.
The Dynabrade has dust collection if you had to have it.
Both models sell for about 180.00 – 200.00. Might be able to find them on sale if you were to look around.

View SweetTea's profile


311 posts in 685 days

#9 posted 07-02-2017 04:31 PM

My compressor is an 80 gallon 5HP so I think that it would be up to the task. Are the Festool ros any better than the Bosch or Porter Cable units? Which Festool models would you guys recommend for light production cabinet work?

View Kelly's profile


2039 posts in 2969 days

#10 posted 07-04-2017 02:48 AM

If your sander is going to be running all day long, you may need an air sander. For production, be it sanding wood or polishing granite, nothing beats an air sander for cheap and efficient.

As others say, you need a REAL compressor. I wouldn’t dream of making my little Makita dual tank take on that work. Even if I added a hundred gallon tank. Too, there is the matter of being able to haul a vac and a sander a lot easier than an air system.

A while back, I bought the Festool their pushers used for a hook – a small finish sander they sold for $100.00, when there was no such thing as hundred dollar Festool equipment. The nearly dust free sanding sold me and I bought a Rotex. As long you can keep all the paper on the project, there isn’t much that escapes it.

I went with the 125 (5”), since it didn’t make sense to double up on expensive paper just because I wanted to gain a half inch each side of center.

View johnstoneb's profile


2938 posts in 2198 days

#11 posted 07-04-2017 03:08 AM

I doubt that an 80 gallon tank with a 5 hp motor has the capacity to keep up. Most sanders require about 7cfm at 80 psi.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View bigblockyeti's profile


5139 posts in 1746 days

#12 posted 07-04-2017 12:53 PM

I doubt that an 80 gallon tank with a 5 hp motor has the capacity to keep up. Most sanders require about 7cfm at 80 psi.

- johnstoneb

If it’s a real 5hp as listed on the motor name plate not just listing “SPL” as the horsepower rating, it would be very difficult for it to not keep up.

View splintergroup's profile


2075 posts in 1247 days

#13 posted 07-04-2017 01:30 PM

I have a 6hp, 60 gallon and it would run constantly, but keep up. Compressor ratings are kind of like shop vac ratings, I think my 6hp oilless compressor has about the same “real” specs as an old-school 2hp oiled compressor

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5139 posts in 1746 days

#14 posted 07-04-2017 06:25 PM

That’s why I’m only interested in the cfm at 40psi & the cfm at 90psi, there’s no creative ways to falsely advertise those numbers and they relate directly to the consumption of the tools they power.

View JackDuren's profile


388 posts in 985 days

#15 posted 07-04-2017 06:32 PM

I think the SIOUX sanders took 17cfm and the current Dynabrades take 14 cfm.

A 5hp isn’t going to cover it. If you can’t get 15cfm you might as well go electric…

If your compressor runs constantly while using it, your just killing the compressor…

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