Pro's/con's of orbital sander?

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Forum topic by ctychick posted 03-05-2012 05:07 PM 9651 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 2241 days

03-05-2012 05:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: laminate formica orbital sander refinish

I’m totally new to DIY and have a couple of projects on my to do list – restoring an old painted dresser and painting a formica desk. I think I want some kind of power sander, but I’m not sure what is the most versatile or even appropriate for the jobs at hand. I’ve done lots of how-to research, but am left with questions about sanding:

1. Is it true that with an orbital sander you cannot sand between coats of primer? Is there another tool that is designed for this?
2. Am a better off using sandpaper by hand for either/both of these projects?
3. I do plan on painting a number of laminated pieces (Ikea, old formica, etc.) following some very clear instructions I’ve found around the web, so a sander for this project is a must. Can I get away with a sander that handles both laminate and more traditional wood refinishing satisfactorily?

I’ll take any direction and brand/model suggestions you have. Can’t afford top of the line. Just something for a hobbyist that produces quality results.


12 replies so far

View MrRon's profile


4719 posts in 3211 days

#1 posted 03-05-2012 05:29 PM

I would recommend a variable speed orbital sander, like a Bosch or Makita with the hook and loop pad for easy disc changing. The finish you get will depend on the grade of paper you use and the speed of the sander. If you intend on removing paint by sanding, forget it. It is not only unhealthy, it will destroy sandpaper quickly. Paint should be removed either by heat and scraping or with chemical strippers. Old furniture could be painted with lead based paints, so sanding is out. A decent OS will cost between $60 and $90. Anything less is usually junk.
If you want to paint a formica surface, you need to just roughen up the surface [remove the gloss] for paint to adhere.

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2661 days

#2 posted 03-05-2012 05:33 PM

I’ll be interested to see the results of this query. I’m not sure you’ll save yourself any time using a ROS between coats. I guess if you’re finishing something Hooooooge maybe. I think there are basically two schools of thought about sanders. There are the pro models (Festool, Ceros, etc.) and there are the DIY store models (DeWalt, Bosch, Porter Cable, etc.). If price is an issue, you’re firmly in the second camp. Then it comes to dust collection, in my mind at least. Buy one that you can connect a wet-dry vac (ShopVac, DeWalt, Rigid, Fein, etc.) to. One with HEPA is a bonus. ROS’s put out a huge amount of noxious dust and the little bag thingy isn’t going to cut it. For hogging off tons of material, I like to start with a pad sander. I think for $50-$100, you’ll find one that suits you fine. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2938 days

#3 posted 03-05-2012 05:35 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks.

Hand held portable machines fall in three categories. Vibrating palm sanders, random orbit sanders and belt sanders.
Vibrating palm sander tends to be the least agressive and is limited to mostly fine finishing.
Belt tends to be very agressive and difficult to control to avoid gouging and un even surface finish; used mostly for paint or finish removal, flattening glue-ups.
Random orbital is in between and IMHO the most versatile. With coarse grit it will strip finish, and remove stock quickly. With fine grit it will finish just as good as a palm sander. It has the big advantage of very good dust collection as well.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2937 days

#4 posted 03-05-2012 06:38 PM

My experience has been that you will only be frustrated buying a DIY machine – like a Black & Decker.
I’m surprised Al categorizes Makita and Dewalt as DIY sanders, if you were to buy either of those you would have capable, trade rated machines.
You would need to hook it up to a vac to keep the air clean.
With regards to pros and cons…. a ros will do a better job than hand sanding and more quickly too. You can sand between coats of primer – just use a finer grade paper (p150 up), don’t linger on any spots and make sure the primer is 100% dry before going at it.
A sander will sand whatever you want it to, use it on your Ikea melamine unit, use it to take paint off stuff, use it on natural timber. Just be aware that different grades of abrasives do different things and use the right one for your application.
I have amassed 2×1/2 sheet + 1×1/4 sheet orbital sanders, 1×5” + 1×6” ROS, a detail sander and two belt sanders, all of which have their uses, but it’s the 6” ROS that is reached for most.

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3163 days

#5 posted 03-05-2012 06:48 PM


If you had to pick just one, I agree with Renners and Michael on the Random Orbital Sander. I have pad sanders, belt sanders, etc. but, use my ROS most. have two Porter Cables, one with 100 grit and second with 220 grit. Also have a dedicated shop vac with 1 1/2” hose for use with the ROS. Works great and almost no residual dust.

Good luck!

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2661 days

#6 posted 03-05-2012 07:01 PM

I meant no insult to Makita or DeWalt, Renners:) I guess I didn’t know what to call a DeWalt sander if a Festool is “good”, lol. I’ve said elsewhere that I HAD a Festool Rotex (before a burglary) and I HAD multiple DeWalt sanders. I can’t say that the Festool was worth 5 DeWalts. I totally agree with Renners that the 6” 90-degree DeWalt ROS at $130 or so is probably all the sander 99% of normal people would ever need. I further agree that you might as well throw your money in the toilet than buy a really cheap sander like B&D. A sub$100 ROS from Lowes will make you happy.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3163 days

#7 posted 03-05-2012 07:08 PM


You can also get some good buys on the CPO site. They often offer really great deals on factor reconditioned power tools. At least one of my ROS was a recond. unit and have used it for over two years now.,default,pd.html?start=2&cgid=dewalt

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View ctychick's profile


8 posts in 2241 days

#8 posted 03-05-2012 07:11 PM

Thanks so much! Can’t believe how quickly I got replies, and all great information! I came across this board a number of times when Googling various tools and techniques. I’m so glad I finally registered and jumped in. I’m sure I’ll be back with many more questions and perhaps, at some point, even be able answer one or two!

I just ordered this Bosch from Lowes:

Bosch 7500 – 12000 Orbits per Minute Disc Power Sander – $59.

Thanks again and wish me luck!

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2661 days

#9 posted 03-05-2012 07:13 PM

^congrats on a new tool. You might want to hunt around to see if they make a vacuum adapter for that unit.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3405 days

#10 posted 03-05-2012 07:18 PM

I have a Bosch ROS from Lowes, $69. It has very little vibration and does a great job on bare wood, and final and in between coats with a fine grit paper. A cheap small craftsman shop vac connects to the dust outlet with the included Bosch adapter that comes with the sander. And the best thing about this sander is that it has almost no vibration. After an hour your hand has no tingle or numbness. It does a good job. I’m sure others in this category will also.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3036 days

#11 posted 03-05-2012 07:23 PM

I use a ROS for more aggressive work (like stripping old finish) and a vibrating detail sander for finer work (like sanding between finish coats). My SIL has had my belt sander for about three years and I can’t remember wanting it back. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View ChrisK's profile


1946 posts in 3049 days

#12 posted 03-05-2012 08:06 PM

Look around for good sand paper. You will probably want to get grits from 60 to 320. Some are better than others for clogging with primer.

I just purchased a bunch of belts and sleeves from here:

They seem pretty good. I have only sanded a few soft wood projects with them.

Welcome, and be safe.

-- Chris K

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