how to use an orbital sander image

How to Use a Standard & Random Orbital Sander – Master Tips for High-quality Sanding

Do you intend to do some woodwork to make a table for your room or chairs for your garden? Or are you a newbie carpenter or a production worker? If yes, you can make an excellent smooth surface of your choice with orbital sanders. Before knowing how to use an orbital sander, check out the basics like types, working, and safety measures while using it.

What is an Orbital Sander?

Orbital Sanders are used for smoothing out rough surfaces. The surface can be of any type- wood or metal, or plastic. Its application requires hand power. But sanders these days have an advanced version where precautions that were necessary earlier are taken care of. Its existence can be dated back to 1968. The movement of the sander is the same in all types of sanders; the only difference is their direction of movement. How does an orbital sander work exactly? Below, you can get to know the brief on it along with types and uses.

Random Orbital Sander vs Standard Orbital Sander

There are two types of sanders; Standard and Random orbital sanding machine.

1. Standard Orbital Sanders

These are further subdivided into,

  • Quarter Sheet Orbital Sander: It can hold a quarter sheet, i.e. 9/11 sandpaper, which divides the sandpaper into four out of one. 
  • Half-sheet Orbital Sander: As its name suggests, it holds a half sheet of paper means you get two pieces of sandpaper out of one. These sheets are attached to the sander with the help of a wire.

With standard orbital sanders, your direction of sanding is determined by the direction of grains. Therefore, it may create a cross scratch if proper steps are not followed.

These are best used for light to moderate duty sanding tasks. Some of standard orbital sanders uses are,

  • Quarter sheet sanders are primarily used for painting and repair jobs. It can effectively remove paint or stain from various surfaces.
  • Half-sheet sanders are used to sand between the coats of finish, smoothen the wood surfaces and curved surfaces where some larger sanders can’t reach like edges and corners.

2. Random Orbital Sanders

They have the same function as Standard ones but with slightly different anatomy. Unlike them, Random orbital sanders have round sanding pads and round sanding discs. Its sheet can be attached to the round pad with pressure adhesive or an attached hook and loop system.

The round sheets usually have holes in them, allowing the dust particle resulting from sanding to be vacuumed by a dust collector pre-attached to it. It has an advantage in its usage due to its effortless work. This orbital sander is called ‘random’ because of its direction of movement while in operation. It also eliminates any cross-grain scratches and swirls.

Coming to random orbital sander uses, they are used for

  • Removing paint or stain from different surfaces like on furniture or metal objects.
  • Smoothing rough surfaces
  • Sanding to clean up between coats of finish
  • Preparing new mould like applying new paint or other finish

How to Use an Orbital Sander?

Below is the detailed process on how to sand any surface using an orbital sander (standard or random orbital sander).

Step 1: Learn the Machine

It is crucial to know about the whole anatomy or the whereabouts of the sanders before using them. For example, learn precisely where the power switch, the motor, pad, and dust collector are located.

Step 2: Choose and Stock Sandpaper

As sandpaper plays an important role, it is better to choose the right one that suits your work before starting the sanding indoors or outdoors. Higher grit numbers are extra fine, while lower ones will be rougher. So, the higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper grain particles.

Make sure you have stocked the room with enough sandpaper to use, avoiding the possibility of running out. Also, do not overuse sandpaper.

Step 3: Attach Sandpaper / Sanding Disc

Now, let’s see how to put sandpaper on a sander. For a random orbital sander, you should load the sanding disk at the base of the device. If your sander uses the hook and loop system, you can just remove the old sandpaper and place the new one. If it uses pressure-sensitive adhesive, you can easily add the hook and loop system to your sander for easy attachment of sandpaper.

Step 4: Start and Set the Sander

When you start the sander, make sure it’s not placed above the surface where you intend to sand. Always activate it before you put it directly on your target.

Now, place the sander flat on the surface. These days, sanders come with a hook and loop system, ensuring the sanding disks are securely attached. So just to be safe, double-check whether it is attached or not.

Step 5: Move the Sander

After you set the machine, start moving it. A moving sander means a smoother surface. We don’t want to create a dent. All or most orbital sanders have their default random action. But it is equally necessary to keep it moving to avoid any abrasions on the surface.

Step 6: Constant Pressure

A certain level of constant pressure is required to smooth the whole area of the surface. A smooth surface means that you have the perfect balance of pressure. Putting too much or too little pressure will lead to an uneven surface. Instead, grip it tightly and firmly move across the surface with balanced pressure. If you are clueless about the amount of pressure needed, practice it out on another unused surface. We will suggest starting the sander before applying the pressure.

Step 7: Proper Space

Make sure the place you are working has proper spacing. If your tool is a standard orbital sander, you will need a room with spacing because the dust can bother your work. Random orbital sanders remove this task for you as they come up with an attached dust collector. It helps in keeping the surface clean. Debris is out of the way giving a clean and furnished look. Without the obstruction of the dust and the debris, it will help you keep track of your progress.

Safety Tips to Follow while Using Orbital Sander

  • Check the product: The main thing to do as soon as you buy your product is if it is defective or of cheap quality. You want to avoid accidents at all costs. So check for all necessary details like the manufacturing date and the anatomy of the sander.
  • Wear Glasses: Safety comes first, second and third. Have a proper safeguard on your eyes. Wear glasses to protect your eyes from any erupting dust particulates.
  • Ventilation: Open windows for the dust to move out.
  • No running sander on hand: Do not carry a running sander in your hand when you are not working. Make sure it is turned off.
  • Secure the surface: Secure the material over which you will sand. Ensure that only your sander moves and not the surface. A moving surface will not let you complete the work the way you want.
  • Clean the debris: After finishing off, wait until the machine stops moving. Unplug it and clean the debris inside the dust collector, or you can also attach a vacuum cleaner to reduce much of your work.


Can you sand plastic?

Yes, Random Orbital Sanders are not only used for wood and metal but also works great for plastic. However, if you want to sand small areas of plastic, then you can go for hand sanding. On the other hand, if the area to sand is large, orbital sanding is the best choice.

What is an orbital sander used for?

An orbital sander comes in to picture when you are in quick sanding needs like smoothing or removing paint or rust from surfaces. It is ideal for use on wood, metal and plastic.

Final Thoughts

Sure, orbital sanders save your time and effort. But you need to be aware to use it only when your work involves big and heavy projects. Hand sandpapers are easy to go with if you want small furnishing changes. Random sanders usually comes with round-shaped sandpaper. So, if you are looking for a square-shaped orbital one, you can go for the best palm sander. Whichever sanding method you choose, do not forget to follow the steps and the safety measures.