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Palm Sander vs Orbital Sander and Other Types of Sanders

Stepping into the world of sanding tools feels like hitting a goldmine for the DIY-savvy. It is like opening a treasure trove of possibilities, each tool promising to take your projects from rough to smooth. Two of the most popular types of sanders are palm and orbital sanders. We are about to analyse these tools, setting you up to choose the perfect partner for your next sanding venture.

A palm sander is a must-have for anyone keen on detail sander tasks and precision. It is like having a little genie in your hand, ready to grant your wish for a smooth finish on smaller scales. It is tailor-made for comfort, fitting snugly in your palm, and it is an absolute gem for light work and tight spaces. You might not blaze through a project, but you will get finesse and control in spades.

Now, flip the script and you have got the orbital sander: the bigger, bolder sibling that is all about covering territory fast. Think of it as the trustworthy workhorse for larger endeavours, where its round pad and random orbit action leave a swirl-free signature on whatever it touches. It is the trusty sidekick for bigger tasks, boasting power and speed without skimping on manageability. Read on as we explore the palm sander vs orbital sander and investigate other sander types (including power sanders) too.

Definition of a palm sander

So, when we are talking about a palm sander, we are looking at the baby of the sander family. It is this compact, handheld tool that is super easy to manoeuvre around, making it a go-to for DIY enthusiasts. Comfortably complete small to medium-sized projects with this compact sander, whether that is smoothing out surfaces or removing old paint (in sanding surface preparation).

Dynabrade x61V

The Dynabrade 6″ Air Palm Sander is just one of the range available online at DTC

The best bit? It is designed to fit right in the palm of your hand, hence the name origin, making it super comfortable and straightforward to use for extended periods. Handheld sanders like this might not be the fastest option out there, but for precision and control on smaller tasks, it is a total winner.

View our range of palm sanders at this link.

Definition of an orbital sander

Next, let us focus on orbital sanders. With their square or rectangular backing pads, they are a sanding tool option for those who crave precision along edges and in corners. They have a back-and-forth motion that is efficient in achieving a quick sanding without going overboard.

Ideal for small-scale jobs or projects where finesse trumps speed, these gadgets are a must in your DIY arsenal. The uniform motion of an orbital sander means you need to keep it moving to avoid leaving any sanding marks, though.

Rupes SKORPIO E Electric Orbital Sander - Systainer box From DTC Tools

Buy the Rupes SKORPIO E Electric Orbital Sander online at DTC today

Their shape makes it a cinch to swap out sandpaper and get into tight spaces that other sanders might miss. They do not have the random orbit shake-up of random orbital sanders (which we discuss later), but that is the charm. You achieve a predictable pattern and a steady rhythm, and if you are looking to keep the grain looking sharp, they are your best bet.

Click here to view our range of electric and air orbital sanders.

Comparison of a palm sander vs orbital sander

Let us now directly compare the palm sander vs orbital sander. Here we provide the facts and show you how these two compare when put head-to-head. We cover a whopping 35 features, all sorted alphabetically, rather than in importance order:

Features table

#FeaturePalm sanderOrbital sander
1Aggressiveness of sandingModerateHigh
2Comfort in extended useHighModerate
3Compatibility with attachmentsLimitedWide
4CostGenerally, lessGenerally, more
5Dust collection efficiencyGoodExcellent
7Ease of changing sandpaperEasyModerate
8Ease of controlHighModerate
9Ease of maintenanceSimpleModerate
10Ease of useVery easyEasy
11Efficiency on curved wood surfacesExcellentPoor
12Efficiency on flat surfacesGoodExcellent
13Electric vs air-powered optionsBothBoth
14Ergonomic designHighModerate
15Finish qualityHighModerate
16Flexibility in movementHighLow
17Noise levelModerateHigh
19Power consumptionLowHigh
20Precision in sandingHighModerate
21Range of motionLimitedWide
22ReliabilityHighVery high
23Required skill levelLowModerate
24Sanding speedModerateHigh
26Suitability for cornersExcellentPoor
27Suitability for edging sanderExcellentModerate
28Suitability for large surfacesPoorExcellent
29Suitability for small surfacesExcellentGood
30Swirl mark reductionHighModerate
31Type of motionStraight-lineCircular
33Vibration levelLowModerate
35Working on vertical surfacesEasyChallenging

Orbital sander applications

Orbital sanders are the go-to choice for a slick, swirl-free finish in sectors like automotive bodywork, furniture restoration, and construction. They are the quiet achievers, sanding surfaces with minimal fuss:

  • Auto body smoothing – they are perfect for achieving smooth bodywork on cars and other vehicles before a paint job. Orbital sanders make it easy to feather edges and reduce panel flaws
  • Deck refinishing – following years of decking use and fading from the sun, an orbital sander helps restore decking to its former glory
  • Drywall sanding – when you are preparing drywall, an orbital sander will ensure it is paint-ready fast, and without a dust cloud
  • Furniture finishing – for that final touch on a piece of furniture, an orbital sander gives the wood a fine finish without excessive elbow grease, which contrasts to hand sandingp
  • Metal polishing – even metal can receive the orbital treatment, buffing out imperfections before painting or coating
  • Plastic surface preparation – for a smooth finish on plastic surfaces, an orbital sander is a tool that achieves a fine and even surface
  • Varnish removal – stripping varnish without gouging the wood underneath is tough, but an orbital sander handles this, making refurbishing less of a chore

Palm sander applications

On the flip side, palm sanders are the secret weapon in fine woodworking, detailing in carpentry, and even the meticulous world of marquetry:

  • Crafts and models – for hobbyists working on models or crafts, palm sanders take the pain out of sanding small and delicate parts
  • Detail work – intricate woodworking becomes less intimidating, ensuring a flawless finish in tight spots
  • Edge smoothing – they are gentle unyet effective at rounding off the sharp edges on a piece of furniture
  • Joinery finishing – making joints look seamless can be a struggle, but not with a palm sander in hand!
  • Refurbishing antiques – when dealing with antique treasures, they are delicate enough to preserve character while refreshing the piece
  • Staircase sanding – sanding down staircases, particularly the risers, is made simpler with the precision available
  • Surface preparation – before applying stain or sealant, a palm sander ensures wooden surfaces are ready to perfection

Five other sander types available from DTC

We also now explore five other sander types that are popular in the UK. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a professional in a workshop, you will certainly benefit from using any of belt sanders, disc sanders, dual action sanders, long bed sanders and random orbital sanders. Read on to learn more:

1)    Belt sander

Belt sanders are the powerhouse of sanding tools. Imagine a sandpaper loop whizzing around two spinning drums; that is the gist of a belt sander’s operation. When you switch the belt sander on, the motor heaves the rear drum into motion, which belts the abrasive sandpaper around at high speed. If you are searching for power sanders, a belt sander is perfect for stripping down layers with gusto.


The Makita 29mm Belt Sander – 240v is a reliable option, buy online at DTC today

These machines are not for the faint-hearted or fine-detail sander work; they are designed for sanding large flat surfaces that need serious attention, like worn decking or old furniture. With a belt sander in your grip, you can smooth down wood, metal, or composite materials. But a word to the wise, it is a robust tool that demands a firm hand to master its aggressive nature and ensure a smooth finish without mishaps.

View our entire range of belt sanders at this link.

2)    Disc sander

Disc sanders are one of the different types of sanders you will turn to when the job calls for smoothing out edges and working on end grain. They consist of a circular sanding pad attached to a wheel, and when you switch them on, it spins the disc, creating a fast action that is perfect for precision work.

products ds300

Complete precision work with the Record Power DS300 Disc Sander – 300mm (12″)

A disc sander is often situated in a workshop mounted on a bench, where it can be easily accessed for quick shaping wood jobs. They are not just about wood, these tough tools can also work with plastics and metals, making them especially versatile. Use them to buff out a rough edge or to get a curve just right, but always remember to move the piece against the rotation for a clean finish. Control is the name of the game with these sanders, they require a steady hand to keep things on track and avoid any kickback.

Our disc sanders range can be viewed here.

3)    Dual action (DA) sander

Dual action sanders are often referred to as DA sanders, they are the multitaskers in the sander family. Combining two types of movements, the DA sander spins the sanding disc and moves it in an ellipse, ensuring that no single part of the abrasive material travels the same path twice. This clever design means you get a smooth finish without those pesky swirl sanding marks that can show up on your workpiece.


Buy the Sealey 10.8V Cordless 150mm Dual Action Sander online at DTC today

You will often find them being used in auto body shops for this reason, as they are perfectly suited for preparing metal surfaces for paint. The variable speed settings on a DA sander also make it a solid choice for working on a variety of materials, from wood to fibreglass.

They are straightforward to use as well; just apply a bit of pressure and let the tool do its work, adjusting the speed to suit the task at hand. Whether you are sanding down an old piece of furniture or smoothing out a car panel, a DA sander is your go-to option for a finish that looks professional.

A good example of a DA sander available from DTC is the Sealey 10.8V Cordless 150mm Dual Action Sander.

4)    Long bed sander

Long bed sanders are the unsung heroes of the sanding world, often overlooked but essential for certain tasks. They are these elongated power tools that let you sand large areas quickly and consistently. If you have a large flat surface that needs smoothing out, this is your best bet.

Rupes SL42AE Long Bed Sander 240V From DTC Tools

Buy the Rupes SL42AE Long Bed Sander 240V online at DTC

The sanding belt on long bed sanders runs over a flat surface or ‘bed’, which helps maintain an even finish. They are not for your small, finicky jobs but are more suited to tasks like sanding doors or tables, they are spot on. Woodworkers and furniture makers often have these as a staple in their workshops. So, they are less about the intricate details and more about getting lots of surface area sanded smoothly.

Our long bed sanders range can be viewed when clicking here.

5)    Random orbital sander

Random orbital sanders are a game-changer for anyone completing DIY or woodworking. You have the aggression of a belt sander but with a much gentler finish, thanks to the way the sanding disc moves, it spins and orbits at the same time. This power sander is like a dance, spinning round and wiggling in small circles, so you do not get those tell-tale swirl marks on your workpiece.

Mirka ROS

Buy the Mirka ROS 325NV Random Orbit Palm Sander 77mm online at DTC

Now, if you are tackling a job that needs a super smooth finish, like preparing furniture or sanding between coats of paint, that is where random orbital sanders excel. They are versatile, too, handling everything from stripping old paint to buffing up a nice piece of timber. Plus, they are not tiring to use, this power sander tool does most of the work, you are just guiding it. In the world of sanders, the random orbital is a solid and dependable all-rounder, including for heavy duty sanding tasks.

A great example of a random orbital sander available from DTC is the Metabo SXE 150-5.0 BL Random Orbital Sander.


Alright, summing up the sander comparison, both palm and orbital sanders have their fans. Palm sanders? They are your go-to option for detailed, smaller-scale jobs, offering a comfortable grip and accurate precision, especially where finesse is key. Think antiques and tight edges. They will not blast through a job like a whirlwind, but they will give you the control you need to finesse those smaller spots without breaking a sweat.

Now, orbital sanders, step up for the larger jobs. They are the power players for larger, more expansive areas where time is of the essence, and you want to avoid those annoying swirls. Decking, drywall, or even metal – an orbital sander covers more territory and gets you that smooth finish, fast. So, your choice? It boils down to the task at hand: detail and control with the palm sander or speed and coverage with the orbital.

Of course, you can also read our section which details other different types of sanders (belt sanders, disc sanders, dual action sanders, long bed sanders and random orbital sanders), for yet more sanding options!

Aircat Air Palm Sander UK | Buy from £139.00 Online at DTC

Buy an Aircat palm sander online at DTC

A large selection of types of sanders available at DTC

Choose from our wide range of different types of sanders when you buy from DTC. We only supply products from leading manufacturers, which for sanders include Aircat, Dynabrade, Chicago Pneumatic, FeStool, Makita, Metabo, Mirka, Record Power, Q Sanding Technologies, Rupes and Sealey.

If you are still contemplating the merits of a palm sander vs orbital sander, we advise you to revisit our features list. If you still cannot decide our expert team are available to support and provide advice about palm sanders, orbital sanders, power sanders, and other sander types. Contact us in these ways:

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