Orbital Sander vs Palm Sander – Which is Right for Your Needs?

Last Updated on October 14, 2021

Sanding is an essential part of woodworking. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a workshop owner, you’ll need a good sander to give your wood that professional touch.

A good sander is one that is easy to use, efficient, and gives the best results. Here we’ll tell you about two power tools that can make your life much easier and your silky wood smooth.

Orbital sander and palm sander have many similarities and differences, and they both help you get your desired results. But which one should you use? Read our orbital sander vs. palm sander guide to find out.

Orbital Sander

Orbital sander gets its name from the way it moves on the wood surface. When you use it over the wood surface, the head of the sander moves in a circular or an orbital pattern.

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These sanders are powered by electricity and are relatively smaller than big power sanders. They are lightweight, so you can use them with one hand yet powerful enough to remove rough scratches from wood.

Orbital sanders usually have a rectangular or a square head. Random orbital sanders are one kind of orbitals sanders. That’s because they work in random orbits. If it comes across the rough surface on the wood, it goes around and smoothens it out gradually in tiny circular motions.

And these sanders are mostly used with grit paper that ranges from 80-160. They are more suited for rough wood surfaces and for the sanding that is required in the initial stages of sanding. You can use an orbital sander to remove paint from any wood surface. They can also be used to prep the wood before staining or painting.

Moreover, the orbital sanders are powerful tools that need to be handled gently. When using an orbital sander, you have to keep it moving to make sure that you get a smooth finish. If you forgetfully keep the sander in one place for too long, it might create dents in the wood surface.

Since they are pretty lightweight, you can use one hand to sand flat or curved surfaces; however, there are models that have included an extra handle to allow a better grip and handling on the sander.

Why You Should Go for Orbital Sander

  • More powerful
  • Doesn’t weigh much
  • Ideal for removing paint
  • Can be operated Single-handedly

Palm Sander

You can fit this sander in your palm of your hand, hence the name. Now, palm sander is the lightest, gentlest, smallest, and least powerful of all sanders. Although itis powered by electricity, it has very low motor power. The grit paper that is commonly used with palm sanders ranges from 160-220, and that’s why it’s used for light jobs.

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They are used for very delicate work, such as polishing a final wood surface or when you want to smooth a wooden surface that you’re not going to paint.

These are never used for heavy-duty work like removing paint, varnish, or rust. Because of their gentle nature, they cannot take too much pressure. If you push this sander too hard, it will become damaged. They are built to work with very fine grit paper for delicate work.

Palm sanders are very lightweight and can be used with either hand. They are definitely lighter than orbital sanders and a lot cheaper

Why You Should Go for Palm Sander

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Ideal for light jobs
  • Won’t cost you much

Orbital Sander vs. Palm Sander: Which One Should You Choose?

Here, we’ll compare them feature-by-feature so that you can easily pick between them.


When it comes to power tools, both of these sanders are lightweight and easy to use. You can use both power tools with either hand and will be able to apply them on shaped wood.  So, weight shouldn’t have much of an effect on your decision. Nevertheless, palm sander weighs less than the orbital opens.

sanding with orbital sander

Power And Performance

Orbital sanders are ideal when removing varnish or paint from the wooden surface. They also use the perfect grit paper to prep your wood for stain or paint.

Palm sanders are small and compact enough to fit in the palm itself. Although they are less powerful than orbital sanders, they will help you get the desired effect on the wooden surface by giving it that smooth polish.

A lot of the time, many choose to use their hands to sand edges or curves. Some may even want to use your hand for polishing sometimes. This sander will eliminate that labor-intensive sanding session by giving you the power of an electric tool and the gentleness of a low motor.

So, if you want to use a sander to remove scratches, varnish, or paint from wood, then you should get an orbital sander. You can use any grit paper in the range 80-160 in the orbital sander to either remove something from wood or prep the wood for staining or paint.

However, if you’re just looking for a sander that’ll help in the last stages of sanding where you finish your wood piece, then opt for a palm sander. Because of how well it fits in your hand, you’ll feel it’s just an extension of your own hands with which you can give a smooth finish.


Orbital Sanders are bigger than palm sanders and more expensive as they generate more power than their counterparts.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to say when discussing orbital sanders vs. palm sanders, but remember, what matters is the purpose of sanding. An orbital sander will remove paint and varnish which palm sander won’t.

And a palm sander will get you that delicate finish that orbital sander can’t. Your choice will depend on what you need the sander to perform.

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