You might think that with a name like orbital sander, the power tool would be round. In fact, though, they are square, and it is one of its great advantages. The square shape allows it to reach into corners and along straight edges. The “orbital” in the name refers to the motion of the sanding, which is, well, orbital.
Orbital sanders are versatile and won’t remove wood as easily as a belt sander can and often does. An orbital sander will produce as smooth a finish on wood as a fine finishing sander, leaving only a very fine cross-grain mark on occasion and giving your project the smoothness you want.
Orbital sanders are better for working on large pieces or even a newly installed or about-to-be-refinished wood floor, whereas something like a palm sander will be better for small pieces. Orbital sanders will finish larger sanding jobs more quickly, but you’ll get a smoother result with a palm sander.
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Can You Use Regular Sandpaper on Orbital Sanders?
What kind of sandpaper do you use on an orbital sander? Well, you can use regular sandpaper on one, with no need to use a finishing sandpaper. It is the motion, the circular (orbital) motion, that provides the smooth finish. So, even regular sandpaper will give you the finish you want for your project.
The choice, then, becomes the type of sandpaper and how it is attached to the sanding plate. And the sanding plate determines the type. The choices are self-adhesive, on the one hand, and hook and loop on the other. We’ve written about this in an earlier piece here on Obsessed Woodworking, which you’ll find here.
How Do You Keep Sandpaper on an Orbital Sander?
The answer to this question is by attaching it correctly and changing it when necessary. And, attaching sandpaper to an orbital sander is an easy task no matter which type of sandpaper you are using.
Attaching Self-Adhesive Sandpaper
- Unplug the sander and lay it on its side or upright on your work surface.
- Make sure the sanding plate is clean and clear of accumulated dust and fine sanding debris.
- Remove the paper backing of the sandpaper, exposing the self-adhesive, and attach it to the plate by pressing it evenly, smoothing out any folds or bubbles.
- Plug the sander in and test it on a piece of wood to ensure the paper has attached well and evenly.
Attaching Hook and Loop Sandpaper
- Unplug the sander and lay it upright on your work surface.
- The sanding plate is the part that has the hooks; the sandpaper discs have the loops. It works just like Velcro.
- Press the sandpaper disc against the sanding plate evenly, aligning the disc with the sides of the plate.
- Plug the sander in and test it on a piece of wood to make sure the sandpaper has attached fully – – the hooks have latched onto the loops securely.
After an extended period of use, check the paper and the surface you are sanding to make sure the paper still has sufficient grit to do its job and is not becoming frayed or loosened at the corners. This is far less likely with hook and loop sandpaper, as the hooks and loops are not likely to loosen.
If your orbital sander uses self-adhesive sandpaper, and you want to convert it to use hook and loop sandpaper, conversion kits are available. A sanding plate with the hooks part of the Velco system can be attached to the sander in just a few steps.
There are many brands of orbital sanders to choose from and at a variety of price points. To name just a few popular brand names:
- Black & Decker
- Ingersoll Rand
With prices ranging from around $50 to well over $300, the home shop woodworker has lots to choose from, and what you purchase depends on the types of projects you work on.
The right tool for the right job holds as true for orbital sanders as it does anything else. And as you’ve just read, attaching sandpaper to them is a pretty easy and quick task.