Palm Sander Vs. Orbital Sander: Which Is Right for What

When it comes to sanding the final project, both professionals and DIY artisans unanimously agree in one point- achieving a perfect finish is often a tedious task. And with the inappropriate tool, it can become even more challenging.

Hence, the significance of selecting the best tool becomes crucial. But even here a twist when you need to decide palm sander vs. orbital sander. Both functions brilliantly, but their names often mislead during the selection.

So, here’s our thought on which one should you choose for what kinds of sanding between the orbital sander and palm sander.

A Brief Comparison of Palm Sander Vs. Orbital Sander

Before you decide which sander you should use for what kinds of flooring, decking, and making furniture, you must understand the difference between the two sanders.

First off, the palm sander is considered among the lightest and smallest sanding tool available in the market. Also, the motor is a small one, and artisans mainly use it for finishing. It has a flat shape and usually uses grit paper between 160-220 range.

An orbital sander, aka, random orbital sander, on the contrary, is more cumbersome and comes with more power. The best thing about the orbital sander is that despite being heavier, it supports one-hand use and generates more power. So, artisans can also use it for versatile sanding works.

Comparison Palm Sander Orbital Sander
Shape Rounded head Flat rectangular head
Material Velcro attachable standard circular sheet Supports both standard and cut sheet
Size of the sheet Both 5” and 6” workable sheets 9X11” quarter standard sheet
Motion Supports both orbital and circular motion Only orbital motion
Use Heavy-duty sanding, sharpening, paint removal, and finishing Light sanding and finishing only


Now, it’s time to jump deep into both palm and orbital sander details.

The palm sanders:

The palm sanders are smaller in size and also known as, at places, sheet sander. It comes with a rounded head so you can get into the hard to reach corners easily with the sander.

You can move the sander back and forth, which further intensifies the work procedure. Also, palm sanders are an affordable alternative, especially if you are a DIY worker who needs to accomplish small sanding projects mostly.

Palm sanders also work excellently well when it comes to a precision finish. Moreover, the lightweight design suits the DIY workers since they aren’t habituated in working for long hours. Also, it is an excellent choice to sand painted and treated wood blocks.

The palm sander will come mostly with 2.00 amps powered motor, and it gets the job done. Some high-end motors have 3.00amp strength, but these are often more than you required.

A palm sander will sand between a quarter to half sheet size. However, the miniature sizes are also available if you wish to have one. A small sized palm sander is better for finishing while larger ones are ideal for initial sanding of the woodblocks.

And lastly, the usability of regular sandpapers also comes handy if you are in a tight budget. However, palm sander needs a continuous change of sandpaper, and you should consider it during the purchase.


  • Lightweight and compactness
  • Usable with regular sandpapers
  • Leaves little or almost no visible marks
  • A great affordable alternative
  • One-hand use


  • Frequent change of the sandpaper
  • The dust collection is often tedious
  • Not meant for larger sanding projects

The Orbital Sanders:

Orbital sanders work in a circular (orbital) motion. These sanders are perfect at working in the corners, edges, and even on the round wood pieces.  What’s more, orbital sanders can operate with variable sandpaper size depending on the size of the surface it will sand.

Hence, the sandpaper size selection will depend on the size of the sanding surface. It gives you extreme liberty at work. Orbital sanders are equipped with 5-6AMPS of motor power that can generate up to 10000 orbital per minute.

Note that the higher orbital rate means less time you will require to accomplish the task. Orbital sanders are available in two types of handle grips-

  1. Pistol grip
  2. Jug grips

Pistol grip handles are available usually and provide better control with two hand use. Jig grips are rare and also has less control. Next, you can use both regular and standard sandpaper with these machines. The sandpaper attachment is possible with the peel and seeks function and the regular Velcro.

Another big advantage of the orbital sanders is that unlike the palm sander, the sandpapers in it are durable, and so, you need less replacement.

Finally, you can use the device for working with stairs, baseboards, and workpieces with corners that otherwise, palm or another saner will find challenging to reach. The dust collection of the orbital sandpaper is effortless which helps you keep the workplace neat and clean.


  • Faster working capacity suits dealing with bigger projects.
  • The squared design fits the corners comfortably
  • Ideal at working in the tight space


  • Leaves sanding marks that require further finishing
  • Can’t remove a lot of material in one go.

The Bottom Line

Both palm sander and orbital sander are great at performing the job you want to accomplish. However, the selection between the two sanding tools will depend on you.

Here’s a quick recap-

A palm sander suits small projects and comes in affordable pricing. Also, it supports a smooth finish. On the other hand, choose the orbital sander for large project completion where the priority is on the sanding but not at achieving the finish.

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