Random Orbital Sander vs Sheet Sander

This is a very heated debate among woodworkers. Some say an orbital sander is a way to go. Others say a sheet (or belt) sander works best. Orbital and belt sanders are useful for general household cleaning. However, if you need to do a lot of finish work or make some deep scratches, a belt sander or sheet sander is what you should use.

Sheet sanding is one of the most commonly used woodworking techniques. However, there are some situations where it is not the best option.

Are you confused about which sander to buy? If so, then this is the most appropriate post for you. In it, I’m going to compare the benefits, advantages/disadvantages, applications of using an orbital sander vs a sheet sander and explain everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

What is a random orbital sander?

An orbital sander is a tool used to sand off woodwork that has been previously painted or stained. It works on a similar principle as an electric hand drill, except that it uses a circular motion rather than a straight line motion. Just hold the sander over the part of the surface you want to sand and move it back and forth across the surface. A gentle breeze will push the paper sheet against the surface and remove the sanded particles.

An orbital sander is a very low-cost tool you can use to smooth and shine wood surfaces. It has an oscillating disc with sandpaper attached to the edge. As the disc turns, it sands the surface of whatever material you are working on.

orbital sander

How does an orbital sander work?

A person uses the orbital sander to smooth wood, concrete, metal, or any other surface by dragging a sanding disk across the surface.

Sandpaper taped to a piece of wood is forced against the surface to be cleaned by using a strong motor.

The sandpaper is attached to a motor-driven wheel with radial arms. As the wheel spins, it throws the sandpaper in an arc, removing material from the surface of whatever structure you are sanding.


  • Sanding is an easy way to remove rust and old paint
  • An orbital sander is less likely to leave scratches on the metal than a random pad sandpaper
  • Orbital sander has a finer grit than pad sandpaper
  • Sanding is an easy way to get into woodworking. You only need a few simple tools to do it. And it’s an almost universal way of giving any wood project a finished look
  • Orbital sanders give a very fine finish and produce a very smooth surface. This is great for projects where you want to paint or otherwise finish the wood
  • They are especially useful for taking off old paint and other finishes
  • Sanding is a fast way to smooth wood
  • Sandpaper doesn’t have to be changed often
  • An orbital sander is easier to operate than other sanders
  • Sanding dust and particles off workpiece (used for wood), removes scratches caused by sandpaper
  • Orbital motion works material harder than a random motion (used for metal), making it smooth
  • Sanding motion creates a “skin” on the workpiece which is very hard to remove, making it smooth and scratch-free
  • Sanding rough or old paint off the surface reduces glare and increases visibility for drivers.
  • Sanding marks go away when painted over.
  • Sanding creates a smooth surface which makes it easier to apply a new coat of paint.
  • Sanding removes scratches and other imperfections from the surface.


  • Dust gets all over everything
  • It takes a long time to sand anything
  • Tends to become very boring very quickly
  • May cause injury if used improperly
  • It has moving parts that can wear out and break. This will require expensive repair or replacement.
  • It is very loud! In fact, it’s so loud, you may need a hearing test if you are nearby when it is running.
  • It creates sparks.


  • Sanding woodwork, especially flat surfaces such as walls and doors
  • Sanding concrete, to roughen the surface so it will grip paint
  • Sanding old, worn-out paint off metal surfaces (concrete, steel, etc.)
  • Sanding plastic, to prepare it for paint
  • Polishing metal (brass, copper, etc.)
  • Sanding roadways and other surfaces prior to repaving
  • Sanding boat hulls before painting
  • Sanding drywall (or any other wood)
  • Sanding between finish coats of paint (to smooth out any texture)
  • Sanding before the final coat of paint – to make it smooth and ready for the final coat
  • Sanding after the final coat of paint – to remove any imperfections from the topcoat
  • Sanding floors

What is a sheet sander?

The Sheet sanders are very versatile for most home woodworking projects. It’s a popular household tool that helps in sanding down a number of materials such as wood, stone, and plastic. They’re ideal for smoothing curves or shaping plywood edges, cutting dadoes, dado heads, and rails, and making crown molding.

The sheet sanding machine is used to remove dust and debris from sanded surfaces. It usually consists of a drum containing rotating steel brushes that scrape material from the surface as it turns.

It’s sandpaper with squares on it.

sheet sander
Sheet Sander

How does it work?

Sheet sander is a very simple machine. It is a machine used to sand wood and metal parts. It consists of a base on which the object to be sanded is placed. There are two rolls of sandpaper that come together like a giant sanding block. When the machine is turned on it spins the rolls at high speed. This action causes the sandpaper to move rapidly against the surface of the part.

The material sandpaper (sandpaper) is attached to a belt that moves through a motorized sprocket wheel. The sprocket wheel has a series of gears that allow it to move at different speeds. At one speed, only one tooth on the sprocket is engaged with the drive belt. If the belt is moving at the correct speed, the tooth on the sprocket and the tooth on the belt mesh together, the tooth on the belt is in contact with the sandpaper, and the sandpaper moves.


  • Sanding is faster and more accurate than using a random orbit sander or a power sander
  • Sanding is a great way to “feel” the board, get an idea of what it will respond to before you invest time and energy into making precise cuts
  • Sanding removes material, which makes a board stiffer and more responsive
  • Sanding with a sheet or belt sander produces a very smooth, flat surface
  • Use on wooden, plastic, or metal surfaces
  • It May be used on vertical or horizontal surfaces
  • Sanding leaves no sharp edges which can cut or abrade the paint
  • Sanding removes the need to use file or emery paper which dulls the cutting edges of the steel – reducing the chance of scratching the metal.
  • Sanding is great for getting into wood, plastic, and rubber. These materials are great for making things out of because they are hard to scratch.


  • It is very noisy
  • Dust everywhere
  • Requires a lot of force to operate
  • May cause injury to your hand
  • May damage your property
  • Requires constant supervision
  • Slow
  • Difficult to handle, awkward to use, takes two hands
  • Dust inhalation causes breathing problems and lung cancer.


  • Sanding flat surfaces such as wood, linoleum, plastic, and metal
  • Removing paint
  • Fine-tuning the surface of something (like furniture) before applying another finish
  • Surface preparation for another application, like staining or varnishing
  • Polish your bike chain with it!
  • Sanding concrete (sidewalk) – remove the rough edges
  • Removing rust from metal parts, or any other surface that has oxidized (turned brown) due to exposure to air.
  • Sanding smooth curved surfaces like the inside of a boat hull
  • Sand down the edges of a book to get it ready for binding
  • Finishing car bodies before painting.


What are the main differences between the orbital sander and the sheet sander?

Orbital sander uses a rotating circular motion to sand the surface, while sheet sander uses vibration and oscillation to sand the surface.

The most important difference is that with the orbital sander the sandpaper will be moving around the orbital sander instead of you having to move the orbital sander around the sanding paper. With a sheet sander, there is a fixed sanding pad and you move the sander back and forth over the surface of the wood.

How often should you use an orbital sander or a sheet sander?

If the surface is too coarse, you can use an orbital sander. When sanding, it is important to check the surface by looking at a mirror. If the surface is too smooth, you can use a sheet sander.

Orbital sanders are useful for small projects like carving a pumpkin and a sheet sander is useful when you want to apply a finish to a piece that will be subjected to a lot of movement (like furniture). They can also be used to make patterns with an orbital sander.

Why do we need both orbital and sheet sanders?

Sanding is an important part of woodworking. It smooths out the surface of a wood piece so it’s easier to paint or stain. Orbital sanders are usually used for this type of sanding. Sheets of sandpaper are used for finishing and removing scratches.

To achieve a better fit. Sheet sanders are used for the fine finishing process while Orbital Sander is used to finishing the roughing out process.