Sheet Sander Vs Orbital Sander – Which is Right for Sanding Project?

Sanding wood is troublesome for many, while others consider it a relaxing job. The difference is especially because of the sanders used for sanding.

Sanders are built for specific purposes. Wrongly chosen sander will make your sanding task problematic for sure. So, it is significantly important to know the difference between different sander types.

In this comprehensive guide, we will be discussing sheet sander vs orbital sander. A sheet sander is also known as a finishing sander. The finishing sander and random orbital sander are the most commonly used sander for sanding projects. Know their functionality, pros, and cons to choose the right one for your next sanding job.

Sheet Sander vs Orbital Sander

What is a Sheet Sander / Palm Sander?

Using the Sheet Sander

Sheet sanders are used to add finishing touches to woodworking projects. For this reason, they are called finish sanders. While compact models are known as palm sanders.

You can handle light to medium duty sanding tasks using these sanders. The task includes final finishing touches on wood or metal. They are aerodynamically designed, making them suitable for sanding curved surfaces, sanding between finish coats, etc. Moreover, with carefulness, sanding joints of 2 wood pieces at a tight angle becomes convenient with sheet sanders.


  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Inexpensive
  • Ideal for curves and corners
  • Inexpensive
  • Relatively found in the market easily


  • Less versatile
  • Prone to leave marks
  • Power output is low

What is an Orbital Sander?

Random Orbit Sander

An orbital sander also sands material similar to a sheet sander. It consists of a sanding disc that rotates at high speed, removing the maximum amount of material.

Most orbital sander models come with variable speed controllers, allowing you to remove a wide range of materials. This way, it becomes versatile, sanding softwood, hardwood, plastic, auto body work, metal sanding, etc. Orbital sanders generally contain 5 – 6 inches’ discs, and the rotating speed is measured in OPM (Orbits Per Minute).


  • Powerful and efficient
  • Best for large sanding projects
  • Works well with metal and wood
  • Eliminates multiple layers
  • Leaves less swirl marks
  • Affordable


  • Maintenance required
  • Highly aggressive

Comparison of Key Differences:

Find the table below to learn the key differences between the random orbital sander and sheet sander.

Features of =>

Sheet Sander

Orbital Sander




Sanding Aggressiveness

Less aggressive than orbital sander and easy to control.

More aggressive. Harder to control.

Finishing Result

Smooth and precise

Removes wood and metal aggressively. Not good for getting smooth finishing result

Random Motion






Suitable for

Finer detail and finishing

Rough surface, large projects










Sheet Sander vs Orbital Sander – Differences, Uses & In-depth Discussion:

Now, let’s read and learn the differences from the below in-depth discussion.

Sanding Aggressiveness:

Since orbital sanders contain a powerful motor, it removes material more aggressively than a sheet sander. For this, it is easier to smooth uneven surfaces. Its aggressiveness makes it unsuitable for sanding between coats. In this case, a sheet sander or hand sanding is necessary.

Controlling sheet sanders is much easier because they are less aggressive. However, it leaves swirl marks since the disc rotates following circular motion instead of random motion. Remember, the effect comes when the tool sands in a single place for a long time and if you don’t follow the proper grit sequence.

Weight & Portability:

Both sheet sander and orbital sander are lightweight. But sheet sanders are lighter than an orbital sander. Therefore, carrying a sheet sander on your job site wouldn’t be an issue. However, you can carry an orbital sander easily too.

Health & Safety:

Sheet sanders vibrate a lot, and break-free operating will let you feel fatigued in your hands. So, when working with sheet sanders, you need to take frequent breaks and wear anti-vibration gel-filled gloves.

On the other hand, the orbital sander doesn’t vibrate to let you work for prolonged hours without hand fatigue.


Orbital sanders are more expensive than sheet sanders. Moreover, sheet sanders are inexpensive to operate also because they use standard sandpaper sheets. Both tools will deliver the best result when the correct grit sequence is maintained and don’t sand in one place for a long time.

What is a Sheet Sander Used for?

Every woodworking task needs the smoothest surface possible. In this case, a sheet sander is the best solution. With a sheet sander, you can reach corners and edges effortlessly.

They provide less aggressive performance. For this reason, you will find them in every auto and car body repair shop. Moreover, woodworkers and carpenters can achieve the finest details using a sheet sander.

Sheet sanders have downsides as well. You will be able to sand less material with them. As a result, they are unsuitable for large-scale sanding jobs. Additionally, sheet sanders are inefficient in removing multiple layers of car paint and varnish at a single pass.

What is a Random Orbital Sander Used for?

Random Orbital sanders can remove large amounts of wood, metal, etc., making them ideal for automotive repair, woodworking, and metalworking. They are so powerful that you can eliminate many materials in a single pass.

These sanders are compatible with a wide range of sanding papers. You can accomplish sanding projects at a 90° angle. One thing to remember is if your project requirement is precision, avoid using an orbital sander. They are designed to handle the toughest sanding process.

However, reaching into tight corners and edges is quite difficult with an orbital sander. In addition, you can sand specific materials with them.

Buying Guide:

Sanders is a handheld tool. Before buying a sander, it is important to research based on your project needs.

Comfort and Feel:

The sander should be well-balanced and comfortable on the hand when working. It would be best to turn the sander on and check how much it vibrates and creates noise. By checking these 2 factors, you can understand a lot about the craftsmanship of your selected sander. Generally, all sanders vibrate, but the sander that vibrates a lot will wear and tear faster than usual.

Extra Feature:

Look for a sander with the extra feature but don’t surpass your budget. For instance, some premium-quality sanders come with variable speed control features to precisely complete a woodworking sanding project. A trigger lock is another additional feature to lock the power when working with a sander. It significantly helps in reducing hand fatigue.

Random Orbital Vs Sheet – Which Sander to Buy?

A serious or professional woodworker should have both tools in their arsenal. Both come with distinctive features and have their benefits and drawbacks.

Buy an orbital sander if:

  • You are a beginner
  • You have loads of small refinishing work, furniture remodeling tasks, and weekend woodworking projects

Buy a sheet sander if:

  • You need a power sander occasionally

Whatever sander you choose, the foremost factor is learning your sanding requirement first and then buying.

What type of Sander is best?

Answer: You will find so many sanders in the market. For this reason, picking the right one can be hard sometimes.

Orbital Sanders: One of the best sanders for finishing uneven, rough surfaces of metal, plastic, wood, etc. They are equipped with a powerful motor, making them eligible for removing many materials quite quickly.

Belt Sanders: A belt sander is the best option for quick-stock removal for their speed and power. If you need to sand a large flat surface, this sander will let you work easily and efficiently.

Random Orbital Sanders: Random orbital sanders are the best choice for stock removal and fine sanding. They come with the correct grit and more robust features, allowing them to perform well.

Multi-sanders: From the name itself, you can get an idea that multi-sanders can be used for many functions with the help of its removable sanding pads feature. This means you can enjoy several functionalities in a single device.

Oscillating Sanders: An oscillating sander is an excellent option for sanding tight and compact edges or corners. It is suitable for DIYers.

Sheet Sanders: Sheet sander is another good option that is ideal for sanding between the paint coats. This sanding tool is popular for its less vibration, fine sanding result.


Question: Is an orbital sander better than a sheet sander?

Answer: You can’t say an orbital sander is better than a sheet sander because both are built for specific purposes. Orbital sanders are powerful and remove a lot of material in a single pass. They are eligible enough for rough, uneven surfaces and suitable for wood, plastic, metal, etc. On the other hand, sheet sanders are well-known for precision. After using a sheet sander, you will get a fine finish suitable for only wood sanding tasks.

Question: What kind of sander do you use for cabinets?

Answer: An orbital sander is the best for cabinets. You can save a lot of time while sanding cabinets using an orbital sander. Moreover, you will be able to sand down cabinets more efficiently when you have an orbital sander in your hand. Providing an extreme level of smooth cabinet surface is the promise of an orbital sander.

Question: How does a sheet sander work?

Answer: A sheet sander sanding pad creates a circular motion by moving back and forth and delivering a smooth finish when operated correctly.

Question: How does an Orbital Sander work?

Answer: An orbital sander works by rotating a sanding disc elliptically. This sander disallowed its sanding disc to travel multiple times in the same section. Thus, it leaves a smooth and even finishes without swirl marks. More importantly, you will always get a smooth surface after sanding whatever the wood grain direction is.

Question: What is the best sander for removing paint?

Answer: Dual-action or da sanders are good for removing paint. They come with a variable speed feature, allowing you to control the speed for removing paint from the auto body.

Question: Belt sander vs. orbital sander?

Answer: Belt sanders are more powerful than orbital sanders. It can strip down a wood piece within the shortest possible time. While orbital sander is a type of finishing sander used to make a wood surface ultra-smooth.

Question: Can an orbital sander be used as a finishing sander?

Answer: Yes, an orbital sander can be used as a finishing sander. This powerful tool polishes a wood surface to nearly the same gleam as finishing sanders. They are good for small and detailed sanding jobs.

Summing Up:

Hopefully, you are now clear about the sheet sander vs orbital sander after reading their way of work pros and cons.

As we already stated, this 2 sander type performs quite similarly but is not designed to do the same task.

Remember, no tools are out there that can do everything you want. Keep the best sanding tools in your toolbox if you want to be a professional. You need to be fully ready to complete any sanding jobs.

Last Updated on April 14, 2022 by Rogers Weber

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