Q: What is the difference between a random-orbit sander and a finishing sander? When would you choose one over the other? Rick Reavely, Madison, CT A: Random-orbit sanders have largely replaced finishing sanders, also known as orbital sanders, for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that finishing sanders move in a fixed orbit, so the risk of swirl marks is much higher than with a random-orbit sander. They also work more slowly. Plus, it’s easier to attach and remove 5- or 6-in. hook-and-loop disks than it is to attach the 1⁄4 sheets of sandpaper into the finicky clips commonly found on most sheet sanders. The lone benefit to having a 1⁄4-sheet orbital sander is that it can get into corners that a random-orbit sander cannot. But in general, a random-orbit sander works better and is far more versatile. Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Random swirls are better. Finishing sanders (right) move in a fixed orbit, which can leave visible swirls on a workpiece. A random-orbit sander (left) eliminates that risk, just one reason it’s a better choice.
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