I'm not a real woodworker, but every once in a while I build a shelf
unit or some other "box with face frame" level of project. Up until
last week I used a palm sander that I've had for maybe 15 years. It
was nothing special, but seemed adequate for my low level use.
I see a lot of these random orbit units, mostly 5". They seem to all
use hook and loop paper. I have questions.
Is the 5" size too small? It's no smaller than my palm sander was, but
if I'm buying something new anyway...
Is hook & loop the only option, or are there decent sanders that use
regular paper? Which do you prefer?
Are there any particular models you recommend? I'm hoping to get
something for under $100.
Thanks in advance.
Palm and orbital are really different animals. The orbital will take
off more material but with a light hand it can do generally the same
job as a palm and is therefore more versatile.
Hook and loop is the way to go. The pad portion on th sander can be
replaced after it wears out. Your other option is the stickem variety
and not good. No one has invented a way to use regular paper on a
round orbital yet that I have seen.
All things being equal, go for the most amps you can get for the
You must be a young whippersnapper... All round (random) orbitals
used regular paper discs held on with a non-setting adhesive that came
in a tube shaped much like a smallish toothpaste tube. Strangely enough
it was known as sanding disc adhesive, and available at any place that
sold the discs, sanders (air powered) or pads. You spread the
adhesive on the pad, waited for it to dry to medium tack and pressed on
the paper. The adhesive would last through several paper changes
mostly depending on how long between changes. Working as a bodyman and
painter in an automotive body shop, I probably went through a few
thousand discs before I left the industry. During normal days, you
might make it a couple of days before having to clean off the adhesive
and reapply it, but it was certain to change on Monday morning. The
pads were a sort of canvas like material before the advent of PSA type
discs. Still have one around here somewhere... Back in the day, the
popular brand was Devilbiss (like for spray guns) and then Rodac took
over for a while. [sigh] So much for the trip down memory lane.
If you really want to experience it like we "usta do", get some spray
contact cement like 3M 77, spray a standard PSA pad with some, spread it
out with your finger and wait for it to tack up, then press on the
paper. Trim around the edge to make it round if you don't have any disc
shaped (non PSA, non H&Loop) around and you're off to the races, so to
speak. How to get it off? Well, if you do it soon enough, it will pull
off just like PSA. If not, you just whip out the torch, fire it up and
briefly heat the surface of the paper (it will typically turn brown, or
black if you over do it. Fairly quickly, while the adhesive is still
warm, pull off the old paper and apply new. You can keep this on for
quite a while before you need to replace the adhesive...
Oh, you ask, does it work with PSA also? Yep, you betcha. Got some old
PSA paper that just doesn't want to stay on? A quick spray, spread and
wait cycle and the paper will stick until you want it off!
However, to answer the original poster's question, which sander to buy
is dependent on how long you want it to last. Which pad is how much
time you want to invest in changing discs. With H&L, you can whip
through the grits pretty fast, and re-use them without major problems.
With PSA, you either need a separate pad (and/or sander) for each grit
you use, or you need some place to stick the discs to when you change
grits. Not all that convenient, and the pressure sensitive glue on the
back of the discs gets contaminated with sawdust and the like, so they
don't work for more than a change or two.
Personally, I use H&L with a 5" pad for 60 through 150 grits, and have
dedicated units with PSA pads for 180, 220, 320 and 400 grit. As I'm
doing turning, I don't need random action heads and just use Milwaukee
angle drills as the units, and built up sponge padded heads with
naugahide surfaces for the PSA pads. Works quite well.
For flat surfaces, an ancient random orbit air sander with (now) 5" pad,
down from the 6" I used in the bodyshop days, and all is well.
5" will get a lot of work done.
If you are an ocassional user as you suggest, it will certainly be
Your choices are H&L and PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive).
H&L paper is slightly more expensive by a small amount.
Personally, I prefer H&L since trying to keep a PSA surface clean is
more of a PITA than I am willing to accept.
Agreed on all of Lew's points. The stick 'em discs suck. If you forget
once to take it off, you'll spend more time cleaning the pad than sanding
your next project. Going with an outfit like:
It is possible to stock your sandpaper needs for years to come pretty darned
About 15 years ago I bought a Sears Industrial 4.5" model and quickly
converted it to H&L. About a year ago, I replaced the pad. It runs every
bit as it should and does a great job. I think all of theirs are H&L and 5"
On Mon, 30 Mar 2009 18:01:35 -0600, email@example.com (Gene Tracy)
...I'd say Milwaukee simply on the basis of every other product of
theirs that I own...goooood stuff. That said my 5" ROS broke down the
other day (it's a Porter Cable and has been worked to death...RIP, it
did a good job!) and I ended up combining a couple of trips and stood
in front of the Home Depot display. I walked out with the Rigid (for
69 bux)...curiosity drove the purchase (I know Rigid makes a pretty
decent product, so was reasonably sure the sander wouldn't be *bad*),
got it home, hooked it up and was pleasently surprised...at least I
know it's a step or two above my dead PC. I like the ergonomics and
the speed adjustment was a nice, new (to me!) touch. Takes 8 hole
paper but I've been using universals for awhile so that was no prob...
The Home Depot Ridgid line is spotty at best. For instance, their 6"
ROS, the 2610, was made by Metabo in Germany and is an excellent
sander. It was superseded (improved????) by the 6" 2611, which by all
accounts sucks canal water. They look very similar, but it is another
typical example of some MBA in some engineering dept came up with a
'better' way to make an extra few dollars per sander by sending the
job off-shore. Conversely, Sears Craftsman had a router built by Bosch
which is a good router, not cheap, but a good piece of equipment.
You just have to learn to flip over rocks and see what crawls out from
Hear hear on the Milwaukee products. Porter Cable is a mere shadow of
its former self, mostly inferior stuff these days.
DeWalt is also highly overrated in my opinion. Both those brands meant
something 20 years ago, now they're marketing companies.
The spot those guys filled back then are now handled by the Festool,
Fein, and Milwaukee brands, with a few others. True professional
grades. I absolutely love Milwaukee routers... especially the big
I wonder how much money I have spent figuring some of that out. The
other day, I was at my old shop, and looked at the 25-year old Porter
Cable production router. All cast, big heavy brute. Then they were
replaced with the 'new 4.2" motors, and they weren't so great anymore.
Then they dropped another couple of plasticized notches. Now they're
good for 6-months to a year. Not 3-5 years. (Keep in mind these run
Isn't Milwaukee primarily build overseas now? That's what I was told and it
played a large part in my buying a number DeWalt cordless tools. My previous
cordless drill (a 12v model bought about 15 years ago) *was* a Milwaukee and
was a decent tool.
I'd recommend the 5" for casual/occasional use.
I'm partial to the PC although I don't like the new revisions as well as
those of roughly 10 years ago. But, if you only use it occasionally for
relatively short periods at a time you'll probably not ever observe the
primary problem of the pad "brake" -- it's just an o-ring around a fixed
stud. W/ continuous use the friction heats the sucker to the point of
discomfort and fries bearings early. I remove it first thing on a new one.
As opposed to the other two earlier posts, I prefer the PSA for the bulk
of the work although if one changes grits frequently H&L has some
advantage. Again, for light/infrequent use, the cost of abrasive is
probably of no concern but H&L is roughly 50% more than PSA and w/ heavy
use it adds up.
I keep about three and have both H&L and PSA pads for at least two of
them so can simply switch at a whim depending on what am doing at the time.
Overall, they're basically throwaway items -- if at all possible go to a
place and handle them; comfort and feel and convenience of on/off switch
is a biggie. I personally haven't found any other that is nearly as
comfortable ergonomically as the PC and its knockoffs. Many of the
others are taller, have sharper corners, lousy switch designs or other
If you pay a 50% premium for H&L, somebody saw you coming.
I use 6" on a Bosch 3727 and last time I bought paper, 60 grit and
finer was less than $25/100 (std box) for H&L.
Maybe you need to find a new source.
Klingspor, typically. Been a while since needed to reorder I
checked--seems closer than I recalled at the moment; about 25-30%
differential. Not huge unless use a lot as we were when prepping the
I've never found a catalog number for H&L for more than 50/box at
Klingspor (nor for Mirka from Woodworkers Supply or others as well) --
that's part of the problem making the price differential ime.
It does seem that the differential isn't as great as was from a number
of years ago when were going thru so much, though...hard to believe that
was 5 years ago now--where _does_ the time go??? :)
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