Sander question...

I've got some wooden end tables and a coffee table that I need to sand and refinish. Would a finishing sander be better than an orbital sander? At Harbor Freight they are about the same price and while I think I would like the orbital better, I'm not sure which would be better. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks....
Rob
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I assume by orbital sander you mean *random* orbital sander. A finish sander is (generally) an orbital sander, meaning the sandpaper moves in little circles.
IMHO, if you're only going to have one power sander, go for the random orbital sander. It'll be a whole lot quicker sanding than a non-random orbital sander, and leaves a finish pretty much equivalent (although some will disagree with that). They're useful in a very wide range of situations--rough sanding/shaping, finish sanding, even smoothing out Bondo on a car. They aren't so great for reaching into corners and around spindles, though.
For a really good job, you probably should think about hand scraping/sanding for the final pass regardless. I usually don't bother; but my furniture runs more towards "door blank on two file cabinets" than "secretary with leaded glass doors and carved ornaments."
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Don'f forget about Random Orbit also. Orbital will be aggressive and leave swirl marks. A Random orbit sander will be less aggressive but will leave a finer finish. A finishing sander will be the slowest but potentially will leave the best finish.
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Ohhhh, I have a random orbital sander that can be very aggressive....you know the brand..<EG> A sheet of 180 Mirka Abranet and I can take stuff off anything very quickly. Yet, a flick of the selector and it's a pussy-cat which can shine a turd.... in fact, I seldom use a finishing sander..only if I *have* to get into a corner. Too bad Ridgid totally farked the 2610 by turning it into a 2611. Talk about greed making all the wrong decisions. (It is oh-so tempting to get into a rant about this... I have been endorsing this 2610 for a long time..so what do they do? They farm out the thing to a Chinese schlock-house, take away some of the features, and turn it into a complete piece of crap. There is NO way they could sustain the German manufacturer's pricing (Metabo no less), the sunsabitches musta known that when they started. That is 'bait-and-switch', in my eyes. Like I said....don't get me started..
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Robatoy wrote:

You have to spit shine a turd...
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leave
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Even a random orbit sander will produce swirl marks if you look closely. All those sanders will be removing stock across the grain (sideways) at some point during their orbits, so it's not the best finish. Believe it or not, the smoothest, least noticeable scratchless finish is provided by sanding with grain with a belt sander using a 320 grit belt. It will do a faster and smoother job than any other non-belt driven machine using a 320 grit sheet or pad. Most sanding belt suppliers limited themselves to 240 grit belts as their upper end, but there are a few suppliers selling 320 grit belts.
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