How to Use a Random Orbital Sander

How to Use a Random Orbital Sander: 5 easy Steps

The random orbital sander is one of the most popular pieces of equipment found in many DIYer workshops. Many DIY projects can be carried out with much less effort using it. This power tool is typically used for completing woodworking projects, although it may also be used to peel paint and stain.

Knowing how to use a random orbital sander is important to get smooth, scratch-free finishes on your creative DIY projects whether you're dealing with plastic, metal, or wood.

What Is an Orbital Sander?

An orbital sander is a special kind of power sander that is meant to sand without leaving markings, scratches, or abrasions on the surface being sanded. The power sander is so named because of the orbital form of the discs.

Orbital sanders are available in different styles, and they use a variety of power sources, including battery, direct current and air-powered models.

The way the sanding disc spins is the one thing they all have in common. The disc spins on a ball bearing and always revolves in an orbital motion. The disc spins on its axis while also "jittering" from side to side, producing an elliptical and random motion. The disc "jitters" side to side as it spins on its axis, providing an elliptical and unpredictable motion.

Parts of a Random Orbital Sander

To get a deeper knowledge of how to use a random orbital sander, you must first know what the different parts are named and what each one does -

  • Power switch: Toggle this switch to turn on or off the sander. Simply ensure that the sander is connected to the power source or that the battery is charged.
  • Palm grip: The palm grip is the top part of the sander. It may be used to regulate the movement of the sander over the material by holding it in your palm.
  • Body: The motor is located in the body of a random orbital sander. It's also known as the barrel grip.
  • Lip seal: A lip seal is a rubber seal that connects the sander's body to the sanding pad. The device's internal motor is protected from sawdust by this lip seal.
  • Sanding pad: The sanding pad is found at the sander's base.
  • Power cable: To power the sander, plug this wire into an electrical socket.
  • Battery: When a sander is battery-powered, it comes with a rechargeable battery that can be withdrawn and refilled when the tool runs out of power.
  • Dust Bag: Some random orbital sanders come with a built-in dust bag that catches sawdust, metal shavings, and other wastes.

How Does an Orbital Sander Work?

It is not hard to understand how the orbital sanders work. A small motor is connected to a ball-bearing system as the principal component. A spinning pad is then connected to this mechanism. Many modern sanders include a hook and loop mechanism that allows you to effortlessly attach a sanding disk to the pad.

The way the sanding pad revolves on the ball-bearing is a critical component that makes an orbital sander so effective at what it does. This is when the tool's "random" nature comes in useful. To prevent sanding the same spot repeatedly, the pad will rotate in an elliptical and random pattern.

This keeps sharp abrasions or grooves from cutting into the surface you're sanding, which is why it's so popular for sanding uneven surfaces.

How to Use a Random Orbital Sander: Steps to Follow While Using

The steps below will walk you through the process of using a random orbital sander. Don't panic if this is your first-time sanding. The procedure is really straightforward. You'll be sanding like an expert in no time, and you'll be able to apply your knowledge to a range of carpentry jobs! Let's get started!

Step 1: Attach the Sanding Disc

Instead of sandpaper, random orbital sanders use a sanding disc. If the sanding disc has a peel-and-stick backing, it will stick to the sanding pad; or, it will have a hook-and-loop backing that will connect to the sanding pad.

It is important to make sure that you use the right grit sanding disc for the project. Remember that some specific sanding works may necessitate the use of a coarse, medium, or fine sanding disc to get the appropriate results.

You can follow the chart below for an easy understanding -

Sanding Disc Grit



20-36 grit


Stripping stain, paint

40-60 grit


Light stripping or coarse finishing

150-180 grit


Finishing woodworking and metalworking

Step 2: Secure Materials

Using clamps, secure your material to a work surface before sanding or stripping. This keeps your workpiece from moving and producing potentially harmful kickback.

Connect a ventilation system to your sander after your material is secure. This will catch the sawdust that collects while you work. If the sander has a vacuum port, it's always a good idea to connect a vacuum to the sander.

Step 3: Turn on the Random Orbital Sander and Start Sanding

It's time to turn the random orbital sander on as everything is in position and the sander is connected in or powered by a fully charged battery. To avoid possible damage to the workpiece, it's a good idea to practice sanding on a test piece.

If you're not careful enough, the rotating power of the sander will quickly eat away layers of wood. So, as you're sanding, keep the sander moving across the material while applying even pressure.

Step 4: Move the Sander across the Surface of the Workpiece

To get the desired results, move the sander across the material and keep it moving continually while paying attention to the material's surface. Move the sander back and forth when you are working with flat surfaces and make sure to follow the grain lines on wooden workpieces.

When you're done sanding, you can use a warm moist cloth to open up the grain of the wood, which will help to better receive any stain. This method is called ‘grain popping’.

Step 5: Clean Up after Removing the Sander

Remove the sander from the material and clean away any excess sawdust using a vacuum after the project appears to be done. Double-check the material to make sure you're happy with the outcome, then clean and store the sander.

Make sure a corded sander is unplugged. If it is a cordless sander, charge the battery.

Safety Precautions

When using a power tool, it's so very important to follow basic safety procedures to ensure that your project is completed without any unwanted incident. It's no different when using a random orbital sander.

To avoid breathing flying sawdust, metal shavings, or plastic shavings, use a protective mask while working. Wearing hand gloves and safety glasses are also recommended.

While using the random orbital sander, make sure to tie back long hair, remove jewelry, and dress appropriately.

Final Words

Even for the hand-tool-only woodworker, a random orbital sander is a necessary tool, and with a little care, it will provide amazing results when it comes to doing some carpentry works yourself or getting involved in a DIY project.

The functioning and usage of a random orbital sander are explained in this article. Also, it is important for you to follow the safety precautions mentioned in this article to avoid any incident.

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