Best orbital sander for wood in UK | Professional review

18 Mar

Best orbital sander for wood in UK | Professional review

Below, we have some of the best orbital sanders available in the UK right now. Whether you are a professional window restorer, painter and decorator or a hobbyist that wants the very best, these sanders have you covered.

We also have a guide to orbital sanders and every type of sander available. You see, while orbital sanders are great, and you’ll love using them for a host of tasks, one sander cannot fulfil all of your sanding needs.

So, here’s a complete guide to sanders and some of our favourite sanders to use.

Different types of sanders

Belt sander

Belt sander

These are excellent sanders for heavy stock removal and can even be used for flattening wood in a pinch. These are highly aggressive sanders, so even with care, they can’t really be used for finishing tasks, unless you are applying a lot of paint over the surface. 

Random orbital sander

Random orbital sander

The general-purpose, all-round sander that helps in every DIY project when you need to sand something. Most pros and hobbyists reach for their random orbital sander more than any other, and you likely will too.

They can be used for finishing work and removing varnish and paint, so they are a brilliant sander to have around. 

Disc sander

Disc sander

Disc sanders are extremely aggressive. They remove lots of material very quickly. Disc sanders are much like belt sanders.

They remove tonnes of material and can be really handy for stripping paint and varnish, but don’t leave the best finish. 

Finishing sander

festool Finishing sander festool
Festool finishing sander

Finishing sanders come in a few forms. Some random orbital sanders are considered finish sanders because they have a very small scratch pattern. General use random orbital sanders have a 5mm scratch pattern.

Finishing random orbital sanders have a 3mm scratch pattern which is almost invisible. There are also sheet sanders that are great for finishing.

You use this sander in the direction of the wood grain so that the tiny scratches left behind blend in and are impossible to see.

Our Pick
Festool orbital sander

Festool orbital sander

Most pros and hobbyists reach for their random orbital sander more than any other, and you likely will too.

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What is an orbital sander? 

An orbital sander spins in a circular motion, allowing you to remove lots of material in a single pass. It is a very aggressive motion and is designed for that purpose. Orbital sanders are excellent for removing heavy build-ups of varnish or paint but leave heavy scratches that must be addressed either by hand or with another sander.

If you’re looking for a sander that can do everything, an orbital sander probably isn’t the best way to go. The scratches that an orbital sander leaves are very noticeable, so they are used for initial surface preparation when you need to remove a lot of material.

What is a random orbital sander?

A random orbital sander also moves in a circular motion but moves in a tight orbital pattern as well. These two movements mean that the scratch pattern from an orbital sander is, well, random. It runs in different directions, overlaps and intersects, and makes the sanding pattern very difficult to spot. 

So, random orbital sanders are good for finishing work but also work great for some varnish or paint removal tasks as well. If the paint or varnish isn’t too thick, a random orbital sander can be used to quickly remove it. You can then use the same sander and run through the grits to remove any scratches and make your project smooth and ready for finish. 

Most woodworkers and DIYers and professionals get a random orbital sander first because of how useful they are. You will use one of these sanders on nearly everything you make, so they are really handy to have around. 

How to use an orbital sander?

 The ideal way to use an orbital sander is carefully! These sanders remove a lot of material very quickly, so when using them to strip paint or varnish, you need to keep the sander moving and keep an eye on what you’re doing. They remove material so fast that you can get down to bare wood or plaster extremely quickly, and any sanding you do on this will create an uneven surface. Using an orbital sander takes practice. If you aren’t confident in your sanding skills, then start with a smoother grit, like a 120 grit, for example. This will ensure you don’t remove too much material and that you are in more control. Once you get a feel for the sander, you can step up to rougher grits which will take a fraction of the time to remove material.

When to use a wood sander

There are many sanding tasks in woodworking and painting and decorating that can be done by hand, but there comes time to pull the sander out and get to work. Here are a few examples of when to get the sander out and save some time. 

sanding wood with sander

Sanding skirting boards before painting

Sanding skirting boards before painting

If you’re going to sand skirting boards before you paint, a sander can make this process so much quicker.

A sheet sander will work amazingly here if there isn’t much material to remove.

If there is, though, a random orbital sander with a rough grit will be the way to go. 

Sanding old wooden windows

Sanding old wooden windows

Old wooden windows can have hundreds of years of paint on them, so using a sander to remove this paint is an absolute must! It would take forever to remove this paint by hand, and chemicals may damage the precious wood underneath.

We also lean to our favourite random orbital sander for this task. However, if there is an extremely heavy build-up of paint on the windows, a belt sander may be considered here.

Cabinetry or furniture making

Cabinetry or furniture

For fine furniture making and cabinetry, a sander is one of the most used tools. With a sander, you can tidy up joints, remove excess glue and prepare surfaces for the finish.

Most furniture makers will lean towards a random orbital sander for most of their sanding needs, but many will use a finish sander to prepare their beautiful pieces for varnish or paint. 

Best random orbital sander UK 

Best random orbital sander UK

 Festool RO 150 FEQ-Plus ROTEX 720W 150mm Eccentric Sander 

Festool RO 150 FEQ-Plus ROTEX 720W 150mm Eccentric Sander
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The Festool Rotex sander is probably the most coveted in the world. Any woodworker of any level wants to own this sander because it is fantastic. I was very lucky to use this sander when I worked for a fine furniture maker five years ago. And I have to say, the 150mm Rotex lives up to the hype.

We used this sander after tables went through a huge belt sander, and we could sand these tables in minutes thanks to this. The random orbital setting on this sanding is just a joy to use. It doesn’t vibrate too much and leaves a very nice finish. The orbital setting on this is fantastic when removing large amounts of material or varnish. I used the orbital setting plenty of times, and it makes removing paint, varnish and pretty much anything else amazingly fast.

festool sander features

The only downside to this sander is the price, it is expensive, but it is one of the best sanders in the world. The dual action (the random orbital and the orbital settings) makes it extremely versatile. So, if you think of this as two sanders in one, suddenly, it isn’t as expensive. I loved using this sander, and now each time I use my cheap Dewalt sander, I do get a bit sad.

Makita BO6050J/2 240V 150mm Random Orbit Sander

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If you really can’t justify the price of the Festool Rotex, then this Makita could be right up your street. It has the same dual-action settings, a random orbital and orbital model, but is a lot cheaper. If you have used Makita tools before, you’ll know that they are very comfortable to use all day long. They have a fantastic build quality that parallels Festool in many ways.

This Makita sander’s Roto-orbit mode ploughs through material like it’s going out of fashion. The random orbital mode provides a sensitive and controllable sanding motion that is good enough for the finish on most projects.

The Makita is extremely comparable to the Festool. If you aren’t a professional, this is an ideal sander. It is comfortable and a joy to use. No matter what sanding tasks you need to do, this sander will do most of them, and you’ll love using it.

Best sander type for wood?

The best sander to use for wood greatly depends on what you are trying to achieve. For example, to remove an old finish from wood, a belt sander or orbital sander is great. However, for finer finishing work, a random orbital or sheet sander is ideal.

Using a sheet sander after a random orbital isn’t strictly needed, especially if you are going to paint the surface you are sanding. However, if you intend to stain the piece after you have sanded it, the random orbital sanding pattern can really shine through the stain. So, sanding by hand or buying a very inexpensive sheet sander will help remove these scratches and make your project look wonderful.

The best sander for wood really does depend on the projects you are working on. However, the random orbital sander is a very good general use, all-purpose sander that will get you through many DIY projects all by itself. So, it’s certainly a good sander to start with.

Sandpaper and other abrasives

Sandpaper comes in many grits.

Abrasive grit: 40, 60, 80, 120, 240, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1,200 and more. 

If you’re new to woodworking, 60, 80, 120 and 240 grit are all you really need. You can get a lot done with these grits. 

Composition: Not all sandpaper is made equal. The cheapest sandpaper available is usually made from aluminium oxide. This gets the job done okay, but better sandpaper is available. You can buy mesh sandpaper that doesn’t clog as much as the cheap stuff and lasts much longer. You can also buy Festool sandpaper that is still made from aluminium oxide. Still, it is hardened and has a ceramic coating. This is much tougher than the cheap stuff and well worth investing in if you do a lot of sanding. 

Size: both of the sanders featured above have a 150mm base. Other models of random orbital sanders have 125mm bases. For belt sanders and sheet sanders, these vary greatly. Thankfully, most manufacturers state which belts, sheets, and sanding discs are suitable for their sanders on a label on the machine itself. 

Wood Sander Features

Handgrips: The way you hold a sander is actually extremely important. You need to have a tight grip on a sander, but you also need to be comfortable. The sanders above both have an angle grinder-type handle that attaches to the side of the machine, which is excellent for longer sanding sessions.

Dust Collection: Sanders produce a lot of dust, so dust collection is vital for these machines.

If you do lots of sanding, consider investing in a vacuum designed for dust collection.

Festool does superb vacuums for this very purpose, but other brands make them too. 

Speed: Many sanders have variable speeds controls that can be set for different sanding tasks. The higher the number, the more sanding power the sander will have. 

sander Speed control function

Trigger Locks: Most random orbital and sheet sanders have on and off buttons. However, belt sanders and orbital sanders also have trigger locks that keep the sander running without you needing to depress the button.

This saves your finger from the constant pressure needed to run the sander, a huge benefit during long wooden window sanding sessions. 

Trigger Locks in sanders

Frequently asked questions about sanders

What is the best type of sander?

This greatly depends on the type of sanding you are doing. However, random orbital sanders are a great place for a DIYer or hobbyist woodworker to start. They can remove paint, stains and varnish and be used for finish sanding. So, they are a good general-purpose sander for most tasks.

What is a belt sander used for?

A belt sander is used for heavy stock removal. You can also use these sanders to flatten wood in a pinch. They are very aggressive sanders, so they can remove varnish and paint quickly and keep things nice and flat. 

 How to sand skirting boards with an electric sander? 

To remove paint from skirting, a rough grit should be used. Something like a 60 or 80 grit is good here. Make sure you put a dust sheet down before you start, and be careful that you don’t hit the floor with the sander as you could damage your carpet or wooden flooring. Take it slowly and ensure you have a smooth surface before you begin painting your skirting. Before you paint, vacuum any sanding dust left on the skirting board to ensure a good result. 

How to put sandpaper on a sander?

When you are attaching sandpaper to a sander, you need to line up the holes on the sandpaper to the holes on the base of the sander. This ensures that any dust collection will work. The dust is sucked through those holes and into a bag or a vacuum attached to the sander. Most orbital sanders use a hook and loop system to secure the sandpaper, so a gentle press on the paper will secure it nicely.

Can you remove the paint by sanding it?

Yes, you can. A belt sander or orbital sander is the best sanders to use. But a random orbital or sheet sander can be used if that’s all you have. In fact, you can even remove paint with hand sanding, but this will take a very long time.

The difference between an orbital sander and a sheet sander?

An orbital sander moves in a circular motion, while a sheet sander moves back and forward in a vibrating motion. An orbital sander can remove more material because of the wide range of motion. Whereas a sheet sander can’t move as much material but doesn’t leave as many scratches on the surface, so they are great finishing. Sheet sanders mimick a handing technique for finer results. Orbital sanders plough through the material to get the job done quickly. 


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