How to Use an Orbital Sander?

In the last segment I have covered the various type of sanders found in the market, and briefly elaborated the diverse application for which they are employed.

Thereby in this article, I will directly dive into the world of orbital sanders and try to paint for you a clear picture of what they are, their various usage, and how to skillfully maneuver this device to get the desired finishing of your dreams.

Orbital Sanders and Their Usage

Known also like the finishing sander, the orbital sander is amongst the most preferred finishing tool for projects involving metal, plastic, and woodworks undertaken by professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike.

Effortless to use with only one hand, this device, needless to say, is lightweight in design and goes relatively easy on the ears as they disperse minimal noise even when turned on to their full rotating speed.

Orbital sanders due to their “non-damaging” sanding characteristic(scraps little surface material at a time) not only leaves an ultra-smooth texture finish but also serves as a superb tool to work on assignments such as the likes of blunting sharp edges, removing old paint, taking off hardened putty /adhesives.

Check Out Our Top Rated Random Orbital Sanders

How Does It Work

An orbital sander being a compact device is adeptly convenient in moving to any direction and over any surface which is tough to reach, irregular or has an unusual design.

Because orbital Sanders use ¼th of a 9 by 4 inch sandpaper (standard size), they are often referred to as quarter sheet sander.

The sandpaper in the device is held in place against the square cut pad by spring instilled clamps, and on powering on the device the pad vibrates in little circle thereby initiating the sanding process.

How to Use the Device

Any device at the hand of professionals seems to work magic as opposed to a novice. If you are also someone who thinks in the same direction, then it is time to toss away the thought.

For, with just a little bit of well thought out preparation and knowledge, you can also turn yourself a professional in the field of sanding.

So, without any further ado, here is how to use an orbital sander in the most efficient way:

Step 1: Preparation

Here you need to prepare yourself in two steps. Step one is to see that the device is in full functioning capacity and has the appropriate sanding disks/plates securely attached to them or not.

Nowadays most sanders use easy “hook and loop” system to guide individuals into securing the sanding disk conveniently. But don’t let that stop yourself from double checking the disc adjustment before powering on the device to avoid unwanted mishaps.

The second step of the process is to equip yourself with safety apparatus such as dust masks and eye goggles to prevent yourself from inhaling/getting dust particles in the nose and eyes. Also, use gloves to securely grip the device and to protect your hands from scrapping during work.

Step 2: Powering on the Device

Once all the safety measures have been ticked off the list, connect the orbital sander’s cord to a power outlet (if not battery operated). With the device turned live, don’t rush off to start sanding, rather allow the device some time to spin in order to reach its highest vibrating speed before using it on your project to ensure maximum efficiency.

Step 3: Maneuvering the Sander’s Motion

Always move the sander from the left side to the right in strict alignment with materials grain pattern so as to achieve the smooth texture.

While sanding is also important to move the device continuously over the material. Though most sanders are designed to move according to their own structured settings, however frequently directing their motion manually will help you to get an ultra-smooth finishing.

Step 4: Balancing the Pressure Level

Maintaining constant pressure is perhaps the most important aspect of the sanding process. This is because while firmly gripping the sander if you apply to much pressure vertically by your hand, then there runs the risk of the sander to slow down which is moving horizontally across the surface.

This, in turn, will reduce the sanding effect exponentially thereby making your task more taxing. Again, putting too great a pressure on the sander is probably not the best idea because you will find it physically demanding to exercise the same force throughout the entire procedure.

A fluctuating pressure on the device will ultimately show its reflection on the work by leaving uneven surface texture. As this is not desirable, the best course is to find the right balance of grip that will help you to produce a constant pressure effectively.

Step 5: Debris Removal

Almost all sander models nowadays are equipped with some sort of dust collection outlet such as holes on the sanding that assembles and passes the shavings to bags or hose attached to the device etc.

It is important to remove debris from the work surface for two reasons:

  • It helps you keep tracking the work progress by not covering the surface
  • Residues can congest the hoops of the sanding disc which can give rise to irregular sanding texture

Step 6: Upholding the Surface Level

To guarantee a smooth even finish, it is preferable to keep at least two-thirds of the sanding plate in level with the surface you are working on. Maintaining the level is especially important when sanding the edges as it will prevent “over-doing” the rounding effect or chipping off too much material than required.

Balancing the pressure and level of a sander to a constant close eventually helps you to attain an even texture on the final project unblemished of scratch or abrasion marks.

Once done sanding the material to your desired effect, don’t immediately remove the sander from the surface but rather let the device to conclude it spinning on turning the power off before placing it elsewhere.


Now that you know how to properly use an orbital sander, don’t delay anymore to take the full advantage of this most efficient device.

For I bet following the guidelines here diligently, you will end up with creating a professional quality product worth the DIY community brag.