The finishing touches on a woodworking project can transform decent work into stunning craftsmanship. Using just the right sanding and finishing technique can make all the difference. For this reason, some DIYers spend hours slowly sanding down wood projects by hand to achieve the perfect finish—a method that is time-consuming and tiring.
Investing in the right palm sander for your woodworking needs can help save both your arm and your time. Just attach a regular sheet of sandpaper to the bottom of a palm sander and the foot of the sander will vibrate rapidly in tiny orbits to efficiently sand down wood to a consistent finish, doing most of the work for you. These versatile tools can take the guesswork out of hand-applied pressure and can help you finish projects faster.
Purchasing a high-quality palm sander is key to getting the woodworking results you want to achieve. We’ve researched the best palm sanders on the market and come up with the following list of the top-rated models in their individual categories.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT Palm Sander, ¼ Sheet
- BEST CORDED: Bosch GSS20-40 Finishing Sander
- BEST CORDLESS: DEWALT 20V Max XR Cordless Sander
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: SKIL ¼-Inch Palm Sander
- BEST VALUE: BLACK+DECKER Electric Sander
Types of Sanders
Two types of sanders tend to get confused: the palm sander and the random-orbit sander. While both are useful tools, choosing the wrong type of sander for your woodworking project can lead to problems and prevent you from getting the results you want.
- The palm sander is also known as a finish sander. This power sander uses ordinary sheets of sandpaper, and you can operate it with one hand. The bottom of the sander moves in small orbits to gently sand away the top coat of rough wood. These sanders are great for finishing work but shouldn’t be used on projects that require a large amount of wood to be sanded away, such as when stripping furniture.
- A random-orbit sander can look similar to a palm sander and can also be used with just one hand. The main difference in appearance is that the bottom of the sander is circular, not square or rectangular like a palm sander. A random-orbit sander takes a sanding pad that is five inches in diameter. It spins in much the same way as a palm sander, but the shaft also oscillates off-center so that it produces a random scratch pattern. The best random orbital sanders are great for stripping wood or removing material, but they are too aggressive to provide the clean finish of a palm sander.
Key Shopping Considerations
Corded vs. Battery-Powered
Most power tools now come with these two options for their models: corded and battery-powered. Depending on your space, a corded sander can be effective and efficient, never running out of power or slowing to lower orbits per minute (OPM) than you need. For projects in the basement workshop, garage, or shed, corded sanders tend to be the best option. Simply pair them with an extension cord and they can be used in any workshop space that has electricity.
Battery-powered sanders tend to shine when a workshop doesn’t have electricity or when the project is outdoors and away from accessible outlets. These sanders can have issues with maintaining a set OPM level if their battery gets low on power. To avoid this, keep the batteries fully charged and switch them at regular intervals before the power gets too low. Battery-powered sanders also win out in terms of maneuverability—no need to sidestep cords to avoid tripping over them while you’re working.
Orbits Per Minute
The base of a palm sander moves in tiny orbits at various speeds. The slower the speed of the orbit, the cooler the sander and sandpaper will remain, but the sander will also be slower and less aggressive at removing material. Faster OPM will finish the project quicker but can also result in high temperatures that can damage heat-sensitive materials. The best option for optimal control for any project is a palm sander with a variable speed setting. This will allow you to use the sander in fine applications that require a slow OPM or in more broad applications that would benefit from a faster OPM.
Newer models of the palm sander are beginning to use pressure detection features to help avid DIYers achieve the pristine finish they’re looking for. These pressure detection systems work by displaying a gauge on the side of the sander that indicates the amount of pressure you are applying. If the pressure becomes too great, the sander will notify you with a sensor light or a vibration so that you know to ease up the amount of pressure you’re applying.
Sanding is a messy job. Fortunately, manufacturers of power sanders have begun incorporating built-in dust collectors to make cleanup easier. These dust collectors clear the area so that the fine finishing touches of a project can be added without the sander continually skipping over areas of wood that have been covered by dust.
Even more important than the final finish of your project is your own health. Unless you are wearing a dust mask while you work, you are inhaling any dust and wood fibers that are being kicked up into the air. A built-in dust collector can help to quickly remove harmful particulates from a project before they can become airborne.
Many sanders come with additional features that can make the job easier. Sanding can be a lengthy job, and working with a bulky sander can be tiring even after just a few minutes, so one of the best features to look for in a palm sander is optimal ergonomic design.
Other manufacturers focus on the professional applications of palm sanders and design their tools with added protection against impact. This prevents the tool from taking a single knock and breaking. For those who frequently drop their tools or regularly toss them into the back of a work truck, this is a handy feature.
Our Top Picks
The products below have been evaluated based on price, popularity, features, and functionality. Here are our top picks in each category.
1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT Palm Sander
Featuring a powerful 2.3 AMP motor that sands at up to 14,000 OPM, the DEWALT Palm Sander is a powerful ally to have in the workshop. The built-in dust-port system allows the dust-port of the sander to be hooked directly to a vacuum hose, reducing the mess of your sanding project. The corded 120V system also features a separate counterweight that reduces overall vibration.
2. BEST CORDED: Bosch GSS20-40 Finishing Sander
Bosch has long been regarded as an industry leader and the Bosch GSS20-40 Finishing Sander is yet another example of why. The high-speed, corded sander operates at up to 12,000 OPM, relying on a precision-machined aluminum sanding plate to provide an even finish and long-lasting durability. A specialized grip reduces vibration and helps to stabilize user control, while the dust collection system pulls dust into a microfilter dust canister for easy disposal.
3. BEST CORDLESS: DEWALT 20V Max XR Cordless Sander
The variable speed control of the DEWALT 20V Max XR Cordless Sander allows the sander to be set as low as 8,000 OPM for a fine finish or as high as 14,000 OPM when you need the extra power. The cordless sander features a brushless motor that increases the life of the tool by decreasing the friction within the motor. The mobile design allows you to work in the yard, the workshop, or anywhere around the house without having to worry about dragging around an extension cord. The handy dust collector helps to keep your project clear of debris.
4. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: SKIL ¼-Inch Palm Sander
A micro-filtration system captures dust particles as you work, keeping the surface of your project clean. With up to 14,000 OPM, the SKIL ¼-Inch Palm Sander is powerful enough for tough projects, while the pressure control system helps even the most inexperienced DIYer apply the correct amount of pressure for the job. The corded design and padded grip allow for long periods of comfortable working time without worrying about running out of power.
5. BEST VALUE: BLACK+DECKER Electric Sander
The high-performance dust collector will help to keep your work area clean while the powerful 2.0 AMP motor efficiently removes layers of material. The BLACK+DECKER Electric Sander features a corded design and a cushioned grip for long periods of use. The compact size and design of this sander even allows you to easily get into tight spaces, such as bookcase shelves, allowing you to complete projects you may have not thought possible.