Tool Comparison Test 07-2004
5-Inch Random Orbit Palm Sanders

We chose to test random orbit palm sanders for several reasons. They are versatile tools -- great at performing most finish sanding, and some rough sanding applications. The random, eliptical orbit of the pad prevents gouging, maximizes user control, and allows the sander to be moved across the work surface in any direction -- even against wood grain.

We took into consideration these factors:
* Whether or not the sander operated at variable speed,
* Dust-collection efficiency,
* Relative noise level of the tool during operation,
* Level of control during sanding
* The compatibility of the sander's dust port to a vacuum connection,
* Comfort of grip,

* Method of disk attachment and replacement,
* The orbit diameter of the sanding disk,
* The weight of the tool when fully loaded with accessories,
* Any storage case and/or accessories included,
* Power cord length,
* Durability in construction,
* Warranties and guarantees provided with purchase, and
* Retail price.

Several factors were consistent between all of the tools we tested: Every sander utilizes 8-hole, through-pad dust extraction, and comes with its own dust collection mechanism. As well as this, each sander we tested is designed for easy, one-handed use.

* It is important to keep in mind that the dust bag included with any sander does not filter all dust -- particularly the very small particles that, if inhaled over extended periods of time, may cause dangerous health problems. Instead, it is recommended to utilize the vacuum hookup whenever possible. When a vacuum hookup is not available, it is recommended that the operator wear a micro-filtration respirator mask when using the tool's dust collection bag.

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We choose the RIDGID R2600 to be the overall best random-orbit palm sander we reviewed. It is extremely comfortable to hold, provides excellent, smooth handling, and is very easy to power on and off during use. And its large-mouthed dust bag and dual-size dust port gives this tool the dust-extraction edge over all the others.

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