Orbital sander? Rotary sander? Facts and figures!

Orbital and rotary sanders

Sanding is important to achieve attractive surfaces. In the Einhell blog, we show you the difference between an orbital sander and a rotary sander.

Two different sanders to the fore: the orbital sander and the rotary sander. But which machine is better, what are the differences and the advantages and disadvantages?

The functional principle of the orbital sander

A rectangular abrasive plate is coated with an abrasive material and makes circular movements. It is powered by a flywheel. The abrasive material is attached with hook and loop or with collets.

The functional principle of the rotary sander

Here, a round sanding pad is covered with an abrasive material, which is circularly driven via a flywheel as in the orbital sander. In addition to the circular motion, the sanding pad rotates. The sandpaper is fixed on the sanding plate with hook and loop.


For most machines, the sanding speed, i. e. the speed of the flywheel, can be adjusted. This is an advantage, especially when working with different grain sizes. The path of the sanding plates is also important. In the orbital sander, this path is referred to as a sanding stroke and in a rotary sander as an oscillating circuit. The smaller these two paths, the finer the sanding pattern becomes. In both devices, the sanding dust is extracted out through holes in the abrasive material and the sanding plate, as long as a vacuum cleaner is connected. This protects the abrasive material and also improves the sanding pattern.

What should I watch out for when working with ...

... the rotary sander?

Due to the rotational movement of the sanding disc, when using at full speed, make sure to place the machine straight on the workpiece. Otherwise, unwanted depressions can quickly develop, because the edge eats into the surface at high speed.


The additional rotary movement of the sanding pad greatly increases the removal rate. Again with the rotary sander, the machine should always be kept in motion, the effort required being slightly higher than with the orbital sander. With uniform movements, the removal rate is significantly higher with the same surface quality.

... the orbital sander?

The orbital sander must always be kept in motion while working to avoid circular grooves. These grooves are caused by the circular motion of the sanding plate.


Due to the relatively large sanding plate large areas can be processed effectively. With constant movement you can achieve excellent surface results with an orbital sander. When working on corners, edges or even small workpieces, the orbital sander is clearly the strongest contender.


Both sanders are perfectly suited for working on surfaces. However, thanks to its additional rotational movement, the rotary sander comes out on top for larger surfaces. The orbital sander has therefore been replaced in most workshops. But that doesn’t mean that the orbital sander has completely lost its right to exist. As with all tools, here the range of application is decisive!

AuthorFrank Rath
Reading time10 minutes

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