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This is something that I really haven't given much thought to in the past. I have a 1/4 sheet palm sander and a 5" RO sander, both ridgid brand. Never really have given much thought as to when and where to use what sander. Usually grabe the RO just because it seems to do a better job removing matterial. When should I use what sander? Is one better then the other for finish sanding, leaving no sanding marks or swirls? Is one better then the other for sanding furniture and other pieces? One of those things that I just have always grabbed a sander without thinking to much about it and got to thinking about it today. Thanks
 

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For making a panel flat and keeping it flat when sanding, I much prefer a 1/2 sheet random orbit sander. The orbital sander tend to sand surface unevenly. They tend to remove material faster but unevenly.

For initial flattening I will start off with a ROS for grits up to 120 grit then go to my flat 1/2 sheet orbital sander for grits up to 180 grit. Most sanding stops at 180 grit but I will final sand by hand at 180 grit. For smaller items, I have a 20 year old Makita 1/4 sheet palm sander that works very well.
 

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So is this 1/4 sheet sander an orbital or random orbital sander, http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-1-4-in-Sheet-Sander-R2501/100066026?N=18g? Maybe I'm understanding the differences. My 5" is a random orbital sander.
That sander is a finishing sander (AKA palm) not a ROS. Finishing sanders have a more limited sanding pattern, than a ROS.

Here is an older thread about the same subject.
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f8/random-orbit-finishing-sander-17332/







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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for that link. So from what I understand a finishing sander has a pattern like a paperclip? Still not sure which one is better for sanding projects before finishing? If I'm sanding a project down to 220 in order to stain and poly it is one sander better to use then the other?
 

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Thanks for that link. So from what I understand a finishing sander has a pattern like a paperclip? Still not sure which one is better for sanding projects before finishing? If I'm sanding a project down to 220 in order to stain and poly it is one sander better to use then the other?
For a final sanding prior to staining, I would use 180x on a sanding block and sand with the grain.







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The 1/4 sheet finish sander runs at a slower speed. Therefore it is more likely to make swirl marks in the wood than an orbital sander. They also usually have a soft pad so when you sand a wood such as pine that has soft and hard spots it will take off more wood on the soft wood than the hard spots giving it a kinda washboard look. The 5" orbital sander runs faster and has a harder pad so it's more inclined to sand the wood flat regardless of the wood type. In my opinion you can do anything with an orbital sander you could do with a 1/4 sheet sander. I not longer have a working 1/4 sheet sander anymore. I use only the orbital sanders.

The R2501 sander you have been looking at, at Home Depot is a finish sander. These type sanders are better with very fine paper doing between the coats sanding of sealers when finishing.
 
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