Craig is in the market for a new random orbital sander for woodworking projects, and wrote in asking for some advice.
I’m in the market for a new random orbital sander, having used a Ryobi for over 7 years now (I’m a hobbyist woodworker so none of my tools are used in production work). The Ryobi is finally passed its useful life, as the orbital function is not working properly, spinning the sander all over the workpiece and giving me no control.
I’m a big fan of your site for your honest tool reviews, and I was hoping you could take a minute and go through what you may know about the Bosch sander line – seeing as how you recommend Bosch tools (as in your recent reviews of their cordless gear).
My options are either Amazon or Home Depot (leaning toward Amazon since I’m a Prime customer). I don’t own any Bosch tools currently, but I’d like to start upgrading to a better line of tools as my woodworking hobby gets..ahem..more involved.
My choices are narrowed down to the 5″ Random Orbital Sanders, but I’m confused as to the various models. For example, what is the difference between the ROS20VSK and the ROS20VSC? Is there a better option? I’m mostly into smaller projects – so a 6″ sander/polisher may be overkill. Is there something else you’d recommend in your experience? I’d consider other brands as well, but from what you’ve mentioned, Bosch is a good company. I’ve long coveted their router series, and that’s high on my list when my Ryobi plunge router dies.
Craig is looking for a random orbital sander, preferably a 5-inch model, and it appears his budget is under $100. He’s leaning more towards Bosch and is looking to purchase the sander from Amazon or Home Depot.
There seems to be some flexibility here, so if anyone has had great experiences with other brands, please chime in with your recommendations!
What to Look for in Random Orbital Sanders
There are a couple of things to look for:
- Ergonomics – the size, position, and texture of the grip, location of controls
- Dust collection – we like to see dust filters or canisters that are easy to empty, and an optional dust collector hose attachment adapter
- Uniform sanding and scratch pattern performance
- Ability to use standard 8-hole hook-and-loop sandpaper discs
- Separate on/off and variable speed controls
- Cord length – anything above 6-feet is good
What We Know About Bosch Sanders
I own three sanders – a Bosch 1/4-sheet finish sander, a Ridgid 5″ random orbital sander, and a Festool sander. I have not used a Bosch 5″ random orbital sander, but I nearly bought one a few years back based on the woodworking community’s high regard and excellent feedback for it. The reason I opted for a Ridgid instead of the Bosch was because I had a small out-of-pocket tool budget, a Home Depot gift card, and at the time reviews showed the Ridgid to be close enough in performance to the Bosch.
Generally, Bosch sanders are known to leave especially uniform scratch patterns and smooth surfaces, and they have exceptionally good dust collection performance.
Not all random orbital sanders leave truly random uniform scratch patterns that they’re supposed to. Lesser sanders also sometimes leave swirl marks that require a lot of extra work to clean up.
If I were to buy another under-$100 5″ random orbital sander today, it would be the Bosch ROS20VSC. The current Ridgid R26011 model would be my second choice. I would lean much more towards the Bosch, given my experience with their 1/4-sheet finish sander, and since the newest dust canister is partially translucent to show accumulated dust levels.
To be clear, my recommendation for the Bosch ROS20VSC/ROS20VSK is not based on hands-on testing or direct real-world experience, but general experience with a different Bosch sander and what I have heard over the years from woodworkers and the woodworking community. If I had to buy a new sub-$100 random orbital sander for myself, this is the one I’d pick.
Bosch ROS20VSK vs. ROS20VSC Sanders
It actually took a few minutes for me to figure out the difference between these two sander kits. I was thinking maybe the ROS20VSK version came with an additional PSA platen for users who want to use self-adhesive discs instead of hook-and-loop. Or maybe the C-version lacks the variable speed control? Nope.
It turns out that both kits come with the same ROS20VS variable speed sander. The “K” version comes with a hard plastic carrying case, and the “C” version comes with a soft carrying bag. That seems to be the one and only difference between the two sander kits.
Bosch ROS20VS Specifications
- 5″ hook-and-loop sanding pad (RS034)
- 3/32″ orbit diameter, 3/64″ orbit radius
- 7,500 – 12,000 no-load OPM
- 8-foot cord
- Includes microfilter dust canister and VAC002 vacuum hose adapter
- Built-in pad braking system
The only difference is the style of carrying case.
Over at Amazon, the “K” version has many more reviews, which suggests it sells a lot better. This made me think there was a difference in the tools themselves. But looking at the first available date, the “K” version was first listed in 2004, and the “C” version in 2013.
I have had great experiences with my Ridgid sander, but for the same $70 price, the Bosch ROS20VSC seems like the best option. I discarded the plastic case that came with my older Ridgid 5″ orbital sander, and also the soft carrying case that came with my Bosch finish sander, and so I personally wouldn’t spend $10 more just for the “K” version’s hard case.
Bosch ROS20VSC: Buy via Amazon, Buy via Home Depot, Info via Bosch
Bosch ROS20VSK: Buy via Amazon, Buy via Home Depot, Info via Bosch
Ridgid R26011: Buy via Home Depot, Info via Ridgid
There are of course other brands of sanders in the $65-$100 price range. Dewalt’s 3.0A D26453K ($74 via Amazon) might be a good choice for those who mainly use coarser abrasives and work heavy hands, but I think the 2.5A Bosch ROS20VS in C or K kit configurations is the better tool overall.
Finally, something I know a little about. I taught woodworking and now do a fair bit on my own. This sander has exceeded my expectations :
Makita BO5031K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander Kit
Amazon has it for $75. Grainger has the COO as USA, subject to change. What that totally means I don’t know.
The best orbital sander is the low profile porter cable nothing even comes close
Exactly so on the budget. I looked at a few of the other “handled” options in the 5″ line, but they run above $100, and where they may be more comfy to handle for the longer term sanding projects, I don’t know if that’s worth the extra, especially since what I save by going below $100, I could use to replace my aging Ryobi 1/4″ sheet sander as well, which is due to follow the Orbital I’m replacing shortly (I can hear the grinding inside the motor worse every time I use it).
Thanks for posting Stuart. Really appreciate the feedback.
You can never go wrong with any of the Porter Cable sanders. I woodwork as a second job and my sanders are always going. The Porter Cables just last!
I’ve had a previous model Bosch 5″ random orbital sander for 6 or 7 years now and it still works as well as the day I bought it. Granted I don’t use it day in and day out but still going strong after several large projects.
The “VS” in the model number is for Variable Speed – always a nice feature to have.
As Stuart mentioned, “K” in the model number is for “Kit Box” in Bosch speak.
Those are pretty consistent across their entire line of tools.
I’ve used mine with the dust canister and with the vacuum adapter hooked to my Ridgid vac. Dust collection when hooked to the vacuum is noticeably better. It also seems like the abrasive doesn’t load as quickly, making it last longer.
I haven’t looked at sanders in a while but Bosch used to offer additional backing plates of varying densities for different materials as accessories.
Another thing to consider is the abrasives you’ll use. Are your current favorites available for this tool in the grit ranges that you’ll want to use? It may take some experimenting with the new sander to find the right combination for you and the work you do. Make sure you know what the pattern on the sander is and what products are available locally. My Bosch has an 8 hole pattern which I had some trouble finding locally at times as HD and Lowes switched between vendors. I’ve gone to ordering Mirka Gold multi packs from Amazon or other woodworking suppliers when I have an order with them.
Most of my experiences are with the Klingspor sanding discs. I bought a bunch of bulk packs a while ago and they have worked out well. I’ve been happy with the wear rate and the performance so far. I use everything from 100grit to 220grit for normal use sanding, and then get up into the finer grits if it’s an extra special project. I’ve not tried the Mirka, but I may give them a shot as I’m running out of my Klingspor supply. The Ryobi orbital I was using was an 8 hole 5″ standard hook and loop, so that makes it easy for me to move to another brand.
We’ve gone through a decent number of less-expensive sanders in the shop and had to repair a number of them. While I’m a fan of buying new tools at every opportunity, I *think* that the Ryobi’s random orbit function is regulated by a stiff rubber band. The tool can probably be revived for less than $20 including a brand-new hook & loop pad.
John, thanks for the advice. I actually did replace the pad with a new one recently, thinking that was the issue, but I can hear the motor (which still runs) straining – similar to my sheet sander – and making “that” noise (you know “that” noise) as the tool’s motor is starting to grind inside itself (almost like bearings going bad). The orbital function as stated is all over the place, and it may be an easy fix, but as I’m starting to grow in my hobby and use my tools for more – I’m replacing the older, worn out tools with better quality stuff as time goes by. I do advocate repairs wherever possible, but at some point I also see the value in buying better tools that last longer (and have more available accessories) than the cheaper ones.
That said, I’ve got a Ryobi BT3100 table saw that I absolutely love and continue to use even though it’s underpowered for some tasks – I just went through lubricating the bearings and gearing to make the adjustment system work better – so I’m not at all worried about a little work where necessary.
Question: In addition to the obvious use of sanding wood, are these 5″ or 6″ random orbital sanders also good for buffing the wax off your car?
I wondered that too, and I think it comes down to whether there’s a special “pad” for the buffing tasks. I know the 6″ sanding/polishing models above $100 do this, but I’m not sure about the 5″ models since they don’t actually have “polishing” in the machine’s title.
They’re not designed to handle polishing tasks all that well.
The platen has holes for dust collection and is not going to be soft enough to follow the contours of a car.
You would need an extension cord.
Polishers often have two handles, 6-inch or 7-inch polishing wheels, long cords, uninterrupted and soft platens, and work with off-the-shelf bonnets and pads.
You probably *can* use a sander for auto-polishing tasks, but there’s not a lot of reasons why you should.
To add to Stuarts note-you would also want a polisher you can adjust the speed on. If you run at too high a speed you could burn up your paint. I have used my Dewalt adjustable speed orbital for polishing glass with pads made for it (search Griots Garage on Amazon). But other than that I always use my Porter Cable Polisher/Sander that as Stuart mentioned has two handles/adjustable speed for polishing cars/boats.
Sure! If all you want to do is remove the wax, buy a Velcro backed foam polishing pad and affix it to the polisher. Lay a microfiber towel over the pad and let the machine do the work at a low to medium speed. Turn and replace the towel as it loads up with wax.
But its me!
I know this is well above the $100, but I found the Bosch ROS65VC ($228 @ Amazon) to be a definite step up in quality. It’s a six inch model, with variable speed, excellent dust collection canister, and vibration reduction. The latter was why I sprung for it, as I was tired of the numbness and pain my five inch Porter Cable sanders caused. For $50 more there is a kit that includes an L-Boxx and five inch pads, which I wish I had sprung for at the time. The vibration reduction really does work and I expect the sander will outlast me, like most Bosch tools.
I’ve used Klingspor and Mirka discs in both sizes, finding both brands to be about equal in quality, but I am itching to try the Mirka Abralon discs, given their great reviews (a fiber/sand paper hybrid, as best I can describe it). Just have to use up all the paper discs I stockpiled.
I know this suggestions is more than the stated budget but I can’t recommend enough Festool 6″ and 5″ sanders, they have been more than worth the extra money.
The finish they give surpass’s my other orbitals, the lower vibration and lack of fatigue make the large amount of hours I have to spend on sanding is much more enjoyable.
I haven’t drank the green kook-aide, the only Festools I own are my sanders but I’ll never go back to my other sanders.
You have to consider this, that a RO sander is usually the last power tool that will touch your project (and can easily screw it up) and the tool you spend the most time using out of all your others so I suggest not to hold back and spend a little more extra money you won’t regret it.
I suggest Festool ETS 125 EQ (5″) variable speed sander for small projects, it’s $185 free shipping and comes with a very nice Festool hard case ($$). The 6″ is better for larger projects.
There customer service is also excellent and motor rebuild fee’s once warranty is over are quite low unlike dewalt or PC, you pretty much just have to throw those away; not so with the Festool.
All Festool sanders use a unique hole pattern. Few non-Festool options are available to source sandpaper. When you do find a Festool supplier, usually with typical M-F business hours, that stocks Festool sandpaper, you pay a fixed retail price and typically have to buy at least 25+ of a single grit size and style. Festool can rant and rave all they want about their sandpaper, but I have found little difference when compared to other high quality manufacturers. Plus, I do not always require premium quality paper. If I am knocking rust off a metal door, or flaking paint off an outdoor bench, I do not need paper at ~$.75 a disk. I use cheaper paper, let it get beat up, and throw it away. At ~$40/pad, the Festool backing pads are 2X+ the street price of other major manufacturers (Makita, Bosch, Dewalt) FYI: I own the Festool RO-150 and RO-90. After using Festool paper, I now buy my paper from Klingspor. Klingspor paper quality is same or better at a more affordable price. Klingspor also carries variety packs.
While I like my Festool Domino XL and Track saw quite a bit – so would expect good things for their sanders – I also recall that the Dotco and Hutchkins air sanders we used in the shop – outperformed most of the electric sanders we took out to jobsites. The fairly new Mirka Ceros sanders are also getting some buzz – comparing them to air sanders – but these are way out of the target price range
I also use Klingspor a lot, the price is as competitive as any other paper used for other sanders. I always plan ahead and have ordered all my sandpaper supplies in bulk so local shopping isn’t a concern.
The RO are great sanders but I prefer the smaller ETS sanders, I find them a better bang for the buck and prefer investing on a tool that has a direct result on my finished product.
I have to say I really love my ETS 150/3 connected to my non Festool vacuum system that has a auto on/off switch. I get zero dust.
I’ve considered Festool. But for the extra money they cost – I wouldn’t get my ROI back on them as I’m not a contractor or heavy duty woodworking class user – so I’d rather spend less money and have a little left over for supplies or another tool. I also don’t like the proprietary nature of the Festool system. While everything is designed to work together well, is does tend to lock you into their system – which if you use ALL of their tools is not a bad thing. But if you tend to mix and match tools, and need accessories for them – it may make it more of a hassle for a smaller hobbyist like myself. Again, no knock on Festool – everyone I know that has their stuff loves it.
Craig, I understand what your saying in general about Festool but with the ETS Sanders your fairly free from having to use anything Festool. With mine, I use another brand for sandpaper that is economical (also use festool) and I use a Dri-Vac & Bosch vacuum hose with it. I seriously find the extra $100 more than worth it, I get a better finish and no swirl marks compared to my other sanders, I get less fatigue in my hands and it’s quieter.
I did a *lot* of exterior wood paint restoration which required some significant sanding through in some cases almost a hundred years of various finishes. Just like Stuart said, the DeWalt random orbital did a fantastic job with heavy grit and ripping through that old stuff.
Could somebody help me out with the real world differences between a 1/4-sheet finish sander and a random orbital sander? Are they significant? Thanks!
From using both, I think the 1/4″ sheet sanders do a better job with edges and sides, and the random orbitals seem to do a better job with everything, but especially with large, flat surfaces to make them swirl-free. I do have both, but rarely use my 1/4″ sheet sander – I just started using it again since my orbital sander is basically dead (the orbital action is throwing it all over the place and is hard to control).
I would say the sheet sander is easier to get into corners, but is not perfect for it.
I just thought would chime in as I currently have and use two of these sanders that I use for my business. I have had the kit version for about 4 years and use it at least three times a week for hours at a time. Still works great although I noticed last week the pad is starting to show wear. The second one I bought was the bag kit and I picked it up so I could leave it in the jobsite trailer and keep the older one in my shop. No difference in the actual sanders.
As for feel of the sanders I find them very comfortable to my hands. I recommend getting your hands on one to see how the fit works for you since if you are gonna use it for a prolonged period of time this is so important. I find there are two different grip positions that work for me and I tend to switch up a lot so that my hand doesn’t get tired.
I find that I change the variable speed almost any time I use the sanders and would never buy an ROS without it.
Dust collection is good on these sanders. I use them both with the included canister and attached to a festool ct26 dust collector. The canister pops off and the ct hose fits perfectly. The canister works good alone but if you are doing fine sanding like filler or something with fine dust the canister could be better.
I find these sanders to be quiter then the porter cable and makita ones that I also have in the shop. Since I picked up a second one this is my go to sander.
I have never had a problem finding sanding discs to fit these sanders, and if you are a hobbyist and your main source for tools locally is the home depot the frued diablo discs that they sell are inexpensive and will fit these sanders just fine. There is better paper for sure but if you are not gonna spend over a $100 on a sander you prob dont want discs that cost just as much.
I would highly recommend these sanders. They are a good value and while they may not be the best on the market you will not have buyers remorse.
i wish people would put a link with their recommendations.
Festool ets 125: http://www.amazon.com/Festool-571817-ETS-125-Orbital/dp/B004REJ6PK/
I have 2 of these and for the most part theyve been great. The only drawback on them is the little box that catches the dust is pain to open when you need to empty it, and the pads wore out pretty quick on both of them and replacements are not readily available in stores. At least here in NJ. Other than those two small gripes theyre great for what theyre meant for.
Thanks for such an informative and entertaining site! Whenever I need to buy a new tool Toolguyd is my first stop in my research. I needed a DA ROS sander and a quick search of Toolguyd brought me to this “Best Random Orbital Sander” posting. After years of reading Toolguyd and purchasing tools recommending by Toolguyd I’ve come to trust your recommendations so I purchased the Bosch ROS20VSC from Amazon (I clicked though your link – I hope you get a bit of affiliate revenue).
I’m very pleased with the sander. Thanks for the recommendation! I would not have known about the Bosch sander otherwise.
Hi Blake, glad to hear it, and I hope the Bosch purchase works out well for you!
Thanks for a good overview. Went to Lowe’s today to check it out in person and bought one right away. Helped by really good sale $49 for the “c” version.
Never seen any painter use any other sander then Festool for ultra fine work and DeWalt for everything else….
I see DeWalt sanders on almost every job I’m on along with Festool next to the finish Carpenters…as for getting into a system down the road ,you can’t beat getting into DeWalt….I would not recommend getting into Bosch’s system for a diy/ home owner….