In How-To’s & Reviews, Recommended Tools

I’m right in the middle of an extensive living room remodel. The home has 60-year old exposed beams. The beams are stained too dark and too red. I’m lightening the stain color, which will require sanding the beams. The ceilings in the room are wood panels and are stained the same color as the beams. I will be sanding and repairing the wood ceilings and then painting them. Did I mention that the walls are also stained wood? Don’t get me started! There is a TON of sanding on this project. And I know that I’m going to have to use an electric sander to get this job done.  And as I stand here in this ALL BROWN ROOM with my mind racing I ask myself, “What is the Best Orbital Sander?”

The Bosch ROS20VSC is the best orbital sander for the following reasons: 1. It’s lightweight weighing just over 3.5 Lbs.  2. This random orbital sander has 6 different speed settings ranging from 7500 to 12000 oscillations per minute (OPM). 3. It’s dust collection system is “Best in Class” with an optimal onboard system for filtering fine dust. 4. This tool is very well balanced in hand. 5. This orbital sander has very low vibration during operation. 6. The Bosch RoS20VSC random Orbital Sander costs less than $100.

 

Sanding Beams

Refinishing wood beams requires sanding overhead while standing on a ladder or scaffolding. I use 8-foot step ladders. This project involves sanding 9 doubled beams. Each beam is 13 foot 6 inches long. The ceilings in the room are 9 feet and the room’s current lighting is pretty poor, which makes it hard to see. When sanding overhead, the weight of the random orbital sander takes on a different level of importance.

The Bosch ROS20VSC is an extremely well-balanced tool and is very easy to use with one hand. I did nearly all of my beam sanding with one hand and i experienced little to no fatigue in my hands and fingers. I was able to easily control the path of the sander across the beams with my palm and didn’t have to rely heavily on my fingers to hold it in place.

 

 

 

Ergonomic Orbital Sander

The ergonomics on this orbital sander are excellent. The entire body of the unit is soft grip which makes it easy to hold for long periods of time. This unit is easy to use. I had no problems operating it overhead for hours at a time, so I’m confident that it will work just as well in other less physically strenuous projects.

 

Vibration

This unit also has very low vibration even when its turned all the way up to maximum speed. I pretty much ran it wide open the entire time. I never lost my grip or dropped this unit throughout the entire project. Also never experienced any fatigue in my hands or fingers from holding the sander up to the beams either. Now my shoulders are a slightly different story! But in all seriousness, my shoulders didn’t suffer too badly either.

 

Weight

I don’t think I mentioned it before, but I actually have an older Rigid sander that is still sold today. Even though the unit is 11 years old, the current model is virtually identical. Towards the end of my beam sanding (once I could see the light at the end of the tunnel) I decided to dust it off and run it, just to compare it to the Bosch. That comparison didn’t last very long.

The sheer weight of the old unit was just too heavy to make it comfortable to work with overhead. In addition to the weight, the overall size and weight distribution of the big Ridgid sander made it awkward to handle and basically required two hands to keep the sander firmly positioned against the beams.

The dust collection on the Ridgid does come close to the Bosch. It does have a 6″ sanding pad, and a more powerful motor, but the tradeoffs were far too great to make it a contender. Maybe if I’d done the comparison earlier on in the project, I wouldn’t feel so strongly, but I’m spoiled now. And on top of all that, the Bosch is much less expensive.

The same is true for dust collection and eye protection and while sanding. I also use a respirator.

 

Orbital Sander Dust Collection

This Bosch Sander has a really good dust collection system. Its marketed as being best in class, and ai believe it. I ran this sander for several days, all over my head, and I was surprised at how little dust escaped. I will say that the new screen style sanding discs produce less than dust than the traditional sanding discs.

When the dust collection system is full,  you see an increase in the amount of dust and that will let you know that its time to clean it out.

As an added bonus, the dust collection system is very easy to clean out once you get the compartment open. The dust collection housing disconnects from the sander pretty easily. I pretty much just ran my index finger across the fins of the filter a few times with the compartment upside down, and that was enough to release most of the dust and clear the filter.

The dust collection system is in a plastic housing that detaches from the random orbital sander. This is quite a bit different from the other dust collection systems on other brands. To me, this is a good thing. Most orbital sanders utilize a small bag or pouch for dust collection, and you have to unzip the bag and dump and beat the dust out of the bag.

The Bosch dust compartment is a little easier to deal with as you pop the top and tap the filter and then close the top back. Because the compartment is made from plastic it’s easier to thoroughly clean out because its harder for dust to get trapped inside.

Dust Collection Shroud

The Bosch ROS20VSC also comes with a dust collection shroud attachment. I didn’t use it because I have to large shop Vac and I would need an adapter, and I was under the gun to get started. Additionally, I figured that the hose from the shop vac would slow me down. Remember that all my work is on an 8-foot ladder. The tools is also very well balanced and I didn’t want the weight of the vacuum hose to effect that. Plus the onboard dust collection worked well enough for me to feel confident working without it. I also had on safety glasses and a respirator and all the contents of the room were covered in plastic.

How to Lighten Dark Stained Wood Beams?

The most straightforward and no-nonsense way to lighten beams is sanding them and then restaining them a lighter color. The sanding will be the most time-consuming part. You will want to use a sander that is lightweight but still has speed and power. And you will also want it to have a good onboard filter.

 

Best Eye Protection for Sanding

Whenever your working with power tools its never a bad idea to wear eye protection. This project is no exception and I will be using the same safety glasses that I have been using for the past few years. I recommend these because they are very comfortable and I can wear them with or without my prescription glasses with no problem.

The lenses are also very clear so that I can do precision work without having to take them off or squint to see fine details. One of the smartest things I did when I bought these glasses was I bought the carrying case. Totally worth it. Several years later my glass lenses are clear and clean.

 

Respirator For Woodworking

As I mentioned before, the Bosch has best in class dust collection. But it’s not 100 percent, and since I’m working with my face so close to the sander, its always better to play it safe. I use the 3M respirator with pink purple filters. I have a 3M respirator as well, but I prefer the smaller mask for jobs like this. It doesn’t get in the ay and I don’t feel the weight of it as much. You really can’t go wrong with either one of these masks, and use them for all types of construction tasks including demolition, cleaning, and painting.

 

How to Put Sandpaper on an Orbital Sander?

The most common type of orbital sander has whats known as a hook and loop closure system. It’s basically velcro. One side is soft and one side is stiffer. When you want to install a new sanding disc it’s pretty easy. The sanding pad that is attached to the orbital sander has a series of holes with different patterns and locations.

You will need to attach you desired sanding discs to the sanding pad by pressing them together. But before you do you need to line up the holes on the sanding disc with the sanding pad. It’s okay to go really slow. You want to make sure that you get the holes lined up as precisely as possible.

The holes in the sanding pad of the random orbital sander are actually vents. And these circular vent suction the wood fine wood dust into the onboard dust filter and collection system. If you don’t line the holes up accordingly, your dust collection will be compromised and you will have a lot more dust to cleanup throughout your sanding process.

There is a new type of sanding pad that is more like mesh fabric and it can be installed on the orbital sander a little easier. These sanding screens require that you install velcro pad onto the orbital sander, then you install the screen onto the pad. The holes are covered up by the second pad and may not collect dust as well, but the pads are advertised to last substantially longer than the standard sanding discs.

 

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander

The belt sander is typically used for very aggressive sand where you need to remove a lot of material, but its not nearly as versatile as the random orbital sander. The orbital sander is more suited for precision work and can also remove large amounts of material when paired with the right sanding disc.

 

Why Use an Orbital Sander?

An Orbital sander is much faster than sanding by hand. If you have a large amount to sanding to do, an orbital sander can decrease the amount of time it takes to complete the project in more than one way. First, it makes the performance of the sanding process faster, which mean that you can move on to the next phase of the project sooner. And second, you will be far less tired and sore because you haven’t had to work as hard or as long with the sandpaper to achieve your desired result.

How to Sand Wood Faster

The easiest way to sand wood faster is with an electric sander. The type of sanding that you are doing will help determine what type of sander is best for your job. Generally speaking, the random orbital sander is more versatile. Keep the orbital sander flat on the surface and work in small sections. Stat with a higher grit (less aggressive) sanding disc and work your way down to more heavy-duty sanding pads as needed. You can always increase the grit but can be difficult to correct damage caused to the woodgrain by using too aggressive sanding disc. I ended up using pretty low grit sandpaper, but I worked my way down to make sure I didn’t cause any damage that I couldn’t fix.

 

Best Sander for Under $100

In case you missed it earlier in this post, this sander is way less than $100. And even though, I give it rave reviews, I was initially on the fence about whether to buy the Bosch ROS20VSC despite the fact that it has tons of super high reviews. It was the price that made me second guess the purchase. I like to buy quality when I can, so I don’t have to buy it again prematurely. After using this sander nonstop for several days to sand overhead on a ladder in very poor lighting conditions, I can say that the quality of this tool far exceeds the price. You can pay more for something else, but you probably don’t need to.

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