Whatever your reasoning, most shops need a sander of some sort. Dual-action, or DA sanders are the tool of choice for a lot of us, and with good reason. They’re hardy, fairly low maintenance tools that get the job done in a hurry.
The first thing you’ll need to decide on when you go to select a sander is if you want to go with a pneumatic or electric sander. For most at-home uses, an electric sander is preferred. They may cost a little bit more but you won’t have to bother with a compressor which is perfect for at-home DIY types. Auto-shops and other industrial applications, on the other hand, generally have the infrastructure in place for pneumatic sanders anyways so they’re preferred there.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at 4 of the best DA sanders on the market. Also, don’t get too caught up in the difference between a random orbital and a DA sander, and we explain in detail why after our reviews, in our conclusion.
TCP Global Brand 6″ Dual Action D.A. Sander Air Powered
This random orbital sander from TCP is one of the best around for the money. You’ll find that it quickly becomes your go-to sander for medium-duty sanding if you decide to make the investment. It is a pneumatic sander however, so be prepared to get a compressor if you don’t already have one. For light body work or refinishing furniture it’s hard to beat and is one of the best DA sanders period.
Ingersoll-Rand 4151 Ultra Duty 6-Inch Pneumatic Sander
For a palm sander, the Ingersoll-Rand is a fantastic option. While it’s not super heavy duty for truly heavy work, it runs at an impressive 12,000rpm and the oscillation pattern will ensure a smooth finish no matter what you’re working on.
It’s a low vibration model (see full specs) as well, and at the end of the day you’ll find it’s well worth the higher price point. Even better, it has a vaccum port pre-attached which will allow you to easily hook up your shop-vac and keep the dust levels in the shop down to a minimum. Without a doubt, it’s a great pneumatic DA sander.
Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch
Black & Decker might have a somewhat iffy reputation since the transportation of their manufacturing facilities overseas, but for the home craftsman, they offer quality tools at an absolute rock bottom price.
If you’re looking for something to use around the house to refinish furniture, smooth drywall mud, and other light duty home improvement projects, then you could do a lot worse and spend a lot more money than making the miniscule investment into this DA sander. It’s also an electric dual action sander, so you won’t have to spend money on anything other than the power feeding into it.
PORTER-CABLE 7346SP 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander
If you’re looking for something for heavy work, without having to resort to pneumatics, then Porter-Cable has you covered with this fantastic sander. It’s variable speed and will accept polishing pads as well as the pads used with DA sanders which makes it a versatile tool.
It comes highly recommended for any kind of at-home body work and might just come in handy with any larger product. The price tag is a bit higher than most on this list, but it’d be a shame not to have something suitable for the really big stuff while you’re working from your home shop. Just be a bit careful, it has a pretty hefty 4.5A power draw. With these precaution in mind, however, you’re looking at one of the best DA sanders period.
Which Is the Best Dual Action Sander for Me?
Like we’ve said earlier, don’t obsess over whether the sander is a random orbital and a DA sander. Dual action sanders have a secondary feature which is rarely used and something of a “throwback”: they can be locked into only moving in one plane causing them to sand with a rougher pattern or be used as a grinder.
It’s pretty rare they’re used this way, since the primary use of them is as a smoothing tool and you’ll end up with a rough, irregular surface regardless of the grit of the disks you’re using if you employ this feature. It’s also rough on the motor since the locked shaft will now have a ton of added friction; you’re best off employing a second, dedicated tool if that’s your planned usage.
With that out of the way, your first consideration when selecting a sander will always need to be the power source for your tool. Not many of us have a compressor powerful enough to run a pneumatic sander just lying around and it can be a considerable investment to get one. You’ll also need to keep in mind that you need a pretty big compressor to run a sander continuously or you’ll be confined to just working in short bursts.
After that, the style of the sander itself will come into play. Many DA sanders are sized for the hand, and you want something which is comfortable to use for the long periods of time you might be sanding for. Low-vibration can help with this, but if you can stand the little bit of tingly feeling after you’re done with the sander then the actual fit is the really important part.
Larger sanders, like the Porter-Cable (see full specs) above, will allow you to run the sander for longer, but are better suited for large, flattish surfaces since they can be hard to maneuver around curves. You’ll also want to be careful not to press on them too hard; a sander isn’t an angle grinder after all and it can be hard on both your workpiece and the sander itself.
The speed on these sanders will vary pretty widely, for the most part you’ll want to use something with a higher rpm on materials which don’t conduct heat efficiently like wood and Bondo, while lower RPMS are desirable for metal since it’ll keep the surface from getting too hot. Variable speed sanders will let you do both with some adjustment, and that makes them more desirable for the general handyman who never knows what they’ll be working on next.
Even the best pneumatic DA sanders do require a bit more maintenance but it’s usually limited to adding a few drops of oil to the air intake. This will cause any accumulated particulate matter to be blown out of it quite quickly. Electric sanders are almost always closed systems and will basically just need some dusting off to ensure nothing clogs up.
You’ll also want to keep in mind how often you’ll be using the sander. While the Black & Decker above is certainly attractive for its price point, it’s not going to stay running for very long if you’re using it every day as part of your shop.
At the end of the day, pretty much everyone who does any DIY work around the house should have a sander somewhere and the best DA sanders make a perfect balance between lighter palm sanders or hand sanding methods and the much more aggressive belt sanders. Pick the one that’s right for you, and you’ll have a long lasting, extremely useful tool which you’re sure to enjoy for a long time to come.