Dual action sanders are a critical tool that many do-it-yourself enthusiasts fail to appreciate fully. However, what exactly is a DA sander? Why are they important to those who want to master woodworking? Also, how do you know what you want out of a DA sander?
We’ll move on to our list of the best DA sanders of 2020. Then we’ll outline the factors you need to consider when shopping for a DA sander or electric DA sander.
Our Top Picks for DA Sanders
1. TCP Global Brand Six Inch DA Sander
This affordable pneumatic DA sander is designed for small jobs. It is comfortable to hold and use over long periods of time; it is essentially vibration free.
The TCP Global sander creates a swirl-free finish that exceeds that of more expensive rivals. It has a built-in regulator to control the speed for consistent results. Just twist the knob to slow it down or speed it up. It has a quarter-inch NPT.
This sander comes with lubricating oil, wrench, and a backing pad. We recommend this sander because it comes with so much right out of the box.
You can put any adhesive-backed pad on it that fits. One minor issue is that the pads that come with it don’t have high-quality adhesive on them. It also doesn’t come with a loop pad and hook. Replacement pads from the manufacturer are somewhat expensive.
- Excellent control
- Great, consistent finish
- Mediocre quality pads
2. Dewalt Brand Model DWMT70780 DA Sander
This pneumatic random orbital sander doesn’t take batteries; it is a corded sander. It weighs a little more than the TCP sander.
It has easy-to-release sand pads. The manufacturer says it can run on 2.7 CFM of air, but it needs more air than that to deliver the performance you expect.
DeWalt has a reputation for quality, and since it is such a common brand, you can find oil and other components for it easily.
Finding replacement pads for this model of sander from the manufacturer is a challenge, though most six-inch adhesive disks will fit.
- Ease of use
- Overall quality
- Weak service and supply chain
3. Porter-Cable Brand Model 7424XP Variable Speed Sander
This is a variable speed sander/polisher by Porter-Cable. It can run anywhere from 2500 to 6800 OPM. It accepts any 5/16–24 spindle thread accessories. We recommend this sander if you want to use a variety of thread accessories you already own, assuming they fit.
Don’t try to use smaller pads or accessories because that requires changing the counter-weight. The polisher does come with a counter-weight.
Whether you’re left-handed or right-handed, you can hold it either way, and it works just as well. Alternatively, use the two handles to hold it securely in a specific position.
This is a corded electric DA sander. You can use it even if you don’t have pneumatic air in your shop. We recommend this electric sander for any electrically powered shop with more than one user, especially if you do a wide range of projects.
The pads that come with the sander are not very securely attached, so be careful of them detaching during use.
- Suitable for left- or right-handed users
- Accepts a variety of accessories
- Wide range of speed settings
- Poor quality adhesive on the default pads
4. Ingersoll Rand Brand Model 311A Six Inch DA Sander
This dual action sander is a low vibration sander. It is somewhat weighty, coming in at just over four pounds. It is suitable for occasional use but not holding all day.
It has a built-in regulator that lets you adjust its speed. It is air powered, and it generates about one-fourth of a horsepower. The sander works with a variety of pads.
This orbital DA sander is quieter than average. However, it needs 17 CFM at 90 PSI to work. The manufacturer is difficult to contact when you need customer service.
You can use it as a sander, but don’t use it as a buffer. Overall, we like this sander because of how quiet it is while still handling a wide range of tasks.
- Quieter than average
- Can work with a variety of pads
- Needs hefty airflow to work properly
5. Black and Decker Brand Model BDERO100 5” Orbital Sander
This Black and Decker brand sander is a random orbital sander. It has a high material removal rate and yields a quality finish. It is good enough to use professionally, and the smaller 5-inch pad lets you do more detail sanding than a larger 6-inch one.
It has a hook-and-loop system, so you don’t deal with adhesive pads. That’s a plus if you’re dealing with a wet environment or oiled wood. Replacement hook-and-loop pads are affordable.
This model is maneuverable and stable. Just be careful in the handling since going too fast can result in a rougher finish.
An ironic design flaw of this sander is that while the on/off switch is sealed against dust and debris, it can fail for other reasons. If the on/off switch starts to act up, get it replaced or fixed.
- Cheap replaceable parts
- Quick and easy pad changes
- Periodic issues with the on/off switch
6. Presa Brand All-in-One Orbital Polishing Kit
You’re getting almost everything you need in this DA polisher kit. You get several polishing pads and a chenille glove along with the 6-inch random orbital polisher. You receive several different types of pads: a soft pad, a medium pad, and a hard pad, plus a microfiber cleaning cloth.
The main handle can be adjusted to the ideal position for optimal control. And that’s in addition to the side handle you can attach for tight two-handed control. To top it all off, it is easier than average to set up and modify as necessary.
The sander operates between 1500 and 6800 OPM. You can control the polisher by adjusting the settings on the handle.
This sander is a little heavier than average, clocking in at 4.5 pounds. Conversely, you get a longer-than -average power cord. The power cord is almost twenty feet long. Other DA sanders require an extension cord if you’re going to work a long distance from the power outlet.
One of the downsides of this model is the amount of vibration it puts out. We think this sander is good for hobbyists but not professionals. Avoid this model if you already suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Everything in one kit, making it a convenient option
- Multiple handle configurations for tight control
- An ultra-long power cable
- Heavier than average
- High vibration level
A Buying Guide for DA Sanders
What is a DA Sander?
Sanders may be hand-powered, pneumatic, or electric. Electric sanders are a faster, easier way to sand wood for the average user, since few of us have pneumatics in the shop. However, there are multiple forms of sanders.
Belt sanders have linear action that removes a lot of material quickly. Disk sanders spin a disk of sandpaper in a circle, which is ideal for digging into wood, though a few have a random orbital motion to minimize how much they dig into the wood unless held in place for a long period of time.
Dual action sanders combine these motions. They are an alternative to random orbit sanders and are better at fine material removal. However, understanding that a DA sander is the best compromise between belt sanders and disk sanders isn’t enough since there are so many models on the market.
A DA sander is not necessarily going to be the cheapest one on the shelf. Read our buying guide for DA sanders below to learn everything you need to take into consideration to find the perfect DA sander for your particular situation.
What To Look For In a DA Sander
We’re going to discuss the major factors you need to consider when shopping for a DA sander. We’ll identify each factor and explain when each aspect should be given more weight in your analysis over others. We’ll explain what you need to know when buying a dual action sander.
The best dual action sanders have adjustable speed settings. Their speed is rated in OPM, or orbitals per minute. This feature lets you set it at the right speed whether you’re edging, finishing, or feathering the material in front of you. The best dual action sanders works as metal sanders and wood sanders.
However, any electric sander delivers consistent results, whereas pneumatic sanders vary in performance based on the quality of the air supply. Humidity or water in the airline could kill the end result. Electric sanders, instead, deliver steady performance unless there are mechanical defects in the sander itself or issues with the pads.
Most electric dual action sanders let you finely control the disc speed without these environmental factors altering the end result. Pneumatic sanders, though, can run off the compressed air supply in a shop without having to touch the power grid. The downside of pneumatic sanders is that restrictions in the air supply slow down the sander regardless of the speed setting.
DA sanders not only do a good job but don’t cause ergonomic problems as you work. They are lightweight, so you don’t strain your muscles working with them. They don’t transmit vibrations to your hands, contributing to numb fingers or worsening carpal tunnel syndrome.
They have cushioned handles that don’t require a continual hard grip to hold and position while still giving you firm control of the sander. How balanced it feels affects your comfort level if you’re standing in awkward positions as you work.
The degree of comfort you want in a DA sander increases in importance based on how often and how long you use it. If you’re sanding for hours each day, as an artist or professional woodworker would, it is worth paying a premium to reduce the strain on your body. If you only break out the sander once in a while, the comfort factor matters less.
The Perfect Finish
DA sanders have pads that generate a swirl-free finish. The ideal sander comes with pads perfect for feathering and edging instead of only supporting basic sanding and smoothing down. The right size and orbit depends on the projects you tackle. Pads can range from a fraction of an inch to a foot across, while orbits range from fractions of an inch to several inches across.
The larger the size of the pad and the wider the orbit, the larger the surface area you can take on. If you want to sand large pieces of wood, then the right sander for you will have large pads and large orbits. If you sand small items or delicate pieces, you need a DA sander with small pads and small orbits. Understand the requirements set by your intended project to determine what tool is right for you.
DA sanders are easy to maintain. Their sealed bearings don’t need to be lubricated often, and this is a plus if you don’t want to have to deal with lubricants. The ease of adding oil and other lubricants matters more if you’re going to add lubricant yourself. The difficulty of finding the right lubricants will affect your decision if you use the sander heavily.
The ideal DA sander rarely breaks down. If you’re spending a lot on the sander, the ease of getting warranty repairs done or seeing the warranty honored at all is a factor in determining which sander you want. For expensive units, the ability to find service providers to repair broken parts is important.
Replacing pads is a simple, straightforward process in any good DA sander. How much the pads cost and how often they need to be replaced will affect your decision if you use the sander regularly.
Remember to consider not just the cost of the sander but the cost of replacement parts and maintenance, since you don’t want a cheap sander to become equivalent to your printer–a low-cost upfront item offset by a lifetime of ongoing operating costs.
The Perfect DA sander will allow you to create the end results you want in the shortest time frame possible with a minimum of work. And it will do this at minimal lifetime operating cost without creating aggravation or pain for the user.
Understand what you need, and you’ll find the perfect sander for your needs on our list of top DA sanders for 2019.
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