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The Best Palm Sanders (2014 Edition)

Small things set them apart

by Lorenz Prem on August 10 2014 11:41 pm
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The palm sander market is a tough one for potential buyers to figure out. The different sanders look very similar, and their stat lines are almost identical.

After having reviewed all leading sanders on the market, I can speak to the little differences that make each sander feel unique. Let's take a look at your choice of palm sanders in 2014.

The market is full of well-built palm sanders that perform well in the woodshop. All have quirks, and some do one thing better than the rest.

Porter Cable Model 330 Palm Sander

The Porter Cable Model 330 is the heaviest 1/4 sheet sander on market. Its build quality is a notch above the others. The awkward metal sand paper clamps take some getting used to, but they make up what they lack in usability with unmatched durability and holding power. Unlike the competition the Model 330 does not have a knob handle. It must be held with a hand wrapped around its base.

The surprisingly weak motor places the Model 330 in the middle of pack in our speed tests. It works best when used in short bursts, which hides its lack of top-end speed. Its excellent durability makes it one of the best sanders for use in a commercial shop.

The Good

  • durable to the extreme
  • metal frame
  • good downward pressure due to weight
  • excellent vibration reduction
  • quiet compared to the competition
  • a pleasure to hold an use
  • excellent power switch

The Bad

  • mediocre sanding performance with low grit sandpaper
  • no dust collection
  • does not have a knob handle on top
  • single speed
  • short, mediocre quality power cord
  • finicky paper clamps that require a tool to open
  • hard to use overhead
  • internal motor brushes

Ryobi S652DK Palm Sander

The Ryobi S652DK is the budget option in this comparison, but not necessarily the weakest one. On any given project it is hard to notice a difference between this sander and any of the other sanders on this list. Its powerful motor, comfortable handle, and decent sanding speed leave little to be desired on small to medium sized projects.

The weak sand paper clamps and liberal use of plastic around the base plate define the limits of the S652DK. It'll do well when used occasionally, but will wear out quickly when used in a commercial woodshop. The S652DK is a great sander for beginners looking to save money, but there are better options for anyone looking for a keeper.

The Good

  • good performance on tasks that require full speed
  • comfortable, large grip covering in black rubber
  • good through-the-body power switch
  • large diameter dust port
  • knob set back on three sides to get this sander into corners
  • 3-year warranty

The Bad

  • single speed
  • weak paper clamps
  • small, mostly useless dust collection bag
  • poor dust collection without an external dust collector
  • low quality power cord
  • poor cloth bag

Milwaukee 6020-21 Palm Sander

The Milwaukee 6020-21 is the most capable 1/4 sheet sander on this list. It combines excellent build quality with unmatched performance. A powerful motor and competitive top speed propels this sander to the top in our sanding speed tests.

Unfortunately the horrible sand paper clamps all but ruin this sander. They are unintuitive, difficult to close properly, and have questionable a service life. If it was not for these clamps, the 6020-21 would be one of the best sanders on the market. Adventurous users who seek the performance peek at the cost of some serious annouances can risk taking look.

The Good

  • the fastest 1/4 sheet sander we have tested
  • powerful motor
  • good to great dust collection performance
  • sturdy, well designed case
  • durable and high duty cycle

The Bad

  • horrible paper clamps
  • no variable speed

Bosch 1297D Palm Sander

The Bosch 1297D is an average sander that does everything right. With this sander the engineering team at Bosch managed to produce results comparable to the competitions' at a much lower noise level. Add to that the fastest, most convenient sand paper clamps in the field, flawlessly prepared surfaces, and an excellent dust collection design, and you have a compelling package.

In the woodshop the 1297D won't let you down, but one can't help but wonder if there is a better way to do the work. This sander's quirks are not as pronounced as those of the competition, but its highs are not high as well.

The Good

  • low noise operation
  • best dust collection in the field
  • SheetLoc paper retention mechanism works well
  • kit includes all hose adapters
  • well built
  • low vibration

The Bad

  • mediocre sanding speed
  • horrible storage bag

Hingmy

Best
Palm Sander

2014

Makita BO3710 1/3 Sheet Palm Sander

The Makita BO3710 sander made it onto this list due to its competitive price. For only a little more money you get the extra performance the larger 1/3 sheet offers. In the woodshop this translates into a level of performance no other sander on this list can match. The BO3710 sands faster, has better dust collection, and is built as well as all but one of the competing sanders.

You'll pay for this level of performance with a reduction in agility. The BO3710 is considerably larger than the 1/4 sheet sanders. When sanding flat boards this sander is hard to beat, but the smaller competition gets into corners much more easily.

The Good

  • great, all metal base, absolutely flat, and sturdy base plate
  • large 1/3 sheet capacity
  • all metal paper clamps
  • large internal dust collection airways
  • great durability

The Bad

  • somewhat under-motorized
  • poor dust collection bag
  • no hose adapter
  • no vibration isolation
  • single speed

Makita BO4556 1/4 sheet Palm Sander

The Makita BO4556 is as generic as they come, but everything about it is well executed. The traditional wire based sand paper clamps do their job without trying to push the limits of usability. The plastic base plate produces great results, but will likely break long before the competition does. Results come easy, but not at the pace of the leaders of the pack.

Infrequent users will notice little difference in the performance of the BO4556 and that of even the best sanders in this lineup. The circular dust port and low price of this sander make it an attractive option for anyone who does not want to deal with the quirks of the competition. Going for the well-executed option in the middle, however, can be difficult to justify.

The Good

  • performs well
  • well-built and a good value
  • great carrying case
  • circular dust port
  • padded paper clamp handles

The Bad

  • uninspired, generic design
  • plastic base plate
  • slightly worse than average dust collection

DeWalt D26441 Sander

The DeWalt D26441 is the workhorse in this lineup. It's the an uninspired brute of a sander, which is exactly the type of tool a well traveled contractor would want to put into his or her tool bag. Only the Milwaukee 6020-21 sands faster than this one. The simple design fails to impress, but also gives this sander great durability in a hostile environment.

With this sander DeWalt set the baseline the other manufacturers compare themselves to. The sander's design has not been updated in years, yet it is still a best seller. The D26441 has a place in any tool collection, may it be the commercial or hobby kind, but there is plenty of room for the next generation of sanders to improve on the design.

The Good

  • good, solid performer
  • large dust port, adapter included
  • good dust collection with a dust hose attached
  • good size motor

The Bad

  • uninspired design
  • plastic base plate
  • cloth storage bag

Porter Cable Model 342 Palm Sander

The Porter Cable Model 342 is a nearly identical copy of the DeWalt D26441. There is little difference in performance between the two. The slightly better dust collection canister, longer handle, and better kit box give the Porter Cable the lead in the review score department.

At its core, however, the Model 342 is still a simple, but also very capable sander. It's a good choice for just about everyone. The call between this sander and its DeWalt counterpart comes down to what color you like better.

The Good

  • good build quality
  • very fine sanding pattern
  • sturdy plastic case
  • multi-size shop vac hose adapter
  • holds paper securely
  • good dust collection with shop vac
  • can be used for hours at a time

The Bad

  • poor performance with low grit paper
  • dust collection drum hardly works
  • single speed
  • paper changes are unnecessarily hard

Hitachi SV12SG Palm Sander

The Hitachi SV12SG is a well engineered palm sander with a serious flaw. Its average size motor and solid top speed place it in middle of the pack. The thick sub base and metal hole punch even give it features none of the competition can match.

Unfortunately all this is for naught. Hitachi does not include or sell a vacuum hose adapter that fits onto the sander's oval dust port. Given the solid performance of some palm sanders on this list, why would anyone buy a sander that does not have a good dust collection option?

The Good

  • comfortable, rubber covered knob handle
  • thick foam on sub base
  • strong sander paper clamps
  • hole punch is made out of metal

The Bad

  • Hitachi does not sell an adapter to connect a round hose to the oval port of the sander
  • simple, uninspired design
  • very tight tolerances on the clamps makes paper changes cumbersome
  • sand paper sheets must be quartered precisely or else one or more of the piece won't fit on this sander
  • poor dust collection bag
  • power switch is not sealed against dust
  • anti-theft device on the power cord
  • louder than average (but not by much)

Summary

The 1/3 sheet Makita BO3710 is the best all-around palm sander in this lineup. Better engineered than the competition in almost every way, its only drawback is its considerably larger size. Best of all, it sands significantly faster than the closest competitor.

The foursome of the Bosch 1297D, Makita BO4556, DeWalt D26441, and Porter Cable Model 342 defines the middle of the pack. Each one of these is a capable sander that will perform well in any woodshop. Choosing based on brand loyalty is not a bad strategy in this segment.

The Porter Cable Model 330 takes the durability crown, but fails to outperform the generic sanders in the middle of the market due to its lackluster motor. It's the best choice for anyone who values durability above everything else.

The seriously flawed Milwaukee 6020-21 and Hitachi SV12SG, and the low-quality Ryobi S652DK sit at the rear of the field. While they are still capable sanders, the competition is simply too strong to recommend these two sanders. If the price is right, they may still be a good pick-up.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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