Can an Orbital Sander Be Used as a Buffer?

If you enjoy DIY projects or want to keep your furniture in good condition, you may have heard of tools like orbital sanders and buffers. These power tools help make surfaces smooth and shiny.

But can an orbital sander be used as a buffer?

Yes, an orbital sander can be used as a buffer. However, caution must be exercised as the high speed of the sander can potentially damage the paint on surfaces. Using a lower speed setting when using an orbital sander as a buffer is important to minimize the risk of burning through the paint.

Understanding Orbital Sanders and Buffers

Orbital Sander and Buffer

Before we answer that question, let’s understand what orbital sanders and buffers do. An orbital sander is a handheld tool used in woodworking and preparing surfaces. It spins a sanding disc in a random pattern to smooth the surface.

If you’re interested in learning more about the functionalities and applications of sanders, I recommend checking out our blog post on “What is a Sander?“.

On the other hand, a buffer is a tool used for polishing surfaces like car paint, wood finishes, or metal.

Differences Between Orbital Sanders and Buffers

Although both orbital sanders and buffers work on surfaces, they have different purposes. Orbital sanders are used to sand surfaces and remove imperfections, while buffers are used solely for polishing and creating a shiny finish.

Factors to Consider When Using Orbital Sanders as a Buffer

If you want to use an orbital sander as a buffer, there are a few things to think about. 

Orbital sander moves differ from a dedicated buffer: Orbital sanders move randomly, while buffers move in circles. This difference can affect how well the buffing works and may not yield the desired results.

Buffers have special pads or bonnets for polishing: These pads are softer and gentler than the sanding pads used with orbital sanders. Using the wrong pad or bonnet on an orbital sander could damage or scratch the surface you’re trying to buff.

Orbital sanders may not have precise speed control for delicate buffing tasks: Buffers often have adjustable speed settings to work with different materials and finishes, which gives you more control and precision when polishing.

Pros and Cons of Using an Orbital Sander as a Buffer

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using an orbital sander as a buffer:


Cost-effective: If you already have an orbital sander, you can save money by using it as a buffer instead of buying a separate tool.

Versatility: An orbital sander can still be useful for light buffing tasks or when you need to sand and buff in the same project.


Limited performance: The random motion of an orbital sander may not give you the same control and precision as a dedicated buffer, which could result in less satisfactory buffing.

Risk of damage: Using the wrong pad or bonnet on an orbital sander can cause scratches or other damage to the surface being buffed.

Safety concerns: Orbital sanders are more powerful and require more effort than buffers, which increases the risk of accidents or injuries during the buffing process.

Safety Considerations When Using Orbital Sanders as a Buffer

Safety should be your priority if you use an orbital sander as a buffer. Always wear safety glasses, dust masks, and gloves for protection. Be extra careful when using the machine, and ensure the surface you’re buffing is securely held to prevent accidents or damage.


While you can technically use an orbital sander as a buffer, it may not give you the desired results due to differences in motion, pad selection, and speed control. 

Considering the limitations, risks, and safety concerns before using an orbital sander as a buffer is important. 

For the best results and a professional finish, investing in a dedicated buffer designed specifically for the task is advisable.

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