questionsis a random orbital sander for 20 bucks worth it?

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It's got a few things going for it. Since you're new to this, the pressure sensors will (hopefully) keep you from pushing too hard and gouging the wood. The vacuum on the back of it is nice. I've never seen that before, but the sanders I've used were dinosaurs. Also, it's $20. Worth a shot, best o' luck.

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I got snookered into buying one from walmart two years ago for $20, since it was cheap at the time...haven't been in the market for one since then, but if the price hasn't chanced, I'd say it's a decent deal.

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The random orbit action isn't for "faster stock removal" it is to help avoid sanding marks on the surface of the stock. If you want faster stock removal, you use a belt sander or coarse paper.
$20 is a cheap starter model, I wouldn't count on it lasting very long with regular usage.
Most of them have the vacuum port these days, as dust collection is a much larger concern than it was in the past.

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Go for it! A random orbital sander will amaze you with its results. However, for stripping old varathane and such, I'd go the chemical route wherever possible. Mechanical removal is much slower and could lead to damage as you try to get all of the nooks and crannies.

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Worth a shot. I own two sanders. One is a Skill and it's a few years old, still running, and works fairly well. The other is a Makita and it's worth the extra money only because I use it often. If its only for occasional use I say go for it. Remember to consider the cost for sandpaper...

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Just bought mine. Awesome! :D