You have just completed your woodworking project and it is time to put the finishing touches on it. Paint it, stain it, or merely clear coat it – you have choices to make. Regardless of what you choose to do with your work of art, you will have to do some preparations and that includes sanding it.
A belt sander will smooth the ridges and knots or remove a fraction of an inch from a project piece. You may be remodeling an older home and you find imperfections in some of the original doors. You may even be one of the brave ones who dive in and want to refinish your backyard deck and you need to remove the old finish before you can make it look like new.
We have reviewed several belt sanders to help you make a knowledgeable choice on which of them would best suit your needs. We will take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of these belt sanders and will highlight our choice for the best overall product.
What is a Belt Sander?
A belt sander is a multipurpose sanding tool that can be used for not just sanding, but also for trimming, leveling, rounding, and shaping. They have a highly powerful motor and can also be used with coarse grit sandpapers, which allows them to remove material much faster. In belt sanders, the motor moves the sanding belt in a linear fashion, which allows you to cover more surface area and provide a better grain.
A belt sander is highly useful for professional and experienced woodworkers, as well as DIY enthusiasts who like to work on different projects in their home. They are preferred over other tools because of their faster operation and greater power, and once you have polished your skills with the belt sander, you can work on small and large projects with accuracy and precision.
What to Look for in a Belt Sander
A good belt sander perfectly balances price, power, durability, design, and function for your needs. Individually, each parameter is important; but, it’s the way these factors interact with each other that makes the difference.
For example, a belt sander with a powerful motor will not work well if the belt slips on the bearings. Here’s another example, a tilting work table will not work well if adjusting the angle of tilt is a hassle. It gets even worse if the table slips during operation, changing the angle of tilt unexpectedly. I’ve also seen products where a feature becomes useless because of poor design decisions.
So, if you’re shopping for a belt sander, pay attention to the details. Read the manual, watch video demonstrations, and read reviews. This way, you’re less likely to overlook things. Now, here are some important factors you should consider.
There are two basic types of belt sanders: larger, stationary models that sit on a benchtop and more compact, handheld models that go wherever you need them.
Stationary belt sanders are a must-have in carpentry or metalworking shops for grinding, sanding, or shaping metal, wood, cabinetry, or furniture. The typical stationary belt sander takes a 4-inch-wide by 36-inch-long belt, but there are heavy-duty tools that run a 6-inch by 48-inch belt, as well as machines designed for more precise work that use a 1-inch by 30-inch belt.
Portable belt sanders are by far the most popular choice for home use and DIY projects. Belt sanders are perfect for light to mid-weight sanding, polishing, or shaping tasks. These tools are useful for a wide variety of common DIY jobs, including sanding away paint, glue, or other finishes, getting cabinetry or furniture ready for refinishing, sharpening tools, wearing down the edges of doors or windows that stick due to swelling, and sanding metal surfaces.
There are a few different belt sizes to consider: 3 inches by 21 inches, 3 inches by 18 inches, and 4 inches by 24 inches are all common for DIY and other household use. You’ll also find small belt sanders for detailed or hard-to-reach tasks; these often use a 1/2-inch by 18-inch belt.
All stationary belt sanders run off AC current, but you’ll find both corded and cordless portable belt sanders, though corded is the most common type. As with most power tools, you’ll get the most power from a corded tool, but the tradeoff is less mobility, as you are tethered to the power cord. Cordless belt sanders typically use 18-volt lithium-ion batteries, although some hardier models use 20-volt batteries instead.
Most handheld belt sanders’ motors run between 6 and 12 amps of power; if you only need the tool for lightweight and occasional sanding jobs, the lower end of that range is sufficient, but if you plan on tackling larger projects, you’ll be happier with a belt sander that runs towards the top of that range.
The speed at which a belt sander rotates the sanding belt is usually measured in feet per minute (fpm), although some manufacturers stick with rotations per minute (rpm). Many of these tools have just one set speed, which is generally around 1,500 fpm. Others have a high and low speed setting of about 500 fpm on low and 1,500 on high. There are also higher-end belt sanders with variable-speed controls so you can fine-tune the speed to just where you need it.
Our Top Picks:
The WEN 6502 is a combination sanding tool that brings to you the benefit of a disc sander and a belt sander. It’s a stationary unit with a sturdy cast iron base that dampens vibrations and promotes stability. Ideal for most finishing jobs, this combination sander allows you to sand, trim, level, round, and smoothen your woodworking projects.
Its 4.3A motor runs at 1900 SFM. At this speed, belts of 80-grit and 120-grit work best. Lower grit belts may stall and higher grits may burn out fast. I would have loved it if this machine had variable speed control. But, as it is, the machine is great for beginner to intermediate level woodworkers.
The belt changing system is simple and quick. After a belt change, the tracking system allows you to manually position the belt at the center using the tracking knob. Swapping the disc on this machine is pretty quick and convenient as well.
A disc-belt sander usually lacks the power of a standalone disc sander or a standalone belt sander. So, if you’re looking for a pure bred belt sander, the Black & Decker DS321 is sure to interest you.
Packing a powerful 6 A motor, the DS321 powers its 3 inches x 21 inches belt at an impressive speed. Best suited for working with medium-grit belts, this machine helps remove large amounts of wood from the surface of your workpiece. Since the machine has a powerful motor, it will work well with grits as low as 60. But, I wouldn’t push it lower than that. Usually, I prefer using an 80-grit belt while working with this machine. For a better finish, I rely on my orbital sander.
Coming back to this belt grinder, one of the features I like a lot is its angled belt design. This design allows you to get close to the edges while sanding floorboards. Also, you can raise the front part of the machine to expose the sanding belt. This is another feature that makes this tool awesome for hard to reach places.
The belt is easy to change and track. The dust collection bag fits easily into the slot and does a nice job trapping sawdust. The drive train rotates the belt smoothly. So, this machine takes care of most of the little things nicely.
For a tool that delivers professional quality sanding at a price tag that won’t break your budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better entry in the belt sander game than the Makita 9403. It’s powerful enough to be described as a “beast,” though it keeps its roar down, boasting the title of quietest belt sander in its class with noise levels limited to 84 dB.
Equipped with a 4 x 24-inch belt that zips by at a speed of 1,640 feet per minute, the 9403 is a master of wood removal, easily stripping layers of wood from a variety of surfaces including floors, tabletops, and more.
One of the few downsides of this professional-grade unit is its weight, which clocks in at a whopping 15.8 pounds. As such, it’s unlikely you’ll get much overhead or vertical work out of the 9403, but it’s perfect for making quick work of horizontal sanding tasks.
Depending on the home improvement job, a corded detailing sander is a far more safe and practical tool than a full-sized apparatus. Sure, you could use a traditional belt sander for detail sanding, but they’re typically pretty bulky and cumbersome, whereas the WEN 6307 Variable Speed Detailing File Sander is specially designed to take on smaller projects— or jobs that only require sanding specific sections of a larger surface.
While much shorter and more slender than a standard belt sander at ½ x 18-inches, the WEN 6307 doesn’t sacrifice performance for size and shape—it rotates 1,080-1,800 feet per minute, and it boasts an adjustable handle that pivots 55 degrees to ensure that its users have full control in order to tackle difficult, hard-to-reach areas, such as the tops of doors or cabinets.
Nothing comes close to our best overall choice, the Tacklife PSFS1A belt sander. Its 5-amp motor offers sufficient power for smoothing out a new door or removing the finish from a previously finished one. Its variable speeds let you adjust the speed to accommodate whatever surface you may be sanding.
Your purchase will include 13 pieces of sandpaper, seven pieces 80-grit paper, and six pieces of 120-grit paper. These are two of the more common grits and they will suffice for the average woodworking project. The metal clamping lever will allow you to change the sandpaper quickly and easily and an adjustable tension screw lets you cinch up the belt as it stretches and loosens. The dust collection box can also be removed easily when it fills up so that it can be cleaned quickly and you can move on with your sanding.
A high-powered belt sander that can take on any of the woodworking projects that you undertake is the Skil 7510 Sandcat Belt Sander. You can count on the auto-tracking belt alignment to keep your sanding belt tight and straight so it stays on the rollers. While you are sanding, you can connect the sander to a vacuum with an inch and a quarter hose so that you can enjoy nonstop sanding. Push the lock-on button and it makes continuous sanding even easier.
One of the unique features of this sander is the pressure control technology that warns you when you are applying too much pressure. A nice feature when you are working on an heirloom or expensive piece of furniture.
Taking a closer look, you will discover that this sander is heavier than most of the other sanders in our reviews. This can lead to fatigue but is not necessarily a deal-breaker.
Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a carpenter, the Jellas BS02-SD Belt Sander can be used for light to medium sanding projects such as stripping paint and de-rusting metallic surfaces.
Built for fast stock removal, the 7 amp motor delivers ample power even under load, and its 6 variable speed dial allows you to adjust the 120-400 RPM speed to suit your woodworking tasks.
The large worktop covers more area and is designed for additional stability and the locking button allows for continuous operation. You can use this belt sander for a variety of projects. Its belt tension lever makes it so easy to change the sandpaper and the toolless adjusting knob ensures easy belt tracking.
German tool masters Bosch have been trusted by tradespeople and DIYers alike for over a century. I was excited to get hold of their PBS 75 A belt sander. It sits in their green range of quality tools for DIYers.
First off, this is a big belt sander. It’s nearly 55 cm long and the big front grip means you hold it low down to the workpiece. But the bulky stylings aren’t just for looks- you can flip the belt sander on its back and use it as a bench sander as well. The auto-align feature works well, so you don’t have to fiddle with adjusters either.
The 750-Watt motor should be powerful enough for tough jobs. It’s one of the best belt sanders for home projects. The only thing that really let me down is the lack of variable speed. It’s one of the more useful features found in belt sanders, and I wish that Bosch had added to this otherwise excellent machine.
I’m a big fan of Japanese tool brand Ryobi. Especially their ONE+ range of cordless power tools that all share the same battery type. The R18BS-0 belt sander is the best cordless belt sander that I’ve tried out. With a brushless motor and a belt speed of 250m/min it offers all the power you could ask for, and all without annoying power cords.
It’s a chunky but compact belt sander that makes use of a clever adjustable front handle to save on overall body size. It means you can play around with the settings to make it comfortable no matter how long or short your arms are. The drawback of this design is you can’t easily mount it upside down as a bench sander.
Hands down the best thing about this belt sander is that it’s cordless. Even the longest cables get in the way when you’re sanding long pieces of wood, metal, or plastic. Going cordless makes this the best cordless belt sander you can get. The only gripes I have are a lack of variable speed and a fiddly tracking wheel.
The Einhell TC-BS 8038 Belt Sander is equipped with an efficient motor that has a power rating of 800 W but comes in a compact design. It is designed to make your sanding operation as easy as possible, and it is great as a workhorse for projects such as removing paint and varnish from doors or stairs or sanding down decking or floors. An additional handle means it is easy to use and manoeuvrable and gives you precise handling for when you need it.
This compact belt sander has a precision adjustment knob that allows you to quickly and easily set the belt correctly so that it tracks correctly. It also comes with a dust collector bag to keep your working environment free of dust. You also won’t have to lose time on the job, as the quick belt change facility makes changing the belt so simple to do.
As a great safety feature, this powerful belt sander has a ceramic guard that provides protection in case the belt position is not set correctly.
How to Use a Belt Sander?
Before getting to the brass tacks of operating a belt sander, it’s important to note that safety wear is your first point of call. Understandably, a lot of dust accumulates while using a belt sander so a dust mask, as well as safety glasses and clothing protection such as an apron or overalls, are recommended.
Next, you might want to opt for ear protection as these things tend to be quite loud. As far as operation goes, the top tips are to let the weight of the tool do the work for you; putting extra weight is unnecessary and can damage the material you’re working on. Extra care needs to be taken on softer materials such as plywood. Finally, making sure to swap out the belts when they get tatty, as well as keeping the tool clean, will help for optimal function and safety. For more analytical operation instructions, the below video provides a step-by-step guide on using a belt sander.
What can happen if I install the belt the wrong way round?
A sanding belt is made by gluing a strip of abrasive material into a loop- the leading edge needs to be facing away from the direction of travel or it can work loose. A loose sanding belt can come undone suddenly and whip the user, causing injury.
When should I replace my sanding belt?
If your sanding belt is taking a long time to remove material and is producing excessive heat, it’s time to replace it. You can test how much grit is left by comparing an old belt to a new one.
What PPE should I wear when using a belt sander?
Belt sanders can be noisy, so you should always wear ear protection. Even if your belt sander comes with dust extraction, you should wear a suitable mask to avoid breathing in fine particles and eyewear in case of flying debris.
How long will my belt sander last?
Proper maintenance (and replacement of worn-out parts) will ensure that a top-quality belt sander lasts years or decades on end – if not your entire lifetime.