Many woodworkers make the mistake of overlooking belt sanders when stocking their shop with power tools. Luckily, my late grandfather showed me how valuable these sanders are when I would visit his workshop years ago.
The information below is intended to show you the abilities of this type of sander and includes quick reviews of some best rated belt sander models you might consider for your woodshop, no matter what your current skill level is.
In this article, we’re going to review the following belt sanders:
Table of Contents
Belt Sander Basics
Belt Sander 101
A belt sander uses abrasive belts instead of disks or sheets. This allows the user to sand with the grain at all times instead of the circular motion found on disc and orbiting sanders.
Linear sanding with the grain provides smoother results. When you sand cross-grain, the abrasive will tend to leave small gouges in the wood surface. These blemishes can be seen especially under stains.
The motors on belt sanders will be more powerful than those found on even the top-rated random orbital sanders. This increased power equates to shorter work times.
A larger motor and linear sanding motion will also let you work with larger grit abrasives that can remove material faster. You will also need less force to smooth out the wood surface.
Belt sanders will require the use of both hands in order to maintain proper control.
You may need a little more practice to master this type of sander when compared to a disc or orbital sander as well.
What are belt sanders best for?
A belt sander excels with rough timber. These tools will help you level and smooth boards faster than other sanding techniques or hand planing.
They can also be used for taking wood down to a curved scribed line as well as larger curved edges.
The only sanding work belt sanders fair poorly with is detailed sanding. You may struggle to work on smaller curves also.
Buying A Belt Sander: Things To Consider
A quick look online will verify that belt sanders motors can range from 6 amps to over 10 amps. I would recommend buying the largest motor you can afford. This will give you a sander that can handle tougher jobs without taking forever to finish. It can also help save wear on the belt as well as the motor itself.
You might be surprised how important comfort is when using a sander. This is even more critical on a belt sander. Look for ergonomic handle designs that offer some type of cushioning or materials that help absorb vibration. I’ve discovered that larger hand hold points provide me with longer relief than smaller handholds.
Speed adjustments will provide you with more control while sanding. Belt sanders can sand down wood quickly. Speed control will let you slow down the belt on softer woods or on surfaces that require less material to be removed.
Conversely, speeding up a high grit belt will allow you to take a rough board down with minimal effort and time.
How To Properly Use A Belt Sander
One thing I had to learn the hard way was that you don’t need to push down on a sander. A belt sander has the ability to sand material without added pressure.
Move slowly as you sand, keeping the same speed and tool profile as you move across the wood surface. This will provide even results. Make sure that the belt sander does not dip as you move across the end of the board.
Make sure to keep the space between the plate and the belt clean in order to prevent build-up that can cause uneven sanding. Keep the belt surface free from dust buildup also. Do not hesitate to replace worn belts with a new one to keep your sanding smooth and free from gouges.
Stay safe while working.
Securing your project before sanding will prevent it from moving, or even launching, from your bench. These tools are loud, so make sure to wear ear protection. They also generate a lot of dust, so wear a mask and eye protection (even if you have dust collection).
Make sure the power is off before you plug the sander in, otherwise it might take off on you. Also, remember to unplug it before you change belts or perform other maintenance tasks.
Top Rated Belt Sander Reviews
- Variable-speed belt sander with cloth dust bag; variable-speed dial 850-1,300 SFPM
- Belt and gear drive system transfers power from the motor to the sanding belt
- Designed for flush sanding up to vertical surfaces; dust bag swivels 360 degree
The belt and gear drive on this sander do a reasonable job of transferring power from the motor to the belt. This makes an efficient system with a minimal amount of power loss during the transfer.
Makita 9403 4" X 24" Belt Sander
- Quietest belt sander in its class: only 84 decibals
- 4 inch wide belt with a speed of 1,640 feet per minute for fast material removal
- Labyrinth construction seals motor and bearings from contamination
This company is known for making quality tools for a bit more money than similar models from other manufacturers. A smaller footprint makes this device easier to carry and store, which can be an advantage if you have limited room in your work area.
TACKLIFE PSFS1A 3 x 18 Inch Belt Sander
- 🏡【2 In 1: Bench & Belt Sander】 Provided with two metal screw clamps, TACKLIFE belt sander can be turned over and fixed to table, acting as a bench sander, lock-on button helps to free your...
- 🏡【13Pcs Sanding Belts】 Come with 6pcs 120 grits and 7pcs 80 grits aluminum oxide sanding belts, saving your money, meeting the requirements for your different projects. Metal clamping lever for...
- 🏡【Power & Variable-Speed Design】5 Amp motor offers great power to the sanding surface, delivering efficient removal and high quality finish. Variable-speed knob with 6 dials enables you to...
If you are on the fence about investing in a belt sander, the price point on this model may help you to justify the purchase. This product comes with a variety of sanding belts that will allow you to get started right away.
Makita 9903 3" X 21" Belt Sander
- Powerful 8.8 AMP motor; only 85dB
- Variable speed control dial (690-1,440 ft./min.) enables user to match the speed to the application
- Auto-tracking belt system tracks belt without adjustment
A low noise level on this 8.8 amp model allows it to run with less noise while providing adequate power to the belt. It also has a low profile, a feature that helps provide more balance.
SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat
- Pressure control technology warns user when excessive pressure is applied
- Auto track system keeps belt centered on track
- Micro-filtration captures and contains fine dust particles
With six amps of power, this belt sander might be best considered as a hobby-level product. It will do the trick with softer woods, but it will take some time to get really rough material or hardwoods flat.
The Smoothest Choice
I did like each of the products reviewed above. They all offer advantages that would cover the gambit of needs for most beginning and intermediate woodworkers. With that being said, however, I do feel that the PORTER-CABLE 3 x 21 Inch Belt Sander represents the best belt sander among them.
While the eight-amp motor is not the biggest on the list, it will provide enough power to get through most jobs quickly. It may require more time and effort to get through the roughest timber, but it will eventually get the job done.
I also enjoyed the variable speed range offered here. A range from 850 to 1,300 RPMs makes this more versatile than the single-speed products reviewed. The drive gear design also provides good transfer from the motor to belt with minimal loss in between.
It comes with handles that offer plenty of purchase for your grip, even if you have larger hands or are wearing gloves.
Finally, a swiveling dust bag helps to keep it out of the way as you work.
Need a stationary sander? Check out our review of the top belt and disc sanders.