If you just want a quick answer, Makita 9403 is the best woodworking belt sander you can buy. Read on to find out why.
Many woodworkers make the mistake of overlooking belt sanders when stocking their shop with power tools. Beginners may feel intimidated by belt sanders since they are capable of removing large amounts of material so quickly. But, as we all know, sanding can be extremely grueling. If you intend to work on large projects, investing in a good belt sander is a must.
This article will explain what you should consider when shopping for a belt sander. We will also review five of the best belt sanders of 2023 so that you don’t spend your hard-earned money on a low-quality tool.
Top belt sanders compared:
Belt Sander Basics
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
Hand-Held vs Stationary
A belt sander will make use of a pair of rollers and a sanding belt for removing material. There are differences between designs, including:
Hand-Held Belt Sander
You will find these more compact. That means less room to store and operate. It is portable, but you sacrifice some control.
Belt width varies, but you can encounter thinner belts with hand-held products. Dust collection is limited to a hose attachment with this type of belt sander.
- These are portable
- Work on larger boards
- You will usually pay less
- More difficult to control
- Less accurate
Stationary Belt Sander
A stationary design lets you take advantage of table support. That provides more accurate results, including with beveled edges. You need to take the wood to the tool, limiting board size for efficiency and safety.
Wider belts are easier to find on these products, as they offer better control. The table design allows for more powerful dust extraction on a stationary belt sander.
- Easy to control
- More accurate results
- More accessories
- Lacks mobility
- Limited work capacity
Belt sanders motors can range anywhere from 4 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.
Ergonomic design is vitally important when using a belt sander. Some projects require long hours of sanding and a poorly designed belt sander can put a lot of strain on your body, especially your hands.
Look for ergonomic handle designs that offer some type of cushioning or materials that help absorb vibration. I’ve discovered that larger handhold points provide me with longer relief than smaller handholds.
Variable Speed Control
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.
Sanding produces a lot of dust. Belt sanders in particular can generate large amounts of debris and that material needs to go somewhere. Proper dust removal keeps the wood particles from collecting on the project surface or in your lungs!
Dust ports with proper connection dimensions for your shop vac or ductwork will make attaching and detaching simple while providing a good seal.
Top-Rated Belt Sander Reviews
1. Best Belt Sander for The Money: Makita 9403
- Low noise (84dB) for operator comfort
- 4" wide belt with a speed of 1,640 ft./min. for fast material removal
- Labyrinth construction seals and protects motor and bearings from dust and debris for longer tool life
Makita is known for making quality for a bit more money than similar models from other manufacturers. A smaller footprint of the Makita 9403 Belt Sander makes this device easier to carry and store, which can be an advantage if you have limited room in your work area.
2. The Runner Up: Makita 9903 3″ X 21″ Belt Sander
- Powerful 8.8 AMP motor; only 85dB
- Variable speed control dial (690 -1,440 ft./min.) 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.
3. Best Budget Belt Sander: WEN 6321
- 7-amp motor rotates the belt at over 13 feet per second
- Compact design weighs in at a mere six pounds to limit the fatigue of the user
- Includes a detachable dust bag to minimize clean-up
The 6321 measures approximately 12 inches L x 6.0 inches W x 6.50 inches H and weighs 6.2 pounds. That size will make the belt sander easy to control, and the weight means that you should not become fatigued.
Its electric motor lists at a 7.0 amps rating. That drives the belt at 820 Feet Per Minute (FPM) under no-load conditions. You will need to bear down heavily on the sander as you work to cause any slow down on belt speeds.
It includes a detachable dust bag and has a simple design that beginners can master quickly.
4. Best Benchtop Belt Sander: WEN 6502T
- Two-in-one sanding machine includes both a 4-by-36 inch belt and a 6-by-6 inch disc
- Belt tilts anywhere from 0 to 90 degrees
- Sturdy cast iron base prevents any heavy vibrations
WEN’s 6502T measures approximately 22 inches L x 11 inches W x 12.5 inches H. It weighs just under 38 pounds (listed at 37.9). That makes this combination belt/disc sander compact and lightweight, both being features hobbyists can appreciate.
A 4.3 amp electric motor drives the sanding surfaces on this product. It can generate up to 3,600 Rotations Per Minute (RPMs) without a load. Those may not be the highest rates for a benchtop belt sander, but they will suffice for most beginner and intermediate woodworkers.
A small tabletop supports wood on both the disc and belt stations. The belt can tilt up to 90-degrees for flat beveling on the edge of your lumber.
5. Benchtop Runner-Up: BUCKTOOL BD4801
- POWERFUL MOTOR: The belt and disc sander is directly driven by the motor shaft, 3/4 HP High Power Motor and 3450 RPM Disc Speed provide efficient and stable output
- FLEXIBLE BELT: This belt of the benchtop belt sander is 4x36-inch and 80-grit, and it can be placed horizontally or vertically to meet various needs, the cast aluminum worktable can be tilted 0-45...
- STABLE DISC: The diameter of the disk is 8-inch, a heavy steel cover is added to prevent the disc from shaking. There is a miter gauge appliable for fixing the angle of the wood, and the cast aluminum...
The BD4801 from Bucktool measures 25.25 inches L x 20.50 inches W x 8.3 inches H and weighs shy of 40 pounds. It has a larger footprint due to the belt position, which is perpendicular to the housing.
A 5.0 amp direct-drive electric motor generates 3,450 RPMs under no-load. It should provide more aggressive sanding than lower amp-rated power tools, and the 3/4 horsepower output will not bog down.
Its sanding belt adjusts up to 90-degrees, and the support table is also adjustable from 0 to 45-degree angles. A standout feature here is the eight-inch disc size, providing more sanding surface.
Read More: Best Benchtop Belt Sanders
6. SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat
- Pressure control technology monitors sanding pad pressure applied for optimal finish
- 6.0 A of power sands any type of wood surface
- 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.
7. Metabo HPT SB8V2
- INCLUDES: SB8V2 Belt Sander, Sanding Belt, Dust Bag
- MOTOR: 9 amp 1,020-watt motor, forcible power for the toughest sanding jobs
- SPEED CONTROL: Variable speed dial at base of handle for various applications and improved manageability
The body of the Metabo belt sander measures 6.0 inches L x 6.75 inches W x 4.0 inches H. That is compact for a belt sander. It does weigh 9.5 pounds, which you might expect for the power output it offers.
Metabo uses a 1,020-watt electric motor with a 9.0 amp rating. Variable speed controls allow you to manipulate belt speeds between 820 and 1,475 Feet Per Minute (FPM). These adjustments enable you to adjust how aggressively the sander tackles the wood’s surface.
A clear front cover allows you to see more of the action as you work. It comes with a left-side-mounting dust bag and a five-year warranty package for extended coverage.
8. Craftsman CMEW213
- 7.0 amp 3in. X 21in. Belt sander with an angled belt Design to sand closer to adjoining surfaces
- Max 800 FPM For fast material removal
- Tool-free belt release for quick and easy belt changes
The body on this belt sander measures 14.37 inches L x 5.44 inches W x 5.64 inches H. It weighs about 6.64 pounds, which is not heavy considering the length.
An electric motor rated at 7.0 amps drives the belt at 800 Feet Per Minute (FPM) under no-load. An adjustable handle provides comfort as you work and the 90-day satisfaction/three-year limited warranty for comfort as you buy.
9. TACKLIFE PSFS1A
No products found.
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.
10. PORTER-CABLE 352VS
No products found.
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.
Using A Belt Sander: A Few Tips
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.
The Best Belt Sander
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 Makita 9403 Belt Sander represents the best belt sander among them.
Its 11-amp motor 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.
Even though this sander does not feature a variable speed dial, it performs exceptionally well sanding at the speed it was designed to. Moreover, the 9403 operates at its most optimal speed so variable speed settings aren’t actually needed here.
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 my review of the best belt and disc sanders.