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The 10 Best Belt Sander Of 2017

If you’re a carpenter or woodworker, you’ve most likely had some bad experiences with belt sanders.

Unfortunately, even some of the top 10 belt sanders of 2017 can cause some negative reactions.

A poorly crafted belt sander can destroy days, even weeks’ worth of work in a matter of seconds.

However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that a reliable belt sander can cut hours off your lengthy sanding routine.

The key here, for all you belt sander haters, is to find a great product that’s easy to control and maneuver. Even expensive high-quality belt sanders can accidently cause scratches or depressions.

That’s why you should search for a belt sander that offers features and functions that help, instead of destroy.

To simplify this shopping process, we’ve collected research on some of the best belt sanders for woodworking and carpentry. These next few sections shall provide an in-depth review on the top 10 easiest to maneuver, handle, and master belt sanders of 2017.
 IncludedDimensionsBelt SizeBelt SpeedAMPS 
Makita 9903
(Best for WoodWorking)
Belt Sander
abrasive belt
dust bag
11.6” x 5.6” x 6.2”3" x 21"690 - 1,440 ft./min.8.8 Check Price
Hitachi SB8V2Sander
Dust Bag
14.5” x 9.5” x 8.5”3” x 21”1,475 ft/min9.0 Check Price
Black & Decker DS321Sander
Dust Bag
15.2” x 6.3” x 6.3”3” x 21”N/A6.0 Check Price
Makita 9403
(Editor’s Choice)
Abrasive belt
Dust bag
13.9” x 5.5” x 8.3”4" x 24"1,640 ft./min11 Check Price
PORTER-CABLE 362V100G belt
dust bag operating manual
17” x 11” x 8”4" x 24"1,000- 1,500 ft./min12 Check Price
PORTER-CABLE 371K
(Editor’s Choice)
Sander x3
Sanding Belts
Kit Box
Instruction Manual
15.4” x 9.2” x 7.2”2-1/2 x 141100 ft./min5 Check Price
Black & Decker BR318BR318 belt sander
Belt
Dust bag
14” x 7” x 7”3" x 18"1100 ft./min6 Check Price
Astro 3037Sanding Belt 40/60/80 Grit
Dust Bag
Instruction Manual
15.5” x 3.5” x 2”1/2" x 18"16,000rpmN/A Check Price
WEN 6321
(Under $100)
Dust Collection
Bag
80-Grit
Sanding Belt
12” x 6” x 6.5”3” x 21”830 ft./min7 Check Price
Hitachi SB8V2Belt Sander
Dust Bag
1” x 8.3” x 14.3”3” x 21”1,475 ft./min9 Check Price

1. Makita 9903 Belt Sander – Best Overall, Best for Woodworking

The Makita 9903 contains a powerful 8.8 AMP motor that’s capable of speeds up to 1,440 feet per minute. Equipped with a variable speed dial, it provides the ability to change speeds with a single press of a button. The handy auto-tracking function allows the sander’s belt to adjust automatically after every use.

It’s designed with a large, heavy front for better grip and handling during sanding.

With a 16-foot-long power cord, the Makita 9903 has a long reach for easier and convenient use. It comes equipped with the sander, an abrasive belt, and a thick dust bag for limited messes.

While the Makita 9903 is a great belt sander for both hard and soft wood, it’s not the most powerful. It tends to slow down significantly when used on hardwood compared to soft. This is even more noticeable when using coarse grit belts. A few customer reviews complained that on max speed, this belt sander had the tendency to burn soft wood. So be careful of this when using it.

Overall, the Makita 9903 is handy belt sander that’s worth every cent. Well-balanced and easy to handle, this belt sander’s a quality product that’s definitely worth your consideration.

Pros
  • 8.8 AMP Motor
  • Variable Speed Dial
  • 16 ft. power cord
  • Works on both hard and soft wood
Cons
  • Max speed slows down on hardwood but burns soft

2. Hitachi Belt Sander SB8V2– Best for Carpenter

The Hitachi SB9V2 comes with a 9.0 AMP motor with speeds of 1,475 feet per minute. It’s equipped with a handy tracking for convenience and visibility while sanding. For better handling, the sander is designed with a soft rubber grip that guarantees no slips, mistakes, or accidents. Its v-belt is wear-resistant against the common wear and tear of time and usage.

This assures that the Hitachi SB9V2 will last for at least double the normal length of a belt sander.

Also, the dust bag attaches to the left-hand side of the sander for effectively trapping excess wood shavings and debris.

The Hitachi SB9V2 is, by no means, a well-balanced piece of machinery. Both the motor and dust bag are built into the left side of the sander. Meanwhile, the rubber grip is directly in the middle. This causes the belt sander to lean towards the left while in use, leaving a not-so-smooth finish.

The Hitachi SB9V2 is a high-grade belt sander that effectively removes paint, wood, steel, and more with little effort. Although its wear-resistant v-belt guarantees a longer than normal lifespan, it also comes with a complimentary 5-year warranty. It’s these additional benefits that cemented the Hitachi SB9V2 place as one of our best sanding belts for wood.

Pros
  • 9 AMP Motor
  • Variable Speed Dial
  • 5 year warranty
  • Wear-resistant v-belt
Cons
  • Tendency to tilt to the left
  • Less smooth finish

3. Black & Decker DS321 Dragster– Best under $100

The Black & Decker DS321 Dragster features a lightweight, compact design for better versatility and functionality. Despite its small size, this belt sander has a powerful 6.0 AMP motor that’s perfect for both hard and soft wood. Its adjustable handle can convert to three handy positions for better control, comfort, and convenience. It also comes equipped with an adjustable belt tracker for stability while sanding.

The Black & Decker DS321 features a lightweight, yet super durable dust bag with zipper access. This allows for quick, mess-free cleaning after sanding.

Not to mention the innovative front roller that allows for sanding tighter corners and cuts.

The downside to the Black &Decker DS321 is that the belt doesn’t want to stay in one place. This may be caused by the front roller. This belt sander comes equipped with an adjustable knob which is meant to keep the belt in one place. However, the knob doesn’t tighten enough to function properly. Instead, the belt slips off mid-use, causing premature wear and uneven smoothing. This seems to be a design flaw caused by the extra space between the front roller and the belt sanders body.

​If the Black & Decker DS321 doesn’t impress you, the belt sander thankfully comes with a 2-year warranty. Besides the belt design flaw, the Black & Decker could be the best handheld electric sanders on our list.

Pros
  • 8.8 AMP Motor
  • Variable Speed Dial
  • 16 ft. power cord
  • Works on both hard and soft wood
Cons
  • Max speed slows down on hardwood but burns soft

4. Makita 9403 – Cloth Dust Bag

The Makita 9403 is definitely one of the quietest belt sanders on our list. With an 11 AMP motor and a 4”-wide belt, this sander works fast while aggressively scrubbing paint, wood, and steel. Capable of speeds of up to 1,640 feet per minute, its small, handheld size allows for better control and balance. It’s designed with a large grip for better handling, and a ceramic wear plate for less maintenance.

The heavy-duty dust bag hangs on the left-hand side but can rotate 360 degrees for convenience.

The Makita 9403 is also designed with an extra grip on the back for better handling.

Unfortunately, the Makita 9403 tends to clog before the dust bag’s full. It might be because the bag is too heavy and doesn’t adjust well for new dust. However, if you watch the bag and make sure to shake it every so often, this will help prevent clogging.

With a double insulated, closed off design, the Makita 9403 works great at preventing sawdust and dirt from slipping out. Despite the occasional jam, this belt sander’s an excellent option for any expert or novice woodworker.

Pros
  • Extra hand grip
  • Closed off design
  • Dust bag rotates 360 degrees
  • 11 AMP motor
  • 4” belt
Cons
  • Sometimes clogs

5. PORTER-CABLE 362V – Best Speed

The PORTER-CABLE Belt Sander comes with an impressive 12 AMP motor that’s capable of reaching 1,500 feet per minute. The motor, itself, is positioned at the center of the body for better balance and handling. Built for heavy usage, the belt sander comes equipped with a 100-grit zirconium belt and variable speed dial. Its dust bag can swivel a full 360-degrees for convenience and comfort. It also comes with a Flush Sanding design that allows for sanding at both a horizontal and vertical angle.

While the PORTER-CABLE Belt sander’s a powerful, heavy-duty piece of machinery, it can still be used by beginner woodworkers.

It’s a product that’s perfect for all forms of carpentry.

While the Makita 9903 is a great belt sander for both hard and soft wood, it’s not the most powerful. It tends to slow down significantly when used on hardwood compared to soft. This is even more noticeable when using coarse grit belts. A few customer reviews complained that on max speed, this belt sander had the tendency to burn soft wood. So be careful of this when using it.

The PORTER-CABLE Belt Sander comes with a 3-year warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship. Albeit a basic belt sander with few features, it sands well and is an affordable option for new carpenters.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • 3-year warranty
  • 360-degrees dust bag
  • Flush Sanding design
  • 12 AMP Motor
Cons
  • Poor quality dust bag

6. PORTER-CABLE 371K - Compact Belt Sander Kit

The PORTER-CABLE 371K comes with a 5 AMP motor capable of sustaining up to 120 volts. At 8.9 pounds, it’s compact, lightweight, and easy to maneuver. Its extra-large rubber grip allows for even better handling while sanding. Designed with a 2 ½” x 14” belt, it’s able to run up to 1100 feet per minute with little jamming.

It comes equipped with a removable anterior dust port and shutoff switch for convenience and quicker sanding.

Along with a 1-year warranty, the PORTER-CABLE 371K includes an 80-grit sanding belt and hand carrying case for mobility.

The one frustrating thing about the PORTER-CABLE 371K is that it tends to overheat with prolonged use. This can actually cause the drive belt to melt or the handle to become intolerably hot. If you decide to purchase this belt sander, be sure to let it cool of every so often.

The PORTER-CABLE 371K is designed with flush sides for perfect perpendicular, 90-degree angle sanding. Also, its non-slip, rubber grip is both comfortable and handy. This belt sander’s guaranteed to provide you a smooth, even finish with every use.

Pros
  • 5 AMP
  • 8.9 lbs. lightweight and compact
  • Comes with 80-grit belt and carrying case
  • Capable of 90-degree angles
Cons
  • Tendency to overheat

7. Black & Decker BR318 - Best Value

The Black & Decker BR318 is a small and easy to maneuver handheld electric sander. At 6.6 pounds, it’s both lightweight and compact. Its design is 13 percent more narrow than any other belt sander on our list. With a 6 AMP motor and 3"x18” belt, it’s capable of reaching tight spaces and the edges of adjourning surfaces.

Its narrow tip is also extremely helpful in sanding small crevices.

The Black & Decker BR318 is a great low profile belt sander for new and beginner carpenters and woodworkers.

The Black & Decker BR318 is another quality belt sander that, unfortunately, has the tendency to overheat. The belt can also jam and break if inserted in properly. So be sure to read the instruction manual before replacing the belt.

With its narrow tip and compact design, the Black & Decker BR318 works wonderfully to smooth out crevices and cracks. It might not be the best small hand sander but it’s definitely the most worthwhile.

Pros
  • 13 percent more narrow
  • Narrow tip
  • 6 AMP
  • Small and compact
Cons
  • Tendency to overheat and jam

8. Astro 3037 - Best Design

The Astro 3037 is an air belt sander designed for spot weld removal. It comes with 3 different sanding belt grits: 40, 60, and 80. Equipped with a 0.5 motor and capable of handling 120 volts, it runs at a speed of 16,000 rpm. At 2.1 pounds, it’s extremely lightweight and easy to maneuver during sanding. Its non-slip grip makes handling the Astro 3037 a simple process.

It also comes equipped with a variable speed option for convenience and variability.

Its pulley rod and simple belt tension lever allow you to change the belt in a matter of minutes.

Astro 3037’s belt has the tendency to slip out of place or off the belt sander if knocked or hit. According to numerous customer reviews, this can cause the belt sander to jam or break.

Honestly, the Astro 3037 is best for light-load work. Although it can’t take extended periods of heavy pressure, it does an excellent job of spot work. This belt sander may be best for advanced woodworkers or spot polishing purposes in your home or business.

Pros
  • Includes belt grits: 40, 60, and 80
  • Lightweight at 2.1 lbs.
  • 6 AMP
  • Great at spot removal
Cons
  • Belt can easily knock loose

9. WEN 6321 - Best Budget

The Wen 6321 comes equipped with a 7 AMP motor that runs at least 830 feet per minute. It comes with a detachable dust collection bag, front roller for tight corners, and lock-in safety feature. The lock-in safety feature provides the ability for constant sanding without pauses or breaks.

Its tracking adjustment knob keeps the belt firmly in place and aligned while in use.

The simple belt release lever makes switching the belts a simple and easy process. It also comes with a 2-year warranty against product defects in workmanship and materials.

This belt sander does not hold up well to extended use with heavy pressure. Overuse can cause the motor to overheat which melts the belt. It’s important that you take breaks while using the Wen 6321 so it has a chance to cool down.

The best part about the Wen 6321 is that it always provides a clean, smooth finish with every use. It takes very little effort to wield this belt sander, making it a great option for novice and new carpenters. However, it’s great for all forms of work around the house or workshop.

Pros
  • 7 AMP motor
  • Detachable dust bag
  • Lock-in safety feature
  • Simple belt release
Cons
  • Motor can overheat

The Hitachi Belt Sander SB8V2 comes equipped with a 9 AMP motor that can run up to 1,475 feet per minute. At 9.5 lbs., it’s lightweight, portable, and can be used in either a home or business workshop. Equipped with a wear-resistant v-belt, this belt sander’s capable of lasting 2x longer than any common sander.

It also comes with a variable speed tool for adjusting the belt sanders speed according to the material.

The elastomer grip is soft and sold for better handling and balance, while the dust bag is detachable for convenience.

The one downside to the Hitachi Belt Sander SB8V2 is that it’s a bit off balance. The motor hangs a bit to the left, along with the detachable dust bag. This can cause uneven sanding and unsmooth results. This is because the belt sander has the tendency to lean to the left while in use.

The Hitachi Belt Sander SB8V2 is a high-quality belt sander that can last years of use. Ease to maneuver and maintain, it’s a great belt sander for any situation or location.

Pros
  • 2x longer lifespan
  • Detachable dust bag
  • 9 AMP motor
  • Variable speed tool
Cons
  • Unbalanced

Belt Sander Buyer’s Guide

What is a Belt Sander?

It’s hard to go far in the woodworking world without a reliable belt sander in your inventory. A belt sander combines high speeds and brute strength to flatten and smooth rough surfaces in a matter of minutes. They’re great for halving normal sanding times for quick, excellent results. Basically, sanding belts are strengthened coarse cloth wrapped around 2 or more rollers. Paired with the high speed, the abrasive belt rapidly smooth’s down surfaces until its flat and even for better appearance.

Belt sanders are extremely easy to use and maintain. Sanders come with a tension-release lever that allows you to quickly switch out a worn belt for a new one. The tracking adjustment knob keeps the belt centered and in place while in use. Most belt sanders come with 1 or 2 hand grips for comfort and better control while sanding. It’s important that you move your belt sander parallel to the wood to avoid scratches. It’s also important that you keep the sander moving to avoid forming a depression.

Belt sanders come in a variety of sizes and shapes, as well as, include different features and additions.Some sanders are designed primarily for spot welding or for smoothing outsides and corners. A few have narrow points for reaching into crevices, while others are equipped with wide belts for faster results. Remember not to press down too hard on the belt sander or you can damage the belt.

Tips on using Belt Sander

There are a variety of different types of belt sanders. Some are designed for rather specific situations, such as spot welding, while others are for more broad or generic use. Despite numerous differences between belt sanders, there are always a few tips that work for each. Knowing the best tips and methods for handling a belt sander can provide you better results and quicker sanding speeds. Here are a few ways you can make sanding a safer, easier process without spending a cent.

Tip #1: Make pencil lines

Pencil lines are the key to an even, smooth finish with the best results. Because wood starts off uneven and rough, it takes additional time to go over every inch of the wood before it’s evenly flat. Save yourself the hassle by drawing pencil lines from one edge of the wood to the other. Do this before sanding to provide you with visual clues as to where you’ve already sanded. This guarantees better results with less effort or mistakes.

Tip #2: Avoid Patterns

When sanding wood, you should always go parallel to the grain for the best results. You should also move in a circular motion to avoid visible patterns that create a less attractive look. Another important way to avoid making patterns is by not applying pressure to the sander as it works. Let its natural weight and gravity do all the work. This prevents patterns, as well as, mistakes, accidents, depressions, and scratches in the wood. The one exception to this rule is coarse virgin wood that’s visibly uneven. Sometimes it takes heavy force and pressure to wear down obvious lumps.

Tip #3: Don’t stop moving

A fairly obvious, yet often forgotten tip is to always keep moving the belt sander while it’s in use. Never just let the sander sit in one place for too long or it will cause a depression in the wood. As mentioned before, keep your belt sander moving in a circular fashion. If you need to stop or pause mid-sand, then turn the sander off. This is important not only because it prevents depressions but also because it prevents accidents, fires, and injuries.

Tip #4: Sand first, Trim Second

The scariest part about using a belt sander’s that you can very easily make a mistake. It’s easy to ruin days’ worth of hard work in a matter of seconds with a belt sander. That’s why it’s recommended that you start off by sanding the wood and then continue with trimming and palm sanding. This technique will save you countless time on wasted work. The idea is simple, just get the dangerous work out of the way first and then come in for the detail work.

Tip #5: Beware of Plywood

This is another common sense tip. Plywood, in general, is a fairly thin type of wood. It’s well-known that a belt sander removes large amounts of wood in a matter of seconds. So, it should come as no surprise that plywood basically doesn’t stand a chance against a high-speed belt sander. That doesn’t mean you can’t sand plywood, at all. Here are a few quick tips for belt sanding plywood:

  • Use pencil lines: Draw pencil lines from one edge to the other. This should alert you to when the belt sander starts to sand away veneer. Then stop
  • Use the lowest speed: This is only applicable for belt sanders that come equipped with a variable speed option.
  • Don’t take too long: Basically, don’t go into detail work with any type of belt sander. Maybe consider using a palm sander instead.

Tip #6: Clean your Belt

For better results and safer work, it’s important that you keep your belt clean. Belt sanders quickly accumulate large amounts of pitch buildup from constant use. This is particularly true when used on sappy trees such as pine. A buildup of sap can gunk up and damage your belt sander, wasting your time and money. That’s why you should regularly clean your belt using a belt-cleaning stick. You can either push it up against a moving belt or latch it onto the sander. Belt-cleaning sticks can be purchased online or in-store.

Tip #7: Sharpen your Tools

Stationary belt sanders tend to come with a complementary disk sander for sharpening tools. This is great for fixing up your old axes, knives, and shovels that have become rusted and dull. However, it’s extremely important that you remove the dust bag and clean up any dust before sharpening. This because the sharpening tool can often cause sparks. With dust around, it doesn’t take much for a fire to break out. So remember to always clean out the excess amounts of dust in your belt sander before sharpening tools.

Tip #8: Consider Using a Hose instead of a Dust Bag

Some carpenters and woodworks exchange the dust bag for a vacuum hose, instead. They simply attach the hose of a shop vacuum to the dust port on their belt sander. This prevents dust from escaping and littering the workshop while eliminating the need to regularly dump the dust bag. It also limits jamming and allows you to simply sand without having to stop.

Tip #9: Stay Safe

The most important thing to remember is to stay safe while sanding. Here are a few safety tips you should consider before getting started.

  • Wear hearing protection: Belt sanders are super loud! So, make sure to invest in some hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs beforehand.
  • Avoid breathing in dust: Dust is going to be flying. It never hurts to invest in a face or dust mask to avoid breathing it all in. Constant inhalation of dust can lead to a wide range of diseases, such as pneumoconiosis or “dusty lung.” I recommend that you avoid the doctor’s bill and simply buy a mask or attach a hose to the sander.
  • Unplug the sander: Remember to not leave the sander running. An unmanned belt sander can cause accidents and injuries in an instant.
  • Clean away the dust: If you use the sharpening tool, always make sure to remove all dust from the area. This is because the sparks can easily cause fires if near dust.
  • Use Stops: An unsecured piece of wood can easily go flying due to the brute strength of a dust sander. I recommend that you use stops to brace the material while you’re sanding. While clamps are too large, a stop that’s thinner than the wood can secure it without getting in the way.

Types of Belt Sander

There are actually only two types of belt sanders: Stationary and Portable. The difference between the two basically boils down to portability. Stationary belt sanders are larger, heavier, and can’t be taken from place to place, while Portable belt sanders can. However,there are other specific differences between the two that can determine rather one or the other is best for you. Let’s take a look at each individually.

Stationary Belt Sanders

Stationary belt sanders come with a mounting socket for keeping the machine firmly in place. These are best for small, lightweight pieces of material that can be easily maneuvered. They’re also great for sanding fine details, curves, and edges. Another plus to stationary belt sanders is that they typically come with a complementary disk sander. They are usually attached the side of the machine and are used to polish and sharpen tools.

Stationary belt sanders may not be the best option for professional carpenters that work with furniture. This is because furniture and lumber are too hefty and awkward to lift high enough to reach a stationary sander. If you primarily work with small items, then a stationary sander may be best for you.

Portable Belt Sanders

Portable belt sanders are the more popular option for woodworking. Unlike stationary sanders, portable sanders are typically compact, small, lightweight, weighing less than 20 pounds. This type of belt sander’s great for heavy, hefty pieces of material, such as plywood or furniture. In fact, portable belt sanders are perfect for smoothing out furniture around the house, which saves you time and money.

Portable belt sanders are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Some are designed for smoothing out spaces in between crevices. Others are designed to work at a 90-degree angle and can work perpendicularly or vertically. These are best for professional woodworkers as they can handle large pieces of wood in a matter of minutes.

Belt Sanders Review: What to Look For

While searching for the best belt sander, we had to consider a number of different factors. These factors came together to ultimately decide which sanders went above and beyond what a common sander had to offer. First, we began by questioning the most common features and accessories that every quality belt sander should come equipped with. We decided that having a tracking adjustment knob and tension release lever is a necessity. If your belt sander doesn’t come with these two basic features, then it’s most likely not going to have much else to offer. From there, we applied our list of important factors: weight, handle, adjustable speed control, belt size, belt replacement, and dust collection.

Weight (portable belt sanders)

This should be taken into consideration when purchasing a portable belt sander. To get the most out of a portable sander, you’ll need a product that’s lightweight (less than 10 lbs.). The lighter the product, the easier it is to handle for long periods of time. While 15 to 20-pound sanders don’t seem that much of a difference, you'll be regretting your choice after a full day of sanding.

Handle (portable belt sanders)

The whole point of a portable belt sander’s that it is, in fact, portable. The handle, or grip, should be comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Some portable sanders come with 2 grips instead of 1 for better maneuvering and balance. It also helps to look for handles that have a rubber or elastic grip for comfort. It’s always important to remember that comfort allows for better results.

Adjustable Speed Control

Buying a belt sander that has an adjustable speed feature is always a good choice. Now a day, most belt sanders are capable of running from 500 to 1500 feet per minute. Their adjustable speed control should have that range pre-set. Speed controls are great because it allows for better versatility and a wider range of options. Instead of only having a high-speed sander, you’ll also have a slow one for both soft and hardwood. It’s a brilliant 2-in-1 idea that can save you a ton of money in the long run.

Belt Size

It’s extremely helpful to have a belt sander that can incorporate a variety of belt sizes. This also allows for versatility and more options for sanding. A good belt sander should at least be able to accept the 4 basic belt sizes: 3”x18”, 3”x21”, 3”x24” and 4”x24”. If it’s able to hold more sizes, then that’s a great feature to possess.

Belt Replacement

Replacing the belt on the belt sander should be a simple and straight-forward process. The manual should be clear and easy to follow. As stated before, there should be tension release lever and tracking adjustment knob that should make it easier. The belt that it accepts should either be standard sized or, at least, easy to find. It can’t be overly expensive and difficult to purchase or locate, in-store or online. An automatic tracking feature is also a great, time-saving addition to have.

Dust Collection

Most belt sanders come with a detachable or attached dust bag or canister to limit messes. Of course, this is a necessity to be considered for our list. However, we also considered how easy the dust bag was to maneuver and dump. How often did it fill up and when it did, would it cause jamming or damages. We also considered if the belt sander could be altered to attach to a long shop vacuum hose.

Belt Sanders FAQs

What are the Standard Belt sizes?

The standard belt sizes are 3”x18”,3”x21”, 3”x24” and 4”x24”. The larger the belt size, the harder to control and more likely they are to cause mistakes. However, larger belts are able to sand more surface area at once.

What are the most popular types of electric sanders?

There are 4 popular types of electric sanders: belt, palm,orbital, and random orbital.

Belt Sanders

Belt sanders typically have harsh, high-speeds and are used for aggressively removing material. It’s ideal for a moving material.

Palm Sanders

Palm sanders, or finish sanders, are small, compact, and easy to maneuver. It’s definitely more affordable compared to other sanders. However, it’s also significantly slower. That’s why palm sanders are typically used to finishing work. They also come equipped with a small piece of sanding paper on its bottom.

Orbital Sanders

Orbital sanders are lightweight and easy to control. Because orbital sanders are extremely docile, they almost never, if ever, cause mistakes in woodworking. However, they’re also virtually useless on hardwoods. Orbital sanders are typically used on ultra-soft wood for smoothing angles, curves, sharp edges, and relieving large amounts of paint. They usually take 9” x 11” square sandpaper.

Random Orbital Sanders

In terms of power, the random orbital is basically a step above the orbital but also two steps below a belt. Unlike an orbital, the random orbital uses a circular piece of sand paper and spins in tiny circles. Because it is stronger than an orbital, it’s also harder to control. However, it has none of the sanding power that belt sander wields. Random orbital sanders are extremely popular among DIY-ers as it’s simple to work, compact, and affordable. This sander would not be the best for a business or commercial setting.

Paper or cloth abrasive belt?

Paper and cloth abrasive belts are the 2 most popular types of backing in the woodworking industry. Cloth belts are typically used for heavy stock removal of 1/32” or more. It’s also used for abrasive belt graves of 100 or lower.

On the other hand, paper belts are best for light stock removal of 1/64” or less. They also work with grades of 120 or more. They tend to have a uniform look resulting in a better, smoother look. They’re also less expensive than cloth belts and tend to last longer.

Graphite covered platen

Graphite covered platens are made of either a steel or aluminum bar. They have foam or felt padding and are covered by graphite for better polishing. Your platen should not have any grooves or depressions as this can affect your polishing results.

Which grit should I use?

Grit is determined by the number of abrasive particles present on the sandpaper per square inch of surface area. Lower numbers have coarser grits. And coarser grits can remove more material faster than finer grits. Grit grades range through coarse (40-60), Medium (80-120), Fine (150-180), Very Fine (220-240), Extra Fine (280-320) and Super Fine (360 plus).

That being said, typically people start out with acoarse to medium sandpaper or belt to wear down the material. They then go back and smooth out the scratches left by the coarser sandpaper by using a less coarse material, such as a fine grade. A common practice is to go from 80 to 120. However, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t use 50 or less as it can leave deep scratches. 180’s also a typical stopping point for most average woodworkers. Anything above that is often only used by businesses or professionals for fine detail work.

Aluminum oxide vs. zirconia belts

Aluminum oxide belts are typically more popular as they’ve been around longer and are cheaper. They’re sometimes called “disposable belts.” Zirconia belts are sharper and tougher. They tend to last longer and often provide better results. However, they’re also a little more expensive than aluminum oxide belts.

Best Bang for your Buck

Admittedly a fairly unknown product, belt sanders are still a necessary item for any respectable woodworking business or expert. Finding the perfect belt sander for you and your business doesn’t have to be a difficult process. The best thing you can do is simply know what you want and what you don’t want. From there you can start ruling out the different options on your list. Hopefully, our belt sander review will help you make that important decision. However, if you’re still a little unsure about which sander you should purchase, you can always choose our favorite product.

That’s the JET 708599 JSG-6DC Horsepower Benchtop Belt/Disc Sander.

The JET 708599 JSG-6DC is indeed a high-end product that easily outshines the other belt sanders on our list. It’s a portable sander that comes with a 6" x 48" belt and a 12” disk sander for sharpening tools. It has the industrial sanding power of 1.5 HP and runs an impressive 2500 feet per minute. Equipped with a built-in handle for portability, it comes with the usual belt tracking adjustment and tension release lever.

The Jet 708599 also includes 2 precision-ground tables, both cast iron and capable of inverting 45 and 90 degrees. It’s able to function both vertically and horizontally for perfect results. Meanwhile, its steel graphite-covered platen helps to keep the machine cool and prevents overheating. Overall, the Jet is simply an impressive product that’s perfect for any woodworking business. If you’re looking for the very best, then I’d say you found it in the JET 708599.

If you disagree with our best belt sander review, I encourage you to review and tell us why. What did you like? Or dislike? 

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