No other power tool can overcome the brute force and high speed of a belt sander for smoothing flat, large surfaces, particularly the rough ones. According to belt sander reviews, these tools are giant gorillas in the world of sanding. A belt sander is a larger, heavier, and a livelier tool than a pad or drill-disc sander combination.A belt sander helps you save maximum possible time while working with a wood surface or wrecking an object. This guide will help you find the belt sander for you. We have also featured short, belt sander reviews towards the end.
- 1 Multiple Uses
- 2 Working of Belt Sanders
- 3 Palm Sander, Random Orbit Sander, or a Belt Sander: Which One to Choose
- 4 Choosing the Best Belt Sander
- 5 What to Look for in a Belt Sander
- 6 5 Best Belt Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
- 7 Conclusion
As a first step, you use a belt sander while working with a wooden piece. With the help of a fine-grit, turning belt, this tool is capable of shaping as well as evenly finishing in any woodworking assignment. The high strength and speed coupled with the ability to handle coarse grits facilitate aggressively fast removal, but still the unit is lively enough for unguided shaping as well as rounding of small pieces and narrow edges. As a result, the belt sander is handy for both Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and professional hobbyists who need consistent hand-based sanding results in least possible time.
These sanders are multipurpose units; they are preferred for a variety of tasks: Sanding highly rough surfaces, trimming to an inscribed line, freehand shaping, and leveling surfaces such as a hardwood floor’s replacement board. Unlike vibrating and orbital sanders, these tools have a linear sanding action due to which you can sand with the grain and coarse grits to get a cute outcome. A belt sander is also ideal for discarding an old finish, such as stain, varnish, or paint.
Due to an extremely aggressive action, these tools are usually restricted to the initial phase of sanding solid wood apart from being used in removing the material rapidly. With the help of good grit sand papers, such sanders can also give you a completely smooth surface area. Because of complexity and several parts involved, a belt sander is not essential for homeowners, but several such experienced DIY individuals have one.
According to belt sander reviews, the tool also proves to be efficient for a variety of grinding tasks such as putting a bevel on door, buffing, alleviating thickness of a stock, rectifying a poor saw cut, sanding rough stocks, and back-cutting for more tidy joints.
Working of Belt Sanders
A belt sander works by pulling a sanding belt or a non-stop loop of reinforced sandpaper around a mechanism of rotating pulleys or two cylindrical drums. There is a motor that rotates the rear drum quite swiftly, which is more than 1,000 Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) but the front one rotates on its own.
The belt is pulled firmly against the pulley or drum. It then rotates for removing the material. To keep the belt working, there is a tracking adjustment knob, which you can turn to middle-align the belt.
The belts feature two material layers: Outer one feeling and appearing as sheets of sandpaper while touching the material and the inner one as a cloth-like support for tolerating the pressure and heat generated while being pulled around. There is a lever system for securing the belt in place.
Once it is used one way, both the ends of the pulley system are pushed towards each other by a little amount, which forces the belt easily to slip over these ends. The lever now gets a push back and the two ends go back to their original stand.
The best belt sander from any brand is capable of sanding a myriad of materials, such as hard woods, soft woods, and any metal. This versatility comes from its ability to accommodate a variety of belts of any kind of coarseness, which allows removing little material with each pass, quite aggressively.
If you wish to smooth flat boards, you need to sand parallel to the grain so that there are no scratches. At the same time, you need to keep the tool moving to avoid sanding a depression. For smoothing edges, especially the narrow ones, it is ideal to clamp all boards together and sand their edges simultaneously. Doing so saves much time and gives better results, as you do not balance the broad belt on the thin edge of just one board.
Palm Sander, Random Orbit Sander, or a Belt Sander: Which One to Choose
All these three sanders are different in terms of usage. These three are the most common kinds of power sanders for handling majority of DIY projects.
- Choose a belt sander if you wish to remove the material in least possible time and in the most aggressive manner.
- Go for a palm sander if you want to do finishing work and corner sanding job in the most efficient way.
- Finally, select a random orbit sander for quickly removing the stock just like a belt sander but without any swirl marks and with the outcome similar to better finish sanders. It is an ideal choice for having an all-in-one sander acting as both an orbit and disc sander.
Choosing the Best Belt Sander
Well, one needs to understand that is no single best sander applicable to all consumers. What makes a particular belt sander best is how well it adapts to one’s common or distinct requirements without much trouble as well as cost. This means that before finding the perfect sander, you need to know your requirements, such as the type of project, the kind of work piece, duration of work, and budget.
You then need to consider the buying factors, which also include features and see which models have those factors that best fulfill your requirements.
What to Look for in a Belt Sander
Factor 1: Your Usage
This is the first factor to consider in case of a belt sander. This is because the tool has several diverse practical uses, but you will choose that model which best suits your kind of job. In case your project is big demanding a big sanding affect, the one model with high power or heavy-duty task is ideal. Similarly, if you need high accuracy, a sold construction and mechanism is essential in your belt sander.
In case you are looking for a belt sander for sharpening a knife or dealing with a wood surface, you will find tools especially designed for that purpose.
Factor 2: Types
Broadly, as per the physical placement, kind of materials handled, and power source, there are three types of belt sanders.
- Stationary: As the name indicates, these belt sanders remain in one place where they sand different surfaces. The belt resides on the tool’s top surface, which is typically heavier as well as larger than a handheld version. Due to their larger size than the handheld versions, stationary sanders are preferred for commercial, heavy-duty professional tasks instead of home jobs. These tools are quite useful for metal or wood workers who have to round off the square edges on large pieces such as table, quite quickly. While they are handy for sanding both metal and wood, they are ideal for movable items such as tables rather than immovable things such as floors. The belt is situated on the unit’s bottom for applying the sanding surface to a still item such as a patio. These models are costlier than handheld models and feature larger belts (6 x 48 inches and 25 x 60 inches). If a stationary sander is put onto a workbench, it is termed as a bench sander.
- Table-mounted: These are also known as bench belt sanders and feature small, narrow belts with most models employing belts of two inches wide. However, these belts are longer. Some upscale commercial table-mounted sanders have wider belts of four or six inches or more.
- Portable: Portable belt sanders, as lighter models, are better as well as more feasible for handling materials that are immovable or are not moved so easily. For instance, they are ideal for handling large hardwood pieces or large plywood sheets. These models are available in a myriad of sizes, ranging from small handheld belt sanders to big giants, sanding a standard 4ft x 8ft plywood sheet in one pass. Most belt sanders are designed as handheld models and are geared towards consumers. They have some common elements, such as a dust collector, front and rear handles, and powerful motor, although the physical specifications differ from one manufacturer to another.
- Handheld Electrical: These portable sanders are the most demanded ones. They are small enough to be carried and are corded, as they come with a cord that you plug into an outlet in the wall. You can expect the motor to have a power ranging from 6 to 10 amps. While there is no issue of dying batteries, they restrict maneuverability and may need extension cords for reaching to the target work area.
- Handheld Cordless: These models differ from the above one in terms of power source. They are powered by an electric battery that you need to recharge frequently. This means you need not depend upon a nearby wall outlet for powering them. The cordless belt sanders are preferred for their mild use. Because sanding consumes much energy, the battery tends to drain quite quickly. In case of a few versions, the battery life may be only up to 15 to 20 minutes. However, if you choose the latest ones, the lithium-ion ones, they are likely to hold for 50 to 60 minutes.
- Pneumatic or Air Compressed: These are the typical kind of models used in professional shops, and not in workshops of woodworkers, carpenters, or DIY hobbyists. As the name says, air belt sanders are driven by compressed air flow, instead of electricity or battery. Because these models are quite small, they easily rely upon a fresh small compressor of only three gallons. Unlike other types of belt sanders, these ones do not have the variable speed option but still they are highly effective. They are ideal for engineering stores, car body refurbishment, and metal works related to titanium and aluminium. You cannot use them on solid wood, as doing so would quickly tear the surface.
A few handheld sanders can turn upside down for acting as stationary sanders but ensure that it is possible with the model before doing so. As per the physical design or internal mechanism, there are two types of belt sanders.
- In-line: These models have a low-profile design with a box type casing having a low gravity center. Such a design means that the chances of tipping are least, regardless of whether you are flattening a surface or removing a scratch. In these models, the motor is parallel to the sanding belt’s length. A perpendicular gear force decelerates the speed of motor, and the power is provided to the drive roller via the belt. Regardless of the direction of the motor, most models use a front metallic roller and a drive rubber roller to avert the incidence of belt slipping. They are ideal for light and medium duty small tasks.
- Transverse: These models have transversely placed motor over the belt as well as across the unit’s width. Such a physical setup fetches more power via a toothed drive belt and makes the unit heavier for more aggressive sanding. Despite this fact, they are easier to handle. Reduction gears at the rear of drive gear further bring down the speed such that the belt gets enough power. Behind the motor, the fan generates a robust air current to attract dust to the bag. A tracking knob and a tensioning mechanism tightly secure the belt on rollers.
- Belt and Disc Sander: This is 2-in-1 sander with the highest possible power and versatility. It comes with the original style of electric sander that is the disc sander and a power monster called the belt sander. However, it eliminates the cons a disc sander, which are less power as well as the efficiency on harsh surface and less safe. Similarly, it removes the cons of not so sturdy construction for precise sharpening of blades (knives). A belt and disc sander can work both on smaller tasks having narrower corners or tough to access areas, as well as larger projects demanding fast speed and robust strength. There is no wobbling or vibrating and that you are ensured of more efficiency as well as productivity.
Factor 3: Popular Brands
Belt sanders due to their bulky weight are commendable for performing heavy duty tasks in the beginning of a project. This indicates that you need a reliable and durable model, which only a branded one can ensure. Choosing a sander from a familiar brand simply makes one feel assured as well as safe, even through you are not much aware about the model.
You can quickly find the best belt sanders from brands such as Makita, Bosch, Black & Decker, Jet, Skil, Porter Cable, Grizzly, Ridgid, Ryobi, Powertec, and Hitachi, in no particular order of ranking. Each of them differs in terms of few features and price range. For example, Makita models offer more power at less noise as well as a more speed range than those from Porter Cable. However, Porter Cable wins those customers who love to have a swiveling dust collector bag and a more economical model.
Factor 4: Sanding Belt Type
In terms of material from which the belt is made, you can choose from four different types.
- Aluminium Oxide: Usually, most users choose an aluminum oxide belt, the most popular belt material available with open or closed coat. An open coat belt is ideal for rubber, non-ferrous metals, soft woods, and leather items. Such a belt has a stretched out grit to keep away dust from blocking the unit as well as a grinding aid for ensuring protection for heat-sensitive tasks. On the other hand, a closed coat belt involves a tightly pressed grit into the resin. Such a belt is ideal for basic sanding and finishing needs for wood and metal surfaces.
- Zirconia Alumina: You may also go for a zirconia alumina belt, a material derived from polyester that is resistant to water. This material is ideal for both dry and wet tasks. A belt sander with such a belt is capable of grinding hard metals such as aluminium, stainless steel, and even cast iron. You can even choose such a belt with a grinding aid.
- Silicon Carbide: Another type of belt is a silicon carbide belt that is capable of smoothing too hard items such as stone, marble, glass, rubber, and ceramics. The material is extracted from cotton that is waterproof and works for both dry and wet tasks.
- Garnet: You can also choose a belt made up of garnet, a mineral in reddish brown. Such a material comes with the latest cutting edges, while the unit has a medium harness level. The material is ideal for fine finishing of wood only, as the belt are at the risk of fractures.
Factor 5: Sanding Belt Size and Grit
Sanders also tend to have different sizes of belts. Each belt size is made for a specific job. For instance, wider belts can work on the largest possible surface area but at the cost of less control than those that are narrower. There are also triangular belts designed with more width at one end and less width at a point. Such belts are ideal for sanding angles on instruments and fixtures as well as for reaching out to the corners.
Once you buy a belt sander, it will be restricted in terms of belt size it can use. Therefore, you need to choose a model as per the jobs that its accommodating belt size can perform. For much sanding work, it may be wise to have a big and small belt sander. The common belt sizes include 3 x 18, 3 x 21, and 4 x 24 inches, all being ideal for several at-home tasks.
Due to susceptibility to wear and tear, you will have to change the cloth or paper belts frequently. These belts are available in different grit levels ranging from very coarse to very fine grades. As a rule of thumb, the higher the belt number, the finer is the grit. This number usually indicates the quantity of abrasive particles in a known space.
Lower large particles correspond to rough-grit sandpaper, while a higher number of small particles correspond to a fine-grit paper. The grit type that you need totally depends upon the kind of task you will be dealing. Given below are the different grit types to choose.
- Very Coarse: A grit marking ranging from 20 to 40 indicates ‘highly coarse’. Boasting very large grit, these sandpapers can work through surfaces very rapidly. This grit strength together with the power and speed of the unit can easily destroy the surface.
- Coarse: With a grit strength ranging from 40 to 60, such sandpapers are yet quite coarse although not as abrasive as the above grit. They are fine for objects that need much sanding but there is always a risk of overdoing in case you use a belt sander of high power. A finer grit of sandpaper is more suitable for a more delicate task although it might need some more passes. However, there will be no risk of the object’s surface damage. Coarse sandpapers are better for metal sanding than wood sanding.
- Medium: With the grit strength ranging from 60 to 80, such sandpapers are tagged as ‘all-purpose types’. They are better for sanding wood than metal. This grit is the first one to be used while preparing the surface for varnish or paint. It is also useful in removing paint, rough spots, or blemishes from wooden surface.
- Fine: This one has the grit strength ranging from 80 to 120. Most users rely upon this grit of sandpaper between varnish layers for preparing a wooden surface for finishing. It is also useful for rubbing stains out of plaster or discard water stains from the surface of wood. However, such tasks are suitable for belt sanders only if there is a fine hand to deal with the aggressiveness of the sander. Such grit gives a superb outcome for experienced users. A grit grade between 80 and 100 is what a beginner of wood task should rely on, for removing paint and wood finishes.
- Super Fine: Ranging from 120 to 220, such sandpapers are only geared for applying a finishing polish. Mostly, they are preferred for sanding on bare wood for smoothing it in the absence of varnishing. A super fine grit is also handy in polishing a few metals. For wood preparation, a grit grade between 110 and 150 is ideal. A grit level of 180 is perfect for starting with the sanding of softwood.
There are also finer grits, also known as micro grits. However, they are not essential for a majority of household uses. They are also too fine for sander use. Thus, these sandpapers are meant for hand finishing. Once a task is in its final stage or wish to sand between varnish layers more effectively, you should switch to a 300 to 400 grit grade. A sanding belt grit of at least 800 or more is required for finally smoothing an extreme hard wood surface.
It is recommended starting with a coarse 60-grit sanding belt and then progressively shift through the finer grits until the right level of smoothness is achieved.
Factor 6: Weight and Power
Weight is not that serious consideration, as belt sanders function in a horizontal position. However, if there is much renovation work in vertical or overhead position; consider a weight of 10 lbs or less for ease on arms. Power also matters for those who want to get the job done quite fast. Most belt sanders have a motor power of 6 to 13 amps. The more the power, the stronger and faster is the smoothing process.
Factor 7: Size
It is essential to consider the size of a belt sander. If you wish to bring the items to the tool, size does not matter, as a stationary sander is the only better option. For choosing the right size, you need to consider the project size and purpose. A small one is fine for working inside the cabinets or in narrow corners. A larger one is the choice of contractors and professionals requiring more power for bigger tasks such as sanding and finishing a deck. Similarly, for simple home tasks, a small and less powerful belt sander is the apt choice.
Factor 8: Speed
Incredible speed is the identity of the best belt sanders for aggressively removing material from hard to light surfaces. However, such a speed is not required for too thin or small surfaces. This is why you should choose a model with variable speed control that also prevents gouges and bumps apart from giving more control over the task. Such models have a speed ranging from 500 Feet Per Minute (FPM) to 1500 FPM. Get such a belt sander if you will be using it for a myriad of diverse applications.
Factor 9: Other Features
For both comfort and convenience, ensure that the belt sander you choose has a built-in belt changing mechanism, a dust collector, less noise or noiseless operation, ergonomic adjustable handle with proper grip, adjustable rolling speed for controlling the amount of removal, and automatic belt tracking for its proper regulation to prevent coming off the rollers. Even a trigger lock is useful for a bit more convenience in terms of hands-free operation.
5 Best Belt Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
With a creative front roller, this one is made for home users who wish to perform flush cutting and reach out to the tightest areas easily. It features a lightweight design, medium grit belt, three-position handle, dust bag, adjustment knob, and a belt release lever.
Amazon Customer: “Made sanding my bedroom floor a breeze! This thing is powerful and fast. Very high quality that I’m sure will keep working for a long time”
With more 8.8-amp power, 690-1,440 FPM of speed, and only 85db noise, this one ensures fast and hassle-free stock removal. It comes with an auto-tracking belt system, front grip for comfort, low profile design for stability and balance, a dust bag, flush sanding ability, and 16.4 ft power cord.
Bikeman: “A pleasure to use. Relatively quiet. Belt tracks flawlessly. Adequate power. Can clamp upside down in a wood worker’s bench vice to use as a stationary sander.”
This one has more power in its fully metallic body to ensure powerful handling and durability by professionals and hobbyists. It is a heavy-duty model with swiveling dust bag, variable speed dial for speeds of 1,000 to 1,500 FPM, a belt-tracking knob, motor over platen for ideal balance, belt-change lever, and a 100 grit belt. It is an ideal tool for flush sanding up to vertical areas.
SHERRY L. FUSS: “This cuts the work time in half compared to a light weight sander that you have to apply a lot of hand pressure to. Less gouging and more even without the muscle strain.”
With an optional flex shaft, the 1/3 HorsePower of this unit is ideal for carving, deburring, drum sanding, and several other tasks. The detachable platen facilitates grinding, sanding, and finishing of odd pieces or external curves. The abrasive belt works as a coping saw and a jig saw while removing and finishing simultaneously. There is also a rotating deluxe miter gauge locking at common angles
Barbara Duncan: “Works great. Heavy duty very well constructed. Easy to assemble.”
This lightweight air sander is best for spot weld removal with 16,000 rotations per minute and 1/2″ x 18″ belt in grit strength of 40, 60, and 80. It features a simple belt tension lever, 0.5 HP, more pulley space for accommodating thicker belts, and variable speed control.
Mishka: “This belt grinder does the job good. Enough power to cut off welds and other metal. Worth it. I’m glad I didn’t spend money on expansive one.”
So, have you found your best belt sanders? Well, if not, you can go through some more belt sander reviews on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models as per your needs for choosing the most suitable one.