Sandpaper is good, but it’s not optimal for large-scale woodworking projects.
Belt sanders save you time, and provide a smoother, more consistent finish. From the most powerful motors down to the best drums, every aspect of your belt sander adds to efficiency.
When you start adding fine details into your projects and creating top tier furniture, this will be your ultimate tool.
Our belt sander reviews will detail everything you need to know about selecting the perfect one, and bring all the benefits and drawbacks of each brand and model out into the light.
Wen Belt Sander with 5” Disc
Nobody is going to pretend that using a belt sander is a clean and easy task, which is why Wen tossed in a vacuum port to help suck up that sawdust that’s clouding your vision.
Belt sanders make a mess of things, but this keeps your visibility as clear as possible during use, even if you’re taking advantage of the beveling tables.
There’s a solid, heavy duty base to make sure that this isn’t going anywhere. They also added suction cups to the bottom, but in a dusty workshop, they don’t work well.
Apart from that, they’re also just slightly lower quality than we were expecting from a brand like Wen.
There have also been more than a few accounts of screws missing when the sander arrives, so be sure you have all your information handy if this happens to you, so that Wen can send out the missing screws.
Thankfully, their customer service team is aware of the issue and are willing to help.
They’re also keen to answers questions surrounding your two-year comprehensive warranty. Any questions at all, just give them a buzz.
Wen did a great job at making this perfectly sized to fit just about any sandpaper belt that you buy, without having to cut it down to size.
Be wary of the wear and tear on the internal plastic wheels, and be sure to clean this regularly to make sure sawdust shavings aren’t getting stuck inside the unit.
Makita 9403 Belt Sander
If they had included a disc, Makita would have taken the gold on this one.
They did a bang-up job at creating one of the quickest units, operating at 1,640 feet per second, but one of the things that really resonated with us is how quiet this belt sander really is.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about quiet for a power tool, especially one with an 11 amp motor. It operates at just 84dB, which is underneath the range where hearing damage can occur.
The metal plate underneath the belt can get loose, though, and that can cause a problem.
If it’s too loose during operation, it can leave small indentations in the wood you’re sanding, which is negating the whole point for sanding.
It’s a quick fix, but it isn’t always obvious until you’re done sanding the wood, so watch for it.
The vacuum bag works a treat for higher grit sandpaper, but when you get into 50-60 grit, the chunks tend to be a bit too big and it has difficulty absorbing all of them.
The problems are minimal, and you get a one-year warranty, as well as a thirty-day money-back guarantee. Makita also has a purchase option that gives you a package of grit belts.
Bucktool 36” Belt and Disc Sander
Need a little more space? Some more angles?
Bucktool has got you covered. This belt sander comes with its own miniature table, and a crank that allows you to turn it from 0° up to 90° with ease.
It’s versatile as can be, especially when you account for the 8” sanding disc on the other table.
The operation is simple enough, and the switch is located in an uninhibited position for quick shutoff.
Going into this, you should know that this sanding table is designed to be used for beginners, and that’s about where the expertise level ends.
For the size of the sanding belt, we expected more than a 5 amp motor.
Even the Makita model had an 11 amp, and when you’re sanding larger pieces, the motor audibly slows down a bit.
If you’re interested in low maintenance gear for your shop, you’ve found it.
There’s no traditional belt (even though it’s still a belt sander), so you’re just running off the durability of the sandpaper instead.
It works wonderfully for small to medium-sized projects, and arrives without any loose components.
Jet J-41002 Bench Belt and Disc Sander
We’re back to good magazines sizes with the Bostitch BTFP model. With one-hundred nails in the mag and a lightweight build, it’s absolute power in your hands.
Bostitch included a super durable carrying case to bring everything around in, as well as a very fine nose to keep your line of sight free and clear while using it.
Air compressors offer extra power, but that doesn’t always mean that the nailer can keep up.
Sometimes you’ll notice that the nails are a bit proud and need to be tacked into the wood to remove it from sight/make it easy to paint over.
There’s also a slightly higher chance of jamming than with other models we’ve reviewed (it’s still a narrow margin, but it will get annoying on long days of work).
On top of that Bostitch offers an insane seven-year warranty. It doesn’t go through a third-party warranty provider, either: it’s manufacturer direct.
That gives you protection against just about everything you could imagine, including all the oil-free components.
Provided that you have an air compressor, this is one of the best quality brad nailers that you’ll be able to find.
Skil Sandcat with Pressure Control
You’ve entered the big leagues, and it’s time to introduce you to a mammoth among belt sanders.
First and foremost, you get an impressive 42” of belt space, as well as an 8” sanding disc all wrapped up into one unit.
The tables for both are absolutely excellent and thick, and one of them even has a miter saw slat.
Versatility is the name of the game here; you can use this for just about any woodworking project that’s on your plate.
There’s a full steel body (which adds to the 60 lbs) and durable rubber feet that actually keep everything in place.
It’s built sturdy enough, but it’s a pain to swap out the sandpaper belts. You have to remove the table (for either the disc or belt) in order to swap them out, and that’s just a bit ridiculous.
Jet does have one of the best warranty programs imaginable though, because there are over 750 certified repair locations in the United States that will handle your warranty work.
Of that, you get a two-year Red Assurance warranty, and it would be a shame to let any of it go to waste for the free maintenance.
You get 3,450 RPM on the disc and 3,100 on the belt through a 6.2 amp motor, which all gives you just enough power to use this for tasks across the board.
Belt Sanders FAQ
What do you want to know about belt sanders?
We’re going to go over the capabilities, answer some frequently asked questions, and quickly outline what you need to look for in a quality belt sander.
Before you ever finish a purchase, you should know everything about your sander, including:
This directly affects how fast the sandpaper is going to spin around the drums every single minute.
The higher the RPM, the smoother the process will be, especially when you have the entire belt making contact with a wooden surface.
If you’re planning on sanding any metal at all, you need a high RPM to do it properly.
Belt Width and Size
What sort of projects are you working on? Will this double for work as well as woodworking?
The belt size is going to determine efficiency for high-capacity jobs.
Many woodworkers start doing local commissions, so if you find yourself with a dozen custom doors to make, the size of your belt is going to matter.
Scale it to whatever projects you see yourself doing.
Amps are the calculated power behind the electrical power that your unit offers.
It’s a bit more complicated than that, as the principles of electricity are, but one thing is for certain: more amps mean more power.
If you’re grinding it out on a large surface area, you need all the power you can get. Lower grit sandpaper needs more amps to move it along, since it’s really testing the surface of the wood.
Higher grit sandpaper is smoother, and doesn’t tax the motor in quite the same way.
Sawdust causes respiratory problems, and it’s no laughing matter.
That little disposable white face mask isn’t enough to do the trick, so these vacuum bags collect dust before it ever hits the air.
You’ll hear a little whirring sound when you fire this up; that’s the vacuum chamber trying to fill up the bag.
Your safety is critical while using any power tool, but most of us don’t think of the environmental harm we could be causing ourselves.
Most handheld belt sanders are strictly operating on a 90° angle, and that’s okay.
Those have their place, like sanding large flat surfaces that are being prepped for stain, paint, or epoxy to fix certain areas.
Some sanders will be in a tabletop format, and give you the option to rotate from 0° all the way up to °135; it just depends on what you need.
What Can You do With a Belt Sander?
Belt sanders aren’t going to solve every problem in your woodworking shop, but they certainly do serve their functions. The best portable belt sander will allow you to:
- Refinish door surfaces
- Evenly buff out scratches in wooden furniture
- Sand hardwood flooring with ease
- Tackle large surface areas that would otherwise take ages
- Swap out grits without exerting yourself
- Sand metal as easily as you sand wood
They’re pretty fantastic bits of machinery, and do a tremendous amount of work.
When you go for cheaper models, or those with a lower RPM and thinner belt surface, your options might be limited.
Going with the best belt sander for the money helps you wallet, but means you might not be able to tackle larger projects.
It’s like mowing your lawn: if you had a tiny lawn mower, it would take you ages. Get a ride-on? It’s going to be done in no time at all.
Buffing out metal is also easier. As mentioned before, you really need a high RPM in order to do it effectively, but it can be done.
Smoothing out aluminum sheets is something that a belt sander is especially good at.
If you’re looking to sand smaller metal pieces, you can bring it against your attached disc for the best results.
How to Use a Belt Sander?
It’s an automated process that doesn’t take much skill.
The best rated belt sander just needs your steady hand to hold it in place, and the machine will handle the rest.
You shouldn’t put much pressure on the sander while you’re holding it against wood; the movement and rapid speed of the belt will handle most of that.
Simply turn it on, and guide the sander across your project.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that the wood has to be rock solid, so if you’re on a workbench, use clamps to keep everything secure while you sand.
Can You Use a Belt Sander for a Hardwood Floor?
You’ll want the best handheld belt sander for the job, but yes, a belt sander can definitely help with a hardwood floor.
When you refinish or stain a hardwood floor, you have to take off the epoxy or polymer resin on top, and that’s not an easy task.
Don’t even try to use manual sandpaper, because it’s going to take a hell of a long time.
The best belt sanders for woodworking that are on this list are also designed to be used with small construction projects, like refinishing your floors.
You won’t want to remove every board and run it through a tabletop model, so instead, opt for a handheld belt sander where it runs along the bottom.
This will make it far easier to bring across the floor. Even though fixing your floors can be a big project, don’t get intimidated; just treat it like every other project.
Let the sander do most of the work while you guide it, and don’t apply too much pressure. Pay attention to the markings left behind so you know that you’re being consistent.
The only time you might need manual sandpaper is if you hit odd corners here and there, but this will get 99% of the job done perfectly.
How do You Change the Sandpaper on a Belt Sander?
Some of the top rated belt sanders will have their own odd things that you need to do, like the benchtop model we reviewed earlier that requires you to remove the sanding belt table to swap out the paper.
That’s a bit nuts, but for almost every other sander out there, this simple series of instructions will work.
Locate the Tension Release Lever
You might find this hidden on the bottom of your belt sander. It’s often small, but once you pull it, it will release the old belt.
If you haven’t done this in a while or the sander is new, this might take a little while and some wiggling to get it loose.
Remove Old Belt
Take that old belt off, and chuck it right in the garbage. Once they’re used up, they’re used up.
Align the Replacement
Pay attention to the arrows on the inside of the belt strip (most manufacturers use them), and align everything accordingly.
Even though you bought it with specific dimensions, it’s best to measure and recheck it for yourself. Make sure the width is good, and secure it in place.
Resecure the Lever
We’re basically done. Just do a reverse on step one, so we’re pressurizing the release valve instead of opening it. Make certain that it’s secured, and you’re all set.
You might need to make adjustments to the belt off and on throughout its first use. Don’t be afraid to mess with it a little until it’s perfectly aligned.
If problems persist, but they didn’t with the previous belt, try to get the same brand as the previous belt even if it’s a little pricier.
Sometimes inexpensive belts are made with micro impurities that we can’t see, but fall victim to vibration and high RPM, and start sliding off.
What is the Best Sandpaper for a Belt Sander?
Whether it’s a small belt sander or a big 36” unit, you need quality sandpaper to get the job done.
Quality is relative here, because what you should really be looking for is the grit. The higher the grit, the finer the sandpaper is going to leave your wooden project.
You’re likely to see a lot of belt sanders that suggest using around 40 to 60 grit. That’s not a bad thing, because it’s actually easier to manually sand something with a higher grit.
It glides much smoother across the surface of your project, and it can definitely be done by hand.
You can find high grit sanding sponges (upwards of 2,000 grits) for a fraction of the price that spare sanding belts are.
So you should mostly be using your belt sander for low grit under 120.
That’s going to be coarse, but it’ll shave down inch fractions if you need it, or help you drive hinges into the spine of doors.
If your unit also has a sanding disc and you’re dead set on doing all of this electrically, find a high grit sanding disc around 200 to 600. That’s going to leave a super fine job behind.
For some perspective, 40-120 grit will leave a slightly rough surface that feels like freshly cut wood. Around 300-600 grit, it will feel smooth.
Anything over that, and you’re in the territory that people use (on sontes) to sharpen authentic Japanese knives. It’ll feel intensely smooth to the touch.
One More Notch in the Belt
Right next to your circular saw, your belt sander is going to get the most use out of anything in your workshop.
Grind and shave down that wood, create the perfect finish, and get the job done a little bit easier.
Woodworking isn’t about doing it in the most bare-bones, difficult way imaginable; the right belt sander is going to increase your efficiency, the quality of your projects, and save you precious time.
Get the job done the right way—this is one tool that your workshop can’t be lacking.
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