Checked and updated on March 3, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
The best belt sander is made by Makita, with 3 different designs to choose from it comes down to your preferred belt size, weight, and handle type. The Makita 9403 runs on 11amps and has a great working balance. For affordability, Hitachi offers a powerful, and cheaper 9amp corded belt sander.
Whether you need to quickly sand back old furniture, or your new joinery a belt sander can help you get the job done a lot faster than by any other type of electric sander. A corded sander is recommended over a cordless belt sander as high amps are required.
It’s important to mention that Dewalt’s belt sander has been discontinued due to performance issues.
#3 A smaller Makita auto-aligning belt sander
Makita 9903 3×21, 8.8 amp, Belt sander
#4 Another ergonomic Makita belt sander
Makita 9924DB 3×21, 7.8 amp, Belt sander
#13 The Dewalt belt sander
DeWalt DW433 3×21, 8 amp, Belt sander
Belt sanders are power tools that are used to shape and finish wood, metal, and other types of materials. Also known as “strip sanders”, they have a pair of cylinders around which is mounted a loop of sandpaper known as a “sanding belt”. These cylinders are turned at high speed by an electric motor, allowing the sandpaper to scrape and wear away at the surface of the object being sanded.
Most belt sanders are handheld, in which case the tool is moved over the workpiece. There are also fixed or stationary sanders that remain in place while the workpiece is pushed against the sanding belt.
Stationary belt sanders are often mounted to workbenches, in which case they are referred to as “bench sanders”. Stationary belt sanders are often used in conjunction with a handheld disc sander.
Belt sanders are typically used by builders, furniture and cabinet makers, woodworkers, and flooring finishers. These tools are quite aggressive and can remove a large amount of material pretty quickly.
A belt sander is used for initial sanding and shaping of wood, and then switching to a less aggressive sander for finishing or smoothing can be done for better finish using a finishing sander or an orbital sander.
Belt sanders aren’t for everyone. Most DIYers and hobbyists will do just fine with a handheld disc sander, a sanding block, or even some sandpaper for finishing jobs.
But if you need to work on large surface areas, and if you need to sand back wood aggressively and fast it might be worth adding a belt sander to your collection of power tools as a quality high amp tool does the job extremely well.
Reasons to buy a belt sander
Still not convinced that a belt sander is right for you? Here are some of the most compelling reasons why you should add a belt sander to your arsenal of power tools:
Features to consider
Things to think about before looking
The expected durability.
The first and foremost consideration when shopping for a belt sander is durability. Like most power tools, belt sanders are subject to considerable wear and tear, especially if you use them frequently.
And if you routinely use your sander to work on large areas, it should be durable enough to withstand heavy use.
Research the brand.
There are some great deals to be had in lesser-known brands of power tools, and you could save a considerable amount of money. But Makita and DeWalt belt sanders boast proven reliability and state-of-the-art features.
Along with Ryobi belt sanders, they also tend to have better warranties, which could come in handy if you use your sander for heavy-duty jobs.
Consider the price.
Belt sanders aren’t all that expensive compared to other power tools. Even so, you definitely won’t want to skimp on the cost by getting the cheapest model you can find. Spending a bit more on a heavy-duty professional model will pay off in the long run in terms of better performance, higher quality results, and longer tool life.
Choose a model with the appropriate power for your needs.
Shopping for a belt sander is more than just about choosing the most powerful model you can find. Instead, choose your belt sander based on your intended application.
For precision sanding of delicate surfaces, you would be better off with a lower-powered model from 6.5 to 8 amps. For heavy-duty work, you could get a 9-amp to an 11-amp sander.
Figure out the best belt size for your needs.
A wider and longer belt size will let you cover more surface area in a single pass. This will come in handy if you need to sand decks and floorboards. But for delicate sanding work, a smaller belt size might be the better option.
Should you get a single-speed or variable-speed belt sander?
A single-speed sander will be adequate for the majority of your work, provided the motor is powerful enough. But a variable-speed sander with the same power capacity will be a much more versatile tool, allowing you to perform a wider range of tasks.
Variable-range sanders basically allow you to control the number of times the belt rotates per minute. This lets you adjust the performance of the tool according to the demands of the job.
By reducing the speed, you can take off only a little bit of material at a time, which helps avoid damage to delicate surfaces. For rough sanding work, you could ramp up the speed to maximum.
The ability to reduce the speed also reduces wear on the sandpaper, thereby prolonging its usable life.
Corded vs. cordless belt sanders
With most power tools, I almost always recommend going with the cordless model if you have a choice. They are more portable, more convenient, and are generally easier to use. But when it comes to belt sanders, I’d have to say that a corded model would be the better option.
Most corded sanders weigh pretty much the same as its cordless counterpart. Although corded sanders don’t have internal batteries, the more powerful motor adds about the same amount of weight to the unit.
The main reason to go for a corded sander instead of a cordless model is power. In general, cordless belt sanders are just too underpowered for any serious work. Sanding also uses up battery power quickly, so you will constantly have to charge your sander.
If you do only occasional light sanding work and need to have a portable unit, you could probably make do with a cordless sander. In most cases, however, I recommend going for a corded industrial belt sander.
Additionally, pro-brands like Makita and Dewalt have not yet made cordless belt sander, and it’s properly because of the power they need for the tool to be effective.
Other types of sanders and when to use each one
Sanders range from the most basic, such as sandpaper and hand sanders, to drum sanders and bench sanders. In between is a staggering array of sanding tools and devices, all of which can be used to remove material and smooth wooden surfaces.
There are even metal belt sanders intended specifically for metal surfaces. However, their function is limited to polishing and not as powerful as these sharpening tools.
Of all the different types of sanders, the handheld varieties are probably what DIYers and hobbyists will find most useful. Palm sanders are a good example, combining power and portability in a convenient handheld unit.
They are especially useful for finishing up rough edges of furniture or cabinets and should be your first consideration when moving up from sandpapers and handheld sanding blocks.
For intricate work, look into detail sanders. These have triangular heads that make them ideally suited for accents and furniture detailing. Additionally, you could use a multi-tool with a detailed sander attachment.
If you are after a versatile, all-around tool, an orbital sander such as a Makita orbital sander might be a worthy addition to your toolbox. These sanders are better suited for large surface areas and produce clean and smooth finishes.
When it comes to exposed timber surfaces that have a natural timber look, you need to hit the surface with final sand following the timber grain, vs an orbital motion that sands in rotations.
You can just do this final touch by hand, with a block and fine sandpaper it won’t take long. If you regularly need to do this you could also add a finishing sander to your collection that archives a back and forward sanding motion.
Choosing the best belt sander
#1 The highest-performing belt sander
The Makita 9403 is a 4” x 24” belt sander driven by a powerful 11-amp motor. One of the most capable and versatile sanders on the market, it removes stock quicker and more efficiently than almost any other belt sander I’ve ever tried.
It has an electronic speed control that maintains the same speed no matter how heavy the load is, so you get consistent results every time.
I especially like the wide 4” belt that lets me cover more surface area with every pass. I was also impressed at how quiet the motor ran, given the 9403’s impressive speed and power.
#1 Best value belt sander
The Hitachi SBV82 is a 3” x 21” sander driven by a pretty respectable 9-amp motor. Packing enough grunt for most DIY work, this Hitachi belt sander even measures up to more powerful sanders that have considerably higher price tags.
The SBV82’s variable speed dial lets you crank the sanding belt from 820 feet per minute to a very impressive 1,475 feet per minute. That’s about how fast I need for most sanding jobs, and I was more than satisfied with the unit’s power and versatility.
#1 Most affordable best sander
The WEN 6321 is one of the most affordable belt sanders on the market, but don’t let its price fool you. This 3” x 21” packs quite a punch, with a 7-amp motor that can handle almost any home sanding job without a hitch.
The sanding belt maxes out at 820 feet per minute, which should be fast enough for any type of sanding work you need to do at home. The 6321 weighs only six pounds, so you can use it for extended sanding sessions without fatigue.
Tasks that absolutely require a belt sander
For some types of sanding work, you can probably get away with using some sandpaper or a hand sander. But some tasks require a belt sander. If you need to sand plenty of wide surfaces and you want to get the job done as quickly as possible, using a belt sander is the best way to go about it.
Belt sanders are especially useful for smoothening decks and floors. Powered sanders will allow you to get these jobs done at a fraction of the time it would take with hand sanders.
And if you are building a cabinet, shaping wooden workpieces, and rounding out edges, there is no better tool for the job than a belt sander.
Why the best belt sanders are made by Makita?
Makita is one of the leading manufacturers of quality power tools for hobbyists and professionals. So it’s hardly surprising that the company is at the forefront of the belt sander market as well.
Some of the best belt sanders you can buy bear the Makita imprint, boasting features such as:
Of course, you can find some of these features on sanders made by other manufacturers as well.
But Makita belt sanders are among the few that combine state-of-the-art features with an ergonomic design in an elegant and robust package, and top of all that I have never experienced belt slipping, which can be a problem with a lot of cheaper belt sanders making them useless.
Choosing the right grit for a belt sander
Its grit rating determines the roughness of a sander. You will usually see sander belts labeled as 50-grit, 80-grit, 100-grit, and so on. The important thing to keep in mind is that the higher the grit rating, the smaller the grains will be, resulting in a finer and smoother finish.
Conversely, lower grit ratings mean larger grains, and coarser finishes to workpiece surfaces but faster sanding.
Tips for using a belt sander
Here are some dos and don’ts for using a belt sander:
Safety tips when using a belt sander:
Comparing the top belt sanders
|Makita 9403||Hitachi SBV82|
|Makita 9903||Makita 9924DB||Black Decker DS321||SKIL 7510-01||Skil 7500||Craftsman 10A||Tacklife PSFS1A||WEN 6321||Ridgid R2740||Milwaukee 5936||DeWalt DW433|
|Weight||12.6 lbs||9.5 lbs||9.5 lbs||10.6 lbs||6.5 lbs||6.75 lbs||8.2 lbs||20.6 lbs||7.5 lbs||6 lbs||5.8 lbs||14.6 lbs||14 lbs|
|Sandpaper grit size||4x24 in||3x21 in||3x21 in||3x24 in||3x21 in||3x18 in||3x18 in||4x24 in||3x18 in||3x21 in||3x18 in||4x24 in||3x21 in|
|Speed||1,640 ft/min||820-1,475 ft/min||690-1,440 ft/min||1.300 ft/min||800 ft/min||1,050 rpm||1,050 rpm||800-1,600 ft/min||0-560 rpm||820 ft/min||400-950 ft/min||1,400 ft/min||850-1,400 ft/min|
|Motor||11 amp||9 amp||8.8 amp||7.8 amp||7 amp||6 amp||6 amp||10 amp||5 amp||7 amp||6.5 amp||10 amp||8 amp|
For the money, the Makita 9403 is the absolute best belt sander you can get. Combining impressive speed and power with convenience and ease of use, it is ideally suited for builders, woodworkers, carpenters, and anyone who needs a powerful belt sander.
The Hitachi SBV82 wins top marks for its outstanding value. With a speed range of 820 to 1,475 feet per minute, it can handle a wide variety of tasks.
Finally, check out the WEN 6321 for an affordable belt sander that delivers impressive performance. Equipped with a surprisingly powerful 7-amp motor, it measures up to belt sanders costing many times as much.
If you are doing light sanding and want a consistent finish you should also have an orbital sander, find out what I mean here.
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