Checked and updated on April 8, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
The best file belt sander can stabilize the sanding belt without it moving and breaking. Has a well-placed handle like the Makita 9301 and has at least 5amps of power driving it.
For more delicate work some people prefer a cordless tool not tethered to a lead. But for unlimited power, a finger sander on a lead is what you want.
Best file belt sander [Corded]
#3 Best Makita detailing band file sander
Makita 9032 3/8×21, 4.4 amp, file belt sander
#4 Most versatile finger belt sander
Dynabrade 40611 1/2 to 3/4×18, 6 am, file belt sander
Best cordless file belt sander
File belt sanders are handheld power tools that have an abrasive belt that rolls around a conveyor mechanism. They are pretty much like standard belt sanders, but with extremely narrow belts they allow you to reach into tight spots and corners. They may also be called finger sanders, narrow belt sanders, mini belt sanders, or micro belt sanders.
File belt sanders are used by wood and metalworkers and automotive technicians. They can be used for cleaning and polishing surfaces, smoothing rough spots, deburring, stock removal, and blending.
Reasons to buy a file belt sander
Things to look out for
A file belt sander should let you reach into tight spots and other hard-to-reach areas.
Balanced weight distribution will let you work more efficiently and get better results.
Rotatable handles and housings allow for a wider range of uses.
Look for a unit that is compatible with a wide range of abrasive belts.
A file belt sander should be lightweight to allow for one-handed operation.
Most common problems when using a file belt sander
Frequently breaking belts are common with low-quality file belt sanders. This is usually caused by weak belt joints or excessive loading.
Apart from faulty manufacturing, the most common cause of belt breakage is normal wear and tear. You can prevent this from happening prematurely by making sure that the belt moves in the direction recommended by the manufacturer.
Excessive loading could also cause a belt to break prematurely. You can avoid this by wiping off dirt and other debris before sanding your workpiece.
Corded vs. Cordless file belt sanders
Anyone who’s been following this site long enough knows that I’m a big fan of cordless tools. They’re quick, easy, and convenient to use, highly portable, and don’t require access to a mains outlet.
But keeping in mind that sanding is a power-intensive job, I normally go for corded tools for heavy-duty sanding. My cordless file belt sanders still get a lot of use, but I tend to use them for quick touch up jobs or to remove a burr I had previously missed.
If the situation calls for more extensive sanding, I would be more likely to reach for my corded sander.
Who uses a file belt sander?
File belt sanders are useful for a varied range of tasks, in professional as well as DIY settings.
Other tools to substitute a finger belt sander
Many tools can perform the same basic functions as file belt sanders. You can use an oscillating tool, a sanding block, or even plain sandpaper.
Of course, few tools are as effective at reaching into tight spots and corners as a file belt sander. You can tape a piece of sandpaper to a stick, but it still won’t be as efficient as a good finger belt sander.
Electric vs. Pneumatic file sanders
Sanding usually requires a constant source of power because it is such a demanding job. That’s why I always recommend using a corded electric file sander versus a cordless model, if possible.
But a pneumatic sander is a viable alternative if you already have an air compressor setup. You do have to be within easy reach of your compressor, but that’s practically the same as being tethered to a power outlet.
Keep an eye out for our review of pneumatic sanders on this site.
Choosing the best file sander
#1 Top performing corded file sander
The Makita 9301 is a powerhouse of a file belt sander, with state-of-the-art features that deliver the power and performance needed for heavy-duty sanding applications. The variable speed control lets you go from 656 to 3,280 FPM, giving you a wide range of speeds to perform specific tasks.
Even with its impressive power, the 9301 weighs only 4.6 pounds and has a compact form factor. Because it is so lightweight and compact, it is an excellent choice for close-quarters work, allowing for a great deal of maneuverability.
The premium corded file belt sander
The Dynabrade 40611 is the most expensive power file sander in this roundup, but it’s easy to see where your money went. The build and components are noticeably high quality, and you can tell that it is made to withstand the most rigorous applications.
It is also quite versatile compared to other 1/2 inch belt sanders in its class, working equally well with metal, plastic, fiberglass, and stone. I especially like the option to use a contact wheel or platen pad for grinding.
#1 Wise buy electric file sander
The Makita belt sander is a variable speed sander that is ideally suited for working in close quarters. Makita 9032 is remarkably lightweight and compact and can be maneuvered easily regardless of the surface of the workpiece.
The extra-long 8.2 feet power cord allows for even better maneuverability, so you never have to worry about being short of reach even with expansive surfaces. The Makita 9032 comes with an adjustable sanding arm that pivots up to 100°.
#1 The most affordable corded file belt sander
The WEN 6307 may be one of the cheapest sanders in this roundup, but it is also one of the most impressive. The variable speed control lets you go from 1080 to 1800 FPM, which allows you to perform a wide variety of tasks.
One other feature that makes the WEN 6307 stand out is the auto-tracking belt system, which doesn’t require tensioning or adjustment. And with a 50° range of motion, the 6307 can handle almost any sanding job.
#1 Best cordless file belt sander
The Ingersoll Rand IQV12 G1811-K2 is the best choice for smoothing, finishing, and deburring, handling all these tasks, and more with ease. Ideally suited for sanding hard-to-reach areas, it features a hose-free design and narrow width belts.
Along with the 8-position belt arm, this allows the IQV12 G1811-K2 to reach tight spots without any difficulty.
The top speed you can go with this unit is 6600 RPM. You can also dial it down for more delicate sanding work, and change belts quickly when necessary. Fatigue is never an issue thanks to the sander’s ergonomic rubber grip.
Best uses for a file sander
File belt sanders are multi-use tools that have numerous applications, even outside their primary purpose. While sanders are obviously designed for smoothing, polishing, and stock removal, I’ve also seen them used to grind holes into reinforced metal plates.
They are especially useful for car detailing and furniture making, for which they can be used alongside chisels and other tools.
Why do you need a file belt sander for car detailing jobs?
Car detailing is delicate work that requires a precise touch. Standard-sized belt sanders are useful for the broad strokes, such as smoothing and polishing large surface areas. But when it comes to fine detailing and reaching tight spots and hard-to-reach corners, you need the precision and control of a file belt sander.
Why do you need a file sander for furnishing jobs?
Furniture makers will have many uses for file belt sanders as well. As in the case with automotive detailing, belt sanders and orbital sanders are better suited for aggressive stock removal and initial smoothing and polishing.
Once you get down to detailing and final polishing, in tight spots it’s time to pull out the file belt sander. The greater control and narrower surface area covered by a file sander will enable you to match adjacent surfaces together and prevent damage to workpieces near completion.
Combined with the best sander for refinishing furniture , a file belt sander will let you accomplish a wide range of tasks.
Factors that affect your sander’s performance
A file sander should just be heavy enough to sand workpieces efficiently. You want sufficient weight so that you don’t have to bear down on the surface too hard, yet not so much that the tool becomes difficult to control.
Your sander should be powerful enough to be able to smooth and polish hard surfaces such as metal and stone. That being said, make sure that it isn’t too powerful that it could ruin the finish of whatever you are working on.
Speed is another factor. You need sufficient speed to smooth out rough surfaces and remove burrs.
But a fast-running sander can remove a surprising amount of material quickly, so keep an eye out for how much you take off at each pass and adjust your technique accordingly.
Checklist before buying a file belt sander
File sanders are typically used to chip away and smooth hard and dense materials, so they should be durable enough to withstand the strain. The components should be precisely machined to minimize vibrations and hold up under heavy use.
Makita makes the best file belt sanders on the market, with proven quality and long tool life. Look into sanders made by Dynabrade and Ingersoll Rand as well
File belt sanders aren’t all that expensive, but try to get the best model in your price range. Spending a little bit more on a pro model will pay off in better quality and performance.
Always consider the warranty when purchasing a power tool. This ensures that you can get a replacement if the sander breaks down within a reasonable period after you start using it.
Look into the availability of replacement parts as well. In particular, make sure that the model you choose works with commonly available belts, which usually require frequent replacement.
Tips for using a file belt sander
Comparing file belt sanders
|Makita 9301||Dynabrade 40610||Makita 9032||Dynabrade 40611,p>||Grizzly Industrial T10745||Chicago Electric 92158||WEN 6307||Milwaukee 6101||Ingersoll Rand IQV12 G1811-K2||Metabo BF 18 LTX 90|
|Verdict:||Top corded file belt sander||Best value corded||Premium bandfile||Most affordable quality bandfile||Top cordless file belt sander|
|Weight||4.6 lbs||6 lbs||3.5 lbs||3 lbs||2.2 lbs||5.2 lbs||2.5 lbs||6 lbs||2.23 lbs||5 lbs|
|Sheet size||1/2x18 inches||1/2x18 inches||3/8x21 inches||1/2 to 3/4x18 inches||1/2x18 inches||1/2x5 inches||1/2x18 inches||1/2x18 inches||3/8 x 13 inches||1/4 to 3/4x18 inches|
|Speed||656-3,280 ft/min||11,000 rpm||980-5,600 ft./min||11,000 rpm||984-1,804 ft/min||2,300 ft/min||1,080-1,800 ft/min||2,300 ft/min||0-7,000 rpm||1,575 ft/min|
|Motor||5 amp||7.5 amp||4.4 amp||6 amp||2 amp||5 amp||2 amp||5.5 amp||12V||8V|
The Makita 9301 is quite possibly the best file belt sander you can buy for the money. Its powerful 5-amp motor lets you handle the most heavy-duty jobs with ease, and you have a wide range of speeds by which you could perform various tasks.
Even with its impressive power, the Makita 9301 remains lightweight and compact, and you shouldn’t have any trouble maneuvering it as needed.
I also like the extra-long 18-inch reach, which lets you get into spots that most other sanders would struggle with. Best of all, it has the trademark Makita quality and durability that has made the brand so sought after among pros and DIYers.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about the best file belt sanders on the market, be sure to check out my review of the best palm sanders .
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