7 Best Belt Sanders of 2017 | Belt Sander Reviews
Once a belt sander becomes your friend, you are going to use it all the time. There are few tools in the woodworking world that accomplish so much in so little time. The belt sander, if used properly, will literally change the way you sand wood and give you a highly desirable and professional woodwork finish. You will not have to go through a thousand different models here. To cut through the clutter, we will help you find the best belt sander for your need, suited to the way you work.
Table of Contents
- Our Topiks
- 7 Best Belt Sander Reviews
- Makita 9903 8.8 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
- Makita 9403 4" x 24" Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
- Porter-Cable 362V 4-Inch by 24-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander
- Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 7 Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
- Black & Decker BR318 3-Inch by 18-Inch Low Profile Belt Sander
- Genesis GBS321A 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
- Hitachi SB8V2 9.0 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Trigger Lock and Soft Grip Handles
- What is a Belt Sander?
- What to Look for When Buying a Belt Sander
- Tips on using Belt Sander
- Types of Belt Sanders
- What makes a belt sander outstanding compared to Others
|Porter Cable 362V|
|Black & Decker DS321|
|Black and Decker BR318|
7 Best Belt Sander Reviews
To ease up on the process of finding the best belt sander, here is a quick belt sander review, comprised of hand-picked models that we vouch for.
Makita 9903 8.8 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Editor's Rating: (4.8 / 5)
The Makita 9903 offers the best of both worlds. It is a lightweight belt sander that can retrofit as a stationary belt sander due to its clamp-on feature. It also has great benefits as the ability to accommodate pads of different grit sizes as well as sports a solid and durable construction.
- 8.8A motor – powerful and reliable. Can tackle most sanding jobs with ease.
- Variable speed control – Change the speed of the belt with the push of a button
- Auto-tracking – No need to adjust the belt after a change. It does so automatically.
- Dust collection system – the included dust bag does a decent job collecting all the dust for you helping keep your workbench clean.
- Long power cord – You can the versatility of a portable sander while keeping the power of a corded sander thanks to its long power cord.
- Front grip handle – comfortable grip design that limits hand fatigue and increases sanding efficiency.
There are many things we like in the Makita 9903. It is an innovative 3x21 belt sander that is suited for most common sanding jobs on either soft or hard wood. The variable speed control switch is located in a handy position that makes changing speed a cinch. It is definitely one of the best belt sander in its price range. It's clamp-on feature will very handy and make sanding materials effortless.
Only available in 110V for the North American market. Limited warranty of only 1 year. Not the most silent of belt sanders out there.
Customers and belt sander reviews online rate this model very highly. It is a performing and dependable belt sander that does not disappoint. Most customers are satisfied with the reliability and dependability of this belt sander.
Makita 9403 4" x 24" Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Editor's Rating: (4.7 / 5)
The Makita 9403 is one of the quietest belt sanders on the planet – at only 84dB. If working in a quiet environment is important to you, then this belt sander is ideal for your need. It equally features a wide belt sanding pad of 4” for maximum sanding area.
- Quiet – at only 84dB, this model is the quietest belt sander we have ever tested.
- Big sanding pad – by default, this models ships with a 4” sanding pad that offers a large surface area.
- Closed design – The design prevents debris such as sawdust from entering the power tool and causing jams.
- Dust Collector – included is a handy dust collector that traps sawdust on the go.
- Ergonomic form factor – the front and back handle offers a 2-hand grip for long hours of use.
The design of the Makita 9403 is ideally suited for those who sand for long hours. The closed design prevents debris from clogging the tool while the front and back handle offers a comfortable and ergonomic handling with both hands. The 4x24 belt compensates for the smaller motor as it removes materials faster with less effort.
The dust collection bag might be too small for those who sand materials a lot. Visibility from the top view is little to none and you are sanding mostly blind when using this belt sander.
As expected from products by Makita, this 4x24 belt sander scores very highly and most belt sander reviews we read vouch for this model.
Porter-Cable 362V 4-Inch by 24-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander
Editor's Rating: (4.8 / 5)
This portable belt sander is one of the most powerful and heavy-duty belt sanders on the market. If you require reliability, power and efficiency while sanding tons of materials, this model is made for you.
- 12A motor – incredibly powerful motor tackles every single sanding job you throw at it.
- Direct head motor – the motor is positioned directly over the platen. This reduces the distance and increases the performance many times.
- Flush sanding – This unit can be most both for horizontal and vertical sanding.
- Spare 100G belt – You can use the default 100G belt or pop-in your own quickly and easily.
- Beginner friendly design – the design is exceptionally intuitive and beginner-friendly.
- Variable speed control – change the speed of the belt with the click of a button
The sheer power of the Porter-Cable 362V is something to behold. It can tackle every single job you throw at it with exceptional ease and the ergonomic design that further adds to the comfort of this belt sander. It is still small and light enough to be classified as a portable belt sander.
Rather simplistic belt sander that does not offer more features, especially considering its relatively steep price.
So far, we have not found anyone who had anything bad to say about this belt sander by Porter-Cable. It is small, powerful and reliable. Sure, it might not be the best belt sander out there, but it gets the job done right – especially at the offered price. It better deliver!
Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 7 Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
One of the most affordable belt sanders on the planet. The Black & Decker DS321 bridges performance with affordability. Who said you have to spend a lot of cash to get a performing belt sander?
- Lightweight at only 8.2lbs
- Modern and Futuristic design
- Plastic construction with front rubber handles
- Front roller design – the design of the front roller allows you to reach tight spots easily
- Retractable handle bar – Adjustable for up to 3 positions, the front bar can be positioned for maximum comfort
- Dust collector – included dust collection system is very handy
- Ships with medium grit belts
The price of the Black & Decker DS321 is definitely one of its main advantages. Based on a price to performance ratio, this model is easily the best belt sander around. It offers a decent number of features found in more premium belt sanders and still achieves excellent sanding across the board.
Changing the belt can be a pain, despite the fob-less belt changing function. The front handle is sometimes fiddly. Little to not shock absorption on this belt sander means that it is ideal for mostly flat surface and soft materials.
Most belt sander reviews we read rate this model highly. The price being the number one factor. Customers of this model seem to appreciate the performance of this belt sander that come a price that does not break the bank. It is definitely one of the best belt sander out there on a price to performance ratio.
Black & Decker BR318 3-Inch by 18-Inch Low Profile Belt Sander
Editor's Rating: (4 / 5)
While this entry-level portable belt sander is not suitable for heavy-duty sanding, the lightweight and narrow tip makes sanding tight corners a cinch. It offers a comfy front end handle and adequate performance for most sanding jobs.
- Lightweight – at only 6.6lbs, this model can easily be handled and carried to the job in a bag.
- Narrow tip – ideal for tight corners and spots, the narrow tip can reach spaces most other belt sanders cannot.
- Closed design – limits clogging of the innards due to debris
- Practical handle – the ergonomic shape and practical front handle allow for a great overall work experience
- Motor over platen – the motor is situated over the platen for boosted efficiency and performance
We like how Black & Decker made small “tweaks” to this entry-level belt sander so as to deliver the best performance possible. The motor, for example, is a little bit on the low end but since it is situated directly over the platen, it easily makes up for this lacuna. The narrow tip is an added bonus and great for those who usually work with corners or tight spots.
A general plastic construction. While the design is ergonomic, it is quickly lost to shocks and vibrations transmitted by the plastic handles. Definitely not the most comfortable belt sander to work with.
Customers generally like this product. It does what it advertises and as long as it is treated for what it is – an entry-level belt sander, it should live up to expectations. Other belt sander reviews also rate this model highly, mostly because of its ultra-affordable price.
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
A gorgeous 3x21 belt sander that should fit every need and every budget. The Genesis GBS321A is a solidly constructed low profile belt sander that is both affordable and performance.
- Low profile – it does not take a lot of space when packed and easily reaches tight corners and spots.
- Fob-less belt changer – change the belt with the push of a button. Lock-in mechanism holds the belt in place when done.
- Variable speed control – easily change the speed of the belt with a button.
- Adjustable front handle – Find the most comfortable position with the adjustable front handle.
- Soft rubber handle – Anti-slip and comfortable rubber handles allow you to use this belt sander for long hours in great comfort with little to no hand fatigue
- Dust Collector System for a clean work area.
- Flush sanding – sand both in a horizontal and vertical position with the same ease.
This model incorporates many features that are usually found in more expensive models; all at an entry-level price! The comfy rubber handles and good motor performance allows you to work for many hours without fatigue. The low-profile design is easy to pack and can reach tight corners with great ease. We also like the performance and general ease of use. This is an excellent model for beginners on a shoestring budget.
Not the most performing belt sander on the market. General construction is not as solid as we expected. Made from plastic and other alloys that are not guaranteed to withstand heavy workload.
Reception for this belt sander is quite good. It has a decent rating across the board and most customers have good things to say about this. Many say it is a dependable model and has served them well for years.
Hitachi SB8V2 9.0 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Trigger Lock and Soft Grip Handles
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
A low-profile portable belt sander that is also very powerful. With its 9A motor and 9.5lbs weight, this model is easily one of the best belt sander out there on a weight to performance ratio.
See how Hitachi talk about their sander
- Powerful 9A motor – performing, dependable and efficient.
- Variable speed control – control multiple speed quickly and easily
- Soft grip – comfortable soft rubber grips for prolonged usage without fatigue.
- Tracking window – view at all times what you are sanding thanks to its top-view tracking window
- Dust collection system – helps keep the workshop clean and the position of the collection bags increases efficiency in trapping debris.
- Wear-resistant belt – The V-shape of the drives allows for long life and reduces damage due to wear and tear.
There are many things that we like in this portable belt sander by Hitachi. For one, it is made by a very reputable brand. It is solidly constructed with metal alloy and aluminum tips that ensure durability and longevity. The small form factor also packs a solid and robust motor that can tackle sanding any material quickly and easily, even for long hours. It is relatively silent. Comfort when operating this unit is excellent.
The tracking goes off-track in operation and needs regular readjustments. Not the greatest design out there.
Customers reviews on this model is a mixed bag. While most customers and belt sander reviews rate this model highly, a few complain about the poor design and lack of auto-tracking. It is still a very performing belt sander, especially considering the offering price and powerful motor.
What is a Belt Sander?
A belt sander is a power tool that allows you to sand wood at record breaking time. If you are still sanding wood the traditional, manual way, then a belt sander in your toolbox will save you a lot of time and 1.13 liters of sweat, every day, give or take!
Indeed, the belt sander is a hassle-free way to sand a ton of wood quickly and easily, providing you with more control when you are on the job. It is important to choose the right belt sander from the start. We have a short belt sander reviews above. You might want to check it out again!
What to Look for When Buying a Belt Sander
There are many things to consider to buy a best belt sander. Here are a few:
Weight (portable belt sanders):
Depending on how many arm wrestling matches you’ve won, the weight dictates the amount of time you can use your belt sander in one take. The heavier it is, the more stressful it will be on your arms, especially if you need to sand in a vertical position. Keep an eye out on the weight.
Handle (portable belt sanders):
Typically, you want a portable belt sander that has two handles. One at the back with the trigger switch and the other at the front. This gives you a firmer and more comfortable grip when using the tool for long hours.
Adjustable Speed Control:
A belt sander that provides an option to adjust speed will give you more control on the amount of material you want to remove. A faster sanding speed will result in a more polished work quicker, and a slower sanding speed gives more control while taking longer. On a lower speed, you have less chance of digging into the wood surface and result in uneven surfaces. The end game of sanding with a belt sander is to find the right balance that works for you and the type of material you are working on. There are no fixed rules. A belt sander that does not have an adjustable speed control is hard to work with and confines the finish quality, as wood surfaces tend to differ by quite a bit.
A big belt sander will give you more working surface. When using a portable belt sander on a project, you cannot go through intermediary steps. It’s all done in one go, or else you will have a hard time getting a uniform and level sanding finish.
However, a belt sander that is too big for your project is also not good. You need to identify the kind of projects you work on the most, and consider a belt sander with a belt of an appropriate size. See below for belt sizes.
Belt size is denoted as 3” x 21”, 4” x 24”, etc. The first number shows the width and the second the length. So, a 3” x 21” says the belt size is 3 inches wide and 21 inches in length. 3” x 21” and 4” x 24” are the most common belt sizes for best belt sanders. They suit almost any kind of DIY or carpentry jobs. On the other hand, if you need to work on miniature size objects, then you can always use a 1 ”x 30” belt sander.
Since this is a mechanical device, wear and tear due to friction happens all the time. Your belt sander must not make it hard for you to swap belts. Most of the time, all it takes is the push of a button or the yank of a wench to dislodge the belt from the groove.
You may also need to change the belt for the appropriate grit size as many times you will need to test many different grit sizes to see what works the best for your project.
Good belt sander models have automatic alignment tracking, which makes the change seamless. If you have a manual belt sander, it is equally not that hard, just a few minutes more work to align. You will need to refer to your user manual on how to do this. If it doesn’t allow you to change the belt – throw it in the trash can!
One of the greatest drawbacks of using a belt sander is the amount of wood material it can remove in very little time. All this wood residue quickly pile up and make a whole mess. Worst, if it gets airborne, it can float for hours giving you coughs and throat inflammations.
Hence, it is important to choose one that has a dust collection system. No need for anything fancy. A simple dust bag will suffice. Good models come with a vacuum system which allows you to sand while it vacuums in the wood dust and delivers it elsewhere via a hose. This is especially important if you are working with coarse wood, and an 80-100 grit, as this will produce a lot of wood dust.
Electric Cord Length:
The length of the cord is an important factor when choosing a belt sander. You absolutely do not want one that has a 1-meter cord. It will constantly get in the way and you will find that you end up spending most of your time adjusting the cord than actually sanding. An electric sander with a minimum cord length of 1.8m is advisable, but best is one with a long and retractable cord.
Tips on using Belt Sander
As we have seen, there are different kinds of belt sanders that can be used for different kinds of jobs, from wood preparation to straightening planks. To get the desired effect, everything will play on the grit size of the belt sander. To remove veneer or prepare a wood surface for future veneering, you need to use a rough grit. It will remove more material by digging deeper into the wood surface.
Conversely, to get a more polished finishing job, use a finer grit size. The finer the grit size, the higher the numbering size. For example, 80 is very rough and 800 is a very fine grit. When preparing wood, you almost always start with a low numbered grit, and end with a higher numbered grit, in that order.
Avoid creating patterns:
When sanding, it is important to not only follow the direction of the wood veins, but you also need to make small circular motions. This will help avoid creating patterns in the wood.
The pressure applied on the belt sander needs to be uniform. Applying more pressure will sand more wood, which can eventually lead to carving unnecessary patterns on the wood surface. A good tip is to just allow the sander’s own weight to do the sanding, instead of applying force to it. It will glide and sand uniformly as it goes. The only time to apply force is when you can visually spot uneven surfaces. Most of the time, this applies only to coarse virgin wood, but that's an exception, not the rule.
Make Pencil Lines:
Use a pencil and draw lines from one edge to the other. Sometimes, one side of the wood surface can be harder and will sand slower. Therefore, you will need additional passes on a harder surface. A pencil line helps tremendously by giving you visual cues of how much you have sanded and result in a homogeneous sanding throughout.
As always, sand in small circular motions.
Types of Belt Sanders
There are 2 main types of belt sander:
- Stationary belt sander
- Portable belt sander
1. Stationary Belt Sander
As its name suggests are non-immovable sanders that generally have a mounting socket for fixing on a work bench. Their fixed position allows for more precise sanding with the hands. Furthermore, they are more comfortable to work with as you can sit down and work.
This is ideal when you want to shape wood to create angled or smooth contours that require a high degree of precision.
They are far more practical than portable sanders if the material you are working with is light and easily manipulated by hand. Moreover, this type of belt sander usually comes with a companion disk sander, retrofitted to the side that you can use to sharpen your tools.
2. Portable Belt Sanders
Portable belt sanders are more practical if you are working on materials that are not easily moved. For example, working on large pieces of hardwood or large sheets of plywood. Portable sanders come is a variety of sizes, ranging from mini handheld designs to huge mammoths that can sand a regular 4ft x 8ft sheet of plywood in one swoop.
What makes a belt sander outstanding compared to Others
Good belt sanders are not that easy to spot. (This is partly why we have provided a short belt sander reviews above). They will offer all the benefits we mentioned at the beginning of this article, and then some. You mandatorily need to choose the right sander for the job. A random orbit sander will never be good enough to straighten wood. That’s what a belt sander is for! It was designed to remove material quickly and effortlessly.
If you work a lot with wood, you will find that you will have a use for the belt sander more than any other type of sanders.
In your quest for finding the best belt sander, you will first need to test a few beforehand, or at least, take the factors we discussed into consideration.
The feel it has in the hand is important. Its power needs to match the job at hand. The weight plays a definite role in how long you can use it without fatigue. Its grit size needs to be replaceable and last but not least, it needs to have replaceable parts.
Due to the simplistic nature of belt sanders, they are easily dismounted for parts replacements. The best belt sander will make provisions for all those factors. The name of the manufacturer also needs to be a reputable one. Reputable manufacturers offer long warranties on replaceable parts. Avoid cheap belt sanders that are made in China and have no recognizable brand names. Their prices might look attractive, but most of the time they will underperform and deliver a poor job. They are also not very reliable nor durable tools for the long haul.
We come to the end of this comprehensive write-up about the best belt sanders. You should at this point be better equipped at choosing one that will serve you for many years. If not, go through our belt sander reviews one more time. Happy sanding!