The 10 Best Belt Sanders

Updated February 01, 2018 by Quincy Miller

10 Best Belt Sanders
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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Primarily used for sanding large, flat surfaces, such as doors and decks, belt sanders are a powerful weapon in any handyman's arsenal. They can clean up welds, help you refinish outdoor furniture, and skim a fraction of an inch off any piece of lumber. Just resist the temptation to shave with one of these things. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best belt sander on Amazon.

10. Central Machinery Generic Mini

The Central Machinery Generic Mini is lightweight enough to be considered portable, but it's best suited to smaller projects, as it's not exactly power-packed. It tucks away nicely in cabinets or tool chests, so it won't take up your entire garage when not in use.
  • ideal for knife making
  • opening on side for vacuum hose
  • lacks a speed control
Brand Generic
Model 78SAND
Weight 13.9 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Wen 6502

The Wen 6502 boasts both a 4-inch by 36-inch belt and a 6-inch disc, with plenty of ability to adjust each for beveling purposes. The dense, cast-iron base helps to reduce vibrations, allowing you to complete intricate jobs without accidentally shearing through wood.
  • blade guard protects fingers
  • large responsive power switch
  • bogs down under heavy loads
Brand WEN
Model 6502
Weight 39.1 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. Makita 9403

The Makita 9403 is one of the quietest models you'll find, producing a mere 84 decibels even when working under load. Its quality construction ensures that the motor is sealed away from contamination, giving you more reliability and safety.
  • comfortable large front grip
  • easy to adjust belt alignment
  • not good for detail work
Brand Makita
Model 9403
Weight 15.9 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Hitachi SB8V2

The soft grips on the Hitachi SB8V2 make it comfortable for all-day use, so it's good for pros (or just someone who's working like one). It has a useful tracking window as well, so you can see what you're doing and how the belt is faring without having to stop sanding.
  • works well in corners
  • handles vertical walls nicely
  • belt slides at higher settings
Brand Hitachi
Model SB8V2
Weight 11.6 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Wen 6321 Heavy Duty

With a belt that rotates at over 13 feet per second, the Wen 6321 Heavy Duty far outperforms its diminutive size. It boasts a lock-in safety feature that lets you work without having to hold down the trigger, so you'll be glad you have it on big jobs.
  • seven-amp motor
  • weighs only six pounds
  • tends to track to the side
Brand WEN
Model 1524578
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Skil Sandcat

Despite its reasonable price, the Skil Sandcat gets basic jobs done with ease. It's not ideal for professional carpenters, but hobbyists will appreciate the automatic tracking system, as well as the sensor that warns you if you're applying too much pressure.
  • convenient clear dust canister
  • good for paint prep
  • produces lots of heat
Brand Skil
Model 7510-01
Weight 7.9 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Makita 9032

The Makita 9032 boasts both speed and versatility, all wrapped up in a compact casing with adjustable belt tracking and an electronic speed control dial. It packs a considerable amount of power, while still managing to be easy to handle.
  • 100-degree pivoting sanding arm
  • good for metal work
  • comes with 2 abrasive belts
Brand Makita
Model 9032
Weight 4.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. Porter-Cable 362V

The Porter-Cable 362V has more than enough oomph to handle professional jobs, while still being a suitable choice for the home DIYer. You can change the speed easily but, let's face it, you're going to leave it on the maximum setting, aren't you?
  • dust collector works well
  • good for decks and floors
  • tracking is consistent
Model 362V
Weight 17.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Astro 3037

If you do a lot of auto body work, you'll want to have the Astro 3037 in your tool chest. It's one of the best models you'll find for grinding down welds and eliminating burrs, and the 360° adjustable arm allows you to get to those hard-to-reach places with ease.
  • high shoulders prevent paper sliding
  • handles thicker belts well
  • good for use on fiberglass
Brand Astro Pneumatic Tool
Model 3037
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Makita 9903

The center-mounted motor on the Makita 9903 makes it well-balanced, and the convenient front handle gives you superior control. It's powerful enough to chew through wood quickly, while still being suitable for more precise detailing work.
  • easy to change paper
  • good for overhead work
  • can run for hours at a time
Brand Makita
Model 9903
Weight 11.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

A Short History Of Sand Paper

Human beings have understood the properties of abrasives for tens of thousands of years. There is plentiful prehistoric evidence of stone tools that have been precisely ground to hone an edge, and of early artwork and devotional figurines that have been polished and shaped using grinding materials. Early abrasion was usually performed with stone tools, but by the Chalcolithic era -- the first phase of the Bronze Age, metal tools were often also used to scrape and polish materials into their desired shape and finish.

The fist evidence of a precursor to modern sandpaper dates to around the first century of the Common Era. Archeologists have found evidence of Ancient Chinese craftsman using a mixture of ground shells, grains of sand, and hard seeds that were bound to a parchment backing using naturally occurring gums as an adhesive. The rough surface created was suitable for much the same use as modern sand paper, though it was much more complex and costly to produce. Natural materials such as shark skin were also used as abrasives in the ancient world.

It was not until the 19th Century, a time of leaps and bounds of technological progress, that a truly affordable and mass produced abrasive paper entered the marketplace. British inventor John Oakey is credited with having created the direct forebear of today's sand paper in the 1830s. His company produced a glass paper that consisted of "glass fit", a ceramic material, bonded to a paper backing and produced in large sheets.

Glass paper remains in use for much of the century. In the early 20th Century, developers working for 3M came up with a sandpaper made using silicon carbide grit as the abrasive. This remains a formula commonly used for sandpapers today. The backing used in sandpapers has continued to improve over the past few decades, with common materials in use today including thick papers, polyester, rayon, and other synthetic fabric-like materials.

Sandpaper with thick, durable backing is imperative for use with modern power sanders, and in particular with belt and bench sanders, which produce a surfeit of force. Great sandpaper paired with a great sander makes the job of the modern woodworker easier than his or her ancient predecessors could ever have imagined.

Choosing A Great Belt Sander

The term belt sander is something of a blanket expression that can be used to refer to many different power tools, the common thread being that they use a belt of sand paper that rapidly spins around drums which hold it taut. Some belt sanders are handheld, and are moved over the surface of the object to be smoothed. Others are larger and sit atop (or are affixed to) work tables; these units are usually called bench sanders. Still other large, industrial grade belt sanders are large enough to sit on the floor themselves.

Choosing the right belt sander for your needs means carefully considering your line of work or your hobbies. For example, if you are a cabinet maker, a powerful bench sander might be a great choice, allowing you to quickly finish the surface of drawers and doors that will then be affixed to the frames you have designed. If you are a carpenter who builds or refinishes larger pieces of furniture -- those much too large to be maneuvered by hand -- then a handheld belt sander is a good choice, as you can move it around the large items on which you're working.

A belt sander packing plenty of power but that is still company enough for handheld use is also a great tool for anyone installing or refinishing a floor. Belt sanders can quickly strip away old varnish, stain, and damage, revealing lovely hardwood flooring that is ready to be refinished beneath the wear and tear.

Belt sanders can be used with a range of materials beyond woods, as well. Plumbers who need to polish the ends of PVC or metal pipes can easily do so with a belt sander and the right toughness and grit of paper, and a machinist of mechanic looking to remove bits of metal from a nut, bolt, or other component can do so quickly and deftly with a belt sander.

Proper Belt Sander Use And Maintenance

Belt sanders are powerful tools. If used improperly, can not only damage the item which you are hoping to build, restore, or improve, but they can cause serious bodily injury as well. Proper operation of a sander means proper attention to safety concerns.

As a belt sander produces lots of dust, proper mouth and nose protection are essential; it is too easy in accidentally inhale the minute particles created by power sanding to risk doing so without protection your respiratory system. Protective eyewear is also highly recommended during operation of a belt sander, as the fine sawdust created can be a sever irritant, and as larger bits of material can occasionally be thrown upward by the sander. A sander should also be operated with gloves to prevent injury to the hands and fingers.

Even a great belt sander is only as effective as the sandpaper its user chooses. Select the right grit of sandpaper for the job at hand, remembering that the higher the grit number, the smaller will be the particles on the paper's surface, and thus finer the polishing job it can complete. (e.g., 1000 grit paper will sand more slowly but more precisely than 200 grit paper). Replace sandpaper often during the course of a job to ensure you are doing to best possible work.

Take the time to clean out your sander's exhaust port after each use, and make sure you wipe down any object to be sanded before you commence work to remove any material that is already loose on its surface.

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Last updated on February 01, 2018 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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