When looking at belt sanders for home or commercial use, make sure to have all models’ intel side by side. While one person’s idea of the best belt sander might not agree with everyone, there are valid metrics to consider when shopping for belt sanders. Although most sanders you’ll find on the shelf conform to a fairly high minimum standard, some remain better than others.
From basic differences like the power of its electric motor, to subtle touches like the ease of sandpaper adjustment, belt sanders vary. While some buyers will be happy with a very targeted sander, many more typically need one better suited to all occasions. Even variable sanding speed options quickly become huge considerations when working regularly with any sanding machine.
We all know the frustration of wishing we’d more carefully considered one seemingly insignificant observation that rapidly became a big issue with regular use. If the woodworker’s maxim is “Measure twice, cut once,” then a power tool shopper’s maxim must surely be “Look at least twice, buy once.”
|Makita 9403 Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag||1,640||9.5||CHECK PRICE|
|PORTER-CABLE 352VS Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag||1,300||7.5||CHECK PRICE|
|Hitachi SB8V2 Variable Speed Belt Sander||1,475||10||CHECK PRICE|
|Triton Belt Sander T41200BS||1,200||8||CHECK PRICE|
|Astro 3037 Air Belt Sander||1,300||9||CHECK PRICE|
|Proxxon 38536 Belt Sander BS/E||700||8.5||CHECK PRICE|
|BLACK & DECKER DS321 Dragster Belt Sander||780||8||CHECK PRICE|
|WEN 6321 Belt Sander with Dust Bag||820||8||CHECK PRICE|
Makita 9403 Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Makita seems to inspire fierce global loyalty from those who use their machines. It’s deserved, as the company makes fine machines, and many trades patronise the Japanese toolmaker. With a punchy motor rated at 1200W, the Model 9403 is indeed a great all-rounder, seldom limited in application.
Neither unusually light nor overly bulky, this machine does weigh in around 6kg, which is about the maximum a portable belt sander should weight.
This Makita is not great for getting at surfaces underneath. It’s “chunky” and not particularly streamlined. The dust bag does make decent work of collecting most debris, although periods between empties are sometimes shorter than they should be, as the collection chute tends to clog up.
The front grip, as well as the overall build, is ergonomically solid, and this powerful machine is also the quietest in its class. A “labyrinth” design effectively shields the working parts from clogging dirt.
Overall, the 9403 is made to last and can be considered a great heavy-duty all-rounder, perfect for most applications at work or home.
- A powerful machine, designed as a versatile tool, easily able to work commercially
- Lower decibel rating than other competitors in its class
- Built for limited downtime and easy repair, with internal “sealing” that inhibits dirt intake and overall corrosion
- Unashamed power to quickly strip surfaces
- Extremely muted operation for a portable belt sander, being the quietest machine for home/commercial application
- Easy use, with a logical “fit” and feel to the grips and overall balance when sanding
- The weight takes some getting used to, and can initially make for more frequent operator fatigue
- The dust chute can clog between the working surface and collection bag
- Single year’s warranty
Makita Belt Sander Review
PORTER-CABLE 352VS Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Coming from the Black & Decker stable, it’s no surprise that this belt sander has a reputation for being a dynamic machine. The 325VS is a model designed for home woodworking or the occasional day in the factory.
The downside to the machine would include the fact that its dust bag is not the most efficient, although it does swivel through 360 degrees.
Apart from a dusty work environment, noise and heat from this machine can be more noticeable than many others. It also seems less able to poke into nooks and crannies.
On the plus side, it boasts variable speeds for more precise work and an easy-release mechanism for changing belts. The 352VS weighs in around 5kg, but is ultimately less versatile than other more rugged competitors.
In spite of ergonomic and other touches, the machine is more for home use, rather than daily commercial application. Often cheaper than its rivals, this metric is no compensation for those who need to criss-cross between home and work use.
- An ergonomically pleasing machine, comfortable to use
- The swivel dust bag is easy to release and reattach
- Weight and overall design geared for commercial performance at home
- Variable speed trigger
- Easy adjustment and change of sanding belt
- Extremely well-balanced machine, limiting fatigue, and highly responsive to operator guidance
- Protracted use generates an ominous amount of heat
- A noisy machine, even in its loud fraternity
- Ineffective dust collection
- Speed and power come at the expense of operating time and overall longevity
- Typically only one year’s warranty
Porter Cable Belt Sander 352VS
Hitachi SB8V2 Variable Speed Belt Sander
Although Hitachi is sometimes strangely derided by homeowners, the Japanese giant’s machines are staples of the industry.
The SB8V2 model has a reputation for being a workhorse, not given to easy failure.
The company has successfully addressed frequent nagging issues like dust collection and variable speeds, without compromising on power.
On the downside, some might notice that the motor sits on the left, although this is not unusual. Benefits of the machine include a front tracking window that enables a clear line of sight to the working surface.
The fact that the bag sits back and left makes it good to use in the corners, and its 1020W motor and assembly weighs in at only 4.5kg. Sporting a lockable trigger and pleasantly soft grips on the handles, the SB8V2 is a strong contender for overall winner in its class.
- Lighter than similarly powerful machines, which makes for extended use
- Designed for operator comfort in daily use
- A variable speed trigger
- Efficient dust collection
- Operator comfort based on its grip, handle design, and weight
- Many prefer the motor-center-and-on-top design of competitors’ machines
Hitachi 3-in x 21-in Variable Speed Belt Sander - SB8V2
Triton Belt Sander T41200BS
Known as a machine not be left unattended in untrained hands, this Triton model redefines “DIY robust.” For many, a perfectly balanced machine, it’s known to rapidly strip coatings and pare down wood and metal.
Although the 1200W motor is average, it’s rated at 10A, making for a powerful, robust machine.
Disadvantages of the Triton T41200BS are hard to find, although its dust collection is variably successful. The chute does empty back and down, however, and there is a dust bag for this model too.
Benefits are many and frequently encountered, such as the molded grips and often alarming speed with which this Australian machine will strip timber.
This machine comes with variable speeds, belt tracking adjustment and a trigger lock. Weighing in around 6kg, this is a definite crossover tool, capable of professional results at home or at work.
- A powerful, quick machine, more than capable of consuming persistent workloads
- Built to withstand the workshop environment
- Particularly attentive design on grips and handle
- Powerful action that doesn’t wane over time
- Ergonomically very pleasing
- Variable speed/locking trigger
- 3-year warranty
- Top end weight for a belt sander
- Dust collection is good, but not as seamless as other machines
TRITON PROMO: TA1200BS Belt Sander 76mm
Astro 3037 Air Belt Sander
With a long, thin nose and pneumatic drive, this Astro sander is a different take on belt sanders.
Driven by air and with a nose only around 2cm wide, this is the knife maker’s ideal shaping tool.
Not only specialty artisans find the 3037 useful, but homemakers and even professional crews find frequent application for its unique shape and reach.
For the average buyer, the belt lacks any real surface area, as it’s a specialty tool for finer application. That said, the machine is simple to operate and sport a single tension point for easy belt adjusting while working.
Weighing only around 1kg, the machine is light enough to use in one hand. Metalworkers very often employ the tool to grind down welding slag, and its gimmicky appearance belies its true value, as it is robust, durable and also a relatively quiet USA made machine.
- A narrow-belt, pneumatic sander
- Extremely light
- A finishing skill tool, built for hobbyists and daily workers alike
- Lightweight, one-hand operation
- One-touch, easy belt adjustment
- Relatively muted running noise
- Speciality narrow belt sander, unsuited to most tasks
- Air-driven, and thus unsuitable for many homeowners
Astro 3037 1/2-Inch x 18-Inch Air Belt Sander Unboxing/Review
Proxxon 38536 Belt Sander BS/E
Another narrow-belt sander, this German beauty has much of the Astro 3037’s application, although it has a shorter reach.
It compensates somewhat with a rugged and durable electric motor behind the nose. The machine is quieter than many, yet powerful enough to drive the belt into a host of applications.
This model is also known as extremely durable, even in commercial application.
For the average buyer, this machine’s narrow belt makes for a limited application, at least when it comes to bulk paring down of materials. This is often a woodworker’s tool, but it’s not for working broad surfaces.
The Proxxon has a host of tailored belts available, mostly geared towards the model-making and automotive industries. It’s also finely tuned between reach, power and hand-held balance, meaning that it minimizes fatigue.
- A strong motor behind a narrow belt makes for deft commercial application
- Enables narrow-touch application with power for fast results
- Designed to poke the nose into needed access, being a long, thin machine
- Relatively quiet
- Lightweight and superbly balanced in operation, minimising operator fatigue
- Efficient dust collection
- A long-nose belt sander, ill-suited for bulk work
- Because of its streamlined build, some find the rear-hanging dust bag inconvenient
Proxxon Battery-Powered Belt Sander BS-A - Product Overview
BLACK & DECKER DS321 Dragster Belt Sander
A low-profile, compact yet extremely rugged belt sander, this B&D model is both eminently portable and also up to most tasks. Relatively light at around 3.7kg, it should nonetheless never be mistaken for a weakling, as this is a robust DIY machine.
This model includes a retractable hood for major projects and its sleek profile aids access, as does its innovative small front roller. Built to get up close into corners and rated at 7A, this dynamo hints at industrial power.
Belt tracking, easy belt swaps and adjustable grips make this machine almost fun to work with, and its dust bag is also unusually efficient.
The DS321 is a bit noisy (but then belt sanders are) but not markedly more so than others. Although it cannot be defeated at home, there are more powerful machines out there for commercial, constant use.
With that said, its lightweight build-with-a-punch makes it probably the ideal home belt sander. It is also quite capable of some commercial duty during its lifetime.
- A noticeably lighter machine than competitors, yet one that has sought to maintain comparable power
- Built for access with a streamlined design, this machine is geared for diverse application
- Highly portable yet powerful
- Easy belt adjustment and replacement, with adjustable grips
- Dust collection is better than most
- Typically inexpensive with a fitting 2-year warranty
- Presents as a commercial machine, but often lacks the durability of others
- Can vibrate noticeably more than some others when pushing coarse-grit paper
Black & Decker belt sander. the dragster / 7 Amp 3 in. x 21 in. Dragster Belt Sander
WEN 6321 Belt Sander with Dust Bag
Another popular DIY option and also rated at 7A, this model weighs in at only 2.8kg. Surprisingly efficient and capable of making short work of most placed before it, this is a definite contender for homemakers’ attention.
Although often seen working in a commercial setting, it’s ideally applied more like a home tool, with occasional heavy-duty days.
The WEN 6321 is robust, but it’s not a commercial machine. The machine has a reputation for being an extremely effective tool and is popular in the American home market.
Like the BLACK & DECKER DS321, this front roller is also diminutive and allows for great access to difficult corners.
The machine is well up to heavy tasks on occasion. It’s no noisier than its competitors and collects dust effectively. There is the temptation – because of its lightweight design and can-do attitude – to employ this model commercially. It won’t sustain the daily grind, however, and eventually, a daily factory routine will cause the sander to fail.
- The machine has the wedge design that enables access to pinched areas
- A 7A rating makes for an aggressive sander when needed
- Fast and reliable stripper for home use
- Lightweight yet powerful action makes for fast results
- Trigger lock and better than average dust collection
- Typically very inexpensive purchase price
- Although designed more for home use, the power-weight ration can make the machine pull alarmingly in amateur hands when fitted with a coarse grain
- Designed for intermittent, powerful bursts over time, not constant daily use
WEN 3X21 7A Belt Sander Review
Buying Guide – Types of Portable Sanders
Orbital sanding machines came after and are still a great aid, particularly in final finishing on timber. Orbital sanders work through a vibrating pad that agitates pinned sandpaper to produce the sanding effect,
Many industries employ a host of different sanding and grinding belts, wheels and discs. For most purposes, however, the term “sander” means a home or light commercial belt sander for woodworking.
The belt sander design brought woodworkers a needed step-tool, between planing and laborious sanding, and belt machines have been a staple tool of many trades ever since.
Applications of Belt Sanders
Belt sanders are most typically light but essential tools in any timber construction and the metalworking industry use them extensively too. Glazers always have specialized belt sanders to bevel edges, and few tools for knife makers have become so crucial to their trade.
Many specialty industries employ belt sanders, and many more generalized trades like construction and shopfitting carry belt sanders as essential tools too. The ideal machine is one that can cross over between home and commercial application without a fuss.
Belt sanders can both square and round wood and metal corners, and rank as one of the most valuable and versatile power tools in use today. For knife making or for knife sharpening, little beats narrow-belt sanders, while other metal industries now include belt sanders as standard equipment too.
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Choosing a Good Belt Sander
Well, it helps to dig a little deeper beyond all the comparable metrics, so that we come out to the only really important evaluation.
That is, what do you want to do with the machine?
How does it complement your imagined activity and lifestyle. Far from vague, these are the ultimate questions to ask before deciding on a belt sander.
If you know you’re in the market for a sander because you’ve got two doors to sand down at home, and you’re also tackling a bit of timber work next month, great. That’s a lot more than most people know. Figure out more or less the kind of activity you either enjoy or need to do in your immediate future.
If you know the sander will be out on site working as often as it’s home, don’t skimp on the purchase. An overly lightweight machine won’t only cost you in repairs when you give it heavy tasks, it will frustrate you along the way. If you shop correctly for the right machine – one designed for your intended use – you’ll get great value for the money you spend.
Tips and Tricks
Although most of us need arc eyes once in life in order never to do it again, injury from a belt sander is more direct and something to be avoided. Although not as dangerous as grinding discs, clumsy handling of a belt sander can shred skin and pinch fingers, or worse.
Follow these guidelines when employing your belt sander:
- Wear eye and ear protection. Sanding machines are loud and, particularly with persistent use, you can do damage to your hearing over time. Eyes should always be guarded against machine use as standard practice.
- Wear a dust mask. Even the most efficient dust-collecting belt sander won’t collect it all. Don’t breathe in the work dust. Unless you have extraction fans pulling the debris away from you, always wear a dust mask when operating a sanding machine.
- Unplug the machine when you’re changing belts or emptying the dust bag. It’s not just paranoia, it often happens that machines are squeezed or held in such a way that you inadvertently switch them on. Alongside this, always check to see that the machine is off before you plug it in. Yes, that’s right, power tool rules for dummies. But in a second the sander can kick off a bench or out of your hands as you plug it in when it’s set to “on” Avoid unnecessary mishaps, and set the switch to “off” by default, as a habit.
- Beware of sparks! If you switch between wood and metal, first clear away all wood shavings and remove the dust bag. If flying sparks are pumped into that bag when it’s even partially filled with sawdust, it can catch alight. Likewise, sweep away wooden debris around your workspace to avoid flying metal sparks igniting anything.
- Make sure your work isn’t sliding or shifting beneath the sander. Press the work firmly up against a vertical surface to hold it, or employ worktable clamps to hold it down.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the belt sander. A bit of regular and correct love and attention will pay dividends in performance, safety and longevity.
It’s a toss-up between Hitachi’s SB8V2 and the Makita 9403, with the Triton T41200BS a very close third. Indeed, if it wasn’t for spares availability being better on the Japanese machines, the Triton offer might tie for first/second place.
Overall, however, and knowing full well that some machines of any make and model will break down prematurely, which machine ranks as number one?
The Hitachi has to take first prize, due to its decidedly commercial abilities and super-sleek design. It’s robust, designed for daily use and is a true multipurpose sander. More than anything else, every feature on this sander works well, including the dust bag. With most other sanders, you’ll find yourself wishing you had attributes of other machines on yours, but not with this Hitachi.
Makita takes a close second place although, to be fair, it should be at the top, based on its silent power. Were it not for a rather slipshod dust bag, it might have clinched it. Much like compatriots Hitachi, Makita has for decades now targeted the broad spectrum with its belt sanders.
In other words, it ranks high because it can legitimately endure commercial workloads, without choking. There is no compromise involved, and this machine really can go from fiddling in the garage to a wooden home construction job without fuss.
These sanders rank as top options among home sanders that can just as easily find a place in your workshop.