Best Belt Sanders (May 2019): Editor’s Top Picks And Reviews
Sanding can be a painful and time-consuming job, particularly when you are sanding with your hands and some sandpaper. But you obviously don’t want to paint/stain/varnish on a messy surface, right? That’s the reason why belt sander cannot be ignored.
Thanks to advancement in technology, people have invented the electric sander, a powerful tool used to abrade wood, metal, and laminate fast and efficiently. However, if you are unfamiliar with these tools, you might have a hard time choosing one.
You should learn how to choose the best belt sander? you definitely don’t want to get the wrong one since the price of an belt sander is usually expensive. But worry not, fellow DYIers! In this particular article, we will provide the list of the electric belt sanders.
Best Belt Sander (May 2019): Top 6 Picks & Reviews
This is the list of the products that will be reviewed in this article. Take a look at it to get information about the product details.
Auto belt tracking system, no manual adjustment required
Inexpensive belt sander with innovative design
For low budget and light work
High-quality electric belt sander
Strong and Big
Mini belt sander for light sanding work
Top 6 Belt Sander Reviews
- Why are these product included?
- How to choose the best electric belt sander
Why are these product included?
The product is categorized based on the power motor and the ability to perform specific task required for particular sanding job.
For light sanding work
Light sanding job, we include the cheap products with the ability to reach tight spaces and perpendicular surfaces. The belt sanders for this sanding job need to be light-weighted, small size; and only require moderate motor power. In this section, we recommend Porter Cable 371K and Black & Decker DS321
For average sanding work
Average means something in-between, thus, based on the specifications of each product, we decided to include Makita 9903 and Hitachi SB8V2. Both can perform a decent sanding job with firm belt tracking system which allows you to do sanding job without constantly adjusting the belt tracking.
Even though these belt sanders are recommended for average sanding job, the word “average” cannot fully describe the quality of both of them. These tools are pretty durable, and the designs are also innovative compared to their peers in the industry.
For heavy sanding work
This type of task required the most powerful motor in class, therefore, we include Makita 9403 and Port Cable 362V. Both of them possess 11 amps and 12 amps motors. They work with large belt allowing faster leveling. The weights of them ensure that the power tools can do the job without requiring extra pressure from the workers. They are designed for heavy-duty tasks.
How to choose the electric belt sander
If you are about to purchase a belt sander then put all these factors into consideration. It’s important since a belt sander costs a lot of money, thus, you don’t want to get the wrong one.
Weight should not be a bother if you are performing horizontal sanding. However, if your job includes perpendicular surfaces, you need to lift the belt sander up in order to do the job; this is the time when the weight becomes matter.
For vertically sanding job, a machine weighs below 10 pounds will be carried much easier than those with 12 or 15 pounds.
The power of a belt sander is measured in amperages. For light sanding work, the ideal amperage should be from 5 amps to 8 amps. On the other hands, a serious sanding job requires at least 8 amps or above. Extra motor power might cost you more money, so consider carefully before you are paying for extra power.
Size & Shape
The belt sander size is determined by the width and the length of its belt. The larger the size, the heavier the tool, but in compensation the larger tool finish the work faster.
The common sizes are 3x21 inches and 4x24 inches. The former size is easy to control since the speed, weight and power is balanced, suitable for amateurs. The latter size is used for heavy duty sanding job, which might be difficult to control.
Get the larger one if you need an industrial grade belt sander. Otherwise, use the smaller model for your free hand or vertical on-site work.
The old model belt sanders usually have only one speed of operation. In modern days, most belt sanders have variable speed ranges from 500 to 1500 feet per minute. Some allows two distinct speed modes, but the more preferable ones are those with speed dialers, capable of operating in any speed in-between.
Variable speed sander is ideal for variety of applications. However, like power, speed costs extra cash. If you are running a tight budget, a single speed mode belt sander could be fine. You can adjust the stock belt to a finer grit to manipulate the aggression of the single speed belt sander.
Most belt sander allows worker to change the belt easily by just taking the tension off. However, there are belt sanders that don’t feature such basic need.
Each time you need to change the belt, you have to bring the belt sander to the service center. Of course, this might cost you some fee. Keep in mind to consider the belt changing feature before buying one.
After putting the belt in, make sure to track the belt properly. An inappropriate belt tracking might result in uneven job because the belt is not moving in a straight position.
For a clean work environment, most belt sander has the dust collection system using a dust bag. Other belt sander manufacturers even offer vacuum system.
Unless you own one with vacuum system, make sure the bag is large enough to collect all the dust, and the clip must be tight so the dust won’t come out.
Makita 9903 Review
Makita is famous for delivering high-quality power tools with the innovative and effective design. Each product of Makita is guaranteed with a 30-days return warranty, hence, most of them come with a high price.
- Quiet operation – Even though the motor power, as advertised, running at 8.8 amps, the belt sander still manage to operate at only 85 decibels; compared to others, it is pretty quiet.
- Auto-tracking system – Thanks to the innovative auto-tracking system, the belt is always centered so you don’t need to waste time adjusting the belt tracking. With this feature, you can always maintain a straight position of the belt, allowing more precision.
- Long power cord – The default power cord is up to 16 feet (approximately 4.9 meters) long, ensuring sufficient reach to most surfaces despite the further power outlet. In addition, you can save money by not buying the extension because of the short power cord.
- Designed to reach corner – The unique design of this belt sander allows flush sanding to the corner of the wall using the nose and side of the sander.
- Vacuum dust bag – To ensure the better working environment, the belt sander has a vacuum dust bag that can suck up a lot of dust without spraying it back to your face. You can do sanding job without using a mask with such powerful vacuum dust bag.
- Durable and Sturdy – The belt sander is double insulated, meaning that the casing cannot give an electric shock, even if the wires inside become loose. It increases both the safety for the users of the electric belt sanders and the lifespan of the product.
- Accurate & Maneuverable – The size of this belt sander is wide enough to cover sufficient amount of space, while still being narrow enough to make smoothing feasible. Additionally, the long power cord secures the reach to further places and those areas that are harder to reach with shorter power cord.
- No hard cage – With such price, the Makito 9903 should have had a hard cage at least. However, the tool turns out to be working just fine, therefore, this should not be a big problem.
- Lack of the optional accessories – The availability of accessories is awful, you can’t find sanding frame or vacuum attachment of this product. The manufacturer confirmed that they have no further plan on producing the replacement product.
This is the big downside because once one part of the tool is broken, you have to buy the entire new tool, or you might have a hard time finding the particular replacement that fits.
- Off-balance issue – The center balance of this tool is slightly off to the left side because of the weight of the product. You usually can’t tell whether you are holding it level or not until it is too late.
- Bad placement of the speed adjustment knob – The speed adjustment knob is usually covered with dust, making it impossible to read the speed rate without a shot of compressed air.
Overall, the product has very little downside to its operation. Only complaints are pointed toward the lack of replacement, off-balance issue and bad placement of the knob.
The price of the product is quite expensive but if you consider the performance, it worth the price since the product can be kept for a very long period.
However, you should be careful with the product. Even though it has a tough design, if you happen to break one part you won’t find the replacement for it.
In general, If you are willing to pay for the high-quality performance, you should buy Makita 9903.
Hitachi SB8V2 Review
Hitachi is a Japanese company whose name is well known around the world. Although belt sander production is just a small part of their business, they still manage to keep up with their competitors in the industry by distributing superb quality electric belt sander to the consumers.
- Double life span – The V-belt design which protects the belt sander from wear and tear, ensuring the double shelf life of the product.
- Variable speed switch – The 9.0 amps motor accomplished by the featured speed dial guarantee the sander power and speed of 820 to 1475 feet per minute, which is the ideal range for sanding job.
- Handy speed adjustment – You can adjust the speed with your pinky finger while still keeping your hands at the sander. The design allows you to get the most comfortable speed for your job because you are adjusting while sanding so you can evaluate the appropriate speed.
- Transparent panel – There is a transparent window on the sander’s nose. Its function is to give the worker the view to the sanding surface and the belt so he can avoid accidental sanding of 90-degree angle surface. In other words, you will have a forewarning before hitting the wall from sanding the floor. In addition, such view will prevent gouging or uneven surface.
- Simple components change – The belt can be changed fast and safe thanks to the quick-release system. Moreover, the dust bag is the high-quality one which collects the dust effectively; the dust bag is easily detachable to empty.
- Maneuverable – The weight of this belt sander is convenient enough to be moved around easily, provided that it is subjected to materials that it can handle in according to its belt and speed.
- Better corner sanding application – The fact that dust bag is located on the left side not only helps you sand right up against perpendicular surfaces but also keep the dust from spreading around.
- Comfort grip – The grip surfaces of the main handle and the auxiliary handle are made of soft elastomer, creating a comfortable and secure hold.
- Balance issue – Like Makita 9903, Hitachi SB8V2 balance often shifts to the left side, resulting in an uneven sanding job. To avoid such an issue, you need to apply more pressure down the material.
- Tracking changes when heated up – As to tool heats up, the belt tracking also changes, requiring constant adjustment to keep the belt in a straight position.
When the belt breaks, the pieces tend to be blown into the far back edge of the drive wheel, cleaning off these pieces is a pretty time-consuming task.
Even though it has a balance issue and tracking change problems, the price is what makes this belt sander competitive. With such powerful motor and innovative design, the belt sander only costs $129 which is pretty reasonable compared to its peers.
In addition, the V-belt design and the high-quality material have boosted its durability, making it different from the cheap and easily broken one.
With such price, the quality is still guaranteed by 5-years purchase warranty from the manufacturer. We strongly recommend this one if you want an affordable but trustworthy belt sander.
Black & Decker DS321 Dragster Review
Black & Decker Corporation is manufacturer from America, specialized in producing power tools, accessories, hardware, home improvement products and technology based fastening systems. Black & Decker is famous for its low price products.
- Easily reach tight spaces – Its ability to reach tight spaces is attributed by the innovative front roller; it also helps you cut down on the need for flush sanding.
The low profile design can reduce the amount of physical effort exerted on extending your arms for additional reach because such design already has an extended reach for you.
- Easily reach vertical spaces – For a wall that made of wood, this is such a handy tool for sanding. Its unique design accompanied by its light weight is suitable for sanding vertical spaces.
- Convenient size – The sander’s size is applicable from small to large woodwork. It can smoothly remove the material even in the rough surfaces; it works well for smoothing out uneven edges.
- Easy to use – Optimum control is secured by a retractable, three-position handle. In addition, the paper is easy to replace as well, you only need to pull the belt release lever and utilize the adjustment knob to get thing changed.
- Effective dust bag – Like other belt sanders, Black & Decker DS321 has a dust bag to clean up the sawdust, the dust bag has been reported to be working quite well.
- Low price – It is the one with the cheapest price on this list. If you only do small work without willing to spend much money, it’s a nice tool for you.
- Small dust bag – Although the dust bag works quite well, it is not large enough to keep all the dust coming out during sanding. You will have to stop the sanding job in order to empty it. This might take some of your time but the dust bag is easily removed so it should not be so big of a problem.
- Belt tracking changes - If you don’t apply equal pressure across the width of the belt, it will end up distorted or mistracked; you will have to constantly adjust the belt tracking which is time-consuming.
This might happen because you don’t follow the instruction or your technique is not accommodated with the operation of the belt sander. Either way, you’ll need to re-evaluate the way you works with the belt sander.
- Noisy – The bearings shout out a high-pitched squeal which is too noisy to bear. However, this is a cheap power tool after all so you can’t complain much about it. Get the earplugs to protect your ears before using it.
- Weak plastic cage – Again the price of this product is cheap, so the manufacturer needs to cut down on the quality of the material. The plastic cage (in the front end) is so fragile that it gets shredded when the belt tracking is off.
- For light work only – This belt sander takes more time to complete the sanding job than the others would. It also gets heated up easily that you have to stop after using it for every 15 minutes. Not to mention that you might need to constantly adjust the belt tracking.
- No variable speed – You only work with a one-speed rate; there is no speed adjustment on this tool. If your sanding job requires speed adjustment, it is a big minus point.
The price of this product is very competitive. Despite the fact that the price is low, the manufacturer still manages to put some useful features for this tool such as the dust collection system for a clean work, the front roller for reaching tight spaces, the comfortable handle for optimum control.
For a serious sanding job, we would not recommend this one. The consumer's target of this product are the people who occasionally need to do sanding job, and usually, it’s only light sanding. Those people won’t be willing to pay too much for something they don’t use frequently.
By and large, if you work on a small sanding project, and don’t mind adjusting the belt tracking then you should totally go for it.
Makita 9403 Review
Another product from Makita with some different features from the Makita 9903 but it is still able to keep an excellent performance.
- More powerful motor – The motor is running at 11 amps which are more powerful than Makita 9903. Such power has boosted the speed of the belt sander up to 1640 feet per minute. In addition, the belt for this tool is 4-inches, running such large belt with the high speed makes it capable of clearing large areas.
- Quiet operation – Even with such high power, the machine still manages to run without emitting much noise. The tool only emits the sound of 84 decibels, which is 1 decibel lower than the Makita 9903’s; even though Makita 9903 motor power is only 8 amps, much less powerful than the power of this one.
- Easy belt replacement – The lever control is easy to use, allowing the worker to change the belt at ease.
- Comfort grip – The large front grip is appropriately positioned to provide a comfortable grip for easy control.
- Motor and bearing protection – Motor and the bearing are the most important components of the belt sander; one is for the speed of the belt sander, the other is for the smooth operation of the sander.Knowing such importance of both components, Makita offers a Labyrinth construction seals motor and bearings from contamination. The sealing will extend the lifespan of the tool.
- Innovative dust bag design - Dust bag swivels 360° for more convenient operation; it is tough, detachable so that emptying the bag should be easy.
- Long power cord – Like Makita 9903, the included cord is very long that you don’t need an extension cord, and it also provides further reach when the power outlet is too far.
In addition, the placement of the power cord is located on the upper portion of the handle so it won’t get in the way. The manufacturer obviously wants to distribute maximum operation convenience to the consumers.
- Firmly centered belt - Although it has no auto-tracking system, the belt can stay centered once adjusted and does not need any subsequent adjustment. The belt of the machine can track and run smoothly; it’s possible to control this belt sander one-handed, making it suitable for flat panel work.
- Double insulated – To strengthen its durability and safety, Makita makes the machine double insulated, protecting it from electric shock.
- Expensive – You get what you pay for. If you usually do sanding a lot, then only high-quality power tool can serve your purpose. Unless you are working with a tighter budget, there are cheaper alternatives for you.
There is nearly no complaint about a technical aspect of this product. You have to pay more but you get what you deserve. For serious sanding work, we recommend using Makita 9903. We rate this product the best one in our list.
Porter Cable 362V Review
Porter Cable focuses mostly on the power of the belt sander. However, is power the only thing that determines the quality of a belt sander? No? Let’s see.
- 20 percent more power – The motor runs on 12 amps, which is twice as much as the regular motor of 6 – 8 amps. With such power, it possesses the strongest motor in the list.
This beast mode power will get you burning through any flaws and bumps in any surfaces. The belt sander is specialized in fast leveling.
- Balanced design – The weight, the size and the powerful motor guarantee a comfortable and controlled experience; the size is wide enough to cover large areas; the weight makes sure that pressure is applied evenly and appropriately on the surfaces without demanding for extra effort from the worker; the powerful motor makes sure that the belt sander runs smoothly and effectively.
In addition, the motor is located over the platen for maximum performance of the belt sander.
- Comfortable grip – Porter Cable features a comfortable trigger grip for a worker to rest his hands on it while operating such heavy belt sander.
- Large dust bag – Since the tool is used for heavy work the amount of dust coming out is huge, therefore, the dust bag must be large enough to collect all the dust. The large-capacity dust bag swivels a full 360 degrees that it won’t get in the way.
- Durable – Consider how powerful the tool is, it needs to be protected with high-quality material so it won’t get torn apart by the power it has.
- Handy speed-dial placement – Brilliantly, speed adjustment dial is placed on the rear of the handle, allowing fast speed adjustment. The adjustment rate ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 sfpm.
- Easy belt replacement – Like other manufacturers, Porter Cable tries to minimize the complication of the belt change process. The commonly adopted quick-release belt change lever secures the fast belt change at ease.
- Too heavy to lift – As the size and the weight are large and heavy, one might find it difficult to lift the belt sander up for sanding ceilings and walls.
- Bad heat pump placement – The position of the fan makes the hot air exhaust into your hand, specifically, your lead hand or guiding hand. Your hand will get really hot after 5 to 10 minutes of sanding, and it is really uncomfortable.
- Awful dust bag placement – The dust bag is located in a way that it is directly pointing toward…your face. Once the dust bag becomes loose, all the dust will be blown into your face; it happens very often since the bag is hard to clip on securely, making it loosen easily.
On top of that, since the wire o-ring clip is difficult to open it is time-consuming to empty the dust bag. Also, part of it at the opening overlaps and catches dust.
The main purpose to get such powerful tool is for heavy sanding job. The price is expensive as you are paying for superb power and speed.
Since the dust bag being leaked out too often, make sure you prepare yourself a good mask to avoid the dust spraying into your face.
By the way, measure your arms strength if you must use this tool for sanding ceilings and walls since the tool is heavy and large. Overall, the tool performs a decent job and is pretty worth the price.
PORTER-CABLE 371K Review
Besides producing a powerful tool, Porter Cable also manufacturing mini belt sander, which is Port Cable 371K.
- Well protected – Rubber sealed, the belt sander can withstand exposure to dust, protecting its components from depreciating due to dust.
- Non-slippery grip – Thanks to the textured rubber sealing, most part of the belt sander is quite grippable, except for the sanding belt areas of course.
- No accidental turn-off – It is harder to accidentally turn off the machine because the power button is more recessed, making it harder to touch it by accident; continuous operation is strongly secured.
- Support two-handed operation – When safe and quick sanding is needed, two-handed operation is supported by the unique frontal handle serving as an auxiliary grip.
- A Strong metal component inside – Although the outside of this belt sander is full of plastic, inside the cage, there are strong metal components that ensure the strength and durability of the power tool.
- Easy to carry – Surprisingly light-weighted, the machine only weighs 8 pounds (0.45 gram), providing an easy heft. It can be carried around to get into areas that larger belt sander cannot reach.
- Work well on perpendicular surfaces – Thanks to the flush side and its compact, 2-1/2 x 14-inch belt, this instrument can conveniently crawl up to 90-degree angle surfaces.
- Too heated up – The tool gets heated up easily after used for a couple of minutes, make sure you get yourself some gloves if you don’t want to get burnt. In addition, the performance is diminishing as the tool gets heated up.
- Belt tracking changes – the belt tracking get mistracked easily, constant adjustment is required to keep it in the straight position.
- Can’t replace the belt on your own – No belt release lever or anything to replace the belt. Only the manufacturer can do the replacement so you need to bring it to the service center for the replacement.
The service fee costs about one-third the price of the tool itself. More importantly, keep in mind that the belt replacement cost is not covered by the warranty.
This is a mini power tool suitable for light sanding work where constant breaks are allowed for the machine to cool down. It definitely cannot be used for serious sanding work.
Prepare a durable belt since you don’t want to get an inexpensive replacement at the service center. Get gloves to prevent the heat from burning your hands.
If you constantly need to sand tight spaces, perpendicular surfaces, use this tool accompanied by a couple of breaks during work.
As you can see, when purchasing a belt sander, we have to consider many aspects such as size, shape, unique feature, safety, and power. There are mini belt sanders for light sanding work and strong belt sanders for a heavier one.
The belt sander market offers us fellow DIY-ers many products with a price range of 50$ to 200$. Base on your budget and purpose, choose the most suitable one for yourself.
According to the information we’ve gathered, and through our in-depth analysis, we rate Makita 9403 as the best product in this list.