Best Belt Sander 101: The Top Belt Sanders You Can Get Your Hands On
A belt sander is a power tool that's electronic and utilizes sandpaper strips or a coarse belt in order to smoothen out, debride, or remove materials through grinding them out. The materials could include wood, metal, or plastic. Meanwhile, the best belt sander is a sander known for its nuance instead of blunt force when it comes to sanding down any work piece brought before it.
How to Choose a Belt Sander
There are multiple things to consider when buying a sander. Here are the most common ones that come to mind.
Ease of Use:
A goodbelt sander must be easy to use by virtue of how well it handles. This power tool version of sandpaper is supposed to make it less labor-intensive to sand down large swathes of material or huge areas like the surface of a big table. Its belt and pulley system should therefore efficiently distribute its horsepower to mitigate vibration. It should also work on a trigger system that any homeowner could figure out. It should be as easy to use like a clothes iron. It shouldn't overcomplicate its different modes or speeds either. The simpler the better.
Efficient Removal of Residue:
Another hallmark of a dependable sander is one that can efficiently clean up after itself. Removing residue like sawdust, metal particles, and/or plastic shavings should be done in a way that avoids accidents since the sparks from grinding metal can result in a fire from the surrounding sawdust and pieces of wood. It usually involves the placement of the dust bag although you can also jerry-rig a shop vacuum to suck the dust up as you work if you wish. The less of a mess your belt sander makes, the more of a must-buy product it is.
It's not only cough syrup or aspirin that can be fast-acting. Your prospective belt sander should also have variable speeds or a single top speed that allows you to make quick work out of the rustiest iron sheets or the roughest of timber. Your sander should be capable of dealing with the initial stages of sanding but then can be adjusted so that you can fine tune you're work. You can broad-brush remove material wholesale then slow down to do some detailing work while sanding. You can also opt for one-speed sanders that can do one thing (fine detail or heavy-duty sanding) good.
Varieties of Sanders:
There are a variety of sanders available out there and they usually differ in terms of size. You have your 3 x 21 portable sanders and the slightly bigger 4 x 24 ones. Their difference in bigness allows for either a smaller or a bigger sanding area. They're both mostly used for sanding down immovable surfaces like floors or walls as well as heavy tables. Smaller tables and chairs or other furniture might require a clamp to ensure even sanding from these belt sanders. The stationary belt sander, on the other hand, requires you to bring the materials to be sanded to the sander.
Trimming and Sanding:
The primary use of a belt sander, whether it's a mobile or stationary one, is to trim and sand down large pieces of raw timber so that they'd be usable work pieces for making floors, walls, furniture, and other construction work. The effectiveness of your belt sander depends on its power, the quality of its sanding belt, and the speed of the revolution or strokes of the spinning belt. The more powerful or high horsepower your belt sander has, the easier it is to remove materials from your work piece. It could even sharpen your blade or take off rust from metal sheets.
A belt sander can also be utilized for scribing purposes. Scribing involves trimming a work piece to a scribed line. It works best on applications that involve fitting a work piece trim into an uneven or curved wall, so you end up sanding it in a curved or oval manner to make it fit and not end up somehow askew. This space-saving method of construction is available in certain multipurpose sanders. It's not necessarily a required feature but if your prospective sander has such a benefit, it does raise its value somewhat compared to simpler comparable sanders that are incapable of this feat.
Suitable for Soft Metals and Woodworking:
Special sanders can be utilized to sand down soft metals without ending up clogged. Woodworking belt sanders are a dime a dozen (so to speak) in that these sanders are practically synonymous to woodworking. However, it takes a special kind of sander to deal with soft metal sanding so that your equipment won't get clogged. Just avoid using this device on aluminum because the powder or residue of sanded aluminum can be quite dangerous when mixed with iron powder and moisture. These are the ingredients of a thermite bomb, for your information.
Belt Sander Reviews
Here are the belt sanders you should keep an eye out for
1. Makita 9903 8.8 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag:
The Makita 9903 is a decent belt sander sporting a powerful 8.8-amp motor that still maintains a relatively quiet 84 decibels when it's turned on. This benefits the user in that he could use the device for longer without worrying about damaging his eardrums. It's this power that allows you to effectively sand down material from rough timber. The handheld device also has a cloth dust back that captures metal powder and sawdust in order to minimize cleanup of your shop after working. Its variable speed is also helpful.
It enables you to go from 690 feet per minute to 1,440 feet per minute depending on the roughness of the application. It's a portable belt sander that's quite controllable and maneuverable judging by its specs and performance. Although it lacks the solid base of a stationary sander, it's surprisingly balanced and stable. In terms of pitfalls or drawbacks, there have been reports of certain machines having limited the run time of 15 minutes before failing or certain models lasting only a month instead of years as advertised. It's also known to bog down easily for heavy-duty sander of its class.
2. PORTER-CABLE 362V 4-Inch by 24-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander:
As for the Porter-Cable 362V, it offers 12-amp motor action that makes it comparatively more powerful than the Makita 9903, but that's to be expected of a wider, bigger sander that has more room for a stronger engine. Aside from assuring commercial-grade performance, the 362V is also designed in a way to ensure balance and control when you handle it. You can depend on this machine when doing flush sanding over vertical surfaces like walls or the sides of furniture, for example. It even features variable speed capabilities to boot.
The sander also has speed adjustment for the 1,000 to 1,500 RPM range to ensure multipurpose usage on various types of softwoods and hardwoods. Only a few criticisms can be leveled against this large Porter-Cable handheld sandermodel. It's okay but it does come with certain issues. For one thing, it's not as ergonomically designed as others. If you do loads of multidirectional sanding with this "beast" of a sander, make sure to stretch out your hand after lengthy sanding. Also make it a point to do warm-up exercising. The power cord can get pulled up into the belt and housing too, so watch out.
3. Makita 9403 4" x 24" Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag:
As for the second Makita sander in this collection, its main claim to fame is its large cloth dust bag and its mini vacuum look. It even has its title advertising the fact. The ability of a belt sander to clean up after itself is an important issue though in light of how belt sanders do get clogged by accumulating sawdust within its inner circuitry. This device can also be considered the 4-inch by 24-inch version of the Makita 9903 based on their similar configurations and features (due to them being made by the same company).
It can do everything that the 9903 can, but this time with a more powerful motor (11 amps) and a labyrinthine construction (so that the sawdust can't find its way inside the device). It's easy to control, convenient to handle due to its large grip, it's durable due to its sealed insides, and it's efficient thanks to its 4-inch wide belt that moves at 1,640 feet per minute. In terms of downsides, its front handle is awkward to use for scribing work and it's mostly a two-handed tool (you can't use it one-handed while bracing the surface with your other hand).
4. Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 7 Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag:
The Black & Decker DS321 could be a sander for you in case you wish for a red belt sander with a slim design so that it looks less like a shop vacuum and more like a planer device that you can use one-handed. It also comes with a handy medium-grit sanding belt for softer woods and an instruction manual to better access its features. Its dust bag is still built in like with the Makita 9403, but this time it's tucked away to the side rather than from the rear so that it saves space and makes for a less awkward grip.
Speaking of grips, its handle is retractable and can be used in three positions. It's also powered by a 7-amp motor capable of delivering plain and simple sanding action. Operation is self-explanatory for the most part. In terms of downsides, its smaller bag does require regular emptying and mostly collects coarser dust (which means finer dust still requires the shop vacuum treatment). Furthermore, there have been claims that the Dragster takes longer to sand objects compared to other sanders plus it makes a high-pitched squeak that can be annoying.
5. Hitachi SB8V2 9.0 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Trigger Lock and Soft Grip Handles:
Last but not least is the Hitachi SB8V2. There are some people out there who consider this machine as a contractor's ideal sander because it features a decent 9-amp motor, a variable speed of 820 to 1,475 feet per minute, and it's been praised for its precision, performance, and accuracy in light of its specs. It offers ample power and its variable speed switch is located at a comfortable and ergonomic angle to allow speed shifts with even more ease than a manual car and its stick shift.
It also ensures safety with its trigger lock that keeps you from accidentally keeping the device on and its soft grip handles that enable workers to use the handheld sander for much longer than other awkward-grip machines. It's also relatively lightweight at 9.5 pounds. In terms of downsides, there have been customer complaints regarding its balance. The motor is located left of center, causing you to adjust your handling to enable balanced maneuvering when using the device. It also has issues longevity, with certain models dying within 20 minutes of use.
The best sander for your needs is one that's made for multipurpose requirements. This ensures that you can utilize the device for many different applications, which essentially means that you're getting more value out of your investment. Most blue collar workers view the three-inch belt variety of sander as their most dependable power sanding tool because it covers just enough area to be useful in quick sanding without being too big or too unwieldy to handle. The four-inch sander with its bigger motor and wider sanding area is, in turn, utilized for heavy-duty construction work.
It's particularly dependable when it comes to dealing with rough flattening applications wherein you're dealing with timber that still has bark on it or freshly cut wood from your own backyard. A stationary belt sander is the biggest belt sander type of the bunch that allows for true heavy-duty work beyond what the four-inch mobile sander is capable of, but it's more limited because you have to bring the pieces of wood to it instead of vice-versa. When all is said and done, you should let your needs define your belt sander choice.