The 7 Best Belt Sanders [Updated for 2021]

Last Updated on June 8, 2021 by Paul King

If you’ve ever manually sanded a large project you know exactly how time-consuming it can be. Belt sanders help speed up the whole process, making it faster and easier to finish your project, no matter what materials you’re working with.

Belt sanders are also fantastic options when you need to be able to remove a lot of material quickly, like when you’re restoring a heavily damaged piece of furniture or need to remove rotted or damaged material quickly.

Plus, a belt sander can also be useful for shaping and maintaining your other workshop tools.

Of course, like any tool, it’s important to make sure you’re investing in a good model that can handle the pressure and will perform well through years of regular use.

That’s why we’ve put together this review of the best belt sanders along with a short buying guide at the end of the article. That way you can not only choose from the best sanders on the market, but you’ll also have the information you need to choose the best belt sander for you.

Metabo’s power tools are consistently high performers that work well in most situations. They’re durable enough and powerful enough to work for professionals, but they are also designed to be easy enough for beginners to use effectively.

This belt sander is no exception. Its 3-inch-wide belt is a little narrower than other portable belt sanders, but it’s still more than wide enough to handle most professional sanding jobs. This thinner design is relatively easy to control, and can even work better in some situations, especially more delicate work.

The 3×21 inch belt size is also a standard size, which means that you’ll have a wide selection of different grits and belt designs, making this sander even more effective than the base tool alone.

The 9 Amp motor is also critical in this design. The motor helps provide consistent power speed, and performance, even when the sander is in use. That means that the belt shouldn’t slow down while you’re working with it. That’s a huge benefit because it gives you significantly more direct control over the performance of the sander.

An included dust collection system, a suction system with a fine mesh bag attached, also helps to make this sander much easier to use. Instead of sending sawdust everywhere around your work surface, this sander will suction up most of the sawdust. Some dust is still produced, of course, the system isn’t perfect, but it will significantly help reduce airborne sawdust as well as sawdust collection on your workbench.

We still recommend wearing normal PPE, including a professional quality shop mask, whenever possible while working with your belt sander.

The dust collection bag is easy to remove and empty. It’s also relatively high capacity, so you won’t need to empty the bag very often.

This sander also comes with a variable speed dial that gives you a lot more control over your sanding power and speed. Using the variable speed control in combination with different sanding belts and grits will give you a lot of control over the performance of the tool.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

This belt sander is the all in one portable package. Its dust collection system helps keep you safer while also working to make sure your workspace stays clear longer. The powerful motor provides consistent power no matter what you’re doing, while its variable speed control gives you the flexibility and control you need.

Our Rating

5/5

This portable belt sander is a good model if you’re looking for something you can take from place to place more easily instead of a standing belt sander. It’s a good option if you’re a contractor or someone who frequently needs to sand quickly and efficiently on a job site.

Don’t look at this tool as being a replacement for mouse sanders and other portable hand-held options. This sander is a lot more powerful than those smaller models and is designed to offer better efficiency and durability overall.

This sander also has the best sound rating of any belt sander in its class. It’s only about 84 decibels at maximum power. That’s about the same sound rating as a motorcycle. So, tolerable, but you’ll still have to have good ear protection to help prevent long-term hearing damage over time.

The large front grip also keeps this sander a lot more comfortable in your hand. Its ergonomic design also helps prevent hand fatigue and keeps your muscles from getting excessively sore while you’re working. It can also help prevent repetitive stress injuries, which can be a serious benefit for professionals who work with power tools frequently.

This sander is corded, which means you have a consistent power source anywhere with a standard electrical outlet. That’s ideal for working at home and on powered job sites, but it does mean that this sander can only go where there is electricity to power it.

That said, it’s still significantly more portable than standing bench sander models.

However, this model does have one relatively significant drawback. It doesn’t have a variable speed control dial. Instead, it’s a fixed speed option. That isn’t always a huge problem, the single speed gets the job done well and helps minimize the risk of burns when you’re working with wood and other flammable materials. At the same time, you’ll need additional skills to help control your results when you can’t control the speed of the sander.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

Makita has come out with a good and effective sander with a solid design and good performance ratings. It’s easy to use, and comfortable even when you’re working for a long period. It’s also designed to help minimize the vibration from the sander, which helps prevent muscle fatigue and makes the sander easier to use.

Our Rating

5/5

Craftsman is another brand that’s known for producing particularly durable and well-designed power tools. Their brand is known for manufacturing to meet professional needs, and working hard to make sure their tools are as consistent as possible to exceed market expectations.

That means that we had a lot of confidence in this belt sander from the get-go. Fortunately, this design was able to live up to our expectations.

At 7.7 lbs total weight, this sander is a little heavier than average for a portable belt sander, but that isn’t actually a bad thing. The additional weight isn’t so much that it’s difficult to move and maneuver. In fact, the additional weight in this design can actually improve your leverage and control while you’re working on a sanding surface, especially flat surfaces.

The angled design of this sander also makes it possible to get into joints and closer to connections on your workpiece without having to change sanders. That’s critical for professionals who are looking for a more versatile and universal portable belt sander.

The handle on this design gives you the option of three different grip positions. That means that you have more options to maintain variety in your positioning, helping reduce repetitive stress injuries and discomfort. It also means that this sander is functional in more situations without compromising good working posture and leverage.

A tool-free belt changing system also helps you keep working longer without having to stop. It’s easy to use, and you can switch relatively quickly between different belts.

That also means that you can quickly change through to finer grit sanding belts as you’re working, giving you the option of finishing sections of your piece faster and with fewer breaks.

A 3-year limited warranty on this tool also helps protect consumers from faulty parts and other issues that can shorten the life of your sander prematurely.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

The Craftsman CMEW213 offers a good overall design for professionals and home workshops. The design is incredibly consistent and versatile, with a lot of quality-of-life features that make it significantly easier to use on a job. This design is very complete and works well in most situations.

Our Rating

5/5

This Tacklife belt sander might say that it’s a bench sander, but don’t let the name fool you. This design is most similar to the other portable belt sanders we’ve already discussed. You don’t need to have a tool bench to work with this design. However, its larger design and additional accessories may mean that you want to leave this model in your workshop and take another, slightly smaller, model with you when you’re on the go.

That’s alright though since we tend to recommend that you have both a home and a traveling set of your tools in most circumstances anyway.

However, this design can act as a bench sander in addition to being a portable belt sander. That’s because this design comes with two clamps that can be used to attach the sander to a table, inverting it so that it works as a small bench sander.

Honestly, we’d recommend getting a more powerful set of clamps if you want to use this sander that way. The sander itself can handle being inverted and working this way, but the clamps are a little on the thin side for a machine that should be able to handle a fair amount of pressure while you’re working.

Additionally, this motor isn’t quite as powerful as some of the other models we’ve talked about so far. 5 amps gets the job done, but it does mean that this belt sander isn’t quite as heavy-duty when compared with the previous belt sanders. It’s best as a tool for woods and some plastics but won’t perform as well if you’re trying to sand metals and other tougher harder materials.

However, dust collection systems and some of the other quality of life enhancements on this tool make it a joy to use, and relatively easy whether you’re a professional or just learning how to use a belt sander.

A 6 setting variable speed dial helps improve performance flexibility and consistency by giving you a lot more control over the power of the sander. An adjustable tensioning system also works well to help prevent belt slippage while you’re working, which means you can keep working longer, more easily.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

This sander is designed with durability and versatility in mind but falls a little short in some of the included equipment. The tool itself is very workable and powerful, but some of the additional functions of this design may require you to invest in better accessories than the included kit. Great function as a convertible hand-held or bench sanding system for wood and plastics.

Our Rating

5/5

Skil has recognized one of the biggest struggles of professionals and DIYers with belt sanding systems. That is figuring out the right amount of pressure for your belt sander, the sanding grit, and your material.

Too much pressure and you’re likely to stress your machine and decrease its overall lifespan. Not to mention you’re more likely to create excess friction and heat, which can damage and even burn your work surface.

Too little pressure and you likely won’t get as much from the sanding system as you should. It’ll be slower and you may get an inconsistent finished product if you aren’t applying the right amount of pressure.

Instead of relying on you having a feel for when the pressure is right on different materials and in different situations, this belt sander has an excessive pressure warning system that helps prevent accidents and damage to your piece, without interfering with the normal function of the tool.

That’s critical because unlike some warning systems and adaptive systems on many power tools, this warning system will still let you develop your instincts and skill while also helping to prevent some of the most costly mistakes that can come from using a belt sander.

Like the other portable models, we’ve discussed so far this version uses a standard belt size to make it easier to find a wide selection of sandpaper grits and designs. It’s compatible with everything from rough grinding sanding belts to polishing belts.

The 6-amp motor on this model is a good middle of the road option. 6 amps is a little less powerful than some handheld models, but performs better overall than the 5- and 5.5-amp models that are just as common. This design helps handle sanding load better than less powerful versions, while still being a good option for less skilled users who are still learning.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

The SKIL 7510-01 is a great option for people who are still learning and getting comfortable with belt sanding systems. This design’s pressure alert system helps prevent damage to your projects while you’re working, while a more moderate motor gives you the power and control you need without being overpowered for most users.

Our Rating

5/5

This sander is a little different from the other models we’ve reviewed so far in this article. This is a true bench sander, not a portable sander that’s just designed to work as a bench sander. That’s important because if you’re looking at the most heavy-duty jobs no portable belt sander is quite up to the job. Bench sanders are significantly more durable, and they tend to have significantly more power than portable versions. Portable versions are great, don’t get us wrong, but having a steadier and more powerful belt sander is fantastic. These sanders are great for smoothing planks of lumber and other large projects.

This model is beefed up by a good cast iron design that helps reduce the vibration and the sound from the sander. Cast iron is a great option for reducing vibration and helping to protect your workbench and your materials from excessive vibration and travel.

At 39lbs this design isn’t too heavy, it’s still a reasonable option if you need to move the sander from place to place. Even though it isn’t too heavy, this design is still best if you keep it in one place.

This belt sander also works well and tilts from 0 degrees to 90 degrees. That’s great because it works well for sanding projects of all types, including sharpening your other tools and regular maintenance in your workshop.

An easy-to-use tension grip lever makes it relatively simple to change the sanding belts and doesn’t require any additional tools. It’s easy to switch out the sanding belts, which means that you’ll lose less time when you need to trade out belts when completing a project.

A small side worktable also provides additional leverage if you want to use the disc sander on the side of your sander. The disc sander works well for smaller or more detailed projects than the larger belt sander system on top of the bench sander. The addition of that disc sander makes this system one of the more versatile bench sanders on the market, exactly what we’d expect from Wen.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for a larger and more durable bench sander, this is a good option. Its durable cast iron design is effective for helping to reduce the vibration of the sander, and helping minimize excess sound while in use. The tilting belt sanding section is incredibly versatile, while the disc sander helps provide a good complement for smaller projects and projects where straight-line sanding isn’t the ideal.

Our Rating

5/5

This last design is probably the most flexible of all of the belt sanders on this list. It’s also one of the largest options, which means that if you’re primarily looking for a portable sanding option, this design isn’t for you. That said, for your home belt sander, this design is fantastic.

The belt sander is a relatively narrow sander. Its 1-inch-wide design isn’t as wide as the bench sander we just reviewed, or any of the portable sanders. That means that this design isn’t quite as suitable for wider projects because it’s more likely to create small marks on large planks and projects.

Yet, at the same time, this 1-inch-wide design also helps to remove material faster, in part because of the high rotation rate this machine is able to provide. Its maximum 3450 RPM is a powerful sanding option. That means it’s able to remove a lot of material quickly and to create a fine polish that much faster depending on what grit of sandpaper you’re using on your sander.

The sanding disc on this machine is also particularly effective. Its high spin rate and compatibility with a wide range of different sandpaper grits mean that it’s suitable for almost any job that a disc sander can use.

Beveling tables and other quality of life adaptations help make these sanders more consistent and effective over time. More importantly, this table also works to reduce vibration and traveling, keeping the tool more stable and safer to use.

As a heavy-duty sander, we’d mostly recommend this system to experienced users who are familiar with the most important safety precautions you need to take when using a high power and high RPM tool.

Why we like it

Our Verdict

This belt sander is combined with a smaller disc sander to help give you more versatility and more power in your workshop. Its large design and unusual shape mean that this sander is not well designed for portability. However, its high RPM and higher power rating make this model an ideal choice for professionals with a lot of sanding volume.

Our Rating

5/5
best-belt-sander

Belt Sander Buyer’s Guide

Now that we’ve talked about a wide range of the best belt sanders for professionals and DIYers, it’s time to think about the features that are most important in a belt sander. Having a good set of features is just as important as having good components and high durability.

It’s important to think about what features are most important for you and your shop when you’re choosing the right belt sander for you. It’s also important to consider whether you might need several sanders for different situations. Different sanders have different strengths and weaknesses, which means that some professionals might need more than one.

Power

The power source is one of the most important considerations for your sander. This determines where you’re able to use your belt sander, and how consistent your belt sander will be. There are a couple of options though, so you’ll need to decide which options will work best for you.

Battery Powered Belt Sanders

Battery-powered belt sanders are usually smaller portable designs. The power source is convenient and works well in a lot of situations, but it’s definitely less consistent than other options. The motors in your belt sanders are also usually a little less powerful if you’re going with a battery-powered option.

That’s important to note because it means that battery-powered sanders aren’t always a good option if you’re working on harder and more difficult materials.

There is also a possibility that your belt sander’s power will cut out before you’re finished with your project. Suddenly losing battery power can also sometimes leave some marks on your project, though it’s usually possible to buff those marks out when your battery is charged again.

Battery-powered options are fantastic if you need to be able to use your belt sander on job sites that might not have a consistent source of electricity. It’s also a good choice if you’re likely to need to use a sander out of reach of an extension cord.

Having spare batteries on hand can help your sander work more consistently since all you need to do is change out the battery to keep working.

Corded Electric Belt Sanders

Corded electric belt sanders are still more common than battery-powered options because they are significantly more reliable and consistent in performance. For one thing, corded belt sanders don’t start to lose power as the battery starts to wear out. It’s also incredibly unlikely for your belt sander to cut off randomly unless you happen to have a power outage while you’re working.

These sanders are incredibly consistent, which is their main draw. So long as you have reasonable access to electricity your sander will work the same way.

However, the main limitation of electric belt sanders is that they aren’t quite as portable and are limited by the length of the cord and the length of compatible extension cords.

Fortunately, most belt sanders come with reasonably long power cords, ranging from an average of 6-10 ft. That’s great for working in your shop, but you’ll likely need to invest in a few extension cords if you need your belt sander for work on a job site, or as a portable model.

Most of the sanders on this list are corded electric sanders since having a good, corded model can give you a lot more flexibility and versatility compared to battery-powered models.

This is typically the power source we recommend, even though it isn’t ideal for all situations.

Weight

Weight is also an important feature, but depending on what kind of sander you’re using the recommended weights will differ. The main thing that matters for the weight of your sander is whether it’s a portable sander or a stationary sander.

Portable Belt Sanders

Portable belt sanders need to be a lot lighter in weight than other models. That’s because you’re going to need to lift your sander manually, and it’s important to make sure the sander is easy to move and manipulate.

That means that you need to look at a smaller model that’s easy to move from place to place, and that isn’t going to tire out your arms or overstress your muscles.

For most users, DIYers and professionals alike, the sweet spot seems to be 5-8lbs. Lighter than that and the sanders aren’t durable enough to control easily. Heavier than that and the sander will typically be harder to work with and you’ll likely get increased muscle strain and stress while using it.

Stationary Belt Sanders

Stationary belt sanders have almost the opposite consideration. Extra weight in your belt sander can be good when you’re working because it helps keep your belt sander steadier while you work.

There are a few different reasons for added weight to be an advantage.

The most important is that the additional weight helps prevent your sander from moving around on the bench or on the table. Preventing ‘dancing’ helps give you better results when you’re working, and it also helps prevent leaving unintentional marks on your projects.

But that’s only one reason it’s important to have more weight in your belt sander.

Additional weight can also help absorb vibration, which protects the internal components on your belt sander. Reducing vibration also helps to reduce the sound of your sander while it’s working. Reducing the sound helps make it more comfortable to work with your sander.

More importantly, reducing belt sander vibration is a good way to help preserve the appearance of your project. Unwanted vibration can damage the grain of the wood or leave small unintentional marks in other harder materials while you’re working.

Usually, stationary belt sanders are best when they weigh at least 30lbs, but no more than 50. That’s because 30lbs is still relatively easy to get into place, but too much weight puts a lot of pressure on your worktable.

Speed Options

Variable speed is one of the most important aspects of a sander in most professional opinions. Having variable speed makes it easier to control what you are doing and what you’re working on.

However, variable speed isn’t always the most important feature of your sander. That’s because having a good belt sander isn’t contingent on the variable speed of your sander. Durability, good weight, and high-quality features are all actually more important.

That’s because variable speed controls don’t actually let you do anything you can’t do with a single-speed sander.

That said, we do still recommend looking for variable speed controls as a feature you prefer but not a must-have feature. A sander with at least 3 speeds will give you a high level of control and precision over your sander. 6-speed options are slightly more common, and they are a good choice. However, sanders with more than 6 speeds usually don’t offer any additional benefits.

More speed options do usually translate to higher costs though. So, we don’t recommend any models with more than 6 speeds.

Dust Removal System

The dust removal system on your sander is a critical feature, especially when you’re considering your own health and safety. That’s because sawdust and small particulate dust of almost any type can be dangerous in high concentrations, especially repeated exposure over time.

Having a good shop mask or a cyclone dust collector is one way you can protect yourself from the dust and debris in your shop. However, it never hurts to have an additional dust collection system attached to your sander.

A good dust collection system on your tools can help reduce your risk with or without a mask (though we definitely recommend wearing a high-quality workshop dust mask). These systems can also help reduce workshop cleanup and mess when you’re working, so there are lots of benefits other than health.

Sanding naturally produces a lot of sawdust. That means that your dust collection system should have a relatively large dust collection systems. Bagged systems are a good option since they are easy to use and easy to empty. However, it can be hard to tell when dust collection bags are full and need to be emptied.

Another alternative is clear plastic containers that let you see into the container. These options are better if you want to make sure you’re always collecting dust and know when you need to empty the container. However, these plastic containers are usually smaller than bagged systems, so they’ll need to be emptied more often.

Safety Features

Safety features are important on all power tools. But good safety features are more important on large belt sanders with high powered motors and a lot of torque.

There are two safety features that we look for when we’re looking at belt sanders: a good handle or worktable that lets you work with your hands away from the sanding belt and an emergency off switch.

These two features are critical for a couple of reasons. Having an emergency off switch is important because even the most experienced users can make a mistake. That means that no one is safe from accidents, and you need to be able to turn your sander off quickly and easily if something does go wrong.

This design is more important in stationary belt sanders, but it can be an important addition to portable sanders as well.

Having handles that help keep your hands away from the sanding area helps to keep you a lot safer while you’re working. Good handles also keep you significantly more comfortable while you’re working, so this is an ease-of-use feature as well as a safety feature.

Good grip points also help to reduce the chances of an accident by giving you a lot more control over your sander while you’re working.

Sanding guards, dust collection systems, lighting systems, and pressure warning systems can all also be considered safety features. They aren’t necessarily as important, but it’s still important to consider whether your sander has a good combination of these safety features in addition to the most important two.

The Takeaway

We stand behind all of the belt sanders on this list. We’ve intentionally chosen from a wide range of designs, including smaller portable sanders, larger bench sanders, and different kinds of functional adaptations. That’s because no single sander is perfect for all users, and it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right sander for your use.

Remember that it’s okay if you need different sanders for different uses. Portable sanders are great when you need to do finishing work on a job site. Battery-powered portable belt sanders are great when you need to work without relying on a power cord or an extension cord. Stationary sanders are great when you’re working on a lot of material and want to work quickly. They are also a lot more powerful on average, which means that this kind of sander works better for tough materials.

With all of that in mind though, we’d have to say that the Metabo HPT Belt Sander is probably the best option and the most versatile option overall. It is a smaller design since it’s meant to be portable and convenient. However, its portability, versatility, and quality of life features mean that this sander works for a wide range of different projects.

Paul King

I have an unhealthy obsession with contracting and renovation. I’ve been a contractor for over 15 years and I love tackling challenging projects to make them look amazing.