Bench sanders are some of the most impressive time-saving tools you can get in your workshop. Not only are they critical for getting a professional finish on your work quickly, but they can also be critical for tool maintenance and even shaping your projects.
Of course, any tool that moves with a lot of speed and power, like a bench sander, needs to be incredibly durable and hard-wearing.
More than most tools, it’s critical to make sure you have a high-quality machine when you’re buying a bench sander. We’ve researched the top options to go over the pros and cons of each model and see what options are best for most workshops.
Let’s dive in and see what makes for a fantastic bench sander.
This belt sander is a combination model that offers both a traditional belt sander design and a disc sander in one tool. It’s designed to give you the best possible performance from both tools and uses heavy-duty internal components and construction to make sure you get the full durability a belt sander can offer.
We’ll start with the belt sander portion of this tool.
The belt sander is compatible with 4×36 inch belts. That means you have a relatively wide selection of different grits and materials that will work well with the belt sander. The design is also easy on the belt itself, which means that you’ll get a lot more use from the belt before you have to retire it and switch to a new one.
Especially if you’re looking at grinding tools into shape and sharpening services, that can give you a lot more bang for your buck with every belt, keeping your maintenance and production costs lower.
A simple tension release lever is used to change out different grits of sandpaper. The level itself is easy to use but locks into place so you don’t have to worry about accidental release or jamming while you’re working on a piece.
The tension control system also gives you consistent performance from the belt sander. As long as you’re using the same size belt every time you’ll get consistent performance and a consistent tension, no matter what grit you’re working with.
The belt platform is also adjustable, allowing you to set the belt for anywhere between 0-90 degrees. Not only will that help you get precision shaping and finishing work done faster, but it also lets you choose the most comfortable working angle for your space. That’s critical if you’re going to be doing a lot of sanding at once since bad posture and awkward angles quickly wear out joints and stress muscles. That’s the last thing a craftsperson needs when you’re on the job, so it’s nice to see a belt sander that gives you a lot more flexibility and versatility.
The six-inch sanding disc on the side of the belt sander gives you a lot more versatility while you’re working. Sanding discs are fantastic for round shaping, smaller pieces, and anything that needs a slightly more deliberate hand.
Combining the sanding disk and the sanding belt gives you the precision you need for almost anything you could want a sanding system to do.
This combo tool is mounted onto a cast iron base. The weight and stability of the base helps absorb vibration and keeps the sander steady. Avoiding the vibration also helps keep your project pristine and mark-free. It’s also just about the most durable material you can get for a power tool base.
The dust collection system is also a valuable addition to this belt sander. It’s designed to help catch even the finest sawdust as you’re working, helping prevent buildup in your workspace and keep your workshop cleaner.
Like any on-tool dust collection system, it’s not enough to go without protective equipment and a workshop ventilation system, but it will help keep things a little neater and easier to manage.
Why we like it
Overall this versatile design is perfect for most workshops. Its belt sander is designed to change angles easily and has a simple tension system to make changing sanding belts simple. The heavy base on the tool works to keep things stable, while the included miter gauge and table give you more precision and makes moving the tool from place to place much easier.
Another WEN sander, this model is a little different, but just as effective and consistent. This sander’s oscillating design can help create a more consistent to pristine finish by removing any human marks as you work. It provides incredibly consistent smoothness and can be used to create a mirror-fine polish with the right grits of sandpaper.
The beveling worktable on this sander gives you a little more control over your work angle, so you can customize to the project you’re making.
It’s designed to give you fine angle control, so you can choose between a wide range of different angles.
This model also comes with a wide range of sanding drums to give you better customizability. That lets you customize your sander to your needs specifically, rather than trying to make your project work for the tools. It comes with 5 different size drums, 1/2-inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch, 1-1/2 inch, and 2 inches.
The sander is designed to work with 4 x 24-inch belts. Since that’s a relatively universal size you’ll have plenty of sand grit and polishing belt options. The belts themselves also tend to be relatively long-lasting with this design since the tension system won’t overstretch the belt while you’re working.
The sander oscillates the drum 58 times per minute, which is plenty fast enough to power through most projects. It’s suitable for hard and softwood, as well as metal. Yes, even tool-hardened metal for resharpening your workshop tools.
The sander also gives you some onboard storage for your sanding drums. It comes with 5 different throat plates, so you can decide which option works best for whatever you’re working on.
The vertical oscillating design requires a lot of control and precision from users, but that makes this a good option for professionals when you consider that it’s also a faster than average belt sander.
This kit also comes with one piece of 80 grit sandpaper for every belt included, perfect for rough shaping your first project on this sander. You’ll need to get other grits of sandpaper, and replacements for the included 80 grit before you start your first serious project though.
Despite the vertical design, this sander is fantastic for curves, spheres, and other difficult shapes as long as it’s being used by an experienced hand.
One thing about this system is that it doesn’t have a built-in dust collection system. It has ports for you to connect your dust collection system directly to the tool. But, that means that you have to have a separate dust collection system with compatible hoses. It would have been nice to see a dust collection system built-in to the tool, but it works well enough without one that we can’t complain too much.
Plus, the natural design of this sander helps prevent too much sawdust from building up on or near the sander, keeping your workstation a little clearer even if you’re working without dust collection.
Just remember that you should wear a dust mask designed for shop use at all times when you’re using this sander.
The base on this sander is also designed to give you a lot of stability. It doesn’t isolate vibration quite as well as the first WEN sander we’ve discussed, but the oscillating design helps make up for vibration problems. The wide base on the sander also helps keep the tool fixed in one place, it’s not going to dance across your workstation while you’re sanding.
Why we like it
This design is definitely different from the first belt sander from this company, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. In fact, this design is perfect for craftspeople who need to make a lot of curved and circular shapes. It’s also good for craftspeople who want to take off a lot of material relatively quickly and who mostly work with smaller projects. This design is less suitable for people who need to quickly sand large boards and other big surfaces.
This is another combination sander with both a belt sander and a disc sander attachment included. It’s a little bigger than the first combination sander we’ve discussed, which means that it needs a little more dedicated space in your workshop. That isn’t a bad thing though, especially if you work with large pieces of material or create large projects.
This design makes good use of vertical space with a taller arm to help hold the belt in place. The metal of the arm is dense enough to help prevent excess vibration, keeping control over your project firmly in your hands. The longer belt design is also perfect for working with larger pieces since you’ll be able to evenly sand more of the surface at once.
The belt table itself also tilts between 0-45 degrees. The tilting system is easy to use and can work to give you better angles while you’re working on a project. The overall design is incredibly effective for getting an even sanding job across an entire surface, very quickly.
At only 18 lbs. this belt sander is also relatively lightweight and easy to move from location to location. However, it does need a fairly sturdy table underneath, so you should make sure you either have a table for it or that there will be a suitable table at your jobsite.
The size and shape of this tool might make it a little more difficult to move than the weight itself, but anyone with a large vehicle should have no problem fitting this in with your other jobsite tools and materials.
The belt tracking knob makes tensioning this system relatively simple and straightforward. Its design is easy to use, and also makes changing out for new sandpaper belts easier.
An included safety on/off switch also helps to make the sander a little safer, preventing accidentally turning on the sander. It’s an important addition, especially if you work in a shop with other people. It makes it incredibly easy to check and see if the tool is powered or not.
The smaller disc sander attachment is similarly useful, but this model comes with one more accessory that makes it easier to use. The table in front of the disc sander helps add extra stability and makes it easier to maneuver your projects, giving you more precision as you work.
Why we like it
This design features narrower belts and a smaller disc than the other sanders we’ve reviewed so far, but it’s still an incredibly effective option. The vertical space on the sander gives consistent results while maintaining constant sanding belt tension for an even finish, no matter how much material you have to sand. It’s easy to clean and maintain, and reasonably portable for craftspeople who need a belt sander that can travel to job sites with them.
This design is probably most similar to the first sander we’ve reviewed on this list. It’s also a combination with both a belt sanding section and a section for disc sanding. The design is wide and meant for added stability. It’s also got a wide rectangular base that is perfect for keeping the sander stable and helping to absorb vibration while you’re working.
The sanding table lifts up to 90 degrees, with lots of settings between 0 and 90 to give you the most possible versatility. You can sand horizontally or vertically; whichever option works better for your current project. The table also offers a beveling system that gives you full flexibility between 0-45 degrees. That’s perfect for delicate finishing work and making sure you’ve created a professional look on all of your projects.
This sander is compatible with 4” x 36” belts. The wider design is good for getting a lot of work done quickly, and also helps to create a more even surface. Narrower belts can leave accidental sanding marks more easily since they only work on a smaller surface. Wide belts are perfect for large pieces because they are more forgiving and help hide the sanding marks better.
The disc on the side of the sander has an effective work table as well as an angle setter to make precise sanding that much easier. It’s designed to take off a reasonable amount of material quickly, but also gives you better precision for making curves and other tricky work.
A powerful induction motor also works to give this belt sander another edge, durability, and enduring power. Even under a heavy load, this motor is designed to keep working without putting off too much heat. While it’s still possible to overload the motor and need to shut down to cool off, this model will keep working longer and will work better on hard projects, than sanders without a good motor.
The safety switch on this sander helps prevent accidental starts, and also makes the sander significantly safer since it also acts as an emergency off when needed.
Why we like it
The hex key on this model might make changing out belts take a little longer, but it’s no more difficult than on models that use a lever and other tensioning devices. The universal belt size gives you a ton of different sandpaper options, letting you choose the grit and material type that’s best suited to the materials you’re working with. This design is great for working with harder materials thanks to the heavy load motor since it would take a lot to stress or overheat the motor. You’ll have plenty of time to work without damaging the machine.
This sander is another WEN model, and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a sander for curves, detailed work, and to help with rounding out the edges left by other models of sander. It’s smaller spindle sander design is easy to use and incredibly effective, but not quite as versatile as other options.
One of the big advantages of this design is that the sander also comes with a 2-year warranty. That’s especially important if you’re likely to use the sander frequently in your workshop since it will help protect you from motor burnout and other problems that can damage an otherwise fantastic sander.
Of course, this sander isn’t very prone to having those problems thanks to it’s durable and effective internal components.
The attached dust collection port is another good addition. It would have been nice to see a dust management system, either suction or a blower, included with this design, but the port is universal enough that it’s a good second-best option.
Fortunately, most workshops that need a sander of this design quality and caliber should also have a compatible dust collection system that will work with this sander. Of course, like all the other sanders on this list, you’ll still need a dust mask and other protective equipment, even after you connect a dust collection system to this sander.
Onboard storage is a good addition to this sander since it gives you a place to store additional drums and sandpaper on the go, or even just in your workshop so it isn’t taking up any space you need. The base package with this sander comes with six different sanding sleeves along with five rubber drum spindles, so you’ll have a use for the storage space as soon as the sander arrives.
The cast iron work table under the sander not only adds stability and minimizes vibration from the spindle, but it’s also incredibly durable and scratch-resistant. This design is long-lasting and it’s a good option if you need to work with other metals on your sander since the cast iron can both brace the metal and handle extra pressure while you’re using the sander.
This design is perfect for refining large curves, doing finishing work, and even adding waving decorative elements to your work. With a little practice and skill, you can turn almost any project into a work of art with this sander.
However, it’s not a good standalone option for large projects, or anytime you need to sand a large flat surface. Instead of thinking of this sander as a good all-purpose option, think of this as an addition to another belt sander. Perfect for small round projects, detail work, and decoration, this more specialized sander will let you do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, but it won’t take the place of other sanders.
Why we like it
If you’re looking for a good sander that can handle a heavy workload and works well to create curves, waves, and other more detailed work. It’s a fast-acting and incredibly effective sander, but it’s not great for flat surfaces and large projects thanks to its size and design. The cast iron work surface is incredibly durable and helps resist scratching while also protecting all of the inner workings of the sander underneath.
This combination sander is another good option, especially for professionals who tend to work with large projects more than anything else. Its larger profile is a good option for sizable projects and for flattening and smoothing long boards and other project materials.
This sander is more of a classic design, with an offset belt sander and disc sander so that you don’t have to worry quite as much about sawdust getting into the motor and other sanding mechanisms. Dual worktables by the belt sander and the disk sander give you a lot of extra stability, as well as a way to angle your work a little more reliably.
The two-inch belt width is relatively durable and versatile. A little more forgiving than 1-inch belts, but also a little faster and more aggressive than 4-inch versions. That balance is good for experienced professionals but might be a little less effective for less experienced users.
That said, the durability of the design gives you plenty of opportunities to learn, and less aggressive sandpaper can help give you a little more time to get used to the function of the sander.
The 6-inch sand disc is a good option for creating curves and doing more detailed work. It’s a good complement to the larger belt sander that can handle larger pieces of lumber more easily. The large belt arm is also flexible and designed to work both vertically and horizontally.
Just like the other belt sanders on this list, that flexibility and versatility makes it much easier to work with your joints instead of against them. It’s much easier to use good posture and maintain an ergonomic workspace while you’re working.
The motor on this sander is also incredibly durable and hard working. You’ll be able to run this sander significantly longer than versions with a cheaper or less effective motor. It’s also got sufficient torque to prevent the sander from slowing down when it’s working on a hard piece and with a lot of friction. That makes this sander suitable for most materials, assuming you have a good dust collection system and personal protective equipment you can use to protect yourself from the dust.
The base of this sander is made from cast iron. Its durable design is heavy, but it also helps prevent excessive vibration and helps to protect the inner workings of the sander from vibration and sawdust alike. The cast-iron frame also helps improve the durability and increase the lifespan of your sander.
Why we like it
This classic design might be more what you think of when you think of a belt sander. It’s small enough to take up relatively little space in your workshop, and also a reasonably portable and secure option. The design of the sander makes it suitable for sanding, finishing, smoothing, polishing, and even shaping work with a wide variety of materials, including both metals and wood.
Bench Sander Buying Guide
Now that we’ve talked about the best sanders you can choose from, let’s talk about the details of those belt sanders and what makes for a great model.
Choosing the right material for your belt sander is critical if you want to have a long-lasting addition to your workshop. Since almost all power tools are an investment that you need to have working for several years to get your money’s worth from the tool, thinking about the best construction materials for your sander is critical.
When it comes to sanders two basic problems that can damage your tool too quickly, vibration and sawdust.
Somewhat less important is motor power and torque, but it’s usually easier to replace or repair the motor inside your belt sander than it is to replace the whole tool.
Dealing with vibration is critical because sanding naturally produces a lot of friction. As the vibration spreads through the rest of the tool you run the risk of moving internal components out of sync. There’s also a small risk of wires moving and either shorting out or getting cut by moving internal components.
Heavier materials, particularly cast iron, can help absorb the vibration before it can affect internal components.
Steel is a good alternative, but aluminum and plastic aren’t as suitable for this kind of tool. A few of the components can be made from aluminum or plastic, but only if the frame and worktable are made from heavier materials.
Of course, the weight of your tool should also be considered. Cast iron might be fantastic for absorbing vibration, but it is heavy. Consider whether you think a cast iron worktable is more important than a cast iron frame, or the reverse.
We’ve covered several kinds of sander in this article, so it’s important to go back and compare the different kinds of sanders you can get.
Disc sanders are generally a good option for small projects. They give you a fair amount of control and usually put a little less friction on your project while you’re working. However, they can heat up if you’re working on the same section of material for a long period, so it’s important to work quickly and choose the right sandpaper if you want to avoid scorch marks on your work.
Disc sanders are also usually better for curved and waving shapes than a belt sander, but only on a relatively small scale. Once you’re working with a larger piece you’ll need a spindle sander or a hand-sander to get the job done.
Belt sanders are a real workhorse when it comes to finishing and shaping your projects. Belt sanders can also be incredibly helpful when it comes to re-sharpening tools, shaping and finishing knives, and other heavy-duty projects.
That’s not to say that you can’t use a belt sander for fine finish work. The right sandpaper or polisher will do the job just fine in a belt sander. But they are usually best for flat surfaces or creating a flat surface if you’re working with a project of any size.
Spindle sanders use a spinning drum loaded with a sandpaper sheath to sand and polish your projects. These sanders are good for larger round shapes, finishing work, some kinds of tool sharpening, and even carving some kinds of details into your project.
They can be made for wood, metal, or both. Spindles are usually more specialized and don’t work as well for large projects or completely flat surfaces. Usually, these sanders aren’t used as a standalone sander in your workshop, instead, they work as an addition to your belt sander or disc sander.
Combination sanders usually feature both a belt sander and a disk sander. These tools offer all the benefits of either design in one package. They tend to be a little bulkier and heavier though. This design is great if you want to save space since they are smaller than having two different sanders, but they are also usually less portable thanks to their added weight.
Rectangular combination sanders that don’t have a lot of protrusions for the tools, are the best option if you need a portable option.
Almost any workshop is going to be loud, especially if there are multiple tools running at once. Having good ear protection can help, but buying tools with a relatively low running decibel level can keep things significantly more comfortable.
While noise isn’t always mentioned directly, it’s related to the materials you’ve chosen. Noise is a kind of vibration, so sanders that are designed to help cut vibration will also usually be quieter in operation than sanders with more lightweight materials.
Cast iron bases and frames usually cut the noise more than a cast iron work table since the frame is more directly around the motor.
Of course, sander noise also depends on the kind of sandpaper you’re using and what you’re having to sand and shape. Metals and other hard materials tend to be louder when they are being sanded, and there isn’t much you can do about that particular source of noise.
Portability is one of the most important considerations for craftspeople who do a lot of work on-site instead of from the comfort of their workshop. It’s especially important if you need a belt sander for sharpening your tools on site.
Think about the size, shape, and weight of your belt sander when you’re considering whether or not it’s portable. Rectangular designs are almost always the most portable, but there are a few other compact designs that will fit in with your other supplies relatively easily.
Cast iron is usually a benefit for belt sanders and other kinds of bench sander, but it can be an issue when it comes to portability since it’s much heavier than other materials. That said, the extra weight may be worth it since cast iron is difficult to damage and is usually one of the most durable options.
Generally, a tool that weighs 20 lbs. or less can be considered a portable tool. That describes a lot of sanders since the power of these tools is in their torque and motor power rather than in the weight of the tool.
Since most sanders fall into this weight class, think more about shape and other considerations when you’re trying to pick a portable option. Unless you’re going for the absolute biggest sanders a little cast iron and heavy components won’t make this tool too difficult to move.
Bench sanders need to have a fair amount of motor power to produce the torque needed for effective sanding and shaping. A good sander motor should be at least 3 amps (for the belt sander at least) disc sanders can sometimes have a little less power without it causing too many problems.
A motor that’s closer to 3.5 amps is usually a better option though.
Dust Collection System
Having a good dust collection system is critical for your sander. After all, sanding produces a lot of dust and other debris. Even the grit on the sandpaper can come off and become dust in your workshop.
Unfortunately, more bench sanders don’t have a built in dust collection system. Instead, they have a hookup for you to attach your own dust collector.
The additional step isn’t too difficult most of the time, but it is important to make sure your dust collection system is compatible with the bench sander, or that you’re planning for another dust collection system to work with the bench sander like a cyclone dust collector.
A wider hose will typically help catch more dust than a narrow hose, and it’s also important to make sure there is enough suction to handle the amount of dust you’re producing. A relatively large dust canister is also necessary to make sure you don’t have to empty the canister constantly.
Every sander in this article is versatile, durable, and designed for professional use. They are all hardwearing and work well with most materials, and most of them are also reasonably portable so that you can take them with you from job site to job site.
Choosing the right one for you depends on your exact needs, the kinds of work you do, and what tools you already have in your workshop.
But, even with that in mind, we’d have to say that the best sander in this review is the WEN 6502T 4.3-Amp 4 x 36 in. Belt and 6 in. Disc Sander, thanks to its incredibly durable design, versatility, and easy portability.
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