Belt sanders handle the first phase of turning rough wood into a finely finished product. They can also be used to remove paints, adhesives, and scraps of old material during surface preparation work. Advanced users often operate their belt sander in a stationary position for both sanding and tool sharpening work. Belt sanders are powerful tools and the large ones, in particular, require some skill to use properly, but having a good belt sander is essential for any DIY handyman or woodworking hobbyist.
Table of Contents
- Types of Belt Sanders
- 3 Best Belt Sanders – Comparison
- Reviewing the Best Belt Sanders for the Money
- Best Benchtop Belt Sanders-Review
- 1. JET JSG-6DC Benchtop Belt Sander
- 2. Porter-Cable PCB420SA Benchtop Belt Sander
- 3. WEN 6502 Benchtop Belt Sander
- The Best Handheld Corded Belt Sanders
- 1. Makita 9403 4 x 21-Inch Belt Sander
- 2. Hitachi SB8V2 3 x 21-Inch Belt Sander
- 3. Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 3 x 21-Inch
- 4. Porter-Cable 371 2.5 x 14-Inch Compact Belt
- The Best Handheld Cordless Belt Sanders
- 1. RIDGID GEN5X Brushless
- 2. Ryobi One Plus Cordless Brushless
- Picking the Best Belt Sander
Types of Belt Sanders
There are 3 main types of belt sanders. Benchtop belt sanders are stationary pieces of equipment. They are built to be stable and accurate while running powerful motors at high RPM, and most combine both belt and disc sanding capabilities. Although some of these machines weigh 200 pounds or more, many are relatively portable at 50-60 pounds.
Handheld belt sanders include corded and cordless models—the main differences between various handheld units are in the areas of power, weight, and form factor. Some handhelds are large and intended for heavy work, while others sander are designed for ease of use on finish and detail projects.
Cordless belt sanders are so new on the market that at this point only two brands are widely available, and both use the familiar chargeable lithium-ion battery setup for power.
3 Best Belt Sanders – Comparison
|JET JSG-6DC Benchtop Belt Sander|
|Porter-Cable PCB420SA Benchtop|
|WEN 6502 Benchtop Belt Sander|
Reviewing the Best Belt Sanders for the Money
We looked at belt sanders of all 3 types and sorted out the best models in terms of performance and value. Check out our report and save a lot of leg work when looking for the best belt sander to add to your woodworking tool set.
Best Benchtop Belt Sanders-Review
1. JET JSG-6DC Benchtop Belt Sander
Weighing in at 215 pounds, this unit is made to be permanently mounted on a bench or a wheeled stand. Packing 1.5 HP, the single-phase motor can be wired for 115 or 230 volts and puts out 2500 RPM at no load. The JET offers high capability with a 6” x 48” belt and a 12” disc, each with its own precision-ground cast iron table. The tables can be set at 90° and 45° for working flat or mitered pieces.
This belt sander rotates for use in any position between vertical and horizontal, and features a graphite-covered steel plate that lowers operating temperatures. Thumb screw belt tracking adjustment locks keep the belt in place when handling rough work, and a rubber-coated drive drum cuts down on belt slippage. Switching between jobs is easy with the quick-release belt tension lever and dust cover release.
The JET benchtop sander is very stable and transfers plenty of power to blast through the toughest material. The cast iron tables make all the difference when you need careful control and accuracy. We like the low noise and vibration levels of this machine—even the disc spinning at full speed is remarkably stable and smooth.
Belt tracking accuracy is another strong point of this unit: the adjustment system keeps the belt locked in no matter how rough the material is or which way you drag it. The industrial-grade lockable start button is a nice detail, and the 4-inch dust port will connect to a variety of dust removal systems. For a big machine, the JET folds up into a surprisingly small form factor unit for storage or portability when the belt is placed in the horizontal position.
If you are looking for a high-end benchtop sander, the JET is the best option for the money.
- Powerful and versatile
- Belt tracking adjustment works well
- Very heavy
- Customer service can be inconsistent
2. Porter-Cable PCB420SA Benchtop Belt Sander
Some features of this machine, like the ball-bearing motor, the separate adjustable sanding tables, and the cast iron base are similar to those found on far more expensive units. A 3.75 HP induction motor turning at 3450 RPM for the 8-inch disc and 2160 FPM on the 4 x 36-inch belt gives this machine plenty of capability when it comes to cutting through tough material. You can set the cast aluminum belt table at angles from 0 to 90 degrees and the disc table at 0 to 45 degrees.
The sander comes with a miter gauge, but it is cheap-looking and rather inaccurate in our opinion. Belt tracking and belt tension can be controlled without tools, and changing belts is quick and easy. The belt tracks well and keeps its speed when cutting any material providing you have a feel for how much pressure to apply to the work piece at a given belt grit. We ground the edges on a few chunks of tile with no problems at all. Vibration and noise levels are tolerable, and the safety key on the power switch is a nice touch. We like that both sides of the belt are accessible as it opens up more options for working oddly-shaped pieces or the underside of things.
The main downsides to this sander are the 2.5-inch dust control port and the inaccuracy of the various settings, which seem sloppy and are likely to become more so with wear. On the other hand, the dust port works well for hooking up to a shop vacuum, which will probably be the choice of most buyers at this price point.
Although we expected a bit more given Porter-Cable’s past reputation, this unit stood up to our review rather well for a sander in this price range—it’s a good machine for the garage wood shop, and if you pair it with the right handheld belt sander, it will let you handle any DIY job that comes up.
- Good power at a mid-range price
- Portable at 51 pounds
- Settings are inaccurate
- Miter gauge is toy-like
3. WEN 6502 Benchtop Belt Sander
Although it is not a well-known brand, WEN tools usually provide fair quality and service at a great price point, and we were pleased to see that the WEN 6502 benchtop combination sander is no exception.
An outstanding thing about this sander is the use of heavy cast iron for the base—this helps keep the unit stable and safe in applications where it is not bolted down. It also lets you take advantage of the machine’s 4.3-amp 0.5 HP 3600 RPM motor without fear of wobble or excessive vibration when working with heavy-grit belts and tough material. But even with this base and the accurate cast aluminum table, the unit weighs only 40 pounds, making it truly portable—the weight savings are achieved by using the same table for belt and disc sanding applications and you can easily switch back and forth with a few turns of a knob.
This is a surprisingly capable machine that comes at a price point lower than many handheld belt sanders. While questions of durability are still in play with these WEN products, the details on this machine look good, and it handled everything we threw at it. The belt does not tend to slip or bog down whether you are working with hardwoods or thick, rough material like reclaimed planks. It also holds position well at any angle it is locked into. The disc sander spins smoothly with no vibration, and replacing the pads is simple.
All adjustments and controls are easy to use, although we do not like the rocker-style power switch as much as a two-button setup. One other con we found was the 2.25-inch dust port, which will take some adaptation if you need to connect to a standard 4-inch dust control system. However, considering the bargain price of this unit, any downsides are relatively minor if the WEN falls in your budget range.
- Sturdy yet portable
- Easy to use
- Base is too narrow for the height of the machine
- Durability is not proven
The Best Handheld Corded Belt Sanders
1. Makita 9403 4 x 21-Inch Belt Sander
Makita is the best line of power tools out there for crossing the line between professional and amateur user at a relatively low price. The 9403 belt sander is no exception to Makita quality, and we like it for its large sanding footprint along with some details and features that make it an industrial-grade tool.
This is a beefy machine at 13 pounds, and it has the double-insulated steel, aluminum, and hard plastic construction common to all Makita tools. It has an 11-amp motor with electronic speed control, and running a 4-inch belt at 1640 FPM, the 9403 can really cut some material. Whether it is hardwood, rough lumber, metal, dirty surfaces, the 9403 makes quick work of them all once you learn how to handle and control its power. The weight of the 9403 limits it mostly to work on horizontal surfaces, but it also adds to the stability and cutting power of the machine.
A few minutes with this sander and we could tell it was made for running long, hard hours—it was very quiet at only 84dB, and the ergonomics of the handles were comfortable. The base of the unit extends flush to allow for sanding next to walls when renovating floors, and there is plenty of space between the belt and housing to let the sander run through anything without clogging.
The dust removal bag swivels around to stay out of the line of sight, but we found it to be on the small side—however, it is a simple matter to attach a shop vacuum hose for serious dust control. We love the 16-foot cord Makita puts on their tools, but it would be great to see a spring steel cord support fitting where the cord runs into the handle.
Even at its high price point, the Makita sander is a great buy because it will be a lifetime tool for all but the heaviest users.
- Makita durability
- Powerful cutting on any material
- Extra-long cord
- Small dust bag
- High price point
2. Hitachi SB8V2 3 x 21-Inch Belt Sander
The detailing on this sander shows its Japanese heritage—soft cushioned grip handles make it easy to control the power of the 9-amp motor over long work sessions. Belt tracking adjusts on-the-go so you can sand tight up to walls or other perpendicular surfaces, and a clear plastic window mounted below the front grip gives a good view of the belt and work surface. A trigger lock lets you keep the sander running steady for extended jobs, and the V-belt drive doubles the service life as compared to standard belt sanders.
The SB8V2 has a variable-speed belt that runs at 820 to 1475 FPM with no load, and the speed is user-adjustable by means of a dial setting—this feature makes the Hitachi one of the most manageable handheld belt sanders when it comes to taking on a variety of materials.
The Hitachi felt like a sports car among belt sanders, partly because of its narrow 3-inch belt footprint and also due to the excellent ergonomics of the machine. Considering that most users will be right-handed, Hitachi made a smart move and put the dust port and bag on the left side. With the flush sanding surface on the right side of the machine, the SB8V2 can get into corners better than any other belt sander we tried. When running a vacuum hose for dust extraction, the left side mount is far more convenient and out of the way.
The power-to-weight ratio of this sander is excellent, and although the work goes a bit slower with a 3-inch belt, the ability to sand vertically and in odd positions makes up for this.
the excellent price point for the quality offered, the Hitachi SB8V2 easily wins our vote for best handheld belt sander for the money.
- Japanese quality
- Excellent power-to-weight ratio
- Professional-grade details
- Small footprint slows production
- First-time users may find the sander difficult to control
3. Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 3 x 21-Inch
This 7-amp sander runs a 3 x 21-inch belt and has some interesting features for such a low-cost tool—while it is not a heavy-duty sander, it will perform well for most DIY users. The Dragster is an 8-pound machine, and the weight plus the power and speed help the machine remove a lot of material quickly. The Dragster can sand flush on the right side and front, and it has an angled belt the lets you sand very close to perpendicular surfaces.
The unique feature on this sander is the extended narrow front roller that can reach into tight corners. This front portion also has a removable cover—take it off and you can sand under surfaces and get into narrow spaces at odd angles.
The Dragster surprised us with its powerful and solid feel, giving more than what could be expected at such a low price point. The 3-way adjustable front handle and main grip are well-designed, although the slope of the main grip makes for some difficulty in handling the sander when trying to work in awkward positions. The front handle moves to the vertical and beyond, which helps when getting up next to walls. We liked the unique front lip on the machine—it is very useful for working corners, under edges, and along vertical pieces like railing posts. Belt tracking adjustment is tool-free, and replacing the belt is also quick and easy.
The main downside on the Dragster is its tiny dust bag, which is by far the smallest of any handheld model in our test. On the plus side, the sander comes as a full kit with a dust bag, sanding belt, and instruction manual, so it is a handy option for the first-time buyer.
The Dragster is a great sander for the homeowner tool kit, and offers a lot of usability for a low price.
- Budget-friendly price point
- Powerful and stable
- Unique and useful belt design
- Belt slips on track easily
- Tiny dust bag
- Too much down angle on the main grip
4. Porter-Cable 371 2.5 x 14-Inch Compact Belt
We wanted to include the Porter-Cable 371 in our review because of its award-winning design that makes it the ideal belt sander for doing fine work like cabinetry or furniture refinishing. The unit has a small, loaf-like shape with flush sides that let you get the sander into corners and up against perpendicular surfaces.
Weighing only 6 pounds, and with its large, ergonomically-designed rubber gripping surface, the 371 can be operated with one hand—however, for working long, straight surfaces where a two-handed grip increases accuracy and prevents fatigue, attaching the included front handle is a simple 2-screw process. The 5-amp, 500-MWO motor delivers plenty of power, and the sander is built with metal components for durability. It also has a removable dust port that allows you to attach a shop vacuum for dust collection purposes.
The first thing you notice about the 371 is its solidity and heft in the hand—a low center of gravity combines with the shape of the grip to make the machine feel balanced in any working position. The build quality is good for a tool at this price point, and it will certainly hold up to any DIY application providing the job matches the tool. The 371 works well for shaping edge profiles, doing the finish work needed when fitting things together, or installing cabinets or shelves.
Stripping paint from furniture is also a breeze with this sander as it does not tend to grab and gouge the way a heavier, more powerful unit does. However, the 371 tends to run warm, and if you try to tackle heavy, rough lumber with it, it will begin to heat up.
The Porter-Cable 371 can be a perfect finish-work addition to a kit that already includes a full-size belt sander.
- Excellent design for finish and small-space work
- Can be used one-handed
- Rubber grip cushion damps vibration
- Tends to run hot
- Front grip is too narrow
The Best Handheld Cordless Belt Sanders
1. RIDGID GEN5X Brushless
The first positive feature to note about the Ridgid cordless sander is that it comes complete with battery and charger if you buy the kit. The 18-volt lithium-ion battery drives the brushless motor at speeds from 400 – 935 RPM, with variable speed adjustment by means of a dial. Its useful features include a belt tracking knob, a trigger lock switch, and a left-mounted dust collection bag. The Rigid Air Guard dust collection system uses the sanding belt to throw dust up into the bag—it works fairly well, and most of the dust went into the bag during our test. The option to connect a vacuum hose to the dust port is also available. The tool housing is designed to allow flush sanding against perpendicular surfaces on both the right side and front of the machine.
The tool feels solid at 6.70 pounds, and its ergonomics are good. The Ridgid HexGrip cushioning adds some comfort to the grip, and the front pommel grip can be set in three different positions—this works reasonably well, but some users may find themselves wanting more adjustability if their front hand rides too tight to the tool.
The important factors to consider in this new category of cordless tool are power and battery life—operating a sander belt takes a lot of power, and battery drain changes depending on material and the level of pressure on the sander. Using the tool to remove weather staining from relatively smooth wood, we were able to run the sander for just under 15 minutes on one charge.
It takes a light touch to avoid bogging the sander, and the bag capacity does not match the battery life. Running with a nearly full bag is not a great option as it likely increases power drain—however, in a situation requiring a corded tool, it is not likely that a vacuum will be available.
Our overall impression is that this sander will work well for small projects or for doing touch-up work in situations where a power connection is inconvenient or unavailable.
- Good feel and ergonomics
- Effective dust collection
- Battery and charger included
- Front grip rides too close to the housing
- Dust bag capacity is small
- Battery life is short
2. Ryobi One Plus Cordless Brushless
The ergonomics of both tools are quite similar, they have left-side dust ports and bags, and can sand flush to perpendicular on the front and right side. The first obvious difference is that Ryobi does not offer a kit setup, so the batteries and charger must be purchased separately. However, if you already own Ryobi cordless tools, you will be able to take advantage of the lower bare-tool price of this sander. Another difference is the lower top speed of the Ryobi—it runs at a max speed of 850 RPM, and it is not a variable-speed machine. Unlike the 3-position handle on the Ridgid, the front pommel handle on the Ryobi pivots to 5 positions including vertical, which is useful for working up against walls.
The Ryobi removed material well when sanding, but a light touch was needed to keep the RPM up. The tool is lightweight and easy to handle, and the belt adjustment knob worked fine on the go. However, dust collection was not as efficient as with the Ridgid sander, and the main hand grip was a bit small in comparison to the Ridgid. We also missed the textured grip on the pommel handle.
One area where the Ryobi shone was in battery life, as we were able to get nearly 20 minutes out of one charge while working in the same material we used with the Ridgid sander. This test reinforced our impression that cordless belt sander technology is still very new, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
Overall, the Ryobi cordless fills the same niche as the Ridgid—good as a supplemental tool for small projects or specialized situations.
- Light and easy to handle
- Low price point
- Batteries are extra
- Very limited dust bag capacity
Picking the Best Belt Sander
There is a great selection of quality belt sanders available today, and they come in a price range that makes it easy for any homeowner to put one in the toolbox—to help you make a choice, we checked out the top brands and tried the most popular models across several price points. Although they are not the most expensive machines in their categories, each sander in this review will give solid performance if it is properly matched with the primary use or task. Now just pick the best belt sander for your purpose, buy with confidence, and get to work.