A belt sander is an invaluable tool for a certain set of jobs. They can also be a bit expensive, so you really want to be sure that you have a good one before you make the investment in a belt sander. We are a big fan of DIY and working with your hands, so we understand the value of having the right tools.
If you know you can depend on your belt sander, that’s one less thing to worry about when it’s time to get to work. After you read this buyer’s guide and see our recommendations, you will have some really good options that will provide you with a lot of value.
Compare: The 10 Top Rated Belt Sanders of 2016
|Makita 9403 11 Amp||Makita||$$$||4.8|
|Black & Decker BR318||Black & Decker||$||4.6|
|Hitachi SB8V2 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander||Hitachi||$$||4.4|
|Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 7 Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander||Black & Decker||$||4.2|
|Astro Pneumatic Tool 3037 1/2-Inch x 18-Inch Air Belt Sander||Astro Pneumatic||$$||4.5|
|Makita 9911 5.6 Amp 3-Inch by 18-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander||Makita||$$$||4.7|
|Rockwell SS4300K Belt Sander||Rockwell||$||4.1|
|SKIL 7500 6 Amp 3-Inch by 18-Inch Belt Sander||SKIL||$||4.3|
|Genesis GBS321A 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander||Genesis||$||4.4|
What is a belt sander?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this power tool, a belt sander is a piece of equipment that does just what it sounds like it does: it sands surfaces using a belt. Specifically, it has a big motor that drives two belts, and these belts carry a big loop of sandpaper. When you turn it on, the motor makes the sandpaper move rapidly over the belts, sanding much faster and with more power than you could do by hand. It’s the perfect equipment for finishing wood and similar tasks.
Belt sanders can also wear away non-magnetic metal, which is useful because that metal tends to clog up and break other tools. It’s a handy thing to have in the garage.
Types of belt sanders
There are a few different kinds of belt sanders. The main division is between belt sanders that you can hold in your hands and ones that stay fixed to a bunch or similar surface. The latter are sometimes called bench sanders, and I won’t be considering them in this buyer’s guide. They are usually larger. Handheld ones are meant to be easier to maneuver, giving you more control. Belt sanders also vary quite a bit in size and weight.
Why do I need a belt sander?
Belt sanders are invaluable for any job that involves sanding and finishing over a large or detailed object. Sanding by hand is tedious and difficult work, and belt sanders make it much easier and faster. They are also easier on your hands- working with sandpaper manually is a workout, both due to how much effort you need to exert and how tough it is to work with sandpaper directly. With a belt sander, you have to deal with the weight of the machine, but that is far easier than sanding by hand.
Who are the contenders for best belt sander?
Black & Decker BR318 – The BR318 is a smaller belt sander, weighing a little under four pounds. It lists for $96 but is currently selling for $47. The BR318 has 6 amps of power and a lowered front roller to squeeze into tight spaces. It comes with a dust bag in case you are working with wood.
Makita 9403 11 Amp – This sander is larger and more powerful than the Black and Decker one. It lists for a considerably higher price- $418- although it currently sells for $241.50. It is very quiet for its size, sands areas quickly, and weighs 13 pounds.
Porter-Cable 362V – The 362V from Porter Cable is another larger belt sander. It has an even larger 12 amp engine, a speed adjustor, and the capability to handle vertical surfaces with ease. It has a correspondingly higher price tag, listing for $489 and selling for $248.
What are the important features in a belt sander?
While there are a lot of ways that belt sanders vary, I am going to concentrate on four specific characteristics. I think these are the most important ones for you to keep in mind when you are shopping for a belt sander. This will help you narrow down your choices and show you what’s really important. If you don’t pick a few features to prioritize, you will quickly get lost in the sea of options, so follow my lead and settle on some deal breakers and must-haves.
The first thing to consider is price. This seems obvious, but you really need to be sure that a given belt sander is worth the money. Some of the are pretty high-end, but there’s no point paying for a bunch of things you will never use. Similarly, a lot of belt sanders are expensive well beyond the value they provide, so you want to avoid those.
Ease of Use
Belt sanders tend to be heavy and awkward. Anything the manufacturer does to ease the process of using and handling a belt sander will make it much easier to use. Handles- light weight, good angles- these all make it easier to work with the sander and get your job done. Weight can be good and bad. Heavier sanders are harder to use, but they also grind surfaces down faster. It’s a tradeoff.
A sander needs to be powerful in order to grind down the surfaces you need to use it on- that’s just part of the job description. If the sander isn’t powerful enough, then you will need to spend more time and effort sanding down the surface. So more power means more speed and efficiency. Of course, more powerful engines are usually heavier, and they also use more electricity, but it is generally not a large enough difference to matter.
Finally, lots of belt sanders have special features over and above the basics. These are what set them apart from each other and give them special value. They can make the difference between two similar belt sanders, but usually any given feature isn’t as important as the basic functionality of the machine.
Black & Decker BR318
The Black and Decker BR318 obviously has the best price out of this whole bunch. It has some drawbacks to make up for that, but when it comes down to the price you pay, the BR318 is simply the best around. Its list price is less than half the asking price for the other two belt sanders, and the BR318’s asking price is still half of its list price. It has good value behind that low price, and you won’t find a better one around.
Makita 9403 11 Amp
The Makita sells for considerably more than the Black and Decker model. It is in a distinctly higher class- it gives you more for the money than the Black and Decker can offer, and it is simply a larger and more powerful machine. It makes perfect sense that it costs more. The price is still a good deal- you will just wind up paying more out of pocket for this machine than the Black and Decker, so be aware of that.
The 362V is closest to the Makita in terms of offering a similar price and set of features, although the 362V is both more expensive and more feature-filled. This is getting into the higher end of the belt sander market. It has quite a bit of value behind that price- you just need to be willing to shell out a considerable amount of money to get it.
Ease of Use
Black & Decker BR318
At 3.6 pounds, the Black and Decker BR318 is a third of the price of the competing two belt sanders. It is not very wide, and it has a low front roller to let it get under edges and furniture. It is the easiest machine to maneuver around by hand, being easy to pick up, carry around, and push. It is the easiest to get into tight spaces and lift up for walls or the bottom of a cabinet.
Makita 9403 11 Amp
The Makita has a front grip right over the front roller that gives you quite good control over the belt sander. At over 15 pounds, it is almost five times heavier than the Black and Decker, so be aware of that when you are thinking about how you want to use your belt sander. As long as you don’t plan to lift and carry it much, weight should not be a significant problem.
The 362V weighs about as much as the Makita and it has a similar design, with a front handle over a roller. Like the Makita, there is a dust bag attachment located near the back handle. The motor is in the center of the belt sander, giving it better balance and making it easier to control.The 362V also boasts a quick-release lever for the belt, making it easier for you to swap out the belt for a replacement when that becomes necessary.
Black & Decker BR318
The same design choices that made the Black and Decker light and easy to use also mean that it has a weak engine: 6 amps of power. It is always hard to be sure exactly how much power you are going to need, but it is pretty safe to assume that 6 amps won’t cut it for a significant amount of jobs. Consider the Black and Decker as a backup or portable belt sander instead of your only one, because otherwise you risk running into a project you can’t realistically finish with the BR318.
Makita 9403 11 Amp
With 11 amps, the Makita is almost twice as powerful as its little cousin, the BR318. That should be plenty of power- if you need much more than this, then you probably need a stationary bench sander. Of course, this comes with a corresponding weight increase, but that is par for the course.
The 362V is a little more powerful than the Makita with 12 amps- this is right at the top end of what a home consumer belt sander is able to provide, so don’t expect things to get better than this. The 362V is actually not much heavier than the Makita, so it is an efficient engine as well as a powerful one.
Black & Decker BR318
The Black and Decker’s main special feature is the low front roller, but it also has an auto-tracking belt design that gives it a more efficient engine. That lets the designers make the engine even smaller than you might expect. This works well if you have a small job or a job that involves getting into tight, cramped spaces.
Makita 9403 11 Amp
The Makita has an especially quiet sound, which is useful in homes and urban areas. More interestingly, however, it also has the best speed of any belt sander on this list. The Makita can cover 1640 square feet per minute. That’s the fastest of any belt sander on this list. Speed is important for a belt sander- you don’t want to spend any more time dealing with the machine on your hands and knees or a similar awkward position for any longer than you need to.
The Porter-Cable 362V has an interesting feature- the ability for you, the user, to change the speed of the machine. There is a range of settings from 1,000 square feet per minute to 1,500 square feet per minute. That gives you the control to decide whether you want speed or precision, which can be useful in select circumstances. The design of the sander also lets you roll it right up to a vertical surface like a wall, so there won’t be any gaps in the coverage. The sander also has a quick-release button to let you change out the belt quickly.
Our Belt Sander Reviews
You really can’t beat the price of the BR318. It is very good for its price range as well, so you aren’t making a major compromise on the quality of the sander you get when you choose this one. It’s really quite good and the small size makes it especially useful for people who need it for small jobs.
If you have needs for a bigger engine or a big surface, the BR318 just won’t cut it. It doesn’t have the power or the capacity to handle a big job. Of course, if you are tackling a big job, then you probably knew that already.
The Makita delivers the best value of the three sanders in this final list. It has a couple of cool features, great speed, and a very competitive price. For most users, the Makita will supply all you need in terms of power and capability, and it is cheap enough that it won’t break the bank. It also has a quiet noise output so it won’t disturb the neighbors.
Compared to the BR318, the Makita is significantly heavier, which might be uncomfortable for you. That limits how easy it is to use the Makita for surfaces that are hard to reach or otherwise awkward.
When you need the top of the line, you should go for the 362V. It is a little bit less powerful than the Makita, but the adjustable speed, ease of use, and ergonomic design make it a clear favorite. It is suitable for many different tasks. It also isn’t that much more expensive than the Makita, so you don’t need to spend more to get a better product.
The 362V is also a big sander, so it shares the same downsides as the Makita in that respect. Be ready to manhandle it a little so you can get it in the right position to get to work.
Among these three sanders, you should definitely find one to suit your needs. We have a big range here so that no matter what your budget is, you can find a reasonable purchase. We hope you enjoyed this buyer’s guide, and that it helps you get involved with a cool DIY project!