Finding the best belt sander for the job is an important part of any sanding work.
Belt sanders are incredibly useful for preparing wood surfaces for painting or varnishing they are also sometimes used on a variety of different surfaces to strip back or smooth over unwanted or badly worn layers.
They are brilliant at saving you time and elbow grease and anyone who has manually sanded wood for periods of time will tell you it’s hard, slow and laborious work.
But it’s the most important part of achieving a good quality finish on your project, the prep work of the materials before you paint or varnish them is the number 1 decider on whether your workpiece will end up being time well spent or back to square one again because if you don’t get this right then no matter how good you do the next stage will you not finish up with the quality you wanted.
The most important quality a belt sander should have is simply power without it you will be disappointed at the time and effort you have to put in and you still won’t get as good a finish as you could have if you had a good performing powerful belt sander.
There is are many belt sanders to choose from and they all claim to be powerful and high quality but sadly that is not the truth and many of them are totally useless and simply lack the oomph to deal with the hard work of sanding a tough surface or removing stubborn layers of paint or varnish.
We have compiled this list based on the very best performing belt sanders that can stand up to the task and match up to there claims.
We have researched hundreds of these power tools looking closely at the power, features and trawling through thousands of previous user’s experiences to give you the big picture and honest analysis of which ones are worth your money we then leave out all the underachievers leaving only the best of the bunch.
Top 10 Belt Sanders 2020
#1 – Makita 9403 – Best Belt Sander
It may seem surprising to a lot of woodworkers, but the Makita 9403 was launched way back in 1999.
Twenty years later, it still continues to outsell a lot of its newer competition.
The reason behind its on-going appeal isn’t too difficult to decipher though.
This is a very powerful and reliable belt sander that can make short work of thick, dense stock. It is easy to use and has specifications that aren’t obsolete even today.
The Makita 9403 is a very sturdily built 4” belt sander. The construction is mainly metal and the rest is tough polyethylene.
It weighs around 12 lbs. and is perfectly balanced for working on flat surfaces.
The large front handle gives you a comfortable and reliable grip. So much so, that you do not need to apply any downward pressure while guiding it along the stock.
You might find it a tad difficult to use this on vertical surfaces though due to the weight. Also, the design is not an ergonomic one. Don’t forget that this model was launched twenty years ago, when woodworkers probably didn’t care a hoot about ergonomics as long as the machine worked.
It ships with an 80-grit belt and a dust bag to collect the sawdust. Talking about dust, the labyrinth construction, as Makita calls it, ensures that no dust creeps into the mechanism inside. This keeps the ball bearings in pristine condition. No vibration either!
Hook it to a Vacuum system
The 13-amp motor delivers a lot of power for a belt sander this size. It is so aggressive on the stock that the tiny dust collection bag will be bursting at its seams in no time.
Save yourself some time and effort and connect it to your vacuum using an adapter, or to a much larger bag (might need some tweaking).
To be honest, the blower on this is strong enough to efficiently remove the dust without the need for a vacuum. If only, it shipped with a bigger dust collection bag.
#2 – Ryobi BE319 – Best Belt Sander Under $100
The Ryobi BE319 is a pint-sized belt sander that can be maneuvered easily into awkward angles.
It stands just 6.3” tall and weighs just 6.18 lbs. It comes with two rubberized handles that allow a firm grip and a comfortable handling position, even if you have sweaty palms.
Well equipped for the price
Despite the entry-level pricing, the Ryobi BE319 comes with a set of specifications that make it well suited for small to medium-sized jobs in the workshop.
It is powered by a 6-amp motor that gives it a fair bit of power. But it’s not a variable speed sander and has a single speed of 320ft/minute.
It is better suited for finishing jobs.
Easy belt changes
The Ryobi BE319 ships with a 3” belt and 80-grit sandpaper which can be swapped for a finer or larger grit one with ease. There’s a lever on the side of the casing that releases the belt tension allowing an easy, tool-less change.
Also provided is a tracking tool that helps to fine-tune the belt position.
Sadly, the belt does tend to run off quite frequently, especially during time-consuming projects when you have the lock-on switch engaged and are working for hours.
#3 – Makita 9903 – Best Around 200
The Makita 9903 is a beefy belt sander that offers a lot of power courtesy an 8.8 Amp motor.
Club this with the variable speed control and you have a very versatile unit that can do both, strip a lot of material in short time as well as offer the smooth finish for tasks that demand precision.
If you’ve used Makita power tools before, you wouldn’t be surprised at the tough construction of the 9903.
They build tools that last and the 9903 is no different. It is designed to withstand vigorous use in a harsh workshop environment.
It features an identical design to the 9403 with the two handles that allow a comfortable grip. But it weighs just 9.5 lbs. which gives you the added stability without compromising on maneuverability.
You can even send your stock in corners or flush to a surface.
We loved the extra-long 16.4-foot power cord on the 9903. Saves the hassles that come with using extension cords and gives you enough play to avoid the dreaded ‘cord-in-the-sander’ trap.
The dust collector and the powerful blower ensure that the workplace stays spotless all day.
Variable speed motor
The 8.8-amp motor at max power can be used to quickly remove paint or rust off a surface.
And for the more delicate tasks, you can always lower the speed up to 690 feet/minute.
The auto-tracking feature allows you to adjust the belt on-the-go without interrupting your workflow.
Also provided, is a manual tracking button that lets you adjust belt position if need be.
#4 – TACKLIFE – Best Belt Sander Under $50
The Tacklife 3 x 18-inch belt sander is hands down, one of the most feature-rich choices at this price point.
It offers all the standards that one expects from entry-level handheld sanders.
And clubs it with some best in-class specifications that make it a versatile choice for both beginner woodworkers as well as someone looking to upgrade from a cheap, store-bought model.
Ample power, variable speed
The Tacklife belt sander is designed for comfortable use. The casing is made of tough plastic and there are two rubberized handles that allow you to grip and guide it easily along the stock.
It weighs just over 9 lbs. and is a very balanced tool.
Powering the sander is a 5Amp motor that delivers impressive torque.
Looking for fast results in a short time? It has you covered.
At the same time, the variable speed setting allows you to select from 13 preset speeds that trickles down to 450 RPM at its lowest setting.
The lock-on button sits flush in the speed control knob and you can easily set the desired speed and lock it for longer tasks without taking your hands off the handle.
Use it as a belt sander
One of the features that stands out is the option to convert it into a handy benchtop sander if need be.
Just flip it over and use the rectangular clamps provided in the package to mount it on any flat work surface. You can also mount it on a sawhorse. Or clamp it across.
#5 – Makita 9924db – Tough Construction
Talking about Makita, here’s the 9924B, the twenty-year-old, pocket-sized offering from the brand that’s still the preferred choice for cabinet makers and old-school woodworkers.
At a time when newer brands are wooing customers with fancy features, Makita still relies on the build quality and the ease of use of their belt sanders. And in the end, that’s what it all boils down to.
One look at the 9924B and you’ll realize why these tools have an on-going demand when there are tons of cheaper options with better specs.
It’s built like a rock. The casing has more metal than plastic.
The construction leaves no wiggle room for debris to make its way inside the casing and the ball bearings and needles work flawlessly for years.
It weighs close to 10 lbs. The handles are not-rubberized but sturdy enough to give you the balance you seek while making deft maneuvers.
Finesse or brute force, the Makita 9924B belt sander can switch between both in the blink of an eye.
The Extended base plate
The Makita 9924B has an extended base plate that allows cabinet makers to sand flush to the wall, both with the front and the side of the sander.
Irrespective of whether you are sanding for furniture or just stripping off the varnish of a surface, the 1300ft/min speed of the Makita is a time saver.
#6 – Skil 7510-01 – Best Budget Belt Sander
The palm-sized Skil7510-01 is a mixed bag of good things.
Once you are done ogling at the throwaway price tag of around $30, you will be thoroughly impressed with its innovative features that help beginner woodworkers hone their skills and get better results every time.
Compact, portable sander
This Skil belt sander is a small, 3×18” sander that’s designed for small to medium-sized jobs around the workshop.
It has a very low profile design and weighs just over 6 lbs. If portability tops your list of priorities, then here’s one of the best options.
The sander is comfortable to use, with the two handles providing a firm grip. If you are used to heavy handheld sanders and go overboard with the pressure while working, the automatic pressure-control feedback system kicks-in and an LED indicator light starts to blink.
This means that it’s time to ease the pressure a little to get a better finish on the stock. This also prevents the belt from getting worn out prematurely.
Dust-Free sanding at its best
We particularly liked the micro-filtration dust capture system on the Skil 7510 that ensures that even the tiniest sawdust particles are captured.
But just like most budget-priced handheld sanders, the dust collection bag is flimsy and too small.
Just swap it for a bigger aftermarket bag if you hate emptying it every hour or so.
Skil gives 12 or 24 months Skil guarantee on its power tools.
#7 – Metabo HPT SB8V2 – Powerful Belt Sander
This is one of our favorite handheld belt sanders of all time. It was called the Hitachi HPT SB8V2 until Metabo, the German manufacturer took over the Jap brand’s power tools division.
So, essentially, this is the same tool with a new name.
Thankfully, Metabo hasn’t tinkered with the winning design or specs.
Powerful 9.0 Amp motor
The Metabo HPT SB8V2 is a very powerful belt sander that is well suited for sanding all kinds of surfaces.
It weighs an even 9 lbs. and comes with an elastomer grip surface on both the handles.
It has a 9.0Amp motor that delivers a lot of torque for a machine this size.
Moreover, this is a variable speed sander that can go from 820 – 1475 ft/minute.
The positioning of the speed control dial couldn’t be better. It’s right on the main handle and you can adjust the speed on the go. Also positioned conveniently on the main handle is the lock-on button that allows you to set the desired speed for repetitive tasks.
Belt Tracking simplified
The Metabo belt sander HPT SB8V2 features a clear plastic cover on the front which allows you to keep an eye on the belt position.
The belt tracking knob lets you adjust the position depending on the application. If you wish to sand a corner, you can track the belt towards the right and bring it back to the center at the twist of the knob.
Metabo has really stood behind their power tools and must have high confidence in their tools construction offering Metabo 3 years warranty.
#8 – TOPVORK Belt Sander – Best Big Belt Sander
The Topvork belt sander offers excellent value for money and is perfect for beginner projects around the home and the shop.
It is powered by a 5-Amp motor that delivers a decent amount of torque and features 7-adjustable speed settings that take it from 360-560 rpm.
The Topvork Belt sander borrows the design from the big brands.
Both the primary and ancillary handles are wide, rubber-coated and comfortable to grip and give you great control while working.
The speed adjustment button is positioned on the top of the handle, which makes it easier to adjust as compared to buttons that are positioned on the bottom.
However, if you wish to use this as a bench-top sander (can be mounted on the table upside down with clamps), you cannot see the speed adjustment slider.
Any speed adjustment that you make will be left to guesswork.
The speed lock button allows you to lock on your desired speed.
Ships with 11 belts
The Topvork belt sander is probably the only one at this price point that ships with 11 sanding belts, 6×80grit and 5×120grit.
This makes it a complete value for money package.
#9 – Tacklife classic – Low Price Sander
Another great budget-priced sander from Tacklife, the little known brand that’s making waves in the power tools market.
This is the Tacklife Classic and it boasts of all the standard features that you’d expect to find in sanders that cost 2x more.
5 Amp Motor, Variable Speed
The Tacklife Classic is powered by a 5 Amp motor. That’s ideal for finishing tasks and other small jobs. But we have spoken to a bunch of guys who have used this to strip the varnish off their old wooden flooring.
Worked like a charm for the entire house. That speaks volumes about its quality.
Yes, it does tend to get overheated if you stretch it too long. To be fair to it, almost every sander that we’ve used does that except for the Makita maybe.
Also, just like the Topvork belt sander, the Tacklife classic also ships with 6 x 120 grit and 7 x 80 grit sandpapers. That’s 13 sanding belts included at the price of the sander.
Clamps provided in the package allow the Tacklife classic to be mounted on a flat work surface to be used as a stationary sander.
#10 – Craftsman 8A 3X21 – Cheap Big Belt Sander
Last but not the least, we have a good old Craftsman Belt Sander with a bunch of new upgraded features.
This is a 3X21” belt sander that’s perfect for aggressive sanding applications, like preparing your floor or evening out some old worn boards.
It has a lot of juice under the hood and is a variable speed sander.
Upgraded, ergonomic design
We love the new-look Craftsman sander with the Vibra Shield Design. It gives you such a comfortable grip without vibration even when it’s running at max power.
The position of the second/front handle can be adjusted to suit the application which gives you more control over the unit.
Like the old Craftsman sanders that have attained legendary status, this one is built to last.
Everything seems sturdy and durable. There are no potential dust traps that should keep the bearings performing at its best.
Also, there’s an LED light that illuminates the work area. A neat addition to the list of features.
Stable belt tracking
The 8 Amp motor in the Craftsman delivers a lot of consistent torque for time-consuming sanding tasks.
Also, you can up the speed from 800-1100 sq. ft/minute depending on the job.
One thing that we noticed is that the unit slows down if you apply more downward pressure looking to remove more material in less time. That’s unlike Craftsman.
But that’s a small niggle that we are willing to overlook.
Craftsman also offers 3 years warranty which is always a good sign it has been designed to last.
Belt sander FAQ’s
This is the number one factor for a belt sander without a powerful motor you will be left frustrated at the time and energy you waste on your sanding work.
Consider what type of work you will be carrying out with your sander if it’s going to have a hard life stripping away layers of paint or smoothing hardwood then the higher the Amperage the motor has the better. If you want a sander just for finishing then this isn’t as important but you still would be wise to choose a higher Amperage motor with variable speed then you will be covered for any surface you are faced with.
This needs to be considered if you are working on surfaces that are not going to be conveniently placed on a workbench or horizontal then the weight will be important to you because if you have to hold the sander up above shoulder height it will quickly make your arms ache and you will struggle to keep it up especially if you are going to be continuously working this way.
This can be a big plus for working on different materials sometimes you may need pure grunt to sand some surfaces and other times it might be a light sanding the material needs.
Size of sanding belt: If you are working on small niggly surfaces then a belt sander with the ability to get into those small gaps is going to be important to you, but if you have large tough surfaces the bigger the sanding belts surface then the quicker you will be able to complete the work.
We have only included the best belt sanders in our top 10 so they are all renowned and tested over long periods of time to be up to stand the test of time and hard work.
Always choose one that is covered by at least 12 months warranty as it could be the difference between money well spent and money down the drain.
Many belt sanders have a hoover attachment for dust removal and although it’s not an essential feature it does help keep the work area free from wood dust and anyone who has used a sander will know the dust that comes from sanding becomes airborne and gets absolutely everywhere.
Always wear a dust mask whilst operating a belt sander as the fine dust particles given off whilst sanding is really detrimental to your health. Goggles are also advisable.
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