Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which One is Best?

Sanding and finishing can be challenging stages when you’re working on furniture, cars, and other surfaces that require a very smooth finish. Manual sanding is a useful option depending on the object curves and the requirement to work in tighter spaces. But this is a time-consuming way to sand, and it’s not recommended for larger areas. When it comes down to power sanding tools, the choices are belt sander vs orbital sander. A well equipped workshop is likely to have both, but if you’re on a tighter budget, which is best? In this article, we will examine the orbital vs. belt sander pros and cons in more detail.

What Is A Belt Sander?

belt sander vs orbital sander

A belt sander is designed to remove large amounts of waste material from a surface. It’s an ideal option when you want to get wood or other surfaces ready for smoother sanding. These are power sanders that can be used at the beginning and end of the finishing stage if the correct grades of sandpaper are used.

The high-speed action and powerful motor make this an excellent choice for flat and larger surface areas. A belt sander is ideal If you want to work along the grain to reveal the true beauty of wood.

What Is A Belt Sander Best Used For?

When you examine the key belt sander vs orbital sander differences, you will notice that these power tools are larger and more powerful. This makes them a natural choice when you want to level very rough surfaces, including hardwood flooring, tables, and more.

The finish is smooth and even, and this is a popular power tool for home renovation projects, such as smooth finishing, leveling, aggressive work, strong wood sanding, and projects that need no post sanding treatment.

What Is An Orbital Sander?

In a belt sander vs orbital sander comparison, it’s important to stress that these two power sanders work in fundamentally different ways. The orbital sander works in small circular orbits to remove material, and a distinctive swirl mark is left on the surface.

These sanders work in every direction at once, and the sanding power is limited. This prevents extensive damage to the wood or other sanded surfaces, which offers extra flexibility. An orbital sander is a poor choice to sand in corners, and sanding larger surfaces will be a time-consuming and frustrating exercise.

What Is An Orbital Sander Best For?

An orbital sander should not be used on any visible surfaces where you care about the quality of the finish. The distinctive swirl marks can ruin the finish of any larger surface, but subsequent sanding with a belt sander can correct these problems in many cases.

But, the orbital sander is ideal for many sanding tasks, including small surfaces, rounding edges, fine sanding, and any sanding that requires additional treatment.

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander-Pros and Cons:

Belt Sander●      Versatile to Use, as you can remove burrs, smooth corners, and remove stain
●      Easy to Use
●      Different options including hand held or stationary models.
●      It can be aggressive, increasing the chance of damage in inexperienced hands.
●      Tend to be louder during operation.
●      May leave sanding marks
Orbital Sander●      Great for edges and underside areas
●      You can buy sandpaper in bulk and fit to use
●      Can provide a smoother surface finish with a reduced risk of splinters
●      Not suited to remove material
●      Difficult to use in corners
●      Tend to be more expensive to purchase.

Which Type Of Sander Is Best?

As you can see from the brief descriptions above, this is a difficult question to answer because these sanding tools are designed for different sanding tasks.

What is an orbital sander

The portable or handheld belt sander is a popular woodworking tool because it’s well designed and versatile. Large volumes of material can be removed from flat surfaces quickly.

The compact nature of the belt sander means that it can be used to round corners and edges too. In an auto workshop, a belt sander is used to remove paint and leave behind a smooth surface that’s ready for priming.

In comparison, the orbital sander is smaller and more compact, and it can be operated with one hand easily. The sanding disk is circular, and some models have a random oscillation action to improve the sanding efficiency.

The small scale sanding makes this a less useful power sander when you need to tackle larger and tougher surfaces. But, it’s a good choice for removing paint, smoothing, and finishing, if post sanding is used on exposed surfaces to remove the swirl marks.

Which Is The Easiest Sander To Use?

This will ultimately be determined by the personal preferences of the user. But, as a one-handed tool, it would be fair to say that the orbital sander is probably easier to use for most people. They often have a small format and a hand or palm comfort grip to make sanding for long periods easier.

What Is The Best Sander For DIY Projects And Why?

A belt sander is a great choice when you need to get a project started because large volumes of material can be removed quickly. Great results along the wood grain are achievable, and on large flat surfaces, this may be the only sander that you need.

An orbital sander removes less material in small circles, which is forgiving if you have concerns about damaging the surface with too much aggression. Sanding and shaping around curves is possible, and rounding edges and fine detail sanding is also possible.

FAQ’s-Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander

Can you use an orbital sander on drywall?

On smaller sections of hard to access drywall, there may be times when an oscillating random orbital sander may be useful. But, under normal circumstances, a larger drywall sanding tool will be a better option.

Should you use an orbital sander on kitchen cabinets?

Orbital vs Belt Sander

Yes, an orbital sander is the ideal tool when you need to sand down kitchen cabinets efficiently. The sanded surface will be very smooth, and this can be a real time-saver. If you’ve chosen a natural wood grain finish, it may be necessary to lightly sand the swirl marks to improve the surface further. But, if you’re painting the kitchen cabinets, this is not necessary, and the smooth surface will take paint well.

Can you use an orbital sander on stairs?

Yes, a random orbital sander will have sufficient power to sand flat surfaces, corners, and round edges on stairs. But, it’s important to change the sandpaper grit at the various stages of the project to get the surfaces smooth for finishing.

Can I use a belt sander on walls?

Yes, a belt sander can remove the existing paint textures from the walls, and it will leave behind a smoother surface for wallpaper or fresh paint.

Will an orbital sander leave swirls?

Yes, it is true that a random orbital sander may create circular swirl marks. The three main causes of these marks are improper sanding techniques, poor quality sandpaper choices, and sanding a dusty surface.

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which One is Best?- In Conclusion: 

As you can see, when we look at a belt sander vs orbital sander comparison, the differences are stark, and they are clearly designed for different tasks. These are both great sanding tools, and most woodwork and auto shops will have both on hand for a variety of tasks. As a rule of thumb, choose a belt sander for large and flatter surfaces and reach for the orbital sander if you need to work in a smaller area.