How to Choose the Best Belt Sander for Woodworking

Picking the best belt sander for woodworking is a crucial decision. Using a belt sander in the workshop saves you valuable time and results in a superior finish. A handheld belt sander is perfect for small woodworking projects. It is compact, portable, and easy to use.

Using Best Belt sander on wood

However, depending on your workload and home workshop size, you may decide to buy a stationary sander. It’s a more powerful tool, suitable for quickly sanding large work-pieces.

A portable, handheld belt sander is one of the most important tools in woodworking. The continuous roll of abrasive paper removes several layers of excess material from pieces of wood. Additionally, you can easily remove rough surfaces to prepare the wood surface for finishing.

In essence, if you don’t have a good quality belt sander, you won’t get the desired results from your projects.

There are various types of belt sanders available in the market. And each type has its pros and cons. So what are the key features you should consider before selecting the best belt sander for your next sanding project? 

This article is a guide to choosing the right belt sander for your needs. In addition, we have reviewed two of the best handheld sander currently available online. 

What Is a Belt Sander?

A belt sander is a versatile tool used to sand, shape, and finish wood. The sander consists of two motorized drums that turn a sanding belt. Due to its speed, it is classed as an aggressive sanding tool. Therefore, it is typically used at the initial stages of the sanding process. 

A belt sander is different from an orbital sander or disc sander. This is because the sanding motion is in a straight line, rather than the sanding pad rotating on its axis, like the action of a random orbit sander. 

Two Types of Belt Sanders

Belt sanders come in two designs — handheld and stationary. The handheld models are compact, and you take the tool to the work-piece. On the other hand, a stationary sanding machine is installed on a workbench. Therefore, you must take the material to the bench-top sander for sanding. 

Let’s look in detail at the two types of sanders that use an abrasive belt to remove material. 

Stationary Sander

Also called a bench-top sander, this powerful sanding tool typically sits on a workstation or is a stand-alone model. Because you must take the work-piece to the tool, bench-top belt sanders are limited in the board sizes you can sand. 

A stationary sander is perfect for sanding the surfaces of cut lumber. Some models have an adjustable tilting sanding surface that lets you work directly in front of the machine. This way, you can hold the work-piece with both hands to get the desired finish.  

Compared to a handheld sander, a stationary sander allows you to sand wood items more precisely and accurately.  

Handheld Sander

Handheld belt sanders are the go-to choice if you must sand large surfaces. Due to their portability and low cost, they are a vital tool in every workshop. Most handheld models have a power cord for electricity. However, many cordless models on the market offer the ultimate in mobility when working on larger projects.

There are several differences between handheld models and stationary ones. First, Handheld sanders are typically less powerful than their stationary counterparts. Also, they use thinner sandpaper which is prone to ripping easily. 

Review of Two Best Belt Sanders for Woodworking

Choosing the right type of handheld belt sander is crucial if you enjoy taking on home woodworking projects. Here are reviews of two of the best belt sanders on the market, suitable for light and heavy-duty tasks. 

1/ Skil 7510-01 Belt Sander 18-Inch

The Skil 7510-01 handheld belt sander offers an easy way to get professional sanding results from an affordable tool. The electric sander features an ergonomic design, a large dust collection port, and auto track belt alignment.

In addition, the sander is perfect for flush sanding right up to the edge. We also liked the feature of pressure control technology to ensure you don’t apply too much pressure.  

The low price point of This Skil 7510-01 Sandcat belt sander is an excellent feature. You can buy a high-grade portable belt sander that delivers excellent results. However, the affordable price is not a reflection of poor quality. Instead, it is a well-built tool, ideal for tackling small DIY sanding tasks around the home. 


  • High-quality, affordable sander with a compact design
  • Single lever, quick belt change
  • Flush sanding
  • Transparent dust port with micro-filtration
  • Robust design
  • 3-inch wide, 18-inch belt
  • 6-amp motor
  • Attaches to a workshop vacuum cleaner


  • Not suitable for heavy-duty sanding
  • Lack of variable speed settings

Best feature: The Skill 7510-10 belt sander has a robust design and works efficiently. 

Who is the Skil belt sander for? This sander is ideal for hobbyists of all levels for regular sanding tasks around the home. 

2/ Makita 9403 4″ x 24″ Belt Sander

The Makita 9403 belt sander is ideal for sanding wood or metal surfaces. This heavy-duty sander has an 11-amp motor with a top speed of 1,640 FPS and a 4-inch wide belt, providing ample power for all sanding tasks.

Other features of the Makita belt sander include auto track belt alignment, dust collection bag, flush-to-the-edge sanding, large front grip, and an ergonomic design. 

One of the nice features of the Makita 9403 is its low noise levels. At only 84 dB, it is one of the quietest sanders you can buy. This powerful belt sander also has ceramic wear plates that prevent the tool from heating up too much. As a heavy-duty belt sander for hobbyists and professionals, it is an excellent choice for a home workshop. 


  • The belt size is 4-inch by 24-inch 
  • Provides a consistent speed of 1,640 feet per second
  • High-quality construction
  • Low noise levels help reduce fatigue 
  • 360-degree rotating dust bag collector
  • A wide belt for more efficient sanding
  • Long power cable
  • The pistol trigger and large front grip make the sander easy to use


  • High price tag
  • It weighs 13 lbs., making it feel heavy when sanding for extended periods

Best feature: The wider belt, powerful motor, flush sanding design, and fast speed make it suitable for all sanding tasks. 

Who is the Makita belt sander for? The Makita 9403 is for professional contractors, furniture makers, hardwood floor installers, and serious hobbyists.

Buyer’s Guide — How to Choose the Best Belt Sander for Woodworking

A belt sander is a vital tool for any woodworking project that requires a lot of sanding. Reading online reviews of belt sanders is one way to educate yourself. However, what key features should you consider before investing in a power tool for sanding wood?

How Easy Is It to Use a Belt Sander

The first consideration is how versatile the sander is. Most handheld sanders have the belt below the grip, allowing slight downward pressure. Therefore, ensuring the handheld sander has comfortable grips and is easy to maneuver is vital. Also, look for a model with adjustable handles, as this will let you easily tackle more intricate jobs. 

Another factor to consider is if you want to buy a cordless belt sander. Many excellent battery-powered units for sale online are just as powerful as their handheld counterparts. And the benefit is that you are not limited in range by the extension cord. However, these cordless sanders are typically more expensive.

There is another consideration when it comes to sanding projects around the house. Check if the sander can sand flush with the edges of adjoining surfaces. This is ideal if you need to sand a hardwood floor up to the baseboards. 

Performance of the Sanders Motor

When buying a belt sanding tool, always consider how powerful the motor is. A powerful sander will help remove material from wood or metal without much effort. However, a less powerful motor may struggle with tough surfaces. The best belt sanders have at least a 6-amp motor and drums with an auto-tracking belt system to keep the belt tight. 

The performance of the motor also affects other areas. For example, you must consider noise levels. Cheaper models tend to have noisier motors that can become irritating when sanding for extended periods.

Speed of the Belt

Handheld Belt Sander Sanding Wood

One of the most important considerations is the sander’s belt speed. This specification ultimately determines how quickly you can work. The standard speed for most belt sanders is 1,500 feet per minute (FPM). However, many top-range belt sanders have variable speeds for more delicate and precise sanding. 

Size of the Belt Sander

Before buying a sanding tool, you’ll need to determine the size and width of the belt. Smaller models are easier to handle and allow for more precise sanding. However, larger models are suitable for larger sanding projects such as furniture making or sanding hardwood flooring or decks. 

Dust Collection

One of the most important considerations is the sander’s dust collection method. Sanding with a rotating abrasive belt creates huge amounts of sawdust. Besides being messy, the dust can contain potentially harmful particles that can affect your respiratory system, eyes, or skin. 

Suppose you are thinking of buying a stationary belt sander. In that case, you must ensure the dust extraction can be connected to a vacuum hose or the shop vacuum. For handheld models, ensure that the sander has a suitable dust collector with a dust bag attached and a suitable filtration system. 

According to the CDC, exposure to sawdust from a horizontal belt sander can cause “adverse health effects.” These include skin and eye irritation, allergies, breathing difficulties, asthma, and nasal cancer. 

Frequently Asked Questions-Best Belt Sander for Woodworking

What Is a Belt Sander Used for in Woodwork?

A belt sander is used for removing material from wood surfaces and shaping wooden work pieces. This versatile tool can take on tough sanding jobs and remove existing finishes of large work surfaces in no time at all. However, a bench-top sander can be useful for sanding, smoothing, and shaping smaller work-pieces. 

How Much Wood Can a Belt Sander Remove?

Belt sanders can remove a lot of wood depending on the grit size of the sandpaper. Typically, an 80- or 100-grit sanding belt is standard on most handheld sanders. However, check to see if the sander you plan on buying can take different sizes of grit belts. 

As a general rule, an 80-grit sanding belt will remove up to 0.125” (3 mm) on a single pass, whereas a 100-grit belt will remove around 0.015” to 0.03” (0.40 to 0.80 mm) on a single pass. 

What Are the Risks of a Belt Sander?

Like any power tool in the workshop, there is a risk of damaging your hands, fingers, arms, and face. Before switching the sander on, ensure you have safety goggles and a dust mask. Additionally, ensure you always have a firm grip on the sander to avoid it from slipping out of your hands. 

Stationary sanders also have severe risks due to the moving parts. Therefore, never work on a belt sander while wearing loose-fitting clothing. In addition, take precautions to avoid your hands or body coming into contact with the abrasive sanding belts. 

Safety experts say you should empty the dust collector when it is one-quarter full. The heat from the sander and sawdust is a potential fire and explosion risk. 

Can You Go Back and Forth With a Belt Sander?

Belt Sander being used by man to sand floor

You can move the sander back and forth along the direction of the grain to sand the wood surface. When sanding the surface, always ensure to keep the tool moving.

Otherwise, you risk creating uneven surfaces or scorch marks on the wood. Also, avoid using too much pressure. The sander’s weight should be enough to remove stock from a wood surface. 

Is a Belt Sander Easy to Use?

A belt sander is incredibly easy to use because it does not require a lot of skill or experience. It is much faster and more effective than sanding surfaces using a sanding block. However, you must maintain control over the speed because a belt sander is classed as an aggressive sanding method. 

Best Belt Sander for Woodworking — In Conclusion

A belt sander is a great workshop tool to quickly and effectively smooth and shape wooden work-pieces. It is ideal for small projects such as furniture making, cabinetmaking, and home improvements. It is extremely versatile and can handle the toughest sanding jobs. However, suppose you want more control when sanding small objects. In that case, a stationary belt sander is an ideal choice. It will give you a more precise sanding experience and is perfect for shaping delicate objects.