When it comes to DIY work, most people love to build and create with wood. Whether it’s making something small like a birdhouse or doing refurbishing on your home, woodworking is something that anyone can master with enough time and energy. One of the most important aspects of building with wood is sanding. Unless you want to have your finished piece be dangerous and full of splinters, it’s imperative that you sand it, so it smooths out and leaves everything feeling wonderful. Also, if you plan to paint or stain your wood then sanding is a must to ensure that you get a nice, clean coat.
As far as sanders go, though, which one is right for your needs? Unfortunately, no one sander can do everything you need for all projects, so instead, you will have to find different ones for particular uses. In this case, we are going to look at handheld belt sanders and what they can do as well as how to choose the right one for your project.
WEN 6321 7 Amp Heavy Duty Belt Sander
Black & Decker DS321 Dragster
Makita 9403 4" x 24" Belt Sander
Hitachi SB8V2 Speed Belt Sander
For the most part, there are three handheld sander models that you can use for woodworking. Belt sanders are ideal for tough jobs that need a lot of sanding. The reason for that is because the belts cover more surface area than a random orbit sander or a finishing sander so that you can finish larger pieces in less time.
Overall, the best way to use a belt sander is to smooth out flat surfaces, work on narrow pieces of wood, or remove old paint and varnish. Because the sander is heavy duty and can do a lot of work in a short amount of time you have to be careful not to stay in one place for too long, otherwise you’ll create a depression in the wood, and you could ruin the piece.
First on our list is a heavy-duty belt sander from Wen. Despite the title, this model is on the lower end of the spectrum as far as power and performance, meaning that it is useful for smaller projects where you don’t need to remove a ton of surface area. If you do light wood pieces and need a belt sander that won’t get away from you, this is an excellent choice.
The seven-amp motor allows the belt to spin at thirteen feet per second, or over eight hundred feet in a minute. The lightweight design of this model also allows you to work longer without getting cramped up or tired, which is another fantastic feature. Also, this unit comes with a trigger lock, meaning that you don’t have to hold down the trigger as you work. This also reduces fatigue, making this one of the most comfortable belt sanders you can find.
While most people think of Black + Decker for their kitchen, the fact is that the company also makes high-quality power tools. In this case, the Dragster Belt Sander is similar to the Wen above, but it comes with better handling and maneuvering. Overall, this model is ideal for precision sanding or use on narrow surfaces.
One of the best features of this model is the adjustable handlebar, which enables you to work as you like without getting too tired.
It also comes with an extended front roller to get up to edges and corners easier and tighter than the competition. Finally, weighing only 6.5 pounds, this sander is highly portable and versatile.
So far, we’ve seen sanders that work well in smaller settings or for projects that don’t need raw power. However, if you’re doing anything large like a front door or a home renovation project, this belt sander from Makita will be your best friend.
The super-sized motor has the belt spin at up to 1,640 feet per minute, which when combined with high-grit belts means that you can tear through almost anything in no time.
You can polish surfaces or remove paint and varnish in a fraction of the time it would take with a smaller unit, which is why we love this sander. That being said, if you only work on smaller projects, then this might be too much for you.
While the Makita above was built and designed for heavy-duty projects, this model from Porter-Cable is a fantastic go-between, enabling you to go from small to big pieces without having to switch machines. The reason for that is because this sander has a variable speed adjustment, which allows you to go from 1000 to 1,500 feet per minute, depending on your needs.
Overall, this is another high-quality model that can handle large and tough jobs like nothing else. If you need to sand a wide surface or remove a ton of paint, then this will help you finish in less time without cramping your hand or getting too tired. Best of all, it comes with a 100-grit belt to help you get started.
If you want something that is not quite as powerful as the Makita yet not as compact as the Black + Decker then we would highly recommend this belt sander from Hitachi. With a robust nine-amp motor this machine can go from 820 to 1,475 feet per minute, making it ideal for most jobs out there. Best of all, it comes with an extra soft handle grip to reduce fatigue and a trigger lock so that you don’t have to hold it down with your thumb while you work.
Overall, this is a fantastic sander for most woodworking jobs, and it will give you the performance you need every time. One of our favorite features of this model is the see-through tracking window that allows you to see how the belt is placed so you can keep it on track while you work.
After looking through these various belt sanders, we have to say that our top pick overall, would have to be the Makita Sander. The reason for this is that the construction and features are better than the competition, but because it is so powerful, you might need something a bit less robust for your next project. If that is the case, then we also recommend the Porter-Cable Sander because of its variable speed adjustment and durable construction. It’s not as maneuverable as the Makita, but it can do more jobs since you can slow down the belt speed if necessary.
If you’re not familiar with these kinds of machines, then let us go over the major components that you should be looking at when making your decision. Again, the purpose of a belt sander is to work on wood quickly and efficiently by sanding off all imperfections right away. Thus, your focus should be on getting a unit that can help you do that on your next project.
When looking at belt sanders, they usually come in four various sizes. They are classified by the length and width of the belt that they use, so the sizes are 3 x 18, 3 x 21, 3 x 24, and 4 x 24. Choose one that will work best on your piece without overpowering it. For example, if you are working with narrow pieces of wood then you don’t want a belt that is too wide as it can be unwieldy as you move. If you’re not sure how well you can handle the sander, we recommend starting with a smaller size and practicing before moving up to something larger.
Because the unit is handheld, you don’t want to get something that’s too heavy to handle. Hold the sander in one hand for thirty seconds and see how you feel. If it’s hard to hold after that amount of time it might be too big for you. Think about how long you’ll be sanding and then imagine having to move a heavy machine along the wood for hours on end. Instead, get something that is a bit lighter and easier to maneuver. If you do need something larger or more robust, make sure that it has two handles so you can hold it with both hands and reduce the amount of fatigue you get on each one.
One of the most important parts of any sander is the motor as it will enable you to work quickly and efficiently on your project. If the motor is too small or ineffective, then you will have to work extra hard to cover the same area. Instead, get something that’s a little beefier (without adding too much weight) so that you don't have to go over the same surfaces repeatedly to get the level of sanding you need.
Another thing to consider about the motor is how many amps it uses. You don’t want to blow a fuse every time you use the sander, so make sure that it doesn’t draw too much power from your outlet. Most models will tell you how many amps it needs as well as the voltage required to run it.
Usually, belt sanders will have a single speed of operation while working. However, some models allow you to adjust the speed as needed, depending on the type of wood you’re using and the results you want to achieve. Variable sanders are great because they enable you to work on a wider range of projects without having to worry about whether or not you’ll be taking too much off because the machine is going too fast.
Also, make sure that your sander has a soft start setting. This means that it doesn’t go at full speed when you turn it on, but rather warms up until it gets to the highest RPMs so that you don’t risk hurting yourself or damaging the wood because it was moving too fast before you were ready. This feature is especially useful if you’re still inexperienced with belt sanders.
If you’ve ever used a power sander before, then you know how much of a mess it can make. To help mitigate this problem, you will want to get a model that has a dust bag already installed on it. This way you can significantly reduce the amount of dust and debris that is launched into the air, and you can collect it quickly and easily. Not all belt sanders have dust bags, but you will want to get a model that does unless you like cleaning up afterward.
I believe there is a handyman in all of us as long as you have the right tools. I started this blog to help anyone who is interested in fixing things to learn their way around the different tools and to know how to perform different DIY tasks. I have been doing this for years and believe I am a master of this art.