Best 5 Belt Sander Tools Review

Written by Stephen

On September 29, 2021
Best 5 Belt Sander Tools Review

Our woodworking tool reviews offer the kind of insight only a professional craftsman can give. These reviews and reports on popular brand-name woodworking tools provide our visitors with the knowledge they need to make smart tool-buying decisions.

Belt sanders have the power to remove stock very quickly and aggressively, which is why we use them. But that power can also be dangerous in the wrong hands; if the operator allows the tool to tilt to the side, by even just a few degrees, the edge of the belt will quickly chew a deep trench in the work. Manufacturers try to design belt sanders that offer maximum stability and control at the right price.

Platen Size

The flat area on the bottom of the sander is called the platen. It’s set a little lower than the rollers, so no part of the sanding belt except the part running across the platen actually touches the work. The width of the platen will either match the width of the sanding belt or be from a 1/2 inch to an inch wider. When the platen is the same width as the belt it runs, you can easily see exactly where the edge of the belt is. This can help you avoid accidentally sanding across the grain of adjacent surfaces. When the platen is wider than the belt, the edge of the belt is hidden under the overhang, and it’s more difficult to sand accurately up to a line. However, the overhang acts as a kind of outrigger, preventing the edge of the belt from digging in excessively if the tool tips to the side. It’s a trade off, and I generally prefer models that let me clearly see what the edge of the belt is doing.

Tracking

All belt sanders have a small knob or wing nut near the front roller to adjust the tracking. Twisting this knob changes the position of the belt on both rollers and also changes the place where the belt crosses the platen. Turning the tracking adjustment knob actually moves the front roller’s axle in the horizontal plane. It’s the front roller that defines the belt’s position on the sander. The back roller, which provides the power, simply spins whatever portion of the belt it is in contact with. The reason the belt will stay put on a particular setting is that the front roller isn’t quite a perfect cylinder. The diameter at the center is about two-thousandths of an inch larger than the diameter at the edges. This crowned section creates counterbalancing tensions in the spinning belt that keep it from wandering off track.

Adjusting the tracking is fairly straightforward–you just flip the sander on its back, pull the trigger, and turn the knob until the belt runs where you want it. However, the relationship between belt position and knob position isn’t a permanent one. For example, if you twist the tracking knob in one direction, wait for the belt to settle into a new position, then twist the knob back to where you started, the belt probably won’t end up in exactly the same place. This is due to the balancing act of the crown on the front roller. It also explains why you need to adjust the tracking each time you install a new belt, and sometimes need to readjust it as a belt wears. The most important part of setting the tracking on a belt sander is to make sure that the belt isn’t rubbing on the housing of the sander. This will shred a belt very quickly and damage the tool if it happens often enough. Another point is to keep the belt generally centered under the tool. Belt sanders are designed to put the center of gravity over the center of the platen, so it’s best to keep the belt positioned there. If you have the tracking adjusted to run the belt way off to one side of the platen, you’ll have trouble keeping the tool from tipping.

Variable Speed

If you’re going to use a belt sander solely for smoothing glued-up wood panels and other shop tasks, you’ll probably be fine with a model without variable speed. You can probably even do some fine finish work if you’ve got a light touch and a cautious nature. For most other applications – such as stripping paint, sanding metal, and sanding plastic–it helps if you can control the speed. Belt sander speeds are described in fpm (feet per minute) or sfpm (surface feet per minute). The two terms mean exactly the same thing: how many feet of sanding belt spin past the platen in a minute.

Noise

Belt sanders are among the most ear-damaging power tools you’ll find in a shop or on a job site. Other tools are equally loud, such as circular saws and chop saws, but hearing damage from using belt sanders can be worse because you work with them for longer stretches of time. The industry standard is that repeated or prolonged exposure to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing loss. Most belt sanders run at between 90 dB and 95 dB.

Belt Sander Reviews and BEST BUY Recommendations

1. Hitachi SB75 3″ x 21″ Belt Sander

One of the heavier 3-by-21s, the Hitachi SB75 has the feel of a bigger tool. The platen is the same as that used on Hitachi’s 4-by-24 model; the 3-inch-wide belt runs in the middle of the plate, so you lose a little clearance to the side. Tracking adjustment is excellent and crisp, and it stays put well. Spring-loaded belt-changing lever is a bear to operate. Dust pickup is a little worse than average. Transverse design is top-heavy, but the machine still performed well when shooting edges. The SB75 has a permanent front handle. The tool has lots of power and two speeds: high and low. Front roller free woodworking projects beyond body and front handle. Chattering is about average, but more pronounced when operating with one hand.

  • Belt Size: 3 by 21 inches
  • Amps: 8.7
  • Speed: 1,180 to 1,475 feet per minute
  • Platen Size: 4 by 4-3/8 inches
  • Decibels: 95
  • Cord Length: 8 feet, 2 inches
  • Weight: 10 pounds, 12 ounces

 

2. Porter-Cable 352VS 3″ x 21″ Belt Sander with Dust Bag

Porter-Cable’s 3-by-21 sander has a transverse motor position and is well balanced. The weight of the motor is directly over the platen, which makes for very stable sanding. Even when being operated with just one hand, there is almost no chatter. It performed well when shooting edges; adjusting variable speed is definitely a two-hand operation. Front handle can be removed. Front roller projects beyond body but not beyond front handle. Dust collection is excellent. The 352VS has a 3-inch-wide platen.

  • Belt Size: 3 by 21 inches
  • Amps: 7
  • Speed: 850 to 1,300 feet per minute
  • Platen Size: 5 by 3 inches
  • Decibels: 94
  • Cord Length: 7 feet
  • Weight: 12 pounds, 10 ounces

3. Makita 9924DB 3″ x 24″ Belt Sander

This sander is very well balanced and easy to control. The narrow front end and overall low profile make it easy for the user to determine where the belt is. The front roller extends out beyond the housing, where it can be seen easily. The front handle is permanent and well placed. Tracking adjustments are good and seem to stay put well. The 9924DB is very stable in use and the belt-tensioning lever is easy to operate. Like the other Makita belt sanders, the 9924DB has good dust collection and a nice, long cord. The single speed might be a drawback for some delicate work.

  • Belt Size: 3 by 24 inches
  • Amps: 7.8
  • Speed: 1,300 feet per minute
  • Platen Size: 6 by 3-7/8 inches
  • Decibels: 90
  • Cord Length: 16 feet
  • Weight: 10 pounds, 5 ounces

 

4. Porter-Cable 360VS 3″ x 24″ Variable Speed Sander

Porter-Cable’s midsize sander has a solid, industrial feel to it. The big motor is well positioned over the platen, making the tool very stable in use. The speed adjustment dial is right next to the trigger so that it’s easy to change speeds with your right thumb, if you use a right-handed grip. The belt responds slowly to the tracking knob, but holds its position well once in place. The platen is 3 inches wide, and the edge is easy to see when you lean over the tool. The front belt roller extends beyond the housing, although when the front handle is in position, the handle extends beyond the roller and will stop the belt from nosing into nearby objects. There is almost no chatter when this belt sander is operating, possibly because of the relatively high weight. Dust bag is well positioned out of the way and picks up dust well. This stable tool was excellent at shooting edges. Great tool that feels like it will last forever.

  • Belt Size: 3 by 24 inches
  • Amps: 12
  • Speed: 1,000 to 1,500 feet per minute
  • Platen Size: 5 by 3 inches
  • Decibels: 86
  • Cord Length: 10 feet
  • Weight: 14 pounds, 8 ounces

 

5. Bosch 1276DVS 4″ x 24″ Dustless Variable Speed Belt Sander

Bosch’s big belt sander is a terrific tool. The 4-inch-wide bearing surface makes for a stable, smooth ride. The body, motor, and features are identical to those of Bosch’s 3-by-24 model. The 1276DVS has an excellent adjustable front handle, lots of power, and decent dust collection. Tracking adjustments are crisp and solid. The variable-speed dial is easy to reach and adjust.

  • Belt Size: 4 by 24 inches
  • Amps: 10.5
  • Speed: 1,150 to 1,550 feet per minute
  • Platen Size: 6 by 4 inches
  • Decibels: 90
  • Cord Length: 10 feet
  • Weight: 13 pounds, 12 ounces

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