The Beginner’s Guide To Belt Sanders

The Beginner’s Guide To Belt Sanders

There’s no denying that America has always had a fascination with power tools, and there’s nothing more satisfying than getting to work around the house with the strength of one of the devices by your side.

The belt sander, in particular, is one of the most popular for use around the home and in professional settings, thanks to the sheer power they offer and how much time and energy they can save us from exerting.

From the 13th century when it was discovered that sand could be used as a way to smooth out materials, the belt sander progressed from something electrical and large to the smaller and portable models we know today. It’s now common to find most homes and garden sheds with a belt sander of their own thanks to the range of jobs they can achieve.

Although the term belt sander can be quite a broad one to cover any device that has a fast moving sanding belt that removes finishes and levels out materials, there are a few types that are certainly more popular than the rest.

Before you can get the best use out of your belt sander, though, you should understand the different features and what they work with to ensure your power tool is operating as efficiently as possible.

The Advantages Of Owning A Belt Sander

If you’ve been tossing up whether or not a belt sander is a worthwhile power tool to add to your collection, it’s best to understand the advantages of owning one. When you have a quality belt sander at your disposal, you’ll be able to benefit from:

Fast Action

When compared to sanding by hand, a belt sander can get the job done in minutes rather than hours. Purchasing one of the cheaper varieties can save you thousands of dollars from hiring a professional for a job you could do alone.

Belt Sanders

Removal Of Unwanted Surfaces

The best advantage of owning your own sander means you can quickly remove unwanted surfaces such as tarnishes, paint, stains, and even uneven surfaces.

Ease Of Use

As one of the easiest and safest power tools to use, it doesn’t take much to become an expert at operating a belt sander. Providing you use a light touch and patience, you can do just as good of a job as a professional.


There’s plenty you can achieve with a sander making them a wise investment for your tool shed. You’re able to restore furniture, smooth corners, remove burrs, and remove stains, just to name a few.

How To Use A Belt Sander

Although every belt sander will have their own guidelines for how to safely and effectively operate, there are some general steps to follow when sanding down a surface with a portable or handheld device.

1. Ensure all safety precautions have been taken, you are wearing your safety gear, and no clothing is anywhere near where you intend to use the belt sander.

2. Turn your sander on and give it time to get up to full speed before you try to use it.

Belt Sander Full Speed Grind

3. Keep on hand on the trigger handle and use the other to guide the sander, slowly and carefully placing it down on the surface you wish to sand. Use a slight forward motion and allow the rear roller to make contact with the wood first, and have a tight grip so it doesn’t slip out from under you.

4. Work the sander in the same direction as the grain of the wood and keep it moving. These can work very quickly so you need to be prepared for the continual movement.

Move with the grain

5. Every now and then stop to check your progress, as it’s always best to work in small increments. Apply light pressure as this is all most sanders will require, and if you need to you can go back over to do another layer.

Sanding is a job that shouldn’t be done quickly and aggressively, as it’s better to start slow and remove a fine layer at a time than find you’ve gone too deep and ruined your surface. Because every sander operates differently and so too does the paper, you should never assume you know how it will operate.

The Different Types Of Belt Sanders

When discussing belt sanders, there are two main categories we can divide them into. Usually, each of these will depend on the user and whether they’re being operated at home or commercially, however, there are some exceptions to the rule.

A stationary belt sander is one that stays still and the items are presented to them for standing. These are a table top style sander that is fed the material and they’re usually found in larger commercial settings. These are best for sanding down things such as a table and if mounted onto a workbench they are then referred to as a bench sander.

The handheld belt sander is more of a portable device, and these are great for use at home or in smaller scale professional settings. They run over the material being sanded and they’re best used for sanding floors or furniture. Because they can be moved around they’re far more flexible, and within the handheld belt sander category there are countless other specifications which make them ideal for a variety of jobs.

The Belt Vs Orbital Sander Debate

Depending on the type of work you’ll be using your sander for, there are two main styles. People either commonly have a belt sander or an orbital sander, with the belt style being more popular due to the larger surface it can tackle.

Belt vs Orbital thats the question

An orbital sander is usually preferred by woodworkers and those who are going into very tight spots. These features a round sanding surface that’s covered with paper, and it moves in an orbital and rotary motion, hence the name. When you use both of these motions together, there’s less chance you’ll have a swirl pattern on your finish so it’s best for the jobs that require a fine and delicate finish.

The belt sander is the more common tool for a home handyman, thanks to the bigger surface area and a wider range of possibilities. These are best for quick and strong removal of materials, and it features a continuous belt with moving sandpaper that goes around quickly as it strips away underneath. This belt rides in between two pullies and comes in various sizes which give the user more surface area to work with.

What Materials Work Best With A Belt Sander

When you hear about belt sanders you generally assume they’re just for stripping back wood and giving a smooth finish, however, there’s a little more to them than that. With one good belt sander in your arsenal, you’ll be able to work on a variety of surfaces around the home provided you’ve chosen one that suits your material of choice.

Bare Wood

Belt sanders are the ideal tool for stripping back and smoothing out bare wood, as this material responds a lot better to the softer surface. Belt sanders are ideal especially for wooden floor boards, but they can also work with stocks of wood to carve furniture or woodwork on smaller items.

Belt Sander Surface - Wood

Painted Surfaces

If you want to strip back paint around the home your belt sander is the perfect tool to get the job done. Depending on the thickness and type of paint, there are varying degrees of grit that will help you achieve the best finish. Once you’ve sanded it back, your material will be ready for a new coat of paint or finish, whichever you prefer.


Belt sanders are ideal for stripping finishes off metal and helping to smooth them out, however, you need to be cautious that you choose the right sandpaper. The grit required for metal differs greatly to wood, and you can do serious damage to your project without the right selection. Also, be aware that sanding back metal will cause sparks, so you may need extra safety gear for protection.

Belt Sander Surface - Metal

In addition to the different materials that your sander will work with, there are many other specifications and features to consider. Having an understanding of the popular terminology used to promote power tools means you’ll walk away with the best device for your home maintenance and personal hobby needs.

Belt Sander Specifications To Consider

These are just a few specifications to look for when purchasing your belt sander, and what the slight variations in each of the features can mean for the end result of your sanding project. This is why it’s best to know before purchasing what the main quantity of your sanding work will be.


Most belts are rectangular in shape, and they all come in different sizes which are usually indicated by a square inch perimeter. On the belt is sand or other coarse material, and you can purchase varying degrees of coarseness for your paper which will have different effects on the finished product.

Belt Sanders Belt Review

Variable speed

The most basic sander won’t have an adjustable speed, and this is usually fine for large jobs that require fast and aggressive sanding.

A variable speed sander gives greater control, however, and allows for a smoother finish and finer work detail.


The motor of a belt sander will indicate how much power it has, and most home handheld models will start from around 6Amp. When you start looking at commercial grade sanders they begin from about 11Amp.


Sanders are either portable or stationary, with most domestic models being the portable and handheld type. The most common type is a belt sander which operates on one big continuous belt, but you can also get oscillating and orbit sanders as well.

Dust Collection

Most belt sanders will have some option for collecting the dust that is created when you sand, so it really depends on the individual and what you prefer. Some sanders have their own dust bag attached and others will allow you to connect a vacuum cleaner for easier removal.

Makita Dust Collection

You should always use a dust mask as an added precaution for when the dust collector can’t get the very fine particles.

Popular Manufacturers Of Belt Sanders

If you’ve started doing the rounds and looking for the best belt sander to purchase, there are likely a few names that keep appearing. Although there are hundreds of manufacturers of belt sanders, these are the best of the lot who offer the most in terms of quality, innovative, and power.

  • DeWalt – this American brand is one most trusted names in power tools in this country, and every product they make is known to be powerful. Most of the Dewalt power sander range can be used for both commercial and home use thanks to this power, and although they’re usually a little more expensive you certainly get what you paid for.
  • Porter Cable – known as the first company to invest the portable belt sander, it’s no surprise that Porter Cable has a whole range that can make home and commercial users happy. Porter Cable belt sanders are known for being innovative with special features that the others don’t have, and they have a solid reputation for making only the highest quality tools.

Black And Decker

There aren’t many homes in America that don’t have a Black and Decker product somewhere in their garden shed, and the Black and Decker belt sander range are ideal for the home user. Whether you want something quiet, something powerful, or something versatile, there’s a belt sander within their range that can satisfy.

Black and Decker Review


Another brand synonymous for power tools in America is Makita, and their range is great for commercial and domestic use alike. The Makita belt sander products start from very compact and affordable and go all the way up to more powerful professional grade devices, and they offer only the highest quality tools.


As America’s best-selling tool brand, you won’t be surprised to know that the Craftsman belt sander range is extremely popular. They strive to be innovative in the features offered on their power tools and are always looking for ways to make the work easier on the user thanks to their versatile range.


This Japanese brand specializes in affordable power tools, and the Ryobi belt sanders are no exception. You can trust the Ryobi name to deliver something powerful, lightweight, and easy for the home user to operate, all the while never breaking the bank just to get it.

Ryobi Sanders and Tools

You might be tempted to even consider making a homemade belt sander if none of these stand out, but you have to be extremely mechanically minded to make this work. For best results, put your faith into one of the experts and save yourself time and money on repairs when you’re covered by manufacturer’s warranties as well.

Safety Features And Safe Operation

According to the National Institute of Health, they certainly aren’t the most dangerous power tools, but you still need a lot of skill and care to operate a belt sander safely. For this reason, there are some belt sander safety tips that you should always follow.

Wear Safety Gear

This is a no-brainer when operating any power tool, so it’s important when using your belt sander. These can be loud so you need ear protection, and keep your eyes shielded with safety goggles too.

Safety gear for sanding

Protect Yourself From Dust

Even if your belt sander has a dust collection port attached, you still need to ensure you’re not breathing in the finer particles that this can’t get to. A simple fabric face mask is the easiest way to do this.

Understand Your Materials

Although most belt sanders work on wood, you need to be cautious if using it on metal as well. Because sanding metal can create sparks, these can mix with wood scraps and dust in your collection bag and cause a fire. Always change bags or clean them out thoroughly before sanding metal.

Unplug Before Changing Belts

Never attempted to change belts or alter settings on your belt sander without first turning off the device at the wall and unplug it completely. Even if you think it’s been turned off, there can still be the potential for a shock if you leave it plugged into the socket.

Unpluging Outlet

Use A Stop

Where possible, you should use some scrap wood as a stop between yourself and the sander for an extra level of protection. Although this won’t work with all materials and surfaces, it’s a good safety precaution to take where you can.

Know Your Limits

You might want to work all day and as fast as you can to get the job done, but it can be dangerous operating a power tool such as this when you’re feeling fatigued. If the sander is too heavy to keep control of or you’re feeling fatigued in the arms then take a break and regain some energy before continuing.

With a bit of precaution and a lot of safety measures taken, you can ensure responsible use of your power tool. In addition, keeping your belt sander cleaner and better functioning means you’ll get a more efficient machine.

Belt Sander Cleaner Tips

Cleaning a Belt Sander Tips

Taking the time to regularly clean and provide maintenance to your belt sanders and other devices is an important part of power tool ownership.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, most injuries from power tools are due to the equipment not being properly cared for and maintained, so it’s not only essential for the device but for your own safety too.

Because these abrasive belts can become clogged up quite easily when used, you might think you need to throw the paper away and start again with a new one every time.

However, you can easily clean the surface with a belt cleaning stick to get it brand new again. When the belt is worn, change it following the manufacturer’s guidelines and always ensure the device is unplugged.

Give a regular vacuum to your belt sander and all parts to ensure small particles also don’t get clogged up anywhere else.

Always check the rollers of your belt sander and perform an alignment before you use it so that the belt doesn’t slip off. The tracking of the belt can usually be adjusted with a dedicated knob, however, some sanders have automatic tracking functions. The platen should also be checked for wear, and this is the small bit of metal in between that sits between the shoe and the belt which helps absorb shock.

A Must Have Power Tool

Belt sanders are some of the most versatile power tools available, and ones that can cover an exceptional amount of ground in little time. When you sand back something with a quality device, you’ll find instant satisfaction with just how much work you’re able to achieve and with minimal energy exerted on your part.

Belt Sander Versatility

Sanding can be an absolute treat when you’re working with the right product, and thankfully there are some great brands out there that offer the exact fit to your needs. Once you know what type of projects you’re wanting to work on, you can easily narrow down the best belt sander to make those jobs a breeze.

When you’re ready to invest in a multi-purpose tool that can help restore furniture back to life, give you smooth and clean floorboards, and level out any uneven surfaces around the home, you can put your trust in the belt sander. With some amazing models now available for purchase, all you need to do is find one that suits your work and you can put it to work straight away around the home.

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