Belt Sanders Get Better
The newest models offer improvements in comfort, convenience, and control.
Synopsis: When it comes to removing wood quickly, few tools can match the power of a belt sander. Finish carpenter Michael Standish takes a look at the current crop of belt sanders in this tool review. Michael assesses the basic makeup of a 3-in. by 21-in. belt sander, then compares eight models now available. This article includes a chart for quick comparisons in a variety of categories, including price, weight, noise level, and accessories, along with Michael’s testing results. The article also includes a sidebar about the potentially explosive hazard of sanding different metals with the same sanding belt.
A few days after I told a friend that I’d be writing an article about belt sanders, he emailed me this message: “BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing projects.”
There’s no disputing that few tools can remove wood as quickly as a belt sander. It’s also true that a moment of inattention while sanding can result in disaster. These days, variable speed control is standard on many belt sanders, including the ones in this review. This feature reduces the chances of turning a workpiece into scrap.
I take advantage of variable speed control every time I level a table, a countertop, or any other glued-up assembly. With a fine-grit belt and lower motor speed, I can even sand veneer plywood without white-knuckle dread.
My belt sander, like those in this review, is a 3-in. by 21-in. model. While portable belt sanders are available in a wide array of sizes, I wouldn’t enjoy scribing a piece of trim with a 15-lb., 4-in.-wide model any more than I’d like to sand a 2-ft. by 6-ft. tabletop with a belt sander only 3⁄8 in. wide. The versatility of the 3-by-21…