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Basically, a belt sander consists of two spinning drums rotating a loop of sandpaper at a high speed. While a belt sander isn’t a tool needed by most casual DIYers, it’s a must-have for those involved in big projects that involve a lot of sanding, such as refinishing floors, sanding down cabinets or doors, or removing paint. Belt sanders aren’t for jobs that require finesse; for those types of jobs, a random orbital sander is the better choice. But if you want to sand a large, flat area quickly and easily, you’ll appreciate the power of a belt sander.
While professional carpentry and metalworking shops usually have large, stationary belt sanders that remain in place on a benchtop, portable belt sanders that go wherever you need them are the far more popular choice for DIYers. You'll also find smaller "detail" belt sanders, which have an elongated shape that's well suited to reaching into tight spaces or carrying out detailed sanding tasks.
When it comes to speed, the majority of belt sanders have just one, but you'll also find options with a high and low setting, as well as higher-end tools with variable speed settings.
Here, the best belt sanders for your next DIY project.
Best Overall: Makita 9403 4-Inch x 24-Inch Belt Sander
Type: Portable | Power: 11 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 1,640 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 4 inch by 24 inch
Large front grip
For a tool that delivers professional quality sanding at a price tag that won't break your budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better entry in the belt sander game than the Makita 9403. It's powerful enough to be described as a “beast,” though it keeps its roar down, boasting the title of quietest belt sander in its class with noise levels limited to 84 dB.
Equipped with a 4 x 24-inch belt that zips by at a speed of 1,640 feet per minute, the 9403 is a master of wood removal, easily stripping layers of wood from a variety of surfaces including floors, tabletops, and more.
One of the few downsides of this professional-grade unit is its weight, which clocks in at a whopping 15.8 pounds. As such, it’s unlikely you’ll get much overhead or vertical work out of the 9403, but it's perfect for making quick work of horizontal sanding tasks.
Best Budget: WEN 6321 3-Inch x 21-Inch Belt Sander
Type: Portable | Power: 7 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 820 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 21 inch
Compact and light in weight
Easy to maneuver in tight spaces
Not the best dust collection system
The everyday DIYer on a budget knows there’s nothing wrong with opting for a more affordable—and less feature-heavy—alternative to the higher-end belt sanders on the market. The WEN 6321 Corded Belt Sander with Dust Bag is one such unit, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on performance. Host to a 7-amp motor that rotates its 3-inch by 21-inch belt over 13 feet per second, the WEN 6321 matches the quality of a higher-end model at a fraction of competitors’ prices.
No matter the project, this belt sander gets the job done — so don’t judge it by its lightweight frame (weighing in at just over 6 pounds). A plethora of convenient features, like easy belt replacement and adjustment with the flip of a lever or the twist of a knob, alongside a removable dust bag that makes cleanup a breeze, round off this top-notch, wallet-friendly unit. For the homeowner who dabbles in all things handy, the WEN 6321 Belt Sander is a must.
Best For Auto Repair: Astro Pneumatic Tool 3037 1/2-Inch by 18-Inch Belt Sander
Type: Detail | Power: 0.5 horsepower | Power Source: Air | Top Speed: 16,000 rpm | Belt Size: ½ inch by 18 inch
Excellent for detail work or tight spots
Requires separate air compressor
Auto repair belt sanders are specifically designed for use in automotive work, boasting lightweight frames for handheld, vertical use. If you spend much time working with metal, the Astro 3037 Air Belt Sander takes the cake when it comes to delivering handheld performance at a reasonable price.
Note that unlike the majority of belt sanders, this tool is an air-powered pneumatic device, requiring an air compressor that delivers at least 4 cubic feet per minute of air at 90 psi.
Perfect for sanding down hard-to-reach spot welds or finishing exhaust pipes, the Astro 3037 offers unparalleled control, an easy-to-adjust lever so you get the right angle every time, a ½-inch belt groove, and variable speed control — with rpm reaching 16,000 for optimum grinding.
While it’s perfect for working on your favorite vehicles, the Astro 3037 is an exceptional addition to every amateur’s — and professional’s —toolshed. You can use it for all sorts of sanding work, from wrought iron railings to tackling fiberglass repair jobs.
Be aware, however—the Astro 3037 doesn’t have a dust bag, which means it may kick up metal fragments, so you'll need proper protective gear.
Best For Home Use: BLACK+DECKER DS321 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander
Type: Portable | Power: 7 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 800 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 21 inch
Easy to maneuver in tight spaces
Not for heavy-duty projects
While most home jobs don’t require professional-grade tools, that doesn’t mean you’re never going to run into a problem that can only be solved with a belt sander. And while hiring a professional is usually the best course of action—depending on the project, of course—amateur home improvement aficionados would be hard-pressed to find a more worthy purchase than the BLACK+DECKER DS321 Corded Belt Sander.
This handy belt sander, weighing in at a mere 6.5 pounds, is host to a truly innovative feature: a front roller that allows you to reach extremely tight corners while helping users maintain a flush sanding. In other words: with BLACK+DECKER, you’ll be doing less work for the same high-quality results. And an adjustable handle means you can approach every job from any angle you prefer, providing a ton of extra control.
Best Detail Sander: WEN 6307 Variable Speed Detailing File Sander
Type: Detail | Power: 2 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 1,800 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 1/2 inch by 18 inch
Perfect for detailed work or tight spaces
Not for big jobs
Depending on the home improvement job, a corded detailing sander is a far more safe and practical tool than a full-sized apparatus. Sure, you could use a traditional belt sander for detail sanding, but they’re typically pretty bulky and cumbersome, whereas the WEN 6307 Variable Speed Detailing File Sander is specially designed to take on smaller projects— or jobs that only require sanding specific sections of a larger surface.
While much shorter and more slender than a standard belt sander at ½ x 18-inches, the WEN 6307 doesn’t sacrifice performance for size and shape—it rotates 1,080-1,800 feet per minute, and it boasts an adjustable handle that pivots 55 degrees to ensure that its users have full control in order to tackle difficult, hard-to-reach areas, such as the tops of doors or cabinets.
Best Cordless: RIDGID 18-Volt GEN5X Cordless Belt Sander
Type: Portable | Power: 18 volts | Power Source: Battery | Top Speed: 935 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 18 inch
Light in weight and fairly compact size
Does not include battery or charger
The verdict is in on the RIDGID GEN5X Brushless Cordless Belt Sander: it’s a versatile, user-friendly sander with performance that rivals higher-end models and enough power to put corded competitors to shame. It spins a 3-inch by 18-inch belt, and at only a little over 6 pounds, is lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spaces.
The GEN5X boasts a brushless motor, which, in laymen’s terms, means a smarter tool thanks to improved resistance detection, a heightened motor life, longer run-time, and generally less friction and voltage drops — in other words, performance stays steady, without annoying surges of power.
You'll be surprised at how long this cordless, battery-powered belt sander lasts after just a single charge. But it’s worth noting that this power tool doesn’t come with a battery or charger — so be sure to pick up the appropriate RIDGID 18-volt battery before you take the plunge and purchase this portable powerhouse.
Best Mini: Dominty Mini Belt Sander
Type: Benchtop | Power: 110 volts | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 9,000 rpm | Belt Size: 1/3 inch by 13 inch
Perfect for sharpening blades and doing crafts
Not for heavy-duty tasks
If you’re looking for a belt sander mostly to sharpen tools or do detailed work on small items, you won’t need a full-size tool that’s designed for heavier tasks. Instead, you’ll find that a mini belt sander, like the one from Dominty, is more than sufficient for keeping your knives, gardening tools, and other bladed tools sharp, smoothing edges off small pieces of wood or plastic, crafting, and general handiwork around the house and yard.
This tool proves that big performance comes in small packages. The 13-inch x 1/3-inch belt rotates at variable speeds of 4,500 to 9,000 rpm. While the motor admittedly isn’t the most powerful, still, the tool makes up for that with its versatility. You'll appreciate this sander’s ability to shave down wood, plastic, and even aluminum sheets with ease.
The mini belt sander comes with 10 belts of varying grits.
Rough surfaces don’t stand a chance against the rugged strength of our top belt sander, the Makita 9403 (view at Amazon). This beast of a sander boasts professional quality, yet a remarkably quiet sound level for its size and power. If budget is a concern, however, you’ll find that the WEN 6321 Corded Belt Sander (view at Home Depot), while admittedly not as powerful or quiet as our top choice, still gets the job done satisfactorily and has a very reasonable price.
What to Look for in a Belt Sander
There are two basic types of belt sanders: larger, stationary models that sit on a benchtop and more compact, handheld models that go wherever you need them.
Stationary belt sanders are a must-have in carpentry or metalworking shops for grinding, sanding, or shaping metal, wood, cabinetry, or furniture into shape. The typical stationary belt sander takes a 4-inch-wide by 36-inch-long belt, but there are heavy-duty tools that run a 6-inch by 48-inch belt, as well as machines designed for more delicate work that use a 1-inch by 30-inch belt.
Portable belt sanders are by far the most popular choice for home use and DIY projects. Perfect for light to mid-weight sanding, polishing, or shaping tasks, these tools are useful for a wide variety of common DIY jobs, including sanding away paint, glue, or other finishes, getting cabinetry or furniture ready for refinishing, sharpening tools, wearing down the edges of doors or windows that stick due to swelling, or sanding metal surfaces.
There are a few different sizes when it comes to portable belt sanders’ belts: 3 inches by 21 inches, 3 inches by 18 inches, and 4 inches by 24 inches are all common for DIY and other household use. You’ll also find small belt sanders for detailed or hard-to-reach tasks; these often use a ½-inch by 18-inch belt.
All stationary belt sanders run off AC current, but you’ll find both corded and cordless portable belt sanders, although corded is the most common type. As with most power tools, you’ll get the most power from a corded tool, but the tradeoff is less versatility, as you are tethered to the power cord. Cordless belt sanders typically use 18-volt lithium-ion batteries, although some hardier models use 20 volts instead.
Most handheld belt sanders’ motors run between 6 and 12 amps of power; if you only need the tool for lightweight and occasional sanding jobs, the lower end of that range is sufficient, but if you plan on tackling larger projects, you’ll be happier with a belt sander that runs towards the top of that range.
The speed at which a belt sander rotates its belt is usually measured in feet per minute (fpm), although some manufacturers stick with rotations per minute (rpm). Many of these tools have just one set speed, which is generally around 1,500 fpm. Others have a high and low speed setting; often that’s around 500 fpm on low and 1,500 on high. There are also higher-end belt sanders with variable-speed control so you can fine-tune the speed to just where you need it.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of belt sanders, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer feedback.