A belt sander is a must-have for big woodworking projects involving a lot of sanding, such as refinishing floors, sanding down cabinets or doors, or removing paint. Says Carl Lewis, qualified joiner and owner of DIY website thediyfix.com, “Belt sanders are great for big sanding jobs where you are working in line with the grain, such as sanding an entire floor. If you are sanding a surface where the wood grain runs in multiple directions, however, you may be better off using a random orbital sander.”
We researched the most popular belt sanders available, evaluating ease of use, versatility, reliability, and overall performance. Our favorite belt sander is the Makita 9403, which is powerful enough to tackle even tough sanding jobs quickly and quietly.
Here are the best belt sanders for your next DIY project.
Makita 9403 4-Inch x 24-Inch Belt Sander
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. Its designed to keep dust and debris out of the motor, thus extending the life of the tool; a big plus if you expect to use it often. The external dust bag swivels all the way around, so you can easily keep it out of your way while you work.
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. And when working in tight quarters, or sanding into corners, you'll appreciate its slightly snub-nosed design that lets you sand right up to the edge of the wall or corner. Plus, it has a large front grip that makes it easy to control the tool while you work, and helps to reduce fatigue to your hand and arm.
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 on floors, furniture, decks, and more.
Price at time of publish: $250
Type: Portable | Power: 11 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 1,640 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 4 inch by 24 inch
WEN 6321 3-Inch x 21-Inch Belt Sander
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.
Price at time of publish: $41
Type: Portable | Power: 7 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 820 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 21 inch
Best For Auto Repair
Astro Pneumatic Tool 3037 1/2-Inch by 18-Inch Belt Sander
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, however, 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.
Price at time of publish: $93
Type: Detail | Power: 0.5 horsepower | Power Source: Air | Top Speed: 16,000 rpm | Belt Size: ½ inch by 18 inch
Best For Home Use
BLACK+DECKER DS321 3-Inch by 21-Inch Belt Sander
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.
Price at time of publish: $51
Type: Portable | Power: 7 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 800 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 21 inch
Best Detail Sander
WEN 6307 Variable Speed Detailing File Sander
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.
Price at time of publish: $37
Type: Detail | Power: 2 amps | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 1,800 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 1/2 inch by 18 inch
RIDGID 18-Volt GEN5X Cordless Belt Sander
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.
Price at time of publish: $145
Type: Portable | Power: 18 volts | Power Source: Battery | Top Speed: 935 feet-per-minute | Belt Size: 3 inch by 18 inch
Dominty Mini Belt Sander
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.
Price at time of publish: $44
Type: Benchtop | Power: 110 volts | Power Source: Corded | Top Speed: 9,000 rpm | Belt Size: 1/3 inch by 13 inch
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. 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 precise 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. Belt sanders are 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, and sanding metal surfaces.
There are a few different belt sizes to consider: 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 1/2-inch by 18-inch belt.
All stationary belt sanders run off AC current, but you’ll find both corded and cordless portable belt sanders, though 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 mobility, as you are tethered to the power cord. Cordless belt sanders typically use 18-volt lithium-ion batteries, although some hardier models use 20-volt batteries 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 the sanding 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 of about 500 fpm on low and 1,500 on high. There are also higher-end belt sanders with variable-speed controls so you can fine-tune the speed to just where you need it.
What is a belt sander?
A belt sander is a powerful sanding tool that uses two rapidly rotating drums to move a piece of cylindrical sandpaper for the purpose of quickly and effectively removing wood, metal, and other target materials.
How do you use a belt sander?
Keep in mind that a belt sander is a powerful tool that can remove a lot of material in a short period of time. To use a belt sander, plug it in or turn it on and allow the sander to get up to full speed. When it's at full speed, slowly lower the sander down to the material with a slight forward motion. You will immediately notice that the belt grabs the material as it sands, so it's important to have a firm grip on the sander to prevent it from being pulled out of your hands.
Work the sander with the grain of the wood instead of against the grain, and make sure that you don't leave the sander in one place for too long as it will rapidly sand away the material. It's necessary to frequently check your progress in order to avoid accidentally creating a dent or divot that needs to be repaired later.
What is a belt sander used for?
A belt sander, unlike other specialized sanders, is not often used in fine woodworking because a belt sander is simply too powerful. Instead, belt sanders are ideal for removing a large amount of material from a project, making them well-suited for refinishing and shaping woodworking projects.
When should you use a belt sander?
In most cases a belt sander won't be necessary because you can either cut the material or use a less aggressive sanding tool. However, when you need to remove a lot of material from the surface of an object, a belt sander is the best choice. They are great for refinishing floors, sanding off old stain, or shaping a new woodworking project.
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. Additional research comes from Timothy Dale, a seasoned home improvement expert. He specializes in a number of topics, including plumbing, construction, and product recommendations.