Updated: November 2017

Belt Sander Reviews:

If you are a homeowner who likes DIY projects or an avid woodworker or someone that works with wood, the belt sander is the ultimate tool. Whether you are smoothing out decks, stripping paint from a porch or sanding floors, owning a quality belt sander can make the job much easier. Belt sanders do the heavy duty work when the project starts so you want them to be reliable and durable. Top brands include Bosch, DeWalt, Porter Cable, Makita, Skil, Ryobi, Ridgid, Hitachi, and Black & Decker. Prices range from $50 to $250 and you can find them in home improvement stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears. We also found a great selection online at Amazon.com. What features should you consider? Which brand is best? How can I find reviews? We answer all those question below.
belt sander

Choosing a Belt Sander - When it comes to belt sanders you will hear terms like power (amps), variable speed, tracking control, hand positioning, duct collection, and size (3 inch or 4 inch wide belts). Feet per minute (FPM) is how you rate a belt sander in terms of power. The more amperage the better the power. Most sanders (belt) will be between 4 and 12 amps. The top rated models tend to have at least 6 amps of power with 11 amps being plenty. How about size? The average belt sander will have 3 inch by 21 inch belt. A compact belt sander like the Porter-Cable 371K has a 2 1/2 inch by 14 inch belt while the larger Makita 9404 features a 4" by 24" belt. The wide belt sanders are great for stripping paint from cabinetry or furniture and finishing wood. The variable speed control is what sets some models apart from others. The reason why variable speed is important is because some work requires that you adjust the motor speed as you move along. You don't want to damage the wood surface and some of the powerful models could do just that if not used properly. The speed control switch location is another factor to consider. In reviews we found, models from Bosch, Ryobi and Craftsman score well for this while Porter Cable does not. The release lever should be sturdy and be able to handle years of switching out sandpaper grits depending on the job. The level should be easy to maneuver. Tracking controls are good to have as well. They will allow you to keep the front roller aligned and the belt centered. The Bosch units and Makita rate high for hand positioning and comfortable use. Remember, you may be working with the belt sander for hours and comfort can't be forgotten. Lastly, we have dust collection. There is no hiding the fact that belt sanders create a lot of dust and experts say consumers should buy only models with cloth dust bags or those that hook up directly to dust collection systems. Noise levels are loud, although some are rated as "quiet" only when compared to the really loud models. Always wear noise canceling earmuffs to protect your hearing. Belt Sander Reviews - There is no lack of reviews for belt sanders - find them online, in magazines, and in books. Trusted sources like Wood Magazine, Fine Homebuilding, and About.com all feature comparisons and tests of the top brands. Lon Schleining did a great article for Fine Homebuilding as he took on the task of testing 3 inch by 21 inch belt sanders. Belt Sanders at Home Depot are listed on their website and you can read consumer reviews that are posted. Consumer Reports does some general buying guide for sanders and sanding, but nothing specific on belt sanders that we could find. You can browse the best selling belt sanders online here.

Best Belt Sander:

RECOMMENDED - When it comes to belt sanders, there is no model that gets better reviews from experts and consumers than the Bosch 1274DVS. For $160 you get a 6.6 amp, 3 inch by 21 inch variable speed belt sander. Did we mention the cloth dust bag that comes with it. The variable speed control is perfect and features like the quick release belt change and removable front handle make the Bosch easy to manage. Wood Magazine and Fine HomeBuilding rate the Bosch at the top or near it. Another perk is that when turned over (placed on it's flat top), the sander becomes a table top horizontal sander. Owners say the Bosch "performed flawlessly" and "works great as a bench mounted sander". We did read a few reviews on Amazon which questioned the durability and reliability of the 1274DVS, but when woodworking magazines and professionals test this model, it comes up top rated. View the most popular belt sanders here.

Wide Belt Sanders:

BEST - Looking for a bit wider belt sander, perhaps the 4 x 24 inch models as compared to the 3 x 21 inch variety. We say just one name, go with the Makita belt sanders. The Makita 9404 and 9403 are two top rated models that perform immaculately. You can either get the 8.8 amp or 11 amp motor and both are similar in price (just a bit over $200). We prefer the Makita 9403 because it's quiet (compared to others in this class), has a belt speed of 1640 ft/min so you can work fast to remove material, and the comfort and control are nearly unmatched. Does the job wonderfully when sanding decks or stripping paint. Owners like the power and one called it a "workhorse. A few did mention that the 84 decibals isn't exactly "quiet", but the overall performance and craftmanship of the Makitas are what set them apart. With double insulation the motor and bearings are sealed off from contamination. The large front grip is positioned "absolutely perfectly" says one owner so that operation is comfortable and safe. With the wider belt (4 inches vs 3 inches) you can get more work done faster and efficiently than with slimmer belt models.