The best portable belt sanders tackle the toughest of sanding jobs with ease. These powerful, handheld machines can recondition and level surfaces quickly and effortlessly. The straight running action of the sanding belt enables them to rip through any material, even from old paint, to hardened adhesives. While handheld, they also offer limited use for other jobs such as rounding and scribing, making them a very versatile tool. If you are looking for a more powerful bench top solution, then check out belt & disc sander guide.
This guide will give you the low down on some of the most popular models on the market today. Read the best belt sander reviews and make an informed decision on which one is right for you.
In a rush?
Of all the belt sanders we reviewed, we think you might be interested in these 3…
- Makita 9403 – Our favorite of the bunch and in our opinion the best. Judging by all the user reviews this is a long standing favorite which is powerful and reliable, built from a well-trusted brand.
- Porter-Cable 352VS – Provides the best value, in terms of price for features and good overall feedback from users.
- WEN 6321 – On a budget? This might be your best option. One of the cheapest on the market that comes with a lot of good comments from users.
- In a rush?
- Top Belt Sanders Compared
- 8 Belt Sander Reviews
- Buying Guide
Top Belt Sanders Compared
|1. Makita 9403||$$$$||4" x 24"||13 lbs||11 amps||1 year|
|2. Porter-Cable 352VS||$$$||3 x 21"||11 lbs||8 amps||1 year|
|3. WEN 6321||$$||3 x 21"||6 lbs||7 amps||2 years|
|4. Makita 9903||$$$$||3 x 21"||10 lbs||9 amps||1 year|
|5. Porter-Cable 362V||$$$$||4" x 24"||16 lbs||12 amps||3 years|
|6. Hitachi SB8V2||$$$||3 x 21"||9 lbs||9 amps||5 years|
|7. Black Decker DS321||$$||3 x 21"||6 lbs||6 amps||2 years|
|8. Porter-Cable 371K||$$$||2.5 x 14"||8 lbs||5 amps||1 year|
8 Belt Sander Reviews
1. Makita 9403 – Top Pick
- Quiet operation
- 4-inch wide belt
- Large front grip
- Unit weighs 13 pounds
- 1-year warranty
- Motor & bearings sealed for protection
- Labyrinth construction
The Good: Powerful sanding action. Easy to control with ergonomic front handle. Quiet operation, producing only 84 decibels. Quality design and construction.
The Bad: Expensive. Not ideal for small jobs, such as rounding. Small dust bag.
The Makita 9403 is our favorite belt sander in this review. This unit features upgraded design from the previous 9401 & 9402 models. Its near-quiet operation delivers 84 decibels of noise. The powerful sanding action from the wide 4”x24” belt, turning at 1,640 feet per second, makes short work of the toughest sanding jobs.
The ergonomic front handle gives great control of the machine. The heavy-duty design of the machine allows for heavy duty use without the concern of damaging the motor. The motor and bearings are sealed in a labyrinth construction within the body of the unit. This labyrinth ensures that no dust or sediment enters the motor, prolonging the working life of the machine.
The unit comes complete with a dust collection bag. We think that Makita could have made the bag a bit bigger. Considering the power of the unit and the wide surface area it sands, the bag fills up quickly with debris and needs to be emptied frequently on large jobs. For large sanding jobs, we recommend hooking up the outlet to a shop vacuum if possible.
Makita is well-known in the power tool industry for producing quality machines that deliver results in the workshop. This belt sander is our best pick for anyone looking for a machine that is suitable for both DIY and semi-industrial applications. The strong sanding action coupled with near-silent operation makes it ideal for a wide range of sanding projects. The price tag may be extreme but you will know where the money went when you start the machine up and get to work, by far the best portable belt sander in this review.
2. Porter-Cable 352VS – Best Value
- Variable speeds
- 360-degree swivel dust bag
- Belt quick release levers
- Belt tracking knob
- Well balanced construction
- 8 Amp motor
- All-metal housing
The Good: Tough design with an all-metal casing. Tracking knob allows for easy belt adjustment. Best suited for work on flat surfaces. Variable speed adjustment.
The Bad: Not built for heavy duty use.
The Porter-Cable 352VS is a machine built for what belt sanders do best, sanding flat surfaces. This machine has an 8 Amp motor with variable speed selection. Speeds from 850 to 1,300 feet per minute are achieved with a turn of the dial. This makes for a wide range of sanding applications.
The most interesting feature of this sander is its all-metal housing. This reduces flexion in the housing, allowing the operator keep better control of the machine. Belts are also easily centered and less prone to drifting off-track. The housing also absorbs heat, keeping the belt cooler and increasing its working life. The motor is centered directly over the belt, providing better balance during operation.
The unit comes complete with a dust bag that swivels 360 degrees. This bag setup keeps it out of the way of your hands and face, keeping your attention on the task at hand. The swivel is not seen on very many belt sanders and gives you better control of jobs such as sanding corners.
While this machine may not be built for industrial use, it certainly looks the part. The all-metal housing and unique features such as the swivel bag make it our best value belt sander in this review when you consider the attractive price tag. The unit comes with a standard 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
3. WEN 6321 – Best Budget
- 7-Amp motor
- Extended front roller
- Lightweight, Compact design
- Detachable dust bag
- Trigger lock-in
- Two-year warranty
The Good: High-speed sanding, good balance between power and agility. Easy tension and tracking adjustment. Good pricing. Good customer service and support. DIY user.
The bad: Made for DIY projects, won’t last on heavy duty usage.
The WEN 3 in. x 21 in. 7-Amp Heavy Duty Belt Sander is a great DIY machine for use around the home and workshop. Its powerful 7-amp motor turns the belt at a speed of 820 feet per second, making it ideal for stripping paint, deburring and beveling edges.
The extended front roller allows for easy reach into snug corners while keeping your hands and the body of the sander out of the way. Operator fatigue is a thing of the past, the ergonomic handle features an on-lock button that keeps the trigger locked down for better control over the sander and your project.
Belts are easy to adjust with a simple turn of the adjustment knob to improve or reduce tension to the belt. Change grits or replace pads with the quick release levers. WEN have a range of sanding belts in various grits for different sanding applications.
The sander comes complete with a detachable dust bag to keep the mess away and an 80-grit sanding belt to get you started. While this machine has a strong motor, we don’t suggest you use it as an industrial machine, it’s best suited for DIY use around the home and your personal workshop.
WEN has outstanding customer service and a team of technicians standing by to assist you with any queries or technical issues you have with the sander. If you consider all the features and the lower price tag, the WEN offers the best budget belt sander in this review.
4. Makita 9903
- 8.8 Amp motor
- Operating noise 85 decibels
- Variable speed control
- Belt auto-tracking
- Ergonomic front grip
- Extended base design
- Optional sanding shoe
The Good: Great for precision work. Long power cord. Large collection bag. Innovative design. Optional sanding shoe
The Bad: Not suited to industrial use. Expensive when compared to other sanders.
This sander is a carpenter’s dream. The 8.8 Amp motor with electronic speed control keeps the sander operating at the right speed under load. Variable speed adjustment allows for belt speeds from 690 to 1,440 feet per minute. The wide range of operating speeds makes this sander incredibly versatile. From careful sanding of edges to ripping off layers of tough material, there is a speed for any job. The 9903 has a very low operating noise level, producing just 84 decibels.
The machine has an extended base for flush sanding against walls and an extra length, 16.4-foot power cord which lets you maneuver the sander effortlessly within your work area. With an optional sanding shoe to control the depth of the sanding, this machine is suited to the most technical sanding jobs.
The versatility of this machine has been engineered with the woodworker in mind. It is perfect for cabinetry and fine sanding jobs that require a belt sander capable of challenging work. With auto-adjustment of the belt tracking you will always be sanding on a true straight-line and the large dust bag collects dust effectively.
This machine is built for the carpenter that requires an all-in-one belt sanding solution. The front grip centers your weight over the unit for enhanced operation and comfort. Makita has designed another top-class sander that delivers great performance, with build quality you can trust. Weighing in at just 10 pounds this belt sander is ideal for DIY use around the home and workshop. The machine comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
5. Porter-Cable 362V
- 12 Amp motor
- Great balance and performance
- Flush sanding design
- Variable speed control
- Dust bag and 100 Grit belt included
- Quick release belt lever
- Belt tracking knob
- 3-year manufacturer’s warranty
The Good: Strong motor. Good balance and control. Long term warranty. Swivel dust bag. Suitable for heavy duty use.
The Bad: Power cord could be longer. Small dust bag. Expensive. Heavy.
For the professional carpenter or woodworker, the Porter-Cable 362V has a powerful 12 amp motor that tears into the toughest sanding jobs with ease. The variable speed dial adjusts belt speeds from 1,000 to 1,500 feet per minute. This belt sander is engineered for regular heavy duty use and has a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Featuring a full-metal housing and ergonomic hand grip, this belt sander gives the operator control and stability with next to no flexion in the housing. The belt and gear drive system keep the speed consistent during operation. The housing absorbs the heat and helps to extend the sanders life
Quick release levers allow for fast and easy belt changes. Keep your sanding straight and true with the belt tracking adjustment knob. The dust bag may be a little undersized, but it is mounted on a 360-degree swivel that keeps it out of your way while you work. The bag outlet is also conveniently placed to fit a shop vacuum for continuous dust collection during heavy use.
Another fantastic design feature of this belt sander is the flush sanding ability, with the sander’s handles and housing out of the way, allowing you to get into those hard to reach places for a flush sanding job. The sander itself is heavy, weighing in at 15 pounds. This is a true heavy duty machine, built with the professional in mind.
The machine is ready to use, straight out of the box and includes a 100 Grit sanding belt to get you started on your first job.
6. Hitachi SB8V2
- 9 Amp motor
- Variable speed dial
- Elastomer grip handles
- Tracking window
- Left-side mounted dust collection bag
- Wear-resistant V-belt
- Wide trigger with soft grip handle
The Good: Well priced. Good design features. Warranty
The Bad: Dust collection bag. Plastic housing.
The Hitachi SB8V2 is a powerful and durable sander. Well priced for its class, it features some unique design components. The 9 Amp motor coupled to the wear-resistant V-belt performs well and sands a multitude of heavy duty and DIY applications. The 5-year warranty is the best in its class, with spares readily available from agents.
The clear plastic tracking window gives better visual control of the sanding line. The large dust bag is mounted on the left side, keeping it out of the way during operation. Elastomer ergonomic handles reduce vibration and offer improved operator control. The V-belt technology keeps the sander on track without the need for belt adjustment while extending belt life.
Belts are simple to replace with the quick release levers. Basic maintenance on this sander is easy, even the brushes are replaced with no hassle. With this much power in a machine this light, it’s surprisingly easy to keep on track and the reduced weight helps with operator fatigue.
There are a few drawbacks with this machine. The dust bag zipper could be more sturdy and the plastic housing, while reducing weight; allows for flexion in the body of the sander. The dust exhaust is seated on the left side of the unit and while it keeps the dust bag out of the way, it also throws the unit off balance slightly during operation.
Overall, the Hitachi SB8V2 offers good value for money and a bridge between semi-industrial machines and DIY.
7. Black & Decker DS321
- Angled belt
- Adjustable handle
- 7 Amp motor
- Retractable casing
- Flush body design
The Good: Good features and design.
The Bad: Low powered. DIY only. No variable speed control.
The Black & Decker DS321 is a handy machine to have around for DIY sanding. If you need to sand down a cupboard edge, or a cabinet door, the Black & Decker will get the job done. It’s 7 Amp motor isn’t made for hard sanding jobs and can be prone to overheating with continuous operation.
It does have some great design features. The adjustable handle makes it easy to reach those tighter spaces and the flush body design allows for sanding in corners and vertical surfaces. The sander is easy to control with its plastic handles and its compact size along with its reduced size front roller, allow it to reach under kitchen counter edges and other overhangs.
The unit comes complete with a dust bag, a 100 Grit sanding belt, and the operator’s manual. A drawback is that it comes with a 2-pin plug. The unit is ready to ‘plug-and-play’ straight out of the box. Another drawback is that the belt will slow down in velocity when extensive pressure is applied. It also features no variable speed control.
Changing the belts is quick and easy with the quick release button and the wide trigger and large handle gives good operator control over the machine in a variety of angles. Weighing only 6 pounds, it makes for a great model to sand vertical and overhead surfaces without resulting in too much operator fatigue.
This belt sander is far from the top of the range machine. However, if you are looking for a cheap model to get a few jobs done around the home or office, then the Black & Decker offers good value for its price.
8. Porter-Cable 371K
- 5 Amp motor
- Compact size
- Removable auxiliary handle
- Cord exit grip
- Removable dust port
The Good: Easy on the arm. Compact & lightweight.
The Bad: Underpowered. DIY use only.
The compact Porter-Cable 371K is a unique machine. This machine won the Handy Magazine Innovation Award in 2006, with its innovative design and a smaller belt than most typical belt sanders. The two and a half inch by 14-inch belt makes it easy to sand the tightest spaces. The unit may be slightly underpowered, the weakest motor of all belt sanders in this review at 5 Amps.
Sanding perpendicular surfaces is a breeze. The sander has a flat side which allows for sanding in corners. The low center of gravity of the machine gives the operator excellent control of the machine, providing good balance and maneuverability. The only drawback to the design is the front handle. While the handle provides good support and control but can get in the way while sanding corners. The electrical cord can also be used as an auxiliary grip, giving the operator better leverage over the unit for tougher sanding jobs.
The unit does not have a dust bag. The sander comes with a removable dust nozzle. Another great feature is the dust-sealed recessed switch preventing accidental shut-off. While the machine does make for a good DIY unit to have around the house, it really is not suited to heavy duty use. The 1-year manufacturer’s warranty gives an indication of what you can expect in terms of the working life of the unit.
The Porter-Cable 371K is a complete belt sanding kit. The package comes with; three 80 Grit sanding belts, removable dust nozzle and a plastic carry case. This unit is ready to ‘plug-and-play’ straight out of the case.
Sanding can be a time-consuming chore and to achieve a satin finish on your sanding job isn’t as easy as it sounds. However, stripping down your job with a belt sander can speed up the process. If you are not sure that a belt sander is what you need for the job, then check out our guide on picking the right sander.
Power tool manufacturers have made sanding a lot simpler and easier with handheld belt sanders. They offer a portable solution to sanding down a variety of surfaces. From stripping your hardwood floors to leveling blank of wood, a belt sander handles the toughest sanding jobs. Compared to planing any job manually, the belt sander revolutionizes sanding with the fast removal of material from any surface.
Belt sanders do take some operating experience to master, so don’t expect to get a master-craftsman finish on your first attempt. Larger machines with strong motors can be challenging to control if you have never used a belt sander before. Here are some tips to help you get started on the fast-track to woodworking success.
The In-line belt sander
In-line belt sanders feature a box-type housing with low profile design. Belt sanders have a drive gear, perpendicular to the motor, which transfers the power from the motor through the gear into the rollers. Belt sanders usually have two or three rollers, two made from plastic or rubber and another made from metal, to prevent the belt from slipping during operation.
The belt is released using levers or buttons on the machine and they come in a variety of grits, from coarse to fine.
Belt sanders are handy machines for a variety of DIY and professional applications. They are great for sanding your deck, your hardwood floors, or even removing material from surfaces like dried glue and even nail heads.
Examples of jobs
- Sanding rough stock
- Planning doors
- Sanding down reclaimed lumber
- Scribing bevels on doors and windows
- Reducing stock thickness
Tips for picking the right Belt Sander
If you only need a machine for a simple job, then purchasing a semi-industrial machine with all the bells and whistles may be spending money that you don’t need to. Similarly, choosing an under-powered DIY unit to handle a serious sanding job will result in your burning out the motor and having to buy another machine more suited to the task at hand.
To help you get it right the first time, we put together this guide to assist you in making an informed decision when purchasing your belt sander.
Choose the motor power to match the size of the job you expect to use it for. The higher the motor Amperage, the more powerful the machine. Most DIY units will have motor ratings of 6 to 9 Amps. Belt sanders suited to professional, heavy duty use have motors with 10 Amps or more.
Sizing & Design
The most common size for belt sanders is a belt with dimensions of 3” wide by 21” long. This is a good middle ground for a variety of jobs, providing a balance of power and control. If you require a large sanding area, then there are belt sanders with 4”x 24” belts to remove more material faster. Other niche models with thinner belts are available.
Belt sanders are designed for flat surfaces, so they usually have handles that you can position to gain leverage over the machine to assist the machine in sanding. Check that your belt sander has ergonomic handles and rubber grips to reduce vibration.
Variable Speed Settings
Variable speed settings are a fantastic feature enabling your sander to turn from a sanding powerhouse capable of tearing off the toughest materials, to a machine capable of providing a delicate finish. A simple turn of the dial and you can choose from a variety of speeds.
Of all the handheld models we looked at, the Makita 9403 is a machine that stands out as one of the best compared to the others. The quality of the components and the ease of use combined with a strong motor and effective sanding make it our top choice.
For a portable belt sander that is capable of any task around the home or workshop, then the Makita 9403 has the features you need and will give many years of hassle-free operation.
The manufacturers in this harbor freight belt sander review make products that can be trusted. From DIY to Heavy duty use, there’s a sander in this review to help you get your next carpentry job looking clean and smooth with the perfect finish.