What Is a Belt Sander? And What Are They Used for?

A belt sander is a powerful and aggressive sander, designed to strip wood as fast as possible.

They consist of a pair of drums that turn a loop of sandpaper that’s been fitted around them.

Sometimes, they’re used as handheld tools and moved across the surface of the wood. Other times, they’re mounted and used as bench sanders. You may have also seen bench top disc sanders that incorporate a belt sander.

To keep sawdust under control, most belt sanders have a built-in dust collection system built in. Plus, they’re not just great for wood, they’re also very effective with metal as well.

What Are Belt Sanders Used For?

Belt sanders can be used for a variety of jobs and can make your projects faster and easier to complete.

Because they’re meant to be used on large, flat surfaces, belt sanders can refinish wood or metal cabinets, tables, and floors quickly and effectively. Just remember to use the right grit sandpaper.

With sandpaper, the higher the number, the finer the grit. So, if you’re trying to remove stain, polyurethane, or layers of paint, go for a heavy grit like 60. If you’re sanding a cabinet, shelf, or anything that’s unfinished, go with a medium or fine grit between 100 and 200.

Belt sanders can handle some big projects but they’re a great choice for some of the smaller ones, too.

If you have an interior door that sticks or won’t close properly, remove the door and shave off a bit on the side or bottom. Usually, taking off about ⅛ of an inch is enough to solve the problem.

So, when should you not use a belt sander?

When the work you’re doing is fine or delicate, it might be better to stick with a random orbital sander.

This is a better choice if you’re working on a smaller piece of material as well. Belt sanders are powerful and can really tear through tough materials and layers of varnish and paint but aren’t always the best choice for delicate finishing work.

Sanding Results

One of the things that a belt sander particularly excels at is getting good-looking results when you sand with the grain.

As the drums turn the sandpaper in a linear direction, you don’t have to worry about it going against the grain as it spins. As long as you position the sander properly, you’ll be happy with the result.

It’s worth emphasizing again the power of this tool. It can help you rip through layer after layer of paint but it’s so powerful, you can easily let it get away from you.

In other words, it can ruin a job just as quickly as it can help you complete one so make sure you operate it with care. Don’t push down on the sander as you work, let its weight work for you. Go slowly and try not to change speed or direction as you work.

Pros and Cons of Using Belt Sander

There are a lot of awesome things about a belt sander, but there are some things to be cautious about, too. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Belt Sander Pros:

  • Ease of use, can be handheld or mounted
  • Very powerful
  • Perfect for removing a lot of material quickly
  • Gets great results when you sand with the grain
  • Effective on both wood and metal
  • Works with any grit sandpaper
  • Ideal for large, flat pieces of wood

Belt Sander Cons:

  • Too powerful for some jobs and could cause damage
  • Loud
  • Not ideal for finishing work
  • Too powerful for drywall

If you do need a tool that excels at removing a lot of material, a belt sander can help you cut through it fast. If you need help choosing one, then take a look at our best belt sander list, check out our top picks and reviews.

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