Do you need to refinish your deck but don’t have the right tool for the job?
Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a review of the 10 best hand-held belt sanders on the market that are perfect for a home DIY woodworking job. If you need to take off a layer of varnish from a table or sand down a new deck, these are the best belt sanders for the job.
Or perhaps you have a woodworking shop in need of a new sander?
These belt sanders can help you with sanding down rough boards or scribing them after a cut. Hand-held belt sanders have the versatility to make quick work of large surfaces and handle detailed work on smaller pieces of wood.
Let’s take a look at this year’s round-up.
Makita 9403 4-in x 24-in Belt Sander
There’s more to it than raw sanding power, though:
This belt sander has all the added features you’d expect for a front-runner: a dust collector, a quiet motor, and well-designed grips to guide it with. That’s important because this belt sander is made for jobs that are large and take time to complete. You don’t need to worry about hearing loss or aching hands because the handles are uncomfortable.
- Low noise level (84 dB)
- 4-inch by 24-inch belt with a speed of 1,640 ft/min
- Labyrinth design seals the motor and bearings from debris
- Large, ergonomic grip for user’s comfort
- Designed to sand with its side or nose flush against a wall
Makita’s 9403 is great for big jobs, but not if you’re looking to sand individual wood pieces in a shop. It’d be awkward to pick up and support because of its size, and it isn’t going to balance easily for scribing down the edge of a rough-cut board. The lack of a variable speed control just adds to our impression that it’s intended to stay flat on a large surface like a floor or workbench.
Looking for a good belt sander to sand decks with?
You’ve found a good candidate if it fits your budget. This is a pricey belt sander, but it’s well worth the money if it fits the work you’re doing. It’ll sand down any deck faster than any of the other belt sanders we’ve reviewed.
- Large belt size and speed are great for big jobs
- Quiet and handles comfortably
- Not well suited to smaller or detailed work
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Black & Decker DS321 Dragster 3-in x 21-in Belt Sander
Need to get the job done fast?
Then move on to another belt sander. This one is not very heavy and doesn’t have a powerful motor that can turn the belt fast. On top of that, it’s not a variable speed sander, meaning that you’re stuck with the speed it runs at. You’re not in as much danger of going too fast, but speed is what you need on a large surface.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with a 6-amp motor
- Innovative front rollers allow the DS321 to reach tight corners
- The handles are adjustable and can be customized with optional pieces
- Belt sander with dust collector that captures dust and debris
- Starter kit includes a medium-grit belt and dust bag
- 2-year warranty
Black & Decker’s DS321 is an okay belt sander if you aren’t going to do anything time-consuming. The price is right for a DIYer who just needs a belt sander on hand for occasional use. It won’t strip wood down too fast and can be easily picked up and held at an angle without too much fatigue.
Got a going business sanding down decks all day?
Then we wouldn’t recommend this belt sander. There are more efficient choices that will serve you better. Your time is valuable, so you need a sander that’s going to get the job done faster.
- Reasonably priced
- Convenient handle that can be adjusted
- Good warranty
- The motor is not very powerful
Makita 9903 3-in x 21-in Belt Sander
That seems to be the rule with our selection of belt sanders. Makita’s 9903 is a versatile model that has a big enough belt to handle large surfaces, and it is light enough to pick up for scribing work. It also has an 8.8-amp motor, so it’s capable of speeds over 1,400 ft/min that’ll make quick work of large hardwood floors or decks.
Need a variable-speed sander?
The 9903 has that feature as well, which makes it great for progressive sanding with several grits of paper. It’s convenient to maintain, too. For instance, there’s no need to adjust the tracking on the belt. This belt sander does that for you with a modern auto tracking system. It’s also a belt sander with a dust collector, so you won’t make a mess when you use it indoors.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with variable speeds between 690-1,440 ft/min
- Large front grip and low noise level (85 dB) for user’s comfort
- Designed for sanding with its nose or side flush to a wall
- Auto-tracking belt system tracks the belt without the need for adjustment
- Equipped with a dust collection bag
- Comes with a #80 abrasive belt and a starter dust bag
Makita’s 9903 is a great all-around hand-held belt sander for a home DIYer or a small woodworking shop. It has the power to make quick work of a deck or floor, but it can slow down for the fine grit work, too. Its grips make it comfortable to use, and Makita keeps the motor’s noise down to a safe 85 decibels.
What’s not to love?
Your budget might not appreciate the price tag.
- Variable speed makes this sander great for rough and fine sanding jobs
- Your ears will appreciate the quiet motor
- No more adjusting the belt’s tracking
- This model is towards the high end of the price range
Makita Belt Sander Review
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WEN 6321 3 x 21 Belt Sander
If you’re a homeowner who needs to sand a replacement board or take the paint off a banister, the WEN 6321 could be a decent choice.
The 7-amp motor can turn its 3-inch by 21-inch belt a little over 800 ft/min, which is enough for most jobs. The speed isn’t variable, though, so you’ll need to choose the right grit paper for the job.
The design of the 6321 feels dated, with manual belt tracking adjustments and a fixed dust collector, but the belt is easy to change, and the 2-year warranty is a plus.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with a speed of 830 ft/min
- Belt tracking adjusted with a knob
- Changing belts doesn’t require tools
- Equipped with a dust collection bag
- 2-year warranty
If you are looking for a versatile belt sander with the power to sand down large areas efficiently and still be handy for jobs that require some finesse, WEN’s 6321 is probably not the best choice. We’d point you in the direction of other belt sanders higher up on the price range.
Who would it be good for?
If you’re a home DIYer who just needs a belt sander on hand for occasional odd jobs like replacing a board on your deck or refinishing a piece of furniture, the WEN 6321 isn’t a bad choice. It’s lightweight makes it a cinch to pick up and use like a power tool on small pieces, but its footprint is large enough to say for sure that it's a perfect belt sander for wood floors.
- Reasonably priced
- Lightweight at only 6 lbs.
- Good warranty
- A bit under-powered
- Doesn’t have variable speed control
WEN 6321 3 x 21-Inch Belt Sander User Manual
Your new tool has been engineered and manufactured to WEN’s highest standards for dependability, ease of operation, and operator safety. When properly cared for, this product will supply you years of rugged, trouble-free performance. Pay close attention to the rules for safe operation, warnings, and cautions. If you use your tool properly and for intended purpose, you will enjoy years of safe, reliable service.
Hitachi SB8V2 3-in x 21-in Belt Sander
The Hitachi SB8V2 comes close to fitting that description. It has a 9-amp motor that can reach speeds over 1,400 ft/min, but the speed is variable and can go down to 800 ft/min. This makes it versatile and able to work efficiently with different grits of paper and materials.
Whether you want to power your way over a deck or carefully scribe a curve into a cabinet piece, this hand-held belt sander can do the job.
But there’s more:
The SB8V2 has a V-belt that doesn’t wear out as fast as standard belts. In fact, Hitachi boasts the belt lasts twice as long as others. It’s also equipped with a dust collector that will keep your workspace clean. The handles have soft grips that will keep your hands from going numb. On top of all of this, Hitachi is so confident of this belt sander’s reliability that they offer a 5-year warranty.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with variable speeds between 820 and 1,475 ft/min
- Dust collector reduces airborne debris
- Soft grips on main and side handles for user’s comfort
- Wear-resistant V-belt has twice the service life
- Trigger lock makes long-running jobs easier
- 5-year warranty
Hitachi’s SB8V2 is a great all-around, hand-held belt sander. It has the speed you need to get through a large sanding job, but it can do detailed work as well. It’s not the lightest belt sander we reviewed, but supporting it for those angled jobs isn’t too difficult. The 5-year warranty makes us suspect this belt sander isn’t going to break anytime soon.
What’s the downside?
There isn’t one, really, unless your budget isn’t able to absorb the price. We’d recommend this belt sander for home DIYers and woodworkers alike.
- Variable speed that goes up to 1,400 ft/min
- Long-lasting V-belt design
- Outstanding 5-year warranty
- Not the cheapest belt sander on the market
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Porter-Cable 352VS 3-in x 21-in Belt Sander
Porter-Cable’s 352VS has a strong 8-amp motor that can drive its belt up to 1,300 ft/min. It’s also a variable-speed belt sander, though, so it can work at a slower pace when you need it to. The 352VS is well balanced with a good center of gravity, which helps with jobs that require you to sand the edge of a board or an uneven surface.
What else is good about it?
The dust collector can be swiveled out of the way when you need to get into tight spaces, and the warranty is great at 3 years. All of this is a good value for the price.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with variable speeds between 850 and 1,300 ft/min
- Designed to allow sanding flush against walls
- Dust bag swivels 360 degrees to stay out of the way
- Belt tracking adjusted with a fingertip knob
- Motor sits over the platen for perfect balance
- 3-year warranty
Porter-Cable’s 353VS is a good value that compromises a little on capabilities to deliver a reasonable price.
Does it run faster than the competition?
Not quite, but it’s close to the more powerful belt sanders. It includes advanced features to enhance its convenience for the user like a swiveling dust bag. When we factor in its price compared to the cutting-edge belt sanders we’ve reviewed, it looks like a great buy if you don’t need the top of the line model.
- Variable speed with a motor that can go up to 1,300 ft/min
- Dust bag can swivel out of the way
- 3-year warranty
- You’ll still need to manually adjust the belt tracking on this model
Genesis GBS321A 3-in x 21-in Belt Sander
It boasts features like variable speed control, adjustable grips, and an auto-tracking belt system. All these features add up to an experience like you’ll have with the high-end belt sanders.
What the Genesis GBS321A lacks is raw power. The motor is only able to reach a top belt speed of about 1,200 ft/min, which is a bit less than high-performance belt sanders.
- 3-inch by 21-inch belt with variable speeds between 390 and 1,180 ft/min
- Low profile helps you get into tight spaces
- Auto-tracking belt system that tracks the belt without adjustment
- Equipped with a dust collector
- Adjustable front grip for ease of control
- 6.5 ft power cord
Genesis’s GBS321A is a good catch for a home DIYer looking for a bargain. Its motor isn’t powerful, but it can deliver enough speed to get bigger jobs done in a reasonable amount of time. It’s just not the best there is. On the other hand, this belt sander gives you convenience and versatility with variable speeds and auto tracking.
Who should move on and find something else?
If you’ve got the budget, the higher-end belt sanders are going to be a better deal. They’ll deliver the full power you’d expect and have the advanced features as a plus.
- Competitive price for the features
- Variable speed control and auto tracking saves time and adds versatility
- The motor is not as powerful as it could be
Ridgid ZRR2740 3-in x 18-in Belt Sander
Another feature that stands out is that the dust collector has its own dedicated fan to vacuum up all the dust that sanding wood creates, and that’ll keep your work area clean and breathable.
The place where the ZRR2740 lags the competition is its motor’s power. 6.5 amps of power just isn’t going to win any races with a maximum belt speed of 950 ft/min.
- 3-inch by 18-inch belt with variable speeds between 400 and 950 ft/min
- Equipped with a dust collector with vacuum fan
- Auto-tracking belt system
- 12-ft power cord
- Soft grip handles for user’s comfort
Ridgid’s ZRR2740 isn’t overpriced and would be a good choice if you don’t need a fast belt speed. 950 ft/min is enough for smaller jobs, but you shouldn’t expect to set any records sanding a large deck. The dust collector is well-designed, which makes it attractive as an indoor sander. It also has modern features like variable speed control and an auto-tracking belt system.
You’re looking for something fast and have the budget for it?
The ZRR2740 probably isn’t the belt sander for you, then. There are other high-performance belt sanders that don’t skimp on the motor’s power and are well-suited to outdoor and indoor jobs.
- Well-designed handles with comfortable grips
- Auto-tracking belt and variable speed control
- Extra-efficient dust collector
- The weak motor won’t win any races
Ridgid R2740 Belt Sander
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Porter-Cable 362V 4-Inch x 24-Inch Belt Sander
Porter-Cable’s 362V comes in at second place in our round-up in terms of raw power. Not only does it have a larger sanding footprint, but the 362V boasts a powerful 12-amp motor. With variable speed control, you can dial in speeds between a 1,000 and 1,500 ft/min. That gives this belt sander the power to sand down floors and decks in a snap.
But there’s more:
The 362V isn’t just a powerhouse. It comes with comfortable handle grips and a dust collector that can hold plenty of dust, so you won’t have to empty it constantly on an all-day job. The dust bag swivels 360 degrees, too, so you can maneuver around corners and tight spaces. The way Porter-Cable designed the belt release makes changing belts tool-free.
- 4-inch by 24-inch belt
- 12-amp motor provides variable speeds between 1,000 and 1,500 ft/min
- High-capacity dust collector turns 360 degrees
- Ergonomic handles designed for all-day comfort
- Quick-release lever makes changing belts a snap
Porter-Cable’s 362V blows the competition out of the water when it comes to sheer sanding power. It’s great for quickly sanding down decks or floors, making it a good choice for professional carpenters who need to get the job done efficiently.
It’s equipped with an impressive set of other features that we’ve come to expect from high-performance belt sanders. Variable speed control, soft grips on the handles, and a thoughtfully designed dust collector round out this model.
Who wouldn’t love it?
It’s probably not worth the price to have around for only occasional chores at home. This belt sander is more of a professional’s power tool. Nor is the 362V going to impress woodworkers who need to sand small wood pieces or who want a belt sander for scribing angled cuts.
- Powerful 12-amp motor
- High-capacity dust bag swivels out of the way
- Easy to change a belt
- It’s a heavy belt sander
SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat 3-Inch x 18-Inch Belt Sander
But you get what you pay for:
The Sandcat doesn’t have speed control, meaning you’ll have to control how much wood it removes with pressure and timing. The motor isn’t a powerhouse, but it manages to deliver a belt speed around 1,000 ft/min. Plus, if you’re working outdoors, be sure to have plenty of extension cord. The Sandcat’s cord is only 6 feet long.
- 3-inch by 18-inch belt runs at 1050 ft/min
- Auto-tracking belt system
- Pressure control technology
- Dust collection canister catches fine debris
- Trigger locks on and off for long-running jobs
- 6-ft power cord
SKIL’s 7510-01 Sandcat is a good starter belt sander for the home DIYer. Starting at a low cost and delivering the basic functionality for sanding floors and removing finishes from other surfaces, it’ll serve a home user’s needs.
For the professional, however, this is a belt sander without the versatility needed for woodworking or the power and cabling needed for large sanding jobs like outdoor decks.
- Pressure control sensor lets you know when you’re leaning on the sander
- Small size makes it good for vertical or scribing work
- Single-speed motor
- Skimpy cord length
Types of Belt Sanders
Belt sanders come in two categories. Within each of those categories, their use is determined by the size of the sander’s belt.
These belt sanders are fixed in place, so you can hold the wood piece you’re sanding and control the sanding process carefully by hand. These sanders usually resemble a workbench with the sanding belt on the top surface, so they’re often called bench sanders.
They can be larger than handheld belt sanders and are intended for larger jobs or specialized applications, such as sharpening tools. You’ll find large or unusual belt sizes in this category like the 1 x 30, 2 x 72, and 6 x 48 belt sanders.
Smaller belt sanders are designed to be mobile. They are well-suited to sanding floors and other large surfaces. They come in different configurations depending on the purpose they serve, but they all have the sanding belt on the bottom of the sander.
Larger hand-held sanders sometimes can double as stationary sanders by flipping them upside down. Belt sizes for hand-held sanders are usually 3 x 18, 3 x 21, and 4 x 24, though you will find 4 x 36 belt sanders, too.back to menu ↑
How to Choose the Best Belt Sander for You
“Always choose the right tool for the job.” As with any tool, you should consider what you need to accomplish before deciding which belt sander to buy.
Do you need a belt sander for metal work?
That kind of work usually requires a stationary belt sander made for industrial and repair shop use.
Do you need a belt sander for wood floors?
You’ll probably want to begin your search with the larger hand-held belt sanders. The same is true if you need a belt sander for wood projects besides floors, but you might find that a medium or small hand-held sander is better in those cases.
There are several factors to consider, which we’ve covered below, but the first is whether the belt sander is right for the job you have planned, and the second is whether it fits your budget.
Main Safety Tips
Safety is always an issue to be aware of when using power tools, and belt sanders can be dangerous because of their fast-moving belts. Being careful not to allow clothing or fingers to catch in the belt while the sander is running is critical.
- Wear hearing protection. Belt sanders are loud, so you’ll want to protect your hearing if you use them for extended periods.
- Wear a dust mask. Sanding wood will create a large amount of flying dust that isn’t healthy to breathe. Note that a belt sander with a dust collector will greatly reduce the problem of flying dust.
- Unplug the power cable before performing maintenance. The last thing you want to do is accidentally turn the sander on when you’re changing its belt.
- Make sure the sander is turned off before plugging it in. Accidentally turning on the sander by plugging it in can cause injury if you’re hand or clothing is in contact with the belt when it starts.
- Secure boards before you sand them. If you’re going to sand a surface that isn’t secured, you’ll need to make sure it’s clamped into place on a workbench. Small or lightweight boards will move or even go airborne when a fast-moving belt makes contact with it.
Weight & Size
On the other hand, some sanding jobs require you to support the belt sander while you sand down the edges and corners of a surface. You will usually use a small belt sander for these jobs, but the weight does play a factor in those cases.
The size of a belt sander can be a factor if you need it to fit into tight spaces, especially if the height of the sander will obstruct its ability to reach the entire surface being sanded. Think about the spaces you’ll be working in when choosing a belt sander.
The size of the belt determines the footprint of the belt sander on a surface. If you plan to use it to sand down large, open spaces like a hardwood floor, a larger belt size will make the job faster. If you plan to use the sander on uneven or raised surfaces, a smaller belt size will be less cumbersome.
The most common belt sizes found on belt sanders meant for home use are 3 or 4 inches wide and between 18 and 24 inches long. You’ll see some variations that include belt sanders with narrow and long belts, but these are usually intended for industrial use or small, detailed work.
An example is a 1-inch by 30-inch belt sander that’s designed to sharpen metal tools.back to menu ↑
That depends on a number of factors. A hand-held belt sander needs to be ergonomic. The repetitive motions involved in using a belt sander can cause sore muscles and needless fatigue if the unit has poorly designed grips.
Other factors to keep in mind:
- Does the motor run fast enough or too fast for the sanding work you plan to do? The speed of the motor dictates how fast it removes material.
- Does the belt sander have a dust collector? That’s a must-have for indoor work. You’ll spend more time cleaning up than you did sanding without one.
- Is the sander easy to maintain? Overly complex power tools can turn into more of a chore than they’re worth. A simple belt sander will save time.
Main Features & Benefits
What are the critical features of any belt sander?
The critical features are the speed the belt runs at, which is determined by the motor’s power, and the size of the belt. Those two points determine how fast a belt sander can sand a surface. Beyond that, you’ll want to also consider whether the cost of a belt sander fits your budget.
What benefits does a belt sander have that other tools don’t?
Belt sanders excel at sanding down wood surfaces. They are the hand-held power tool of choice for leveling and smoothing boards. Smaller belt sanders are great for scribing. For example, you can use a belt sander to remove the extra wood on a shelf board to make it fit a wall. Another common use of a belt sander is to remove paint or varnish from hardwood floors and decks.back to menu ↑
Maintaining a belt sander is nothing complex, but there are some good habits that will ensure your sander keeps working like new. Here are some tips we’ve discovered while we scoured the market for these tools and reviewed them:
The sanding belt should stay on the belt sander between uses to protect the drum from dirt and debris, but you should loosen the belt whenever you stop running it.
This is because it heats up while the sander runs. If the belt is left on the sander tight, it could become deformed, which can cause unwanted chatter marks the next time you use the sander.
Check it for cracks, tears, or holes that have worn through. Once the belt shows damage, you should replace it to keep your belt sander performing well.
After every use of a belt sander, you should blow out the drum, preferably with compressed air. If dirt and debris get caught in the drum, it can damage the sander.back to menu ↑
Belt Sanders vs Orbital Sanders
Orbital sanders are small hand-held sanders with circular sandpaper pads that rotate and vibrate in a random elliptical pattern to produce an extra smooth surface. They’re ideal for working with small wood surfaces because they are light, and their fine sanding pattern also makes them great for finishing a sanding job.
Thus, if you’re starting with a rough board, you’d probably sand it with a belt sander first, and then finish with an orbital sander.back to menu ↑
Belt Sanders vs Planers
A planer is a traditional hand tool for leveling a wood surface. It can take time to learn to use it well because it requires a fair amount of experience and manual dexterity.
It’s also a slower process until you master it. In any case, you’ll expend more energy using a hand tool, especially if the surface you’re working on is large. The larger it gets, the less sense a planer will make.
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Belt Sanders vs Drum Sanders
A drum sander usually operates as a stationary workbench sander that boards can be passed under. A drum with sandpaper spins above the work surface as the board passes between it and the workbench.
Drum sanders can involve more setup and maintenance that a belt sander since it’s height needs to be adjusted for each board. A belt sander is typically more convenient since it rests on top of the board and gives you better control over the sanding process.back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
How to Use a Belt Sander on a Deck
That’s a good project for learning to use a belt sander. Here are some tips to help you out:
- Tap down any nails sticking up on the deck. Nail heads raised above the surface of the deck will catch on your sander’s belt and destroy it. Check for any nails that look too high and tap them down with a hammer and nail punch.
- Always sand wood in the direction of its grain. Otherwise, you may cause the boards to warp.
- Wear hearing protection and a dust mask.
- Remember that the grit rating of sandpaper is an expression of how abrasive it is. High grit ratings are for polishing, and lower grit ratings are for removing wood quickly.
How To Use a Belt Sander
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They are typically offered with all power tools for at least a year. When a belt sander has a longer warranty, it’s icing on the cake in a couple ways.
First, it means you have more insurance that if the tool breaks you’re not on the hook for the repairs. Another way to look at it is that a manufacturer who is willing to offer a longer warranty must be certain their product isn’t likely to break during that time. Otherwise, it would just be more cost to them.In any case, keep in mind that warranties rarely cover accidents or negligence on your part, only breakage that happens during normal use of the belt sander. back to menu ↑
Belt sanders can be used to finish rough wood or to remove paint and other finishes. Hand-held belt sanders are well-suited to sanding large horizontal surfaces like floors or counters, but they are often light enough to pick up and use for scribing edges or sanding uneven surfaces.
The belt size refers to the footprint of the belt where it contacts the surface being sanded. Put another way, it’s the size of the area the sander will sand when motionless.
Belt sanders should be blown or brushed off after every use. When wood dust builds up on the belt, the easiest way to remove it is to use the sole of a shoe or other piece of hard rubber. Set the sander on a workbench sideways and turn it on. Then carefully press the edge of the sole against the belt to remove the caked-on dust.
Sandpaper grit represents the abrasiveness of the sand that’s on it. A lower grit sandpaper has larger sand grains, and so will remove wood much faster than a larger grit sandpaper. Large grit sandpaper is best for polishing a wood surface after the initial sanding. Which grit you’ll want to use depends on how rough the surface is and how polished you want it to be when you’re done.
When we stacked up the 10 best belt sanders, we noticed a pattern:
Some were inexpensive, basic belt sanders, and others were high-priced, high-performance belt sanders. That made it difficult to choose an overall winner. If your budget is limited or you’re a home DIYer who won’t need a belt sander more than a couple times a year, the inexpensive options could be better for you.
If you’re a woodworker or other professional, you’ll likely want something with some power and versatility. Still, we narrowed it down to the one with the best overall value.
Which of these belt sanders wins the prize?
Makita’s 9903 wins the blue ribbon this year, and that would be no surprise to most of its customer who’ve reviewed it on Amazon. When we factored together power, price, and versatility, this hand-held belt sander made the grade as the best overall sander in our lineup.