5 Best Belt Sanders for 2019 – used & reviewed by trade pro’s

Why Belt Sanders?

Our last major project involved heavy use of sanders.

Many pieces required fine grain sanding, mainly from our orbital and palm sanders using 80 to 1000 grit paper in some cases. Oak tabletops, Corian work surfaces, ply wall panelling and various other laminates all came in for a sanding. 
Most of the faces and edges required many passes from the orbital sanders, however we also worked with reclaimed timber that was caked in layers of old paint and chips ahoy. Coupled with other stubborn crap built up over years of neglect it was clear everything needed ripping off before restoring to some edition of former glory.

Personally, I love sanding!
Its an opportunity to bring out a beautiful and impressive finish that always prompts a careful, smooth sweep of the palm from anyone nearby. Such a simple moment of pleasure.
Of course, the finishes are all relative and the titular belt sander is rarely known for its fine finishing prowess. Its a superb tool that takes you to the next level of heavy duty sanding. Indeed, it has been known to outright produce final finishes depending on the requirement but in the main its a stripper that readies you for the orbital crew to do their thing.

Sand, Sealed & Delivered

There are a number of excellent orbital sanders in our shop that get regular workouts but its the belt sanders that really get stuck into the dirtier tasks.

We have a few GMC and a couple of Makita belt sanders that have been with us for years.
They are solid, reliable and often double up a shapers for rounding edges when the bench sander is in use. They are very tough on reclaimed timber especially when removing paint, grime or other ground-in substances. The belts themselves are pretty coarse. When used, we run 2/3 sanders at a time each with a different grits of sand paper – 80/120 and 180 grit as needed.

Our belt sanders are used extensively on:

  • reclaimed timber flooring
  • scuffed doors and wooden frames
  • rounding and trimming wood and sheet material 
  • smoothening rough timber joists 
  • scribing

They’ve also been used on client floors and tasks that require coarse finishes before sealing.

Safety First

As I briefly mentioned, these are aggressive tools so care must be taken when applying them.
I can testify to having my skin ripped on on a few occasions, finger tips mainly. Pain and discomfort was a understatement and believe me, nursing finger tips rather than knocking out the work is not a popular pastime especially when simple precautions can be taken to avoid any foolish eventualities. Being a guitar player makes it all the more important to take care as these injuries can take weeks to fully heal.
And be aware these tools are rather noisy.
The appropriate gloves, ear protection and eyewear are a must when operating these tools.

Be Aware of

Belt coming loose
The big bug bear with belt sanders is the bloody belt coming off. This happens more often on consumer and entry level models mainly due to expectations of the person sanding.
If you purchase a consumer grade model then start performing heavy duty tasks you will likely encounter more issues than you’d imagined – again, the belt coming loose so use a sander thats fit for purpose and expected duration.

Dust Bag leaking
These are rarely dust tight and you will no doubt see residue, dust and other particles flying around the place.
I’d be surprised if 50% of dust was collected in the bag.
You’d be best off attaching a vacuum hose if possible especially for heavy, sustained sanding jobs

Overheating
If you use the sanders continuously you will obviously notice them getting hot. Couple that with aggressive usage and you’ll be slowly burn out the motor. This happens more commonly on consumer grade sanders.
Best practise?
Take breaks between jobs – maybe perform 5-10 passes (length depending) before allowing you, and the tool to rest.

Again, if you treat the sanders with respect and use the right one for the right job you will get decent results. 
Just don’t push any tools into territory that require different demands.
I can’t reiterate the importance of having the RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB.

Best Belt Sanders for 2019

Weight (lbs)

Type

Speed

Hitachi SB8V2

9.5

Home/Professional

850 RPM - Belt Speed 1475 ft/min

Porter-Cable 360VS

14.5

Professional

Belt 1000-1500 ft/min

Black & Decker DS321

6.5

Home/Consumer

-

Makita 9403

13

DIY/Professional

Belt - 1640 ft/min

SKIL 7510 -01

7.5

Speed - 1050 RPM

Home/Consumer

 #1 Hitachi SB8V2 - Best Overall

Why this sander?

This is number 1 on my list 
It incorporates everything I want in a sander, from value to finish.
We do a shed load of sanding in the shop and need, not want, need something thats not going to fail when pushed for hours.
This baby has a powerful 9 amp motor that will blitz through some tough resistance.
I’m confident the ergonomically improved dust bag positioning will free up movement in the right-hand, reducing possible cramp. HOORAY!!!
Great 5 year warranty tells you a lot about the standard set from Hitachi.

Pros
 – Variable Speed
 – Wear-resistant V-belt for
 – extended service life
 – left-side dust bag
 – 5-year warranty
– Durable construction
– great for home or 
professional use

Cons
 – weight – 9.5 lbs

Key Features

  • 9 amp motor
  • Belt Speed – 1475 ft/min
  • Speed – No Load 850 RPM
  • Well positioned Dust Bag
  • Variable Speed

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x sander
  • 1 x sanding belt
  • 1 x dust bag
  • instructions

Main Uses

Prosumer, heavy duty, professional grade sanding won’t be a problem nor will occasional home improvement or prosumer DIY.
Its a fabulous sander ideal for woodworkers, carpenters, furniture makers, floor installers, deck builders and general contractors who require a highly reliable belt sander.

Summary 

This is a high quality sander with minimal plastics and its actually feels tough. Everything is positioned with thought and is easy to use. Let it do its thing and the results will really shine through.
Is on my list and will be getting one next year

#2 PORTER-CABLE 360VS - Best Prosumer/Professional

Why this sander?

Like the Makita, its a well designed, well balanced sander housing a convenient, and more importantly, solid front handle that will take plenty of pressure when pushed.
The dust bag swivels 360 so will never be in the way – what a lovely, simple touch!
A solid sander that will plough through anything.
Comes with a 3 year warranty

Pros
 – excellent construction
 – simple design
 – 3 year warranty

Cons
 – weight – on the heavy side, especially with vertical use
 – may be excessive for occasional home use

Key Features

  • weight – 14.5 lbs
  • variable speed
  • swivel dust bag
  • quick release belt lever
  • 12 amp power
  • 1000-1500 ft/min
  • 3 x 24 ” belt

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x sander
  • 1 x ceramic aluminum oxide belt
  • 1 x dust bag
  • instructions

Main Uses

This is a professional grade sander and will lift almost anything put under it.
Ideal for long haul stripping and large woodwork jobs. Overkill for the occasional home user but will certainly last a lifetime for occasional use.

Summary

Great competitor for Makita’s crown – and possibly has a better design. Did I just say that!?
Love the swivel dust bag – again, a simple feature that makes a big difference.
These improvements make huge inroads especially when performing long jobs on tricky surfaces.
Heavy, yes it is. Great balance on the horizontal but will ache your arm on the vertical. Again, used sensibly and you’ll be ok.
Will stick around for years and would consider this for the shop alongside the Hitachi.

#3 Black & Decker DS321 - Lightest DIY Sander

Why this sander?

Well designed sander with a front roller that allows you to meet tight corners and edges straight on.
Compact and far lighter than the Makita. At 6.5 lbs its half the weight!
The Dragster has a retractable, three-position handle that’s very useful for awkward positions. Remember, its a consumer grade tool so will not be as robust as the Hitachi, Porter & Cable nor Makita, however for home improvement and occasional usage will do the job without problems.
In-built dust collector should make the job a bit tidier too.

Pros
 – lightweight
 – well positioned front roller for edge sanding
 – 3-position front handle

Cons
 – power – may struggle with sustained heavy duty work
 – plastics may fail with prolonged use
 – no variable speed control

Key Features

  • low profile design
  • weight – 6.5 lbs
  • 3 position handle
  • 2 year warranty
  • 7 amp power

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x sander
  • 1 x medium grit sanding belt
  • 1 x dust bag
  • instructions

Main Uses

Occasional and light-duty DIY home improvement.
Anything with greater demands such as sanding large floors or stripping high quantities of timber will require a heavy duty belt sander so please be mindful when purchasing. Deploying a consumer grade sander to tackle sustained, tougher tasks often results in component failure somewhere down the line. Use them for what they’ve been designed for – light-duty, infrequent work. You won’t have a problem.

Summary

Following on from my caveat above, this sander should last you a good few years if used sensibly and not exploited.
Its a well designed consumer grade product.
I own a number of Black & Decker tools and use them relative to the demand. My only failure was through my own thoughtlessness when over-using a palm sander for a huge project; 3/4 into the job it started to buzz then eventually failed BUT it was my fault and should have used something designed for purpose.

One thing I will add is my experience with dust collection bags. Not the best of designs anyway and usually minimal dust collected. Maybe this time they’ll get that fixed. Maybe…
My thoughts are a general opinion for all consumer sanders so to confirm, I actually like this Black & Decker sander as its got some great features and looks cool too. Use it wisely and you’ll have a tool for a good few years.

#4 Makita 9403 - Quietest Pro Sander

Why this sander?

Renowned for being a choice for professionals around the globe, Makita have submitted another podium finisher with the 9403 sander. Want reliability, top quality construction and power?
Here it is folks.
A professional quality belt sander that will last a lifetime.
Our Makita’s have been through the mill and still produce excellent results.

Pros
 – 84dBa – quietest in its class
 – 4″ wide belt 
 – sealed motor

Cons
 – weight – 13 lbs – could struggle with sustained vertical work
 – may be excessive for occasional home use

Key Features

  • belt speed – 1640 ft/min
  • weight – 13.0 lbs
  • quiet motor – 84dBa
  • 1 year warranty
  • 120V corded

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x sander
  • 1 x dust bag
  • instructions

Main Uses

Heavy duty, professional grade sanding  – ideal for woodworkers, carpenters, furniture makers, floor installers, deck builders and general contractors who require a highly reliable belt sander.
It a professional standard tool so make the most of it.

Summary

I won’t hide my love for Makita products. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to work in a shop that uses them as the primary brand of choice so suppose I’ve been spoiled over the years but know now its for a darn good reason.
Their tools simply last.
This sander would be no different. Ours have taken drops, knocks, you name it and they’ve got back up to work as new.
Ever reliable, their belt sanders will give you the finish you want but do remember these are powerful little monsters. My only gripe with this particular model is the weight. Great for horizontal sanding but unless you have the strength and stamina for the long haul you may want to consider something lighter or adjust your job schedule. It will do the job exceptionally but may be better over a few courses. 

#5 SKIL 7510-01 - Best Consumer Sander

Why this sander?

The last but by no means least is the innovative SKIL 7510-10. Instantly recognizable with its dust filtration attachment, SKIL are at least making a conscious attempt to provide a clean environment for the user whilst delivering decent performance. Not only that, it has a pressure control feature that alerts you when you are applying a bit too much downforce. 
Its not a professional grade blitzer but will perform ably at home.

Pros
 – lightweight
 – cleaner dust catcher
 – remarkably good design for surfaces and edges
 – mainly metal construction

Cons
 – occasional use only – anything excessive and/or repetitive may cause failure.

Key Features

  • dust filtration system
  • pressure warning system
  • auto-track belt alignment
  • weight – 7.5 lbs
  • Speed – 1050 RPM
  • 1 year warranty
  • 120V corded

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x sander
  • 1 x dust box
  • instructions

Main Uses

Light duty, home improvement and occasional use. Will tackle tougher stuff but remember its class. It should be used accordingly. Light-duty tasks would be best served with this sander.

Summary

What a great offering from SKIL! Its a smooth design coupled with great features to make your sanding life less stressful. I’m not surprised its been very well rated.
Making the shop less dusty is always a good thing.
Great consumer sander and one I’ll recommend, not just for innovation but performance.