Updated May 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Best of the Best
Belt Sander
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

A durable 800 FPM belt sander with a 3-inch wide belt that is designed for the home craftsman.


The angled belt allows you to sand in tighter spaces while the handle features 3 locking positions for user comfort. This model also has a tool-free belt release for fast changing of belts.


A few users have expressed that this model isn't quite as powerful as they would have liked.

Best Bang for the Buck
WEN 7-Amp Corded Belt Sander
7-Amp Corded Belt Sander
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

An affordable sander that is great for beginners and experts alike.


The amount of amps is a great middle ground for detailing and normal sanding projects. It is light enough to be handled for long periods of time. Has a lock for the trigger so the user doesn't have to hold it down while in use.


Dust can build up fairly quickly in the vents which can lead to issues if not properly maintained.

Makita 8.8-Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed
8.8-Amp 3-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed
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Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

A solid choice, but not the best, based on overall satisfaction, durability, and results.


Tracks well, with little adjustment needed. The motor is strong enough to handle both hard and soft wood with ease. The grip on the front of the sander makes it easy to hold even on heftier surfaces. Has multiple speed options for different projects.


Variable speed settings leave machine feeling under-powered. Unit does not feel well-balanced.

SKIL 3-Inch x 18-Inch Belt Sander
3-Inch x 18-Inch Belt Sander
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Useful Features
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An affordable belt sander that has several useful features that make sanding tasks more efficient.


This belt sander has a pressure sensor that alerts the user when too much pressure is being applied so the sander doesn't overheat. It also has an auto-track system that keeps the belt centered on the track.


The inner chamber tends to collect dust and must be cleaned frequently.

WEN Detailing Sander
Detailing Sander
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Best for Detail Work
Bottom Line

A lightweight, variable speed, handheld belt sander that is only 1/2 inch wide.


This model comes with 3 sanding belts and offers a range of motion of 55 degrees. It weighs less than 2.5 pounds and has a variable speed range that starts at 1080 FPM and goes up to 1800 FPM.


This belt sander can heat up quickly, making it best for lighter duty tasks.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best belt sanders

When searching for a belt sander, it can look like all the options are the same. This is especially true if you’re not a tool expert. They’re just gadgets with sandpaper on the bottom, maybe with different aesthetic designs, right? Not at all. Belt sanders come with a host of features that makes each one unique. 

A motorized belt sander may feel like a luxury item if you’re just finishing an edge on occasion, but for larger projects a sander is a must-have. The fine-grit, fast-moving sand belt at the bottom of a sander can flatten and smooth any wooden surface. It’s a great tool to save elbow grease on larger projects, such as sanding tables, doors, or anything with a large surface area. Smaller models are great for projects with a lot of finishing work.

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Practice on a dummy board before you let loose on the woodworking project you slaved for days to create.

Belt sander types and features

There are two major types of belt sanders: in-line and transverse. Neither is inherently better, but transverse belt sanders may be a bit easier to use effectively.

In-line belt sanders

This design has a boxlike housing with a low center of gravity. The motor is parallel to the length of the sanding belt. It’s less likely to tip.

Transverse belt sander

The motor of a transverse belt sander sits above the belt and across the width of the sander. Some of these have fans behind the motor; the fan can deliver dust to a dust bag. These tend to be heavier and easier to hold, since the weight of the machine adds pressure to the wood itself.

Belt sander features


Belt sanders come in various sizes. The most common are 2.5 inches to 4 inches in width. Lengths typically start at 14-inch compact varieties, typically going up to 24 inches. If you’re working on large surfaces, bigger tends to be better. However, if you’re aiming for vertical woodwork or a smaller touch-up job, look for a smaller machine. Many of the smaller machines are much lighter, making them easier to handle for precise touch-up and vertical work.


Many belt sanders also come with variable speeds. If you’re going for more precise touch-up work, variable speed machines are a better option. A lower speed means less of a chance of sanding down too far. However, for thick wood and large spaces, a non-variable speed machine does the job.

Dust collecting

If you suffer from allergies, or just really hate dust, a dust-collecting feature is something to look for in a belt sander. These are bag attachments that hang off the top or near the back of the sander, collecting dust as you work. It’s a good option if you’re doing large jobs – you’ll breathe less dust and have less to clean up.

Sanding frame

The sanding frame is an add-on to many machines. It lines the outside of the belt sander, giving stability to the machine so that you sand evenly. It’s a great option for sanding beginners. Some sanders can fit them, some can’t, so be sure to check the machine before purchase if you want a sanding frame.

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Did you know?
Some belt sanders come with an optional sanding shoe for more precise sanding depths.

How a belt sander works

The belt sander is a pretty simple machine. The sandpaper is attached to two cylindrical drums. As the drums turn, they move the paper. One drum moves via an electrical motor, the other is spring-loaded to keep tension on the belt. You hold the sander on the surface of the wood you’re smoothing out, then the grit of the sandpaper wears the surface down.

The belt sander is a tool that takes some know-how to work safely and properly, however. Here are some tips on how to work the sander:

  • Your first and foremost goal is to make sure you can move the sander in as smooth of a motion as possible. Check that the cord is well out of your way, and arrange your sanding surface to be as straight as possible.

  • Hold the sander slightly above the sanding surface, so you’re coming at the surface with a smooth start.

  • Ease the sander onto the surface in a smooth motion, moving back and forth immediately. Move in the grain’s direction.

  • Don’t put pressure on the sander; just let the weight of the sander evenly add its own pressure.

  • Move in one long stroke, then move the sander to the side by half the distance of the first stroke. Repeating this pattern over the whole span of the wood ensures coverage of the sanding area.

  • Never go over the wood’s edge by one third or more of the belt’s length. The sander’s weight could cause a rocking motion, rounding the edge of your wood.

  • When you are done, ease the sander off the surface, then turn it off.

Front-grip sanders provide easier handling and precision.

Belt sander longevity and durability

The lifespan of a belt sander depends on how well you take care of it.  Below are some tips for maintenance – follow these to keep your sander balanced and functional. Solid maintenance is a good way to prevent mishaps, such as the sanding belt snapping on you unexpectedly.

  • Check the belt on the sander itself for cracks, and ensure that the rollers are lining up properly.

  • The platen is the metal plate under the belt. Check it regularly. If it looks worn away, replace it.

  • Keep an eye on the belt sander itself for debris, and vacuum out any recesses you can.

  • To protect the platen, attach a graphite cloth to it if your sander does not already come with one. These are typically backed with canvas and reduce friction against the machine itself.

  • Store the sandpaper belt in a sealed bag, away from moisture, humidity, and extreme temperatures. This protects it from becoming brittle and cracking.

  • The belt itself can get clogged with the materials it’s sanding down. To clean the belt, hold an abrasive cleaning block against the belt while the machine is on.

Belt sander prices

Belt sanders, like anything else, come at a host of different price tags. They tend to be found in three staggered price ranges of around $50, $100, and $200.


These belt sanders are smaller machines, generally 3” by 21” or smaller. Many of them come with dust collection bags as a feature, since it’s not an expensive add-on. These typically sand at one speed.

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Did you know?
“Tracking” refers to setting an even sanding belt. Some sanders have automatic tracking and some come with an adjustable knob.


These belt sanders are the variable speed models. Machines in this category are usually still on the smaller side, around 3 by 21 inches.

$200 and up

Belt sanders in this price range contain bigger machines, like 4” by 24” and larger varieties. This range also has professional power motors. Full features like dust bags and quick-release belt-change levers are extremely common in this price range.

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To get a smooth finish on items like furniture or cabinets, use a belt with a finer grit.


Q: How can I get the longest life out of my sander?

A: To get the greatest longevity out of your belt sander, make sure to keep up on its maintenance. Keep an eye out for anything that looks worn down or clogged with dust and debris. Vacuum out your sander as needed, replace belts when they start to look cracked or are sanding less efficiently, and use an abrasive cleaning block to clean the belt itself.

Q: How is a sander better than just plain ol’ elbow grease?

A: Elbow grease with a basic sandpaper block is great for jobs that take very light sanding, like adding distress marks to furniture for a vintage look. However, for larger sanding projects like doors, tables, decks, and the like, it makes sense to not wear your arm tired. That’s where a sander comes in.

Q: What’s the best way to hold and use a sander?

A: Have a firm grip on the sander where the handles are on that particular machine. Hold the sander straight, and never start the sander while it is touching the sanding surface or the sander creates an uneven spot as it kicks on. Move in long motions with the grain of the wood.

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