Belt Sanders: Benefits and Purchasing Tips


Benefits of a Belt Sander

With its great power and ability to handle extra coarse grits, the belt sander is an awesome multi-use tool and the perfect sander for quick wood removal. One unique feature of the belt sander is that it sands in a linear motion unlike the orbital sander and the vibrating sander. This ability allows you to sand with the grain and still get excellent smooth results. As a result, it is a fantastic sander for trimming a scribed line, shaping and rounding edges by freehand, and leveling large surfaces.

Buying a Sander and Belts

The best belt sander usually comes in a 3-inch belt width. You may see wider or narrower belts on the market, but they are intended for specific jobs. In the 3-inch width belt class, the usual sizes come in 3×18-inches, 3×21-inches, and 3×24-inches belts. The 3×18-inches sanders are more lightweight and can be effortlessly held with one hand. It is perfect for freehand shaping and scribing as they are smaller and easier to control. The 3×21-inches and 3×24-inches sanders are heavier and bigger. They are better for larger surface projects and heavy duty usage. And obviously, the size difference is proportional to the price of the sander. 3×18-inch sanders tend to cost around $50 to $150; whereas 3×21-inch sanders tend to be slightly more expensive and range around $100 to $250.
If your projects require finer control, you may look into the 2-1/2-inch wide belt sanders. But unless you are working on cabinetmaking or extra-large surface projects, you should stay clear from the heavy-duty 4-inch wide belts as they are much heavier and require much more experience to handle the powerful tool. As much as they can finish a job quickly, they can do equal damage in the same speed if you do not handle the sander properly.
When it comes to picking the right belt, 80-grit and 120-grit are the usual choices for belt sanders. As the belt sanders are so powerful, coarser belts such as the 50-grits can quickly create deep scratches and nasty gouges that are difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate. Contrary, if you want finer grit belts, instead of using the belt sander, it may be more beneficial to switch to a random-orbit sander for the task instead.
As for the grit material, you can choose from aluminum oxide and zirconia belts. Aluminum oxide is the standard grit material. It comes in two different qualities depending on your needs. If you want disposable belts, go for the cheaper khaki-color aluminum oxide belts. And if you want longer-lasting belts, opt for the dark brown premium belts that are more expensive. If you want even stronger, coarser grit belts that are even more durable, the zirconia belts are your best choice. As they are made of tougher, sharper cutting particles that won’t clog as easily. On the market, these belts usually come in bright blue or purple color, and are slightly more expensive than the premium aluminum oxide belts.

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