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Belt Sander VS Orbital Sander: Expert Recommendation

Choosing the right sander for your job is important unless you end up with the wrong tool, making your sanding experience a nightmare. Whether you need to repair, refinish, or restore wooden workpieces, you will need a sander. You will find various sanders available in the market varying in shapes, sizes, functionality, and specifications. This orbital vs belt sander article will discuss the two famous sanders in the market- the belt sander and the orbital sander. The new learners often get confused about which one to purchase, but they will find all the answers to their questions here. Stay tuned to find the solution of which will be a better sander to invest in. 

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander for Deck & Floors

To make it easier, we have listed down all the detailed information about the belt and the orbital sander below. By the end of the article, you will be crystal clear about both of these sanders’ features and specifications. The added pros and cons will make sure you have an unbiased view of the comparison.

What is Belt Sander?

Belt sanders are the rough ones for the tough jobs. Moreover, it is a tool that woodworkers use to remove a large piece from the surface of a workpiece. The sander has an electric motor that turns two drums which turns the sandpaper into a loop. Also, the belts stay in place by the aligning guides and tension controls while the belt spins in a forward motion. This rotating sandpaper does all the jobs like shaping and finishing wood. A belt sander is the first tool you want to use on your workpiece, then use other sanders to polish and do the detailed work. There are many sized belts available for the belt sanders. The size depends on the type of work you need to cover. The Skil Sandcat 7510-01 belt sander is suitable for all beginners for its affordable price and user-friendly functions.

Different Features Of A Belt Sander

A belt sander comes with different features, but here are some of the main features you must look into before buying one. 

Motor Power

This is the main power source of any machine, so if the motor is powerful and durable enough, the machine is also bound to perform well. The motor power is the first thing you must look at and get the most powered one that fits your budget. Motor power is measured in amps, so the higher the amps, the higher the motor power. Usually, the sanders motor ranges between 8-11 amps. However, the higher the motor power, the stronger and faster it gets, which might be tough to handle if you are not an expert.  

Speed

The speed of the belt depends on the motor, and it is measured by feet per minute. Higher the speed means the faster it will run. Professionals look for high speed as the commercial works need more tough sanders.  However, some sanders offer a variable speed dial option which is very useful for some precise work. It allows you to use low speed and then change into higher speed according to your needs.

Dust Collection

No matter what type of sanders you buy, it has to have a good dust collection system. Sanding is a messy job as it creates a lot of airborne sawdust that gets your workplace dirty and also can get you sick. The sanders either come with a dust bag or a dust canister, but either way, you can attach the dust port to a vacuum hose to get a better and cleaner dust collection system. 

Sandpaper

Typically the sandpaper belt sanders use is loop sandpaper that is either 3 inches or 4 inches, depending on the sander. The sandpapers come in different grits, some suitable for heavy-duty and some for fine polishing. 

Stationary Belt Sander

This type of sander is usually quite heavy and needs mounting on a workbench. You need to get the workpiece to the moving sandbelt to shape it. It is perfect for small wooden pieces but also works well with metal

Handheld Belt Sander

These sanders are portable and not that heavy. You need to get the sander by hand and apply it to the surface you need to sand. Some of the sanding machines come with an ergonomic handle that makes this work comfortable for the users. 

Pros of The Belt Sander

There are several advantages of a belt sander which is why it is one of the most used sanding machines in the world. 

User-friendly

The belt sanders are easy to use for all types of users. There are no setup issues to get things complicated. The belt changing is also easy. To work with it, you just have to apply the sanding machine to the targeted place, and it will do the rest.  

Versatility

The belt sander is versatile as you can use it both as a benchtop and as a handheld sander. Some of the sanders come with a long power cord, saving you from purchasing an extension cord. They can work on floors to get them smooth and on a bench to sand wooden and metal pieces. 

Variety of Uses

Belt sanders are ideal if you want to take off a large amount of wood from a wooden surface and smooth it out. It can also remove paint and stains from decks or other wooden surfaces easily. For small repairs or renovation, a belt sander is always an excellent choice.  

Cons of The Belt Sander

As the belt sanders usually have high-power motors, they tend to be loud. The experts suggest wearing ear protection if you are planning to work for longer hours. Also, it is not suitable to get in tight spaces or reach the corners making it only suitable for big projects. The belt sanders are powerful and fast, so they might not be easy to handle for the amateurs without any practice. 

What Is An Orbital Sander?

An orbital sander is not as savage as a belt sander in removing wood, but it is a valuable and necessary tool for woodworkers. It is a tool that has a sanding disc that spins in small circles to sand a workpiece. With its lightweight and compact size, it can reach the edges and tight corners easily. These sanders are only recommended for wooden objects to help them get ready for future processes. An orbital sander is also known as the finishing sander as it does all the finishing and polishing with a finer grit. It is a must-have tool for everyone who has an interest in woodworking.  The disc size varies, but usually, it is about 5 inches in diameter. You can look at Makita BO5041K orbital sander as it is one of the most famous sanders in the market now.

Different Features Of An Orbital Sander

Like the belt sanders, the orbital sanders also come with different features that you must check before buying. 

Motor Power

This machine has less motor power than the belt sanders. It has a maximum power of 2 to 3 amps which is enough for a small, compact-sized sander like an orbital sander. These sanders do not need any high-power motor because they are not built for any heavy-duty sanding jobs. They will just smooth and polish but not strip away the wood.

Speed

By the speed, we count the orbits per minute of an orbital sander. On average, these sanders have a speed of 10000 orbits per minute. The speed depends on the work you are doing. If you need to cover a large area, you might get a faster sander. However, some sanders offer variable speed options for projects that need adjustable speed to reach perfection.

Sanding Disc

The sandpaper on the sanding disc is quite important. If the sanding disc is not the standard size, it could be hard for you to find a replacement for it. However, changing the sanding disc is really easy for the hook and loop system it uses. It works like Velcro, so you can just peel off the used sandpaper and apply a new one. There is another type known as the PSA, which is also easy to find. 

Handles

If you are working with a sander for long hours, you need to be comfortable holding it. For that, the sanders come with different types of handles. Here are some examples:

  • Palm-grip handles – You need to grab them by your palm. These sanders are also known as palm sanders that fit into your palm easily and have a comfortable rubber coating on top. 
  • Pistol-grip handles – These handles are often the common handles seen in an orbital sander. They give an easy to control opportunity while working with a single hand.  
  • Jug-grip handles – These handles are not that popular, but some sanders have this to help them reach places that are hard to reach, like the bottom of furniture.

Dust Collection

Like all sanding machines, this will also create dust. Most orbital sanders come with a built-in dust collection system that sucks in all the dust and gives you a clean environment. Some orbital sanders will also offer a micro-filter and dust-sealed switch systems to protect the sander from dust damage. However, these sanders also have dust bags and can attach a vacuum hose to the dust port for a better experience. 

Related Comparison Article: What are the differences between Palm Sander and Orbital Sander?

Types Of Orbital Sanders

If you have researched, you already know that different types of orbital sanders are available in the market. The types depend on the various needs of the customers. We can find the corded, cordless, random orbital, and so on. The corded sanders are the one that needs an electric power source to run, whereas the cordless is the opposite, having a battery to power up the sander. If you are ever confused about which sanding machine to choose, remember that the corded one has limited movement while the cordless can go anywhere. However, the battery will need frequent changing, which can cost a lot of money, time, and effort. While the random orbital sander has a circular disc, the sheet sander has a square or rectangular plate. They are suitable for anything that needs polishing and finishing. 

Pros of Orbital Sanders

Here we have discussed some of why the orbital sanders are a must-have tool besides the belt sander. 

Body Size And Shape

The orbital sanders are really lightweight and come in a small compact size that easily fits into one’s hand. This size allows it to reach the tough corners and the edges. Orbital sanders are the best with flush sanding for their low profile size. 

Smoothing

Orbital sanders come to work after a belt sander has taken out the rough edges. After the aggressive sanding, the orbital sanders take out the remaining splinters and uneven surfaces. It smoothes the surface and also polishes it for the final painting. 

Sandpapers

The sheet and orbital sanders need normal sandpapers cut in an accurate size to fit the sanding machine, while the random orbital sander will need a sanding disc that matches the size of the sanding pad. Sandpapers can be of any grits according to the need of the user. You can check that the sheet sander uses clamps to hold down the sandpaper and the random orbital sander uses mostly the hook and loop system to just press on the sander. 

Cons Of An Orbital Sander

The orbital sanders can only handle small projects that need smoothing or furnishing, but they are unsuitable for stripping the wood. It will take you a long time if you ever decide to sand your whole deck with an orbital sander

What Are the Differences Between Belt Sander and Orbital Sander?

After knowing about the features from our above Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander comparison article, let’s look at the significant differences these two types of sanders have.  

  • A belt sander can be big and heavy and act as a benchtop sander, but the lightweight orbital sander can only be handheld while working. 
  • While the belt sander can be aggressive and work on heavy-duty projects, the orbital sanders will be suitable for only the small projects that need smoothing or polishing. 
  • The belt of the belt sander rotates in a loop, while the orbital sander has a square plate or a round disc that will help to sand.
  • Orbital sander shows better performance at flush sanding because of its small and light body.

Orbital Sander vs Belt Sander: Which One Should You Choose? 

These two sanders have two different jobs to handle. If you love woodwork a lot, you already know that you need both of these tools to get the perfection you need. When you get the first wooden piece to work on, it will need a belt sander first and an orbital sander after. So, the orbital sander can finish the project by sanding the places missed by the belt sander. Also, it will end the job by polishing and smoothing out the workpiece. However, if you want to choose only one between them, you can go for the orbital sander. The orbital sander can also take on large projects but will take more time than a belt sander. Moreover, the orbital sanders are more affordable than the belt sander. 

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