Is there a challenging woodworking project in your future? If so, you’ll likely need a high-quality belt sander that has sufficient power and is user friendly. There is nothing worse than starting a project and realizing that you need to make all kinds of minor modifications to get a piece of equipment to work as intended.
This type of situation is frustrating and inefficient. The only thing that is worse than having a model hat needs a string of adjustments is one that lacks enough power to accomplish all of the tasks that are on your to-do list.
After researching the specifications on several top models and poring over actual customer reviews, we recommend the Makita 9404 4″ by 24″
Our Best Choice
The Makita 9404 sander with its 4-inch belt is a great choice for professional wood workers, do-it-yourself (DIY) weekend warriors and hobbyists. Its quality construction is evident in its design and smooth handling.
Actual users of the product confirm the manufacturer’s claim that this model is one of the quietest models in its category.
The Makita 9404 is also ergonomically designed to reduce hand fatigue, and it generates minimal vibrations during use. These features make for hours of comfortable operation even on your most time-consuming projects. The Makita 9404’s sturdy metal components help to ensure that you will get years of use out of this model.
Our Top Choices for Belt Sanders
Should You Buy?
A belt sander is a power tool that has a motor, gears and an abrasive belt that comes in different sandpaper grades. These models can either be stationary and fixed to a table or its own base, or they can be handheld.
For our review, we looked at the best handheld models on the market because of their relative versatility and ease of use.
Whether you’re a woodworking specialist or an avid DIY home remodeler, you’ll get plenty of use out of a handheld model. Professional carpenters who need to sand items that cannot be easily transported to work shops that house commercial sanding equipment often select handheld models to complete their projects.
DIY renovators use it to prepare used furniture such as wooden tables, benches and chairs for new stains, glazes and paint.
If you’re like many smart homeowners, you’ve probably invested in real-wood cabinetry in your kitchen and bathrooms.
You did this because you knew that those wooden cabinets would last for years and that they could be refinished to match updates to your rooms' décor. With this tool you can quickly prepare your kitchen or bathroom cabinets for a new stain or paint color that will yield professional-looking results.
If you enjoy re-purposing old relics for practical uses around your home, a handheld model is one of the most useful tools that you will own. For instance, that solid-wood barn door that you were able to talk the local farmer into letting you buy before he cleared his land can easily be sanded and refinished as a kick plate for your new kitchen island. Wow, what a conversation piece for you and your guests at your next soiree. Owning this tool will give you the confidence to be more creative and ambitious than ever before with your woodworking projects.
Top Picks on The Market Today
1. Makita 9403
The Makita 9403 4” by 24” is fast, clean and quiet. Powered by an 11-Amp motor, it moves at a speed of 1,640 feet per minute.
The Makita’s relatively heavy weight of about 13 pounds allows you to efficiently sand surfaces without having to apply a lot of pressure to the tool.
It is also comes with a long, 15-foot cord that promotes greater freedom of movement in your work space.
Besides the ergonomically designed handle that is located at the back of the sander, the Makita 9403 also has a front grip that facilitates maximum control and guidance over the tool during operation.
It incorporates a 4” abrasive belt that comes with adjustable belt tracking for even sanding.
According to actual users of the Makita 9403, it is successfully used for all types of woodworking projects such as furniture making and refinishing, deck construction, porch restorations and hardwood floor installations.
The Makita comes with a dust bag and dirt collection system that helps to keep work areas clean. The dust bag is small because of the sander’s low profile. While the tool is primarily designed for small woodworking projects, some Makita owners use their handheld models for larger jobs such as floor refinishing. The manufacturer anticipated this and designed its tool’s dust spout to fit a Makita vacuum cleaner for more efficient and higher-capacity dust collection.
The Makita 9403 presents us with several pros. For instance, its best-in-class construction design seals in the model’s motor and internal components so that they remain undamaged by debris that could otherwise collect in the space from years of heavy usage.
Makita also stands by its popular 9403 with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a 1-year warranty. The Makita 9403’s heavier weight can be considered a con to woodworkers who need a lighter weight tool to accomplish overhead or vertical sanding projects.
2. Black & Decker DS321 Dragster
The Black & Decker Dragster is a compact and comparatively lightweight unit that is designed for small woodworking tasks. The 6-pound model comes with a three-way adjustable handle that delivers optimal control for users. This lighter weight Dragster may be just what you need for vertical sanding projects.
The Black & Decker Dragster is powered by a 7-Amp motor, and it comes with a 3-inch medium grit belt.
You can replace the Black & Decker Dragster’s factory belt with abrasive belts in various sandpaper grades to complete different tasks. The Dragster’s belt is integrated into a proprietary roller design that allows you to reach tight corners more effectively.
You might find this feature to be particularly appealing for hardwood floor refinishing projects that require you to sand floor edges. Those spaces are too difficult to reach with large floor sanders alone.
We know that you value a clean work area as well as an easy-to-use tool that results in greater operational efficiency, and these are two of the pros that the Dragster brings to the table. That is why we point out that the Black & Decker Dragster comes with a dust bag to collect the fine debris that can get everywhere during a sanding project. This allows you to clearly see the results of your sanding efforts and quickly adjust your techniques in real time.
The Dragster has an easy release lever for its belt so that you can easily remove and replace belts throughout all phases of your woodworking project.
It also comes with a manual track adjustment mechanism that helps to keep the belt on track and protect the its frame from any damage. One possible con for the Dragster is that some of its parts are made of hardened plastic instead of more durable metal.
This could shorten the useful life of the tool. Black & Decker offers peace of mind for Dragster model purchases through a 2-year warranty.
3. Makita 9404
While the Makita 9404 is similar to the 9403 model in design and functionality, the 9404 model has some particular strengths of which you should be aware.
It is powered by an 8.8-Amp motor, but despite its lower power capacity, the Makita 9404 comes with a variable speed control mechanism.
You can adjust the tool’s 4” belt speed between a range of 690 feet and 1,440 feet per minute with just the touch of a dial. This makes quick work of material removal from wood and metal surfaces.
According to actual users, the Makita 9404 has sufficient power to successfully tackle large sanding jobs such as deck refinishing.
An advantage that the Makita 9404’s 8.8-Amp motor has over the Makita 9403’s more powerful 11-Amp one is weight.
The Makita 9404 weighs just over 10 pounds, which is about 3 pounds less than the Makita 9403. As several users pointed out, the lighter weight sander can help you to accomplish overhead and vertical sanding jobs with less hand and arm fatigue than the heavier weight Makita 9403.
While the Makita 9403 still gets rave reviews for its performance and quality design, a few consumers complained that the sander had no auto-tracking system for its belt. The Makita 9403’s belt system has to be tracked using manual adjustment. The manufacturer listened, and the Makita 9404 model features an automatic belt tracking system.
Other upgrades of the Makita 9404 include a longer cord and an optional sanding shoe that you can use to control sanding depth. The long, 15-foot power cord on the Makita 9403 was a big hit with consumers, so Makita decided to play to the crowd and incorporate a 16.4-foot power cord into its Makita 9404 model.
The top pros for the Makita 9404 are obvious. They include high-quality construction, double-insulated and sealed motor and quiet operation. The Makita 9404 is also backed by a 1-year warranty.
4. PORTER-CABLE 362V
The PORTER-CABLE 362V offers you the power and design of a professional-grade model. Its 4” belt is powered by a 12-Amp motor. The high power capacity of it is reflected in its relatively heavy weight of 16 pounds.
The greater weight works to your advantage for horizontal sanding jobs, but operating the PORTER-CABLE 362V may be a little uncomfortable for vertical and overhead sanding efforts. It really shines on large-scale, woodworking projects.
The PORTER-CABLE 362V’s high-capacity motor moves its belt to speeds of up to 1,500 feet per minute. A distinctive feature of this belt sander is its variable speed dial.
You can adjust the belt speed between the range of 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet per minute. The speed control dial is located near the handle so that you can easily adjust belt speed on the fly.
It comes with several convenience features that can make your woodworking projects run more smoothly.
For instance, the PORTER-CABLE 362V has an integrated belt release system that will allow you to quickly and easily change out belts to meet the requirements for your woodworking project.
It is also comes with a larger-than-average dust collection bag that will help to keep your work area clean and productive. Because the PORTER-CABLE 362V is used frequently for large-scale, woodworking projects, many consumers have figured out that the belt sander’s dust collection system can be attached to a shop vacuum to increase the unit’s dust collection capacity.
The PORTER-CABLE 362V is one of the highest-rated models in its category. The pros for purchasing this model is its adjustable belt speed, efficient belt change system and ergonomic design.
The belt sander’s one possible con relates to its weight. The professional-grade model isn’t nimble enough to handle many small-scale, woodworking tasks. The high-quality model does include a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
5. Hitachi SB8V2
The relatively small-sized Hitachi SB8V2 packs a huge punch when it comes to features. It is powered by a 9-Amp motor, and its belt speed can be adjusted within the range of 820 feet to 1475 feet per minute.
The tool’s speed control dial is located within easy reach of the handle. The Hitachi SB8V2 weighs about 9.5 pounds and is versatile enough for both small and large-scale, woodworking projects.
Several design features make the Hitachi SB8V2 stand out from the crowd. It comes with a specially designed V-belt that resists wear and doubles the life of the unit’s belt.
Your Hitachi SB8V2 will come with an 80-grit abrasive belt from the factory.
It also comes with a dust collection bag that is positioned at the left side of the tool for greater maneuverability for corner sanding projects.
Like most models in its class, you can connect the Hitachi SB8V2’s dust collection spout to a shop vacuum for a tidier work area.
The Hitachi SB8V2’s lighter size is not the only comfort feature on the belt sander. The unit’s main and auxiliary handles are covered in a soft, rubber-like material that is easy on the hands and promotes greater sanding control.
The stand-out pros for this model are its wear-resistant belt design and its outstanding manufacturer’s warranty.
The Hitachi SB8V2 comes with a 5-year warranty in addition to a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
Best Belt Sander for the Money
After evaluating product specifications and belt sander reviews for the top handheld models on the market, we believe that the Makita 9404 is likely to be the best handheld sander for most people.
It has enough power to accomplish a number of sanding tasks that include the removal of paint on wood products as well as the elimination of rust on metal items.
It is also loaded with user-friendly features such as an auto-tracking belt system, variable belt speed control and an extra long cord for maximum maneuverability in the work space.
You’ll find that Makita is a respected brand in its category, and the company offers a sufficient warranty that offers a little peace of mind about the purchase.
Our Budget Pick
Black & Decker DS321 Dragster
The Black & Decker Dragster is our budget pick for handheld belt sanders in this category.
At around 50 bucks, the Black & Decker DS321 Dragster gets the job done according to many happy consumers who have used the belt sander for a variety of small and large-scale, woodworking projects.
The tool, which has a 78% lower price tag than the Makita 9404, received a solid four out of five stars from several hundred consumers who reviewed the product.