March 10, 2021

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which Tool For Which Job?

If you compare the belt sander vs orbital sander, you will find that there are different models with different strengths and weaknesses. Your budget is crucial, as well as the best dust extraction system, using available sandpaper and a smooth surface.

Ease of use could be your priority, which could point you to the right grinder. If you are looking for a powerful tool that can quickly finish any surface, I will take you through a close examination that will show you the best choice.

Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is an electric machine used for polishing surfaces. The great thing about the orbital sander is that it is versatile. You can use it from various angles, and it easily fits into tight spaces that are difficult to navigate.

You can use them to remove wood, which might not be that perfect. What it is good at is polishing woodwork pieces. There is a difference between a random orbital sander and a regular orbital sander.

 Regular sanders work in an orbiting pattern, and Random sanders work unpredictably. There are no scratch marks left when working with a random orbital sander. Random orbital sanders work better on large surface areas. The standard size of the tool is the ¼ sheet sander. I would use it on a cabinet or cupboard. 

With a closer look at what some sander tools do, you might notice that they do not give a perfect finish. It is excellent in activities that involve paint removal. As much as the Orbital sander comes with discs, not all of them have the same motion capability. 

The reason is: the discs come in different models. Some of them lack the sanding faces that spin in the same movement. These will be ideal for rough surfaces. There are also big Orbital sanders that need you to use both hands. 

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Handy
  • Ultra-smooth finish
  • Lightweight
  • Great for removing paint and stain

Cons

  • Slow
  • Removes less material

Belt Sander

A Belt Sander is a machine for refinishing floors that uses an electric motor. It easily removes unnecessary material from wood pieces because it is assertive, aggressive, and comes with high speeds. It is ideal for the early stages as it works well in preparing surfaces. 

There are two different types of Belt sanders. A Belt sander works with a continuous loop of sandpaper. It produces good results when you use it on surfaces along the grain because it is big. 

These are the Stationary Belt sander and the Hand-held belt sander. The Stationary belt sander works when mounted on a bench sander. You do not have to take it to the material. 

You take the material to the machine. It already tells you that carrying large surfaces to the machine is difficult. It is excellent for sharpening. It works on both wood and metal. 

craftsman using an electric belt and disc sander

The hand-held belt sander is mobile. It is attached to a disc sander. You can take it anywhere using your hands. It requires you to use both hands when operating. One hand will be on the trigger and the other on the forward handle. 

You gently press it down when you want to set it into motion. You might need complete control. Otherwise, the powerful machine will overpower you. You might need to practice more to get used to the device. 

It works on both metal and wood. I had to refinish the hardwood floors. Sanding with the grain means that you will have a smooth finish. If I want to renovate my house or small office, I would like to use the Belt sander. Although they are challenging to use when removing metal strips, using the correct sandpaper will do. 

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Quick
  • High speed
  • Aggressive
  • Great for large surfaces

Cons

  • You may need to be careful about sanding away too much material.
  • Not ideal for tight spaces

Main Features

  • Speed and power
  • Dust collection
  • Sandpaper

Orbital Sander

Speed and power

The power is in amps and speed in orbits per minute. The higher the number is powerful it becomes. More power means more speed. More speed is suitable for large surface areas. It is ideal for models that work at different speeds. However, the Orbit sander remains a less aggressive tool. The DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital sander is an efficient tool. It has a variable-speed control that ranges from 8,000 to 12,000 OMP. The dust-sealed switch lasts longer, and the locking dust bag that can operate using one hand is convenient (See Current Price).

Dust collection

A standard collection bag is on an Orbital sander. Dust is collected as produced. A model with a vacuum works better. Filters and sealed switches make a better tool. Better features on dust collection make the tool durable.

Sandpaper

It uses sanding discs as an abrasive that work in a circular motion. The enormous size of the sanding pad covers a large surface area. The standard size is the ¼ sheet sander. 

Belt Sander

Speed and power

The speed is in feet per minute—the power in amps. The standard capacity ranges from 8 to 11 amp motors. More powerful speed sanders work on the hardwood. It would help if you had more energy to hold down the sander. Otherwise, you will not withstand its force. More speed means spinning faster. Different activities attract different speeds. The Makita 9403 Belt sander runs at a speed of 1,640 feet per minute. It is quick. The construction system seals the motor and bearings from contamination (See Current Price). 

Dust collection

Not all Belt sanders come with collection bags. Some do have a vacuum system that is reliable and efficient.

Sandpaper

The belt sander uses a loop of sandpaper. Wide sanding belts work in almost all activities. Small and light models also use smaller loops. Aluminum oxide belts are durable and sharper. However, they attract a higher cost. 

What could be better?

Orbital Sander 

  • The Orbital sander could have been quicker in removing material. 
  • If you want to use the tool, it could have incorporated a polishing sponge that prepares the surface for finishing.
  • A cooling effect is necessary.

Belt Sander

  • There could have been a smaller size for tough angles.
  • A feature that controls the amount of material you remove at a time could have been added.

Similarities

  • They refinish hardwood 
  • Both tools have a powerful effect.
  • They have different models used for specific surfaces.
  • Their performance lies in power and speed.

The key difference between a belt sander and orbital sander

  • An Orbital sander uses sanding discs that move in a circular motion, whereas the Belt sander uses a continuous loop of sandpaper.
  • The continuous loop sand belt rotates between two rotating drums, whereas the Orbital sander’s rectangular head moves in an orbital movement to get rid of the material. 
  • A Belt Sander is limited to flat surfaces, whilst an Orbital sander is more versatile. It works from different angles.
  • A Belt Sander is robust and works on larger surfaces, whereas an Orbital Sander works on smaller surfaces. It can fit into tight spaces.
  • The Belt sander aims to remove a large amount of material. The Orbital sander works on finishing off a surface area, leaving a smooth finish.  

Cost

An Orbital sander is more affordable than a Belt sander. You can justify the cost based on performance. A Belt sander uses more power than an Orbital sander. Being aggressive makes it use durable parts that attract a higher cost.

Pro Tip: You may also like Mouse Sander vs Orbital Sander comparison.

Final Verdict on orbital vs belt sander

So, belt sander vs orbital sander. Which should it be? There has been some discussion about that. It’s not easy to choose the best of the two products. Both have advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered.

However, for complicated angles, you may need the orbital sander. It’s small, easy to use, uses standard sandpaper, is powerful, is great for preparing surfaces, and is fast. On the other hand, a belt sander is fast, has a high speed, is excellent for large surfaces, works with metal, and has a high speed.

A belt sander may be excellent for rough surfaces. An orbital sander may not be the most powerful, but it is easy to use. It’s excellent for beginners.

David D. Hughes
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