March 10, 2021

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

When comparing the belt sander vs orbital sander, you will note that they have different models with different strengths and weaknesses. Your budget is important, as is having the best dust collection system, the use of available sandpaper, and a smooth finish. 

Usability might be your priority which might point you to the appropriate sander. If you want a powerful tool that works on any surface quickly, I will take you through a close examination that will point to your best pick.

Orbital Sander

It is an electrical machine for polishing surfaces. What makes the Orbital sander great is that it is versatile. You can use it on different angles, and it easily fits in tight spaces that are difficult to master. 

You can use them to remove wood, and it 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. I would use it on a cabinet or cupboard. The standard size of the tool is the ¼ sheet sander. 

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

The reason being: 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 use an electric motor. It is ideal for the early stages as it works well in preparing surfaces. It easily removes unnecessary material off wood pieces because it is powerful, aggressive, and comes with high speeds. 

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

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 it is difficult to carry large surfaces to the machine. It is great for sharpening. It works on both wood and metal. 

craftsman using an electric belt and disc sander

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

When you want to set it into motion, you gently press it down. You might need full control. Otherwise, the powerful machine will overpower you. You might need to practice more so that you get used to the machine. 

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 difficult 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 good 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 makes it last longer, and the locking dust bag that can operate using one hand is convenient (Source).

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 big 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 power ranges from 8 to 11 amp motors. More powerful speed sanders work on the hardwood. You need 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 (Source). 

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.

Key Differences

  • 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 powerful 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

So, orbital sander vs belt sander. Which will it be? After all, it has been discussed. It is challenging to pick the best between the two products. They both have pros and cons that have to be considered. 

However, for complicated angles, you might need the Orbital sander. It is small, easy to use, uses standard sandpaper, powerful, great in preparing surfaces, and quick. On the other hand, a belt sander is quick, has high speeds, great for large surface areas, works with metal, and has high speeds. 

A belt sander can be great for rough surfaces. An Orbital sander might not be the most powerful, but it is easy to use. It is excellent for beginners. 

David D. Hughes
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