Canadian Woodworking

Belt sanders

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill


These aggressive sanding machines can work wonders in the shop if you know how to handle them.

A belt sander takes a bit of time to get to know well, but once you’ve mastered its use it will make quick work of much of your rough sanding tasks around the workshop. Belts, ranging from 36 grit to 150 grit, can be easily removed and added, giving the user a wide range of uses. If you’re using a belt sander quite often a light yet powerful model, that feels comfortable in your hands, is what you want. Some battery-powered models are now available, though corded models are still the norm. Small units, called palm sanders, are essentially small belt sanders that can be used single-handed.

Price: $80 – $300
Amps: 5 – 10
Common Belt Widths: 3″ and 4″
Common Belt Lengths: 18″, 21″ and 24″
Weight: 5 – 15 lb

Get the Most Out of Your Belt Sander


Low-grit sanding belts are very aggressive, while higher-grit belts can produce a fairly fine and smooth surface. A high-grit, that’s asked to remove too much material, will clog quickly and may cause burning.

Belt sanders can eat through a layer of veneer in seconds, if not used with care. A light touch and putting the unit down gently before pulling the trigger is a good start.

Setting up a specific area in your shop where you can sand panels and longer lengths of material can help greatly. A stop to keep the workpiece in place is very helpful.

Know when to use a belt sander, and when a lighter sander is the best tool for the job. Belt sanders are typically one of the first to be used, while finer sanders provide a surface worthy of a great finish.

Sanding dust accumulates quickly, so empty the attached dust collection bag often. To keep the ambient dust down a fan, an open door / window and dust mask / respirator can go a long way to keeping your lungs happy.

Last modified: October 16, 2023


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  2. One of my favorite tools. Its my go to tool for glued up panels to wide for my planer. The belt sander quickly cleans them up and takes out any imperfections left by the planing process. I will use 150 or 180 grit on the sander letting the sander do the work with minimal pressure and finish off with a palm sander at higher grit (depending on wood type and finish I want.

  3. Some hints or suggestions on the actual use of the sander would have been good. Like pressure on the sander, how to avoid grooves, sanding across the grain to flatten a panel, etc. Also adjusting the sander to keep the belt running true would help. Not everyone reading this newsletter has lots of experience so more detail would be helpful.

    1. Hi Ralph. Thanks for the feedback – much appreciated. The “Know Your Tools” series is meant to introduce tools to people with little or no experience using tools. Each article is only 1 page long and we try to cover the purpose of the tool, what it’s used for and a few basic tips on using the tool. Often we do have complementary articles that do provide more details on using the tool. Unfortunately, in the case of belt sanders we do not – but it’s definitely something we’ll have a chinwag over. Work safe. Carl

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