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Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander: Which One Is Suitable For You?

belt sander vs orbital sander




Do you have a woodworking shop? Are you thinking of investing in a sander? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I have an excellent article lined up for you. In this one, I will try to analyze if we require an orbital sander or a belt sander by taking a look at what both of these instruments do in detail. Therefore, make sure to give this entire post a very careful read! 

To begin with, let us first elaborate on what exactly is a sander. If you are a woodworking professional, chances are you already have this machine at your store, but maybe you would like like to replace it. But if in case you want to purchase an entirely new tool, you ought to know the significant differences between the two choices so that you can make the right purchase at the end of decision making! 

So a sander is essentially a machine that uses sandpaper to shape wood. You must have seen small wood workshops where workers use sandpaper to rub wood in a way that it turns out smooth and usable in making different articles. Therefore, to make the job quicker and more efficient, the entire process takes place through the help of a machine which comes in a variety of two choices that usually people get confused about. 

Usually, when you look up Amazon or a similar website to take a look at the possible options, it is quite natural that you might get confused between the two types of results that are shown. One is the belt sander whose picture might remind you of a barcode reading handheld device, and the other one will be a massive machine with a rounded apparatus at the end of the machine. But what is what somehow remains unknown! 

Now that you know what a sander is, are you ready to take a look at the detailed information about the Belt and the Orbital Sander? If yes, scroll over and get set reading! 



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What is a Belt Sander? 


To remind you, a sander is used to shape wood more efficiently and quickly. This is perhaps the only reason why we use a mechanical sander in the first place instead of using human labor to do the same! But if you have to remove a whole lot of material from the article in a hurry, then the right option to go for will undoubtedly be a belt sander. But why so? 

It is because a belt sander is composed of a motor attached to two drums that rotate. As and when the drums rotate, the sandpaper belt is moved across the desired surface which tends to remove the whole unwanted material. It is available in four different sizes, but the most common and versatile one is the 3 x 21 belt sander as it is easy to move and very simple to maneuver. 

On the other hand, one has to be very careful while using the belt sanders, which are on the bigger side of the size scale. For instance, the 4 x 24 one is so large that if it used by inexperienced hands or used carelessly, it might wreak havoc on the user as well as the material that has to be shaped. This possibility, however, makes considering size essential criteria. 

If your work requires you to remove the entire coating of paint off from a large flat surface, then a belt sander will be a right choice for you as it will strip off unwanted material from the wood in minutes. Moreover, a belt sander allows the user to work uniformly over any surface in terms of removing the substance ought to be removed! 

If we had to look at the types of belt sanders, then they are available in two of those including a benchtop belt sander and a handheld belt sander. Read about the two of these in the following points: 

  • Benchtop Belt Sander: In this type, there are two vertically standing drums which quickly spin a long sheet of sandpaper. Usually, you have to take the tool to the article that you’d like to use it on. But in this case, you have to bring the material to the device. If you settle for this type, then make sure to purchase the right gloves, safety goggles, ease protection and respirator as well! 
  • Handheld Belt Sander: Are you looking for a sander to remove old finishes from your article. If yes, a handheld belt sander would be a perfect choice. This helps to remove any varnish or stains with great ease. However, while using this, make sure that you increase the grit of the sandpaper slowly while progressing from 60 grit and more to provide a smooth finish throughout the article. 



  • It takes off the varnish in minutes. 
  • It is available in two choices. 
  • Belt sanders work quickly and easily. 
  • It provides uniformity in terms of removing the unwanted substance. 


  • You need safety apparatus too while purchasing this. 
  • It is heavy and not fit for inexperienced users. 


Thus, it is a clear fact that if you’d like a straightforward sanding apparatus that does away with unwanted material quickly, then go for a belt sander without hesitation or second thoughts! 


Here are the top-rated belt sanders which you can buy right now:


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Features of the recommended belt sander:


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What is an Orbital Sander? 


This is precisely the other category of sanders that you might see in your search results on Amazon. An orbital sander is a handheld sanding tool that is usually lightweight. Because it is lightweight, it enables the user to glide on the workspace flexible with great ease. Thus, this tool can be regarded as the finesse creator in the scene of sanders, which, unlike the belt sander, can be used in smaller areas for shaping purposes. 

Now, do you wonder how these machines are different from Belt Sanders? It is so because these move the sandpaper in the form of small circles. These circles are termed as orbits. Now because the job performed by these tools takes place in circles, they’re able to finish that work which requires shaping and finish providing. Thus, tasks like chipping paint or varnish off wood can’t be performed efficiently by this one! 

So if you had to shape wood and sand around curvy surfaces, then an orbital sander would suffice. This is why you must have seen woodworkers using an orbital sander to polish a wooden doorknob and not a belt sander. Moreover, you would waste ample time if you had to use an orbital sander over a large surface as that’s not its job and a belt sander would be able to do it in minutes! 

The difference in the outcome of both the sanders is mostly because of the working of the orbital sander. A handheld sander is a tool which has a square or rectangular sanding pad which moves back and forth at high speed, unlike the belt sander which does away with any unwanted material in one go instead of moving to and fro. Thus, the precision lies in the orbiting motion of the orbital sander. 

If you have used a belt sander over an entire area, there are chances that you must have left a few scratches or unfinished endings. These can be quickly done away by gliding an orbital sander through the surface. This is because the orbital sanders are gentle in their functioning and don’t leave scratch marks going in one particular direction. 

Another interesting, point about the orbital sander is that you don’t need to purchase an entire sheet or sandpaper to utilize it. You need squares or rectangular pieces whose coarseness varies between 60 to 120. If you already have a big one lying at your workplace, then you can manually cut them and stick them up at the bottom of your machine! 



  • You don’t need entire pieces of sandpaper. 
  • An orbital sander is usually lightweight. 
  • They are great for providing finishing touches. 
  • One can maneuver this tool with flexibility. 


  • It won’t take off paint or varnish. 
  • An orbital sander will take a lot of time if used on a big stretch. 
  • It won’t provide uniformity. 



Here are the top-rated orbital sanders which you can buy right now:


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Features of the recommended belt sander:


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Which one out of these is more suitable for me? 


If you have gone through the entire article carefully, then you would realize that both the tools have different functioning abilities. Thus, you have to contemplate on the fact as to why and for what purpose do you need a sander for. Is it for shaping and providing finishing touches to the object concerned or it is for taking the coating of varnish off from a considerably bigger area? 

Thus, the problem is solved. But in any case, you are still unable to decide, take a look at the pros and cons given at the end of each category to make your decision making clear! 

I hope I am able to clear the difference between the two choices. If you have to tell us or ask something, you are welcome to do so in the comments below! Until then, happy wood-working!!!