Benchtop belt sanders can make most sanding jobs faster and easier. Unfortunately, shopping online doesn’t always make the selection process faster and easier. Instead, it sometimes feels like the time we spend shopping for a product online leaves us further away from knowing which model we should get than ever before.
Manufacturers are happy to downplay their products weaknesses, or leave them out altogether while barraging you with information that may sound good, but is actually insignificant.
We think that’s a shame, and we believe that a well-informed consumer can make a great choice that will leave them happy and come in at or under budget. That’s why we’ve assembled these reviews of the best benchtop belt sanders of 2018. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide that’s designed to teach you everything you need to know about bench sanders before you buy.
|Kalamazoo 1SM 1″ Belt Sander||32 lbs||4.7/5|
(Best for the Money)
|RIKON Power Tools 50-151||18 lbs||4.2/5|
|Rockwell RK7866||41 lbs||3.9/5|
The JET J-4002 is a two-in-one device that gives you access a great belt sander, but also to a high-quality disc sander as well. It comes with a 1/3-horsepower motor, which gives you the power you need to sand even the trickiest surfaces, and you have the flexibility of using either the belt sander or the disc sander, so you can use the sander that best meets your needs at a given moment. This model comes with a good, accurate miter gauge that can turn up to 45-degrees in either direction and is usable with either the belt or disc sanders.
The disc sander even comes with a removable platen, so you can take it off to sand irregular pieces by hand on the disc sander. One minor complaint is that the slot for the miter gauge is 5/8-inches instead of the standard 3/4-inch, which means you won’t be able to use aftermarket parts in it. This model is also a bit tricky to put together, but once you’ve assembled it, you can get a great experience out of this model. Despite its shortcomings, this is easily the best belt sander on the market today.
The Kalamazoo 1SM Belt Sander is a bare-bones belt sander that gets the job done. You’ll love this belt sander if you’re looking for one that runs quietly and smoothly, and while few power tools could be justly described as “quiet,” this one does run much more quietly than the competition. This model comes with very easy belt changing, which means you can easily adjust this machine to different tasks. It also comes with easy tracking adjustment, so it’s easy to get a freshly-changed belt in the correct alignment, which reduces strain on the machine and produces the best sanding experience.
This belt sander is especially good for knifemaking since it uses 1” x 42” belts, which can be used for anything but fit knives especially well. There’s only one major problem with his model, and it’s significant enough to cost this model first place. The platen is awkwardly-placed and small. If you’re working with a piece larger than four or five inches across, you’ll find that it bumps into the motor, which juts up against one side of the platen. If it didn’t have this flaw, it would be our top model, but as is it earns second place.
The WEN 6502 is an all-around good belt sander and will be useful for most people who will need one that can perform a variety of tasks. It uses a wide 4 x 36-inch belt, which is both a common belt type, making it easy to replace when needed, but also provides a large sanding area that makes it good for larger projects. Like the first model on our list, this belt sander comes with a disc sander as well, giving you the option to clean up the ends of pieces with ease. The main belt on this model can also be rotated from zero to 90 degrees, which gives you the flexibility you need to get the best sanding jobs done on any piece.
But, the very best thing about this model is the price. You can get this great sander for a fraction of what you’d spend on the first two models on our list, making it the best value buy on our list. If it weren’t for serious quality control problems, this model would easily break into the top two. However, those problems drop it to third on our list, though it’s still a good overall buy.
The RIKON Power Tools 50-151 is a good choice for someone who wants adjustability at a low price and is willing to take a bit of a gamble in order to get it. This model uses a 1” x 30” belt, and also comes with a 5” disc sander, which gives it many of the same uses you’ll find on more expensive models. It also features two platens, so you won’t have to switch one back and forth, and the platen on the main belt also adjusts up to 45-degrees so you can sand angled pieces easily.
It has 1/3 horsepower, so it’s plenty strong, and it comes with a 2” dust port, which makes cleaning up easy. However, the belt tracking system works strangely and makes it hard to get a good alignment, though tinkering with it for a while eventually gets it there. Even worse are the quality control problems that result in some units not working right out of the box, which is a shame. While this is a decent choice for someone looking for something inexpensive, it’s going to frustrate most users, and there are similarly-priced models that work far better.
The Rockwell RK7866 has some potential as a benchtop belt sander. However, it has a number of problems that will frustrate many users and make it a poor buy. It’s a very similar build to the third-place sander on our list, as it features a belt that can adjust from zero to 90 degrees to allow sanding from a variety of angles. It also comes with a disc sander that has a platen that can adjust up to 45-degrees for sanding beveled edges.
Unfortunately, this belt sander suffers from low power. That means that it often stalls out when you press something against it and that if you’re looking for something on which to do heavy-duty work, you’re going to be out of luck. Also, sanders that lack good high-end power tend to wear our more quickly, since the components have to struggle more to do basic tasks, and that degrades their performance quickly. This machine contains a lot of plastic parts, and while not all of them contribute to its quick failure, they give it a cheap feel and make using it feel bad. This belt sander is inexpensive, but it’s not one that most people will like using.
We hope that we’ve already given you some insight into what makes for a good benchtop belt sander. If you’re still not sure which model would make your next job the easiest, be sure to check out this buyer’s guide. It’s packed full of useful information about belt sanders and designed to get you up to speed with the latest developments in the belt sander market. If you’re looking to make a great, well-informed decision, this is a great resource to read before you buy.
How easy a belt sander is to use can make a big difference in how much time you spend working and how much you ultimately like using it. It’s almost always a good idea to go with a model that is easy to assemble, or comes largely pre-assembled so that you’ll know if there’s a manufacturing defect right away. Not all models have issues in this area, but the sooner you can get up and running, the sooner you’ll know if you’ve gotten a good, working unit or not. You also can spend the time that you otherwise would have spent on assembly on work woodcraft, instead.
It’s also a good idea to invest in models that make it easy to center the belt. This is called “belt tracking,” and if a model comes with poor belt tracking, you’ll lose a lot of efficiency as it will rub the belt against the sides or other internal components, which creates friction. Most people also like models that make it easy and quick to change out belts, since you’re going to replace them when they wear out, and you’ll probably want to change out the belt to match it to the project at hand. Overall, if you do a good job selecting a model that’s easy to use, you’ll probably be very happy with your purchase.
It’s not always easy to see what makes for good value in a belt sander. This process is made even more confusing when you see a list like ours where excellent models can be had at multiple different price points, that are separated by hundreds of dollars.
But, value isn’t just about price. It’s also about getting a model that will meet all of your needs while also saving as much money as you can. That’s why going in and looking at only the cheapest models or focusing solely on getting the very best features can lead to a disappointing purchase. If you get a cheap model that doesn’t have the power you need to complete your tasks, or is frustrating to use, or doesn’t last very long before breaking, you get bad value. Likewise, if you spend a lot of money and get a belt sander with every bell and whistle you can find, you may discover that you don’t need those features and end up wasting a significant portion of your investment.
The key here is to get a belt sander that works well at a good price, and that covers all your needs. If you start by figuring out what your needs are and then creating a shortlist of belt sanders that cover those needs. Once you’ve done that, the cheapest model on that list will provide the best value, since it covers your needs at the lowest price.
Wood shavings can be a pain to clean up, but they can also go airborne and lower the quality of the air in your shop or garage. While it’s always a good idea to wear a breathing mask while using a bench sander, there are other steps you can take to reduce the amount of wood shavings that end up in the air.
For instance, many, but not all, benchtop belt sanders come with a dust port. You just hook up your shop vac and turn it on while you work, and it will suck up many of the shavings that are produced while you work. This keeps them out of the air, but it also keeps them out of the belt sander’s casing.
This is a big deal, because those shavings can build up and create friction, which lowers your overall power, and can put undue stress on the machine. It can also get into the engine and gum it up, leading to a reduced lifespan. It’s a good idea to get a sander with a dust port because it not only makes cleanup easier, but it improves your air quality, and can even extend your belt sander’s life.
The JET J-4002 is a powerful dual belt and disc sander that comes with a good miter gauge and a removable platen that easily make it the top model on our list. The Kalamazoo 1SM Belt Sander runs quietly and smoothly, has easy belt adjustment, easy belt changing, though awkward platen placement is enough to keep it out of second place. The WEN 6502 comes with a wide belt, and you can use it at a variety of angles. Given its low price, it earns the title of “best value” on our list. The RIKON Power Tools 50-151 includes a 2” dust port and good power, but quality control problems and an inferior belt-adjustment system drop it to fourth on our list. The Rockwell RK7866 does some things right, but it’s lack of power and low-quality parts earn it last place.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have taught you everything that you need to know about benchtop belt sanders. Armed with that information, you should be able to find the model that is right for you.