Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander : Which is Best Sander For You?

Both belt sander and orbital sander are different from each other. However, one thing they have in common is the sandpaper used in both to shape and smooth the workpiece. Each of these two tools are used in different ways in different businesses. Consequently, their applications and specialty vary from each other. In this article, we are going to point out the most fundamental differences of belt sander vs orbital sander. Other than that, the pros and cons of both the sander types are briefly, yet vividly discussed. Let’s delve in to know more.

Differences Between Belt Sander and Orbital Sander

Belt Sander

Belt Sander

This tool is basically meant for aggressive tasks. A belt sander is bigger than an orbital sander and is designed for fast removal of a lot of material at a go. This type of sander is available in 4 different sizes, ranging from (3 × 18) to (4 × 24). Out of the four basic sizes, (3 × 21) is the most-sought one because of its versatility and easy to control feature. On the contrary, the (4 × 24) sized sander is too big to be controlled by a tenderfoot. Plus, it may worsen your work causing much damage to the wood piece. So, it is typically meant for the experienced users only.

A belt sander is necessarily a motor fitted to 2 rotating drums. These turning drums further move the sandpaper belt, which then polishes the required wood surface. A belt sander is an ideal choice for those who are looking to polish large surfaces, especially wooden flooring, or other flat surfaces. Well, you can also use it on coating materials, such as paint or varnish. The belt sander delivers uniform sanding results across the entire width of its polishing surface. Note: If you are expecting subtle sanding results, then it is better not to use a belt sander. This sander type is typically designed for straightforward, conventional sanding.

PROS

CONS

  • Fast sanding feature while stripping down unwanted portions from the wood at higher speeds

  • Fit for polishing and leveling rough and large surface areas, including hardwood flooring, doors, etc.

  • Can also be used to strip materials from metal surfaces

  • Mostly for the experienced users as the beginners may not handle the torque of the machine

  • Not fit for using on small wood pieces or compact spaces

Here are some more technical factors of belt sanders:

Speed

A belt sanders speed is measured in feet per minute (ft/min). The greater the value of speed, the faster its motor spins. Again, a belt sander with variable speed changing ability is great to get different tasks done (that have varied speed requirements).

Power

Belt sander is incomparably powerful and is measured in Amps. The motor usually has around (8 to 11) Amp. The more powerful the machine is, the harder the wood it can work on, that too in no time. Just make sure to be cautious while handling a belt sander as it features high torque (the turning force of the belt).

Sandpaper

Different from the orbital sanders, a belt sander is designed to equip a loop of sandpaper to it. 3 inch is a generalized width of the sandpaper fitted on the belt. Plus, these sandpapers are the most dynamic in application. The weight of the sander depends on how broad or compact the loop size is. The more compact the belt loop, the lighter cum smaller the tool is; this is an ideal and handy option to perform minor projects. Conversely, the larger loop is best for sanding a wider surface area. The latter one is typically fit for large planks of wood to work on.The belt of the sander is made of zirconia or aluminum oxide (these are sturdier as well as sharper, plus have better durability). Sandpapers made of these materials are relatively costlier compared with the traditional sandpapers. This is quite a considerable point while purchasing a sandpaper separately.With varying grit sizes of the sandpapers, you can vary the application of the belt sander. For example, the coarser the grit size is, the quicker the sandpaper can remove material layers, stains, paints or varnish from the work surface.

Belt Sander Dust Collection

Similar to the orbital sanders, a belt sander produces a lot of sawdust. However, there are some particular belt sander models that feature a dedicated dust collector, which collects all the sawdust produced during the sanding process, thereby keeping the workplace out of mess. Others feature a vacuum mechanism that actively absorbs all the dust as long as the sander is ON.

Applications

A belt sander is only recommended for working on larger wood pieces; be it any furniture set, or rough wooden flooring (like hardwood flooring), etc. You can also use it to level the uneven surface of large pieces of lumber into flat and smooth surfaced planks. If you are planning to refurbish your home interior, then a belt sander is what we recommend in the first place. It will be a great tool to smoothen your kitchen cabinets, tables, and is a great choice to enhance the look of your bedroom and entrance doors.Overall, a belt sander is a dynamic sanding tool as it can also be used on metal surfaces as well (if the accurate sandpaper is used).


Orbital Sander

Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is a hand-held, lightweight sanding tool which allows great flexibility on the surface of its application. Where a belt sander features brute power of a 2-handed machete, an orbital sander features the expertise and precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.An orbital sander is called so as it moves the sandpaper attached to its orbiting disc in small circular motion. The sheet dimension is usually 9×11” and that circular movement is called orbit.

An orbital sander is fit for doing minor projects where finishing and shaping are the primary requirements. Thus type of sander is not for grinding or stripping down paints from the wood piece. This tool is ideal for sanding the rough curves of the workpiece. For example, you can shape and sand cabinet knobs with it. However, an orbit sander is not efficient enough to remove paints or stains from the wooden surface. If used forcibly, might affect the attachments of the workpiece. This (an orbit sander) would also take much time which could otherwise be easily managed in minutes if a belt sander is used. 

PROS

CONS

  • Allows fast sanding and works great on compact areas and also easy on difficult angles

  • Perfect sanding tool for furniture which will be stained or painted later

  • Random orbital sanders are developed to limit the swirl marks

  • Conventional orbital sanders tend to leave swirl marks on the surface of the workpiece

  • Not a powerful sanding tool compared with a belt sander

  • Not fit for major sanding projects

Here are some more technical features of orbital sander:

Speed

The speed of an orbit sander is measured in orbits per minute. This indicates how fast the motor rotates and moves the sander. This type of sander usually works at around 10,000 orbits/minute. Greater the speed, better will the orbit sander work on large surfaces. However, a faster spinning sander will limit your control over the tool during use. That means, you have to be an experienced user, otherwise you could be more likely to cause mishaps.Certain models feature variable speed control, and this is a great addition for performing different types of sanding tasks.

Power

An orbit sander’s power is measured in Amps. Higher the amperage, better is the power delivered and faster does the tool run. However, as discussed earlier, this sander type is not for removing a large amount of material from the workpiece. In case you have such a requirement, it is better to go with a bigger standing tool like a belt sander.

Sandpaper

The area of the sanding surface is directly proportional to the size of the sanding pad of the orbital sander. The larger the surface of the sanding pad, the bigger the area of sanding allowed to work on. The generalised size of an orbital sander is referred to as the quarter-sheet sander. This is because the pad size of the sander is 1/4th of a sandpaper sheet.The sandpaper is easy to attach to the sander pad by following a peel-and-stick mechanism, or hook and loop fastener. Orbital sandpaper is quite affordable. So, if you have a limited budget, then orbital sander is the one as it is compatible with any type of sandpaper.

Dust Collection

Well, any type of sander produces dust, more or less. It can affect your respiratory system if a lot of it is accidentally inhaled. However, the good thing is an orbit sander comes with a dust collection mechanism which includes a dust collection bag. The dusts get accumulated inside the bag as long as the process in ON. A vacuum-powered dust collection system in an orbital sander features fast hoovering of the sawdust while you are sanding.A high-end orbital sander has sealed switches as well as filters. These two components are responsible for keeping the sawdust away from entering into the tool’s mechanism; which may otherwise affect its functionality and reduce durability.

Applications

Unlike a belt sander, an orbit sander is good for using in tight areas and hard to reach corners. It works really fast and works great on curved edges of a wooden piece. The orbital sander is best for sanding furniture that is to be painted later. You can sand baseboards, staircases, or any other surfaces with corners and shapes. 


Verdict

Bothe the belt and orbital sander appear on the either ends of the sander spectrum. Belt sanders, designed with two drums that spin the thick roll of sandpaper, works great on projects that require a major surface area for sanding. They are equipped with fast rotating, powerful motors and require great attention while working, so as to reduce risk of accidental marks on the workpiece. For light sanding jobs, an orbital sander is the right one to work with.

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