Belt sanders are an indispensible tool for anyone who needs to work with wood. They seamlessly sand and prep wood for finishing, and they range in price according to their power, and what they’re being used for. These belt sanders are considered some of the highest rated sanders of 2011.
The Porter Cable 360 VS Belt Sander is for those super heavy-duty jobs that require that you bring out the big guns. It’s a 14-½ pound, 3 x 24” belt sander that can handle basically anything you need a sander to do. It uses a 12-amp motor and has a belt speed ranging from 1000 sfpm to 1500 sfpm. You operate it by gripping it in the front and the back with both hands resting on handles. The speed dial is located on the front grip so it should be easy for you to adjust the speed as needed in the middle of a job. You can adjust the belt quickly and easily as well, thanks to the belt change lever that’s also conveniently placed. This tool is perfect for anyone looking for professional grade tools that are user-friendly enough to be easily handled by the amateur wood worker. This model retails for about $450, but if you shop around, you should be able to find new ones for about $260.
This 3 x 21" variable speed tool is a heavy duty, two-handed sander that uses an 8-amp motor. It goes from 850 sfpm to 1400sfpm. It can handle small around the house jobs to industrial level jobs. You have a lot less to clean up at the end of a job thanks to the Dewalt’s built-in dust collection system. The rubber-wrapped handles cut down on the vibrations while the machine is in use. Since it was built with a low center of gravity, and weighs 12 pounds, it maintains its balance very well. You’ll probably end up spending about $230 for a brand new Dewalt, while used versions will cost you between $125 and $175.
This sander, equipped with a front grip design, is perfect for heavy-duty jobs requiring a 4 x 24” sander without a variable speed motor. You’d use this tool for big jobs like stock removal. The 9403 sander has a powerful 11-amp motor, and spins at a superfast 1640 sfpm. It comes equipped with an extended base that allows you to do flush sanding. In spite of its power, this sander is remarkably quiet for its size. It also has a dust collection system attached, which allows for easy cleanup. Changing belts is super simple thanks to a well-placed lever that’s easy to operate. A new machine will set you back about $260, while a secondhand version will probably run about $150 to $200.
The Black & Decker Dragster DS321 is one of the nicer-looking sanders out there. This 3 x 21” beauty has a sleek low profile that is perfect for accessing hard to reach spaces under cabinets or for maneuvering in between posts. Don’t worry, though, because it can also handle any of the large surface areas you throw at it, like floors. It has front-end wheels that are so low that they're able to sand three times closer to the border of nearby surfaces than other sanders. One of the best things about the Dragster is the price: $60 new.