A benchtop belt sander is one of the tools that you think you might need one day, but it’s not entirely essential. But once you have it and use it, you wonder how you could even do any woodworking without it.
It’s an excellent tool for all kinds of sanding tasks, from truing miters to sanding curves and rounding edges. You can find models and brands appropriate for all work types, from small projects like toys to more heavy-duty jobs.
As most of the models also come with a disc sander, this tool gives you a lot of versatility when it comes to the projects you can use it for.
If you’re looking for the best benchtop belt sander for your woodworking crafts and projects, you’re in the right place. Check this article out to find the best model that’s right for your needs.
In a rush? Then check the quick picks below. Get the budget option- WEN6515T or go straight for the top pick model from Bucktool BD4801. If you still not sure, check all the reviews below. I’ve included some alternative models as well.
Table of Contents
- Quick picks
- Best Benchtop Belt Sander Reviews in 2020
- Best Benchtop Belt Sander Alternative Models
- Buying Guide
Best Benchtop Belt Sander Reviews in 2020
Let’s have a closer look at the best benchtop belt sanders that are available on the market. For those of you who are new to this type of sander, I’ve prepared a buying guide to help you understand what features you should look for when buying a perfect benchtop belt sander.
Best Overall Benchtop Belt Sander – BUCKTOOL BD4801
This model from Bucktool is one of the best benchtop sanders on the market at the semi-professional level. It’s the only sander on this list with a direct drive motor, which means maintenance-free use and a smaller chance it would slow down during sanding. Let’s have a closer look to check what else it has to offer.
With the 3/4 HP motor, this Bucktool model is the most powerful one featured in this comparison. It offers plenty of power and speed- 3450 RPM for the disc and 2161 FPM for the belt. The body is made out of cast aluminum, making it a solid and heavy tool that is less prone to vibrations.
The belt tilts between 0 and 90 deg for different sanding applications. The 2 dust ports allow you to hook it up to a dust collector for dust-free operation. It also comes with 2 tables, one for the sanding belt and one for the disc. A miter gauge is also included and can be used on both tables for angle sanding.
The direct-drive motor means there is no need for adjusting the driving belt and no problems with pulleys being out of alignment. It matters as both of these conditions can eat power. ¾ hp is plenty for various tasks either at DIY or even a semi-professional level. It won’t stop under pressure even for a bigger workpiece. The tool has plenty of belt speed thanks to this direct drive setup.
The tool is well made with a good amount of cast aluminum, and yes, there are plastic parts in places, but that’s expected. Easy to set up with the simple placement of components as well as powerful and smooth in operation. It’s ready to go right out of the box after putting in the three bolts to hold the miter plates.
It’s relatively quiet for a sander and comes to speed quickly. The dust ports allow for hooking a shop vac or dust extractor, creating virtually a dust-free operation. The manufacturer recommends the Y hose solution instead of 2 hoses or switching from one port to another.
Tracking is steady and easy to adjust. The belt tensioning device has a really nice, strong spring on it- makes the belt sit on super tight and flat to the platen. The table on the disc is a lot better than the one on the belt. It’s cast aluminum and squares easily, and what’s more important holds square during sander operation.
I’d like to point out that the sander comes packed really well with styrofoam all over. This means that it is less likely to be damaged in shipping and saves you the hassle of returning the tool before even trying it out.
Another bonus is that the disc part of the sander has a heavy steel cover mounted for the delivery to avoid disc deformation. You can also use it as a guard while working on the belt sander. This way, you can avoid hurting yourself accidentally.
This is a great quality tool, but there are a few drawbacks I’d like to mention. Some users mentioned that the hose is hard to plug to the belt part in a horizontal position. The port outlet is pointing downwards at a 45deg angle, making it a bit more challenging to connect. Especially if you have a longer hose adapter.
Another thing about this setup is that in this position(belt horizontal), the port points in the opposite direction to the disc port. This could be a problem if you keep the sander on the bench and have the port at the back. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to hook the machine up to one hose with a Y hose adapter.
Another minor complaint is about changing the sanding belt. It is not difficult but takes a bit of time, and the dust guard needs to be taken off, and the supporting leg is removed in order to change the belt.
The last small complaint was that the knob for the tracking is a bit awkward to use. As it’s hidden in the belt sander arm, it could be difficult to turn, especially if you have bigger fingers.
Overall it’s a professional quality tool at a reasonable price. And if you don’t need an 8in disk, Bucktool also has a 6in version that is around $40 cheaper and has the same specks.
Best Value Benchtop Belt Sander– WEN 6502T
As you can imagine, there’s a wide variety of benchtop belt sanders on the market these days, but I’ve been very impressed by the Wen 6502T model. It combines an attractive price and a variety of great features. Let’s have a closer look at what it has to offer.
It’s powered by a 4.3 Amp(1/2 HP) motor that produces 3600 RPM for the disc and 1900 FPM for the /belt. The base is cast iron, which reduces vibrations well, and you can bolt it down to the bench to make it even more stable. But at nearly 40lbs, this thing is not going anywhere, even if left unbolted.
The belt tilts from 0 to 90 deg and the disc table up to 45 deg allowing for bevel sanding. It also features a single dust port allowing hooking it up to a shop vac or dust extractor. An 80 grit sanding belt and disc is also included as well as a miter gauge.
It has plenty of power to remove wood fast, but keep in mind it’s not a heavy-duty machine. The belt speed is just enough for a variety of sanding tasks, and if you are looking to smooth some edges and sand some smaller wood parts, it will do the job. As I mentioned above, the base is a weighty cast iron, which reduces vibrations and prevents walking.
The tool is simple and robust as well as compact in size, which is excellent for smaller workshops.The setup is easy and pretty straightforward. All you need to do is mount the disc table and make sure the belt tracking is set correctly, and you’re good to go.
The belt changing is a breeze thanks to the quick-release lever. One dust port makes it easy to hook it up to a dust extraction system without the need for additional solutions like the Y hose adapter, using 2 hoses, or switching back and forth between ports. The suction should be better too, because of it as well.
Raising the belt sander to the vertical position requires using an Allen key, but that’s pretty much the case even in the best benchtop belt sander models. The motor is a little underpowered and can slow/stop if you apply too much pressure. As I said before, it’s not a heavy-duty tool and shouldn’t be treated like one.
The table platform is ok but not great- feels a bit flimsy. In order to prevent its movement, you must tighten the knob with a wrench. It’s also not great for precision work.
Overall- an affordable, compact, well built, easy to use, and adjust tool. Very quiet too. It has plenty of power for home use and hobby woodworking.
And as you may notice that pretty much the same machine is sold by other manufacturers like Rockwell(Rockwell rk7866 Belt/Disc Combo Sander) or Powertec BD4600. I recommend the WEN, though, due to the excellent customer service the company provides.
Best Budget Benchtop Belt Sander- WEN 6515T
WEN 6515T – a solid tool at a budget price or “you get what you pay for” kind of machine? Compact in size and with many positive reviews could be a good starter tool for woodworking beginners.
It’s powered by a 2.3A motor that provides up to 3160 FPM for the belt and 3450 RPM for the disc, so plenty of speed here. The belt is smaller(1x30in) than the other 2 sanders mentioned above. But can be used for different types of sanding tasks that the 4x36in cannot like sculpting small parts more easily.
It comes with 2 work tables and 2 dust ports, one of each for the disc and belt sander. And the smallest miter gauge I have seen in my life :)
This sander is very compact, which is a plus if you lack space or only need it for small sanding tasks. And with the 2.3 Amp of power, it won’t be able to tackle all of the projects, especially big ones, but it mostly gets the job done. It is an excellent tool for shaping briar blocks for pipes after initial block cutting or small wooden toys. People tend to use it for knife making as well.
It is too not noisy and works smoothly just as other “big names” sanders. The dust collection system works pretty well when coupled to a small shop vac or dust extractor.
The base is made of cast aluminum, which results in little vibration and no walking, wobbling, or balance issues while in operation. The instructions are clear, and the assembly is easy. Changing the belt and setting the tension is easy once you remove the belt cover.
It has some plastic parts as most power tools have, but it does seem to be sturdy, good quality plastic. For this price, I’d say you can’t complain.
The dust collection works well but you still would need to remove the cover after heavy use to remove any dust residue. I’d say this is due to a lack of blast gates at each port resulting in reduced suction.
The tables are made of cheap metal, and the belt one is difficult to keep tight, especially if you over tighten the screw that holds it in place. The miter gauge looks a bit like a toy, and I wouldn’t expect to make much use of it.
To change the belt, you have to disassemble the plastic cover held by 3 screws. If you change the belts often, this can turn into a chore.
It’s the right choice for DIY-ers and homeowners but not really meant for constant everyday use. A budget tool for small projects.
Best Benchtop Belt Sander Alternative Models
WEN 6524 Oscillating Belt and Spindle Sander
This model from WEN is one of the alternatives to the sanders listed above. It’s a combo of belt and spindle sander that will let you sand straight surfaces as well as a variety of arcs, curves and contours, and other strangely shaped workpieces.
It Features a selection of sanding drums and an oscillating sanding belt. The 3.5 Amp motor oscillates the belt and spindle 58 times per minute with a 5/8-inch stroke. And produces a belt speed of 1575 FPM as well as spindle speeds up to 2000 RPM.
It has handy onboard storage for all the bits and pieces, including sandpaper, washers, and accessories that it comes with.
It also comes with a beveling work table, five throat plates, four rubber sanding drums, one belt sanding attachment, and six pieces of 80-grit sandpaper (one for each size spindle/belt).
Although it comes with a small footprint/compact size, this sander has a pretty powerful motor, plenty of accessories, and sturdy, good quality build. All bits and bobs can be stored on the tool, so you have a smaller chance to lose them. The conversion from the belt to spindle configuration and back again is super simple and relatively quick. Easy belt change, tension, and track settings make it working with this tool even more pleasant.
The table is cast aluminum and a decent size. It tilts up to 45 deg(detents at 0,15,22.5,30,45) for bevel sanding.
The dust collection does a decent job, and the port is on a side and out of the way, making it easier to attach to shop vac or dust collector hose. Especially if you haven’t got much space behind the tool.
Not too many cons. Some users reported that this tool is pretty noisy. Still, belt sanders usually are. And some wished there would be a way to stop the oscillation when it is not necessary.
Actually, there are several complaints among the users about the belt sander bit stopping oscillating. If this happens, you have two choices- contact Wen and get the machine replaced or check if the belt(on the motor)has jumped off a gear.
Suppose you feel confident enough to try and fix it. In that case, all you need to do is get a long Phillips screwdriver to separate the motor housing from the unit and get a belt over a gear.
Overall it’s a good quality tool, simple to set up, and does a fine sanding job. The price is easy on the wallet compared to its competitors, and WEN customer service is exceptional.
RIKON 50-151 Benchtop Belt and Disc Combo Sander
A small belt/disc sander like this Rikon seems to be the perfect solution if you don’t have much space in your shop. Compact in size with a small footprint is an excellent alternative to the WEN 6515T if you have a slightly bigger budget. How does it compare? Let’s find out!
A 2.3 Amp(1/3HP) motor power produces a disc speed of 3,450 RPM and belt speed 3270 FPM accordingly. Compared to the WEN 6515T model, you get a lot more belt speed with similar motor power. This is plenty for all small craft projects like home decorations, jewelry, toys, doll furniture, detail sanding, and repair work.
It’s very similar to the WEN machine, but better quality in terms of components and materials used to build it. Both tables are dual cast aluminum and can be tilted up to 45 deg for bevel work. It has 2 dust ports and also comes with a tiny miter gauge.
As I mentioned above, this tool’s power will let you use it for all sorts of crafts and small projects without a problem. It will chew through hardwoods and aluminum with ease.
The brushless induction motor in the metal case means significantly lower noise levels and longer life span. It has sealed ball bearings all over with carbon ABS wheels for belt support.
On top of this, every screw is machine threaded and in metal, not sheet metal in plastic like many other similar tools. The heavy base is made from cast iron, reducing vibrations and making it less prone to “walking” on the benchtop.
The dust collection system is pretty good, too, with 2 separate dust ports for belt and disc that can be hooked up to a shop vac or dust extractor. The aluminum alloy tables are pretty solid as well and extremely friendly to adjust support tables.
Similarly to the WEN model, it has a small footprint that can be easily stored away, or if left on the workbench, it won’t take up much space.
The biggest drawback mentioned by the users was that it takes some work to change the belt. Like in the case of the WEN model, instead of some sort of a latch or a thumb knob like bandsaws have, you have to undo three screws with a screwdriver to do it.
Overall it’s a well made and sturdy machine. It will work well for smaller projects and hobby crafting and only costs $30-40 more than the WEN model. If you have an even bigger budget, the Rikon 50-161VS comes with a variable speed option for more control.
If you’re not very familiar with this type of sander, below, you’ll find a guide talking about what you should pay attention to while looking to buy one. You also will find some basics in the video below.
Plenty of Power
When buying a benchtop belt sander, make sure it has plenty of power for your planned tasks. The disc and belt shouldn’t slow much during sanding. If you want to perform heavy-duty jobs on a bigger scale, I recommend investing in a more powerful tool.
The motor power between 2-5 Amp(1/3- 3/4 HP), like in the models above, should be plenty enough for various DIY and semi-professional projects.
There are two ways the motor can be driven, first by a set of pulleys and a belt. And the second by direct drive.
They both have pros and cons, but generally, the direct drive type is more efficient and less likely to slow down. However, this type of motor is more difficult and expensive to fix or replace.
The belt-driven motor has a belt that can slip and pulleys that can go out of alignment. This can consume the needed power.
So two tools with the same motor power but different ways the motor is driven will actually differ in the power output.
Effective Dust Collection
When it comes to sanding, you want to keep the sand dust to a minimum. No one likes the messy workshop, and you don’t want to breathe in the dust particles suspended in the air. All benchtop sanders have some sort of dust collection system. It can be an onboard type or port(s) for a shop vac/dust collector.
Some models will have only one port for both disc and belt, some will have separate outlets, and some will have additional blast gates as well.
In the two ports setup, you can either use two hoses or move one hose from one port to another. This can be a pain as sometimes the ports are different sizes/are in awkward places, and moving the hose itself is not very convenient.
In this case, one port setup might be a good option here: one hose plus one size outlet. In either case, unless there are blast gates to shut off the unused sander/other port, the suction can be poor/less effective.
If you don’t have a shop vac or dust collector, consider models with an onboard dust collection system.
For the best results, a variable speed option would be optimal, allowing adjusting the belt and disc sanders’ speed to match your task. However, the mid-price range models usually only have a single speed for the belt and one for the disc. So if you require a variable speed, you’d have to invest in a more professional model.
Belt speed is measured in FMP(feet per minute). The higher the number, the faster the belt sander is the more material it removes. Anything below 1500FPM is too slow for this type of work.
As for the disc sanders, the speed is measured in RPM(revolutions per minute). Slower speeds around 1750RPM are best for woodworking, especially with a bigger diameter.
Unfortunately, all of the models mentioned above have a speed above 3000RMP. This speed level requires more experience and can be a bit scary—something to keep in mind. Higher speed, however, is recommended for sanding metals.
Also, when it comes to disc sanders, the speed varies depending on the distance from the disc center. The speed is higher and the finish smoother when you’re sanding closer to the disc’s edge, and it’s slower and leaves a rougher finish when you’re closer to the disc’s center.
All benchtop sanders come with at least one table. Some of them come with two separate ones- one for the disc and one for the belt sander. In some cases, you can move the table from one sander to the other, but that is not recommended.
Mostly because if you’re changing its location, the screws that hold it in place can wear off, leading to the table becoming loose/not keeping flat. And then you have to make sure again that the table is square to the sanding surface.
Mid-range models have trunnions or pivot arms made out of cast iron or aluminum alloy(trunnions) and stamped steel(pivot arms).
Large tables give better support for the sanded piece, and cast iron/aluminum tables are best as they dampen vibrations. Most of the sander models come with tables that also have an adequate miter gauge. Make sure the miter gauge slot is a standard size just in case you would want to upgrade to a better-quality miter gauge in the future.
Disc Size and Easy Disc Changes
Because of the rotation of a disc sander, you can only use half of it safely. You can only use the half that rotates down towards the table. This, in turn, will determine the size of a workpiece you can sand on it. So the bigger the disc, the bigger the sanded piece can be. The size of the disc varies from 5in to 12in.
The other thing you should consider is the thickness of the material the disc is made of. Most of the lower price range sanders have discs made of aluminum as opposed to industrial models that have discs made of machined steel or cast iron.
To be able to use the disc for precision work like truing up the miters, it has to be rigid with no deflection. Bigger size discs(12in) can vary in thickness and the size of the drive shaft they mounted on, and thus some of them deflect more than others.
The other thing worth looking at is the simplicity of the disc abrasive change. If you have to remove the table and additional covers that are screwed to the shroud, you won’t probably change the paper as often as you should.
Tip: Forget the paint thinner. Instead, use a citrus-based adhesive remover to clean the disc before installing the new sanding disc. And this 3M Feathering Disc Adhesive is terrific for getting your disc attached properly.
Easy Belt Arm Positioning
Changing the arm pivot should be easy and will allow you to sand at any angle. Some of the models have a split collar mechanism, and using an Allen wrench, you can change the positions quickly. Others can have a dual-ring mechanism that locks with two or three bolts, which are often hard to reach.
Easy Belt Change and Adjustment
Changing belts should be easy and quick, especially if you need to go through the grids regularly. Most of the models use a tensioning lever/mechanism to release/tighten the belt. This should have a strong spring that will allow for proper belt tension.
Adjusting the tracking is usually done with a turn of a knob found on the belt sander arm, and it allows for positioning the belt centrally on the platen.
In some cases, you have to remove some parts to get to the belt and be able to change it, so keep that in mind if you need to change it frequently.
A Graphite Platen Pad
You can use an additional graphite platen pad to reduce friction between the platen and the belt. What it does is it makes the belt slide more efficiently, and this, in turn, requires less power making it less likely to slow significantly during use.
The belt also stays cooler, and this makes it last longer. The pad also dampens vibrations and makes the platen flatter.
If you need the sander for precision work and thus it has to be very flat, you can buy a piece of ceramic glass and glue it to the platen. Although this solution is probably best for more experienced users.
Flatten the Platen
If you need to make sure the platen is super flat and don’t want to experiment with ceramic glass, you can simply use the sanding belt to make it smoother. Why would you want to do this? The sanders run more smoothly and quietly after their platens are flattened. It only takes a few simple steps:
- Get a 3-4in board that is as long as the platen.
- Get a new belt and turn it inside out
- Disconnect the dust collection
- Install the belt with abrasive face down
- Turn the sander on and press the board lightly moving back and forth on the belt
- Stock and check the results frequently
I hope you liked this article and that it has helped you choose the best benchtop sander for your woodworking projects. If you have any questions that have not been answered here, let me know in a box below. I’ll try my best to help you. Thanks for stopping by!
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