Discover the Best Benchtop Sander in 2020
Whether you like it or not, the endless clockwork march of time moves forward, and with it, comes the development of new workshop tools. Now, the benchtop sander isn’t new and groundbreaking technology, but it’s about time that you got your hands on one.
What you’re going to find is that the belt sander is the best piece of equipment if you need to save time in the workshop. If you’re getting on in years, it’s going to save you the hassle and the physical struggle of sanding equipment by hand. If you’re younger and looking to make a name for yourself, it’s going to allow you to have better quality craftsmanship at a faster rate.
In this article, we’re going to identify what we think are the best benchtop belt disc sanders, as well as what makes each one so spectacular. Our list of the best benchtop belt sanders is just our opinion, though, so if you disagree, be sure to tell us why.
What Exactly is a Belt Sander?
A benchtop belt sander is a tool used for shaping and finishing wood surfaces. It is a power tool and is typically mounted on a stationary setup.
An electrical motor powers two rotating drums and a loop of sandpaper is put over them. When the machine is on, and the drums are rotating, it moves the sandpaper, allowing you to use it on your wood.
While the benchtop sander is stationary, there are actually three different kinds of sanders. You have the handheld variety, as well as the non-benchtop stationary kind.
What Sets the Benchtop Sander Apart?
When comparing a benchtop or stationary table sanders to a handheld, the obvious difference is that you can operate the former in a hands-free mode. Simply put, instead of running the sandpaper across the wood, you run the wood across the sandpaper. This gives you a lot more control over the work that you’re doing.
As for the difference between a benchtop sander and a stationary one, it’s quite miniscule. Most notably, the benchtop sander is quite a bit smaller than a stationary one, hence the name. This makes it more portable than a larger sander and allows it to fit more comfortably into smaller workshops.
It’s important to remember when using your benchtop belt sander, make sure you sand with the grain. Otherwise, you can rip chunks off of your wood and end up with a very rough looking finished product.
Benchtop Sander Safety Precautions
As with any piece of woodworking equipment in a workshop, there are certain precautions that you need to take in order to ensure you don’t injure yourself.
As you might expect, this starts with eye protection. If the wood flies back at you while you work, or chunks of wood start to fly, you’re inline to lose an eye if you’re not wearing goggles. Therefore, make sure you use solid eyewear whenever you are operating the machine.
Next up is some ear protection. Protecting your hearing is something that a lot of carpenters overlook when it comes to belt sanders, but it is super important. The speed and friction that bench sanders undergo emit a continuous low hum that, if you’re exposed to it for long enough, can do some damage. At the very least you can expect some discomfort and a headache. At worst, you might do permanent damage. Avoid the risk and wear some noise-canceling ear protection.
Like you should with any part of your project, make sure you know what you’re doing before you start. Consider the angle that you need to hold the wood at, how long you need to hold it for, if anything is in the way, and so on. Thinking ahead is going to save you from losing a finger, or worse.
Don’t wear any loose clothing when working with the benchtop belt sander, and if you have long hair, consider tying it up. You don’t want to get stuck between the rotating drums.
What to Look for in a Belt Sander
We’re going to talk you through a few different belt sanders later on, but we want to give you a general idea of what you should be looking for in the best power tool for you.
First and foremost, consider how powerful you need your tool to be. This is directly related to the RPM and strength of the drums and is very important. If you primarily work on smaller, handheld items, then you only need a little bit of power. However, if you work on larger projects, you’re going to need a sander with a bit more kick.
You want to consider the size of the benchtop belt sander against your workshop, and how that affects you. If you often work on diverse pieces with lots of curves, then you need room to maneuver your wood around, especially if you make smaller pieces. However, if you just work on the likes of furniture, then this isn’t as important. Also, check if your benchtop sander comes with a disk sander and an attached wheel. Having these add ons is going to make your life easier.
Making sure that the bench sanders have adequate dust collection is perhaps the most important thing to look out for. A belt sander goes through a surprisingly large amount of material, and it’s all fine dust. Therefore, make sure that your unit has a good dust collection system and capacity.
The best belt and disc sanders are easy to use. Changing the belt shouldn’t be an issue, and the motor should output plenty of power. When looking for the best benchtop power tools, you also need to make sure that the one you choose has the ability to work on multiple projects.
Make sure you get a clear and easy to read miter gauge and make sure that your belt can be adjusted by 90 degrees. You want to make sure your one comes with a good quality dust port, as well. The best disc sanders and bench sanders out there all have good dust collection systems.
After considering all of that, have a look at the benchtop belt sanders themselves. Check if the safety buttons are easy to access, and have a look at the general size and shape of the machine to make sure it can accommodate the wood that you’re working with.
After you do all that, you should have an idea of what the best benchtop belt sander is for you.
Why Do I Need a Sander?
On a base level, bench sanders are going to remove materials from anything that you are using it on, primarily wood. In particular, it’s great for the initial sanding process on pieces. However, due to the aggression and high RPM of the motor, it shouldn’t be used for sanding finishes. Instead, stick to traditional hand sanding for that.
It’s not just sanding that belt sanders come in handy for, though. You can also use one to great effect when it comes to shaping wood. It’s quick and easy to turn an edge into a smooth curve with a belt sander, with the width of the belt determining how deep the curve is.
If you frequently create projects that have rounded edges or corners, investing in a belt sander is going to save you a lot of time and energy, even in a short amount of time. It doesn’t matter what shape the wood is, or what tree it came from.
How to Use a Stationary Belt Sander
With traditional sanding, you pick out your sandpaper, wrap it around your block, and get to work. Using motorized benchtop belt sanders isn’ quite as simple. However, there really isn’t anything to it.
First, you need to set your sander up. Some smaller sanders, in particular disc sanders, are ready to go straight out of the box. However, larger models might need a small bit of assembly. Make sure that everything is put together tightly, and that the surface you’re working on is level and secure.
Plug your sander into a power source and turn it on. You might need to give it a second to get up to speed, but once it does, you’re done. Take your wood, and touch the part you are sanding to the belt. That’s all there is to it.
How to Use a Disc Sander
Using a disc sander is relatively similar to using a belt sander, with some things reversed.
First, you want to set up your disc sander in a stable and secure area. If you’re working a site with other people, put it in a low traffic zone so that nobody bumps into you during the sanding process.
The disc sander should have a guard and protective shield that prevents the disc from making contact with your hand. Double-check that these features are present and that both are secure.
Ensure that the dust collection unit you are using is connected to the disc sander. If it isn’t, then connect it before you start.
Take your wood, and make sure that it is prepped for sanding. This includes marking out areas and dimensions that you are going to be working on.
After that, you can turn on the disc sander. Wait for it to reach full speed before you begin working. You should notice that the disc rotates counterclockwise, so you only need to use the left portion of the disc sander.
Make sure that you are constantly aware of the position of your fingers and keep them a minimum of four feet away from the disc sander at all times.
If your disc sander is stationary, then carefully place your material on your work surface, and apply pressure to the disc sander with the area you want to be sanded.
If your disc sander is handheld, then ensure that your wood is stable and secure on your workspace, use a clamp if you have to. Remaining vigilant, bring the disc sander down on the area that you’re working on and apply pressure.
Be sure to constantly adjust as you work. You should be able to find the adjustment knobs on your sander, so don’t be afraid to play around with the settings to find what works for you.
Regardless of which kind you use, make sure that you are safe at all times, and never cut any corners.
Best Sanders on the Market
After getting all that knowledge and information out of the way, we’re moving on to what we think are the best sanders on the market right now.
We’re going to go through each one bit by bit and point out the pros and cons, hopefully giving you a 360-degree look at the sander. Remember, these are our best recommendations, but you don’t have to use these.
We advised you on what to look for in benchtop belt sanders earlier, so don’t be afraid to take those tips and go shopping for yourself.
WEN 6515T 4 x 36 Inch
The Wen 6515T 4 x 36 is a hybrid belt and disc sander, meaning that it comes with both a disc and belt, which is fantastic in terms of the diversity and functionality that the sander offers.
It has one of the best motors for a sander that is as compact as it is. With an output of 2.3 amps, your disc is going to be rotating at 3160 RPM, and the belt is going to have a rate of 3540 RPM.
The base of the sander is particularly well built. It’s weighted and heavy-duty so that it doesn’t wobble and move about during operation. Instead, it’s going to sit flat and secure on the surface you’re working on, making it easy to use.
The black and orange color scheme is visually pleasing and gives an excuse to have the adjustment knob and stop buttons highlighted in a bold color.
The Wen 6515T 4 x 36 also uses these orange markings on the sander miter gauge, so you can easily see what you’re doing if you’re working against a black background.
When using the belt sander, you can adjust the level and angle of the table surface. These make it extremely easy to smooth out beveled work.
However, this model does have a few drawbacks that we need to point out.
First, the lever lock for the sander is attached to the mounting bolt. This is a bizarre design choice that makes the lever unnecessarily difficult to use when trying to thread it on your locking nut.
The knobs of the sander are made from hard plastic. This means that there is a risk of cracking or breaking if you adjust the sander too tightly.
The sanding belt on the Wen 6515T 4 x 36 is also particularly thin. While this is expected, given the size of the unit, it does make larger projects a hassle to complete.
Continuing on with our dual sanding machines, this disc and belt sander is a great choice if the Wen model isn’t your thing. While the unit is decidedly bigger and bulkier than the Wen, it does offer a lot more surface area on the belt, immediately addressing one of the Wen’s negatives. If you need an all-rounder, this is the best benchtop belt model for you.
As well as that, the belt can be adjusted from 0 to 90 degrees, so you can sand your work both vertically and horizontally.
The sander caters to beveled edges, too, adjusting between 0 and 45 degrees.
The motor is a fair bit stronger than that on the Wen, supporting a 4.3 amp heavy duty induction system, so you know that you’re getting a quality and dependable performance.
Changing out sanding belts on the Rockwell is easier than with a lot of other models, as it comes with a quick-release lever designed to make the process quick and hassle-free.
With the extra surface area, you’re getting on the belt comes with the downside of having a bigger unit. This benchtop belt sander is going to take up a lot of space on your tabletop, so make sure that you have the room for it.
On top of that, the table that the belt sander uses is mounted quite a bit away from the main body. Therefore, it’s going to extend out over the edge unless you house your sander away from the edges of your table.
The belt platform adjuster also has a tendency to become loose during operation, which means that you need to check it before and after every use of the sander. This may be caused by the 4.3 amp motor.
Jet J4 1002
The Jet J4 is one of the best, super durable, heavy-duty hybrid sander for those of you looking for something that is going to last years. The frame is made from cast iron base parts, so you know that this model isn’t playing around.
The sander has a miter guage that turns and locks at common angles within a range of 45 degrees in both directions. It also has a hinged idle wheel cover and tilting table.
The model has an abrasive belt unit that does the work of a jigsaw, hand file, or coping saw all while removing material and finishing the piece.
As well as being sturdy, the heave frame of the sander absorbs vibrations, which makes his model much quieter than some of the other hybrid disk sanders out there.
The belt is 42 inches long, and the motor is incredibly powerful. This means that this sander is going to absolutely eat through the material and that it isn’t going to heat up as fast as a shorter belt normally would.
The Jet J4 is also one of the best versatile sanders. It has multiple adjustment points, which give you the ability to present your wood at a wide variety of different angles.
As a nice added bonus, the sander also has rubber pads that are on the bottom of each foot. These pads are going to prevent the sander from sliding across the table when in use, and are going to absorb some more of those vibrations generated by the motor and drums.
All this put together makes the sander one of the best in terms of noise canceling. The cast iron base, along with the rubber pads, makes this belt sander extremely quiet.
On the flip side, the cast iron base means that the weight of the tool is a total of 60 pounds, which is a good bit heavier than other sanding models. This makes it more difficult to move, so it’s not great for on the go work.
The biggest downside of this model, though, is, unfortunately, its sanding belt. It’s only two inches wide, on account of limitations associated with the cast iron construction, which is a size only really suited for smaller projects.
Rikon Power Tools 50-151
The Rikon Power Tools 50-151 1 x 30 is a great hybrid sander for novice woodworkers. It’s an economic model that comes with a smaller disc and thinner belt than usual, which is perfect for those just starting out. If you’re new to woodworking, this is the best option for you.
As usual, the belt table tilts between 0 and 45 degrees and comes with a belt tracking knob.
The safety switch is in an accessible, easy to reach the spot, and a guard at the top of the belt sander helps to combat the debris that goes flying everywhere.
The level of adjustability and versatility that the Rikon Power Tools 50-151 1 x 30 has is phenomenal for the price, and all of the knobs are easy to use and very accessible.
The two-inch dust port should be more than enough in terms of suction power to clear the debris from the model.
The Rikon Power Tools 50-151 also has a clear cover over the on/off switch, so you don’t have to worry about it from accidentally shutting off in the middle of a pass.
On the other side of things, the table adjust readings aren’t colored, so it can be difficult to gauge the angle that the table is set at.
As well, thanks to the sander’s economic status, it is made from some lighter and tinner materials. While the construction still holds up fine, it means more noise and vibration while the tool is running.
If you’re looking for a sander with a quality motor, then this model is by far the best. It has a 1/3 HP, 120/240v AC motor, and 3.5/1.75 amp motor capable of putting ou 3500 RPM.
That’s a low speed, though. The belt, which is two inches by 42 inches, is able to output 4000 SFPM, and the six inches PSA abrasive disc maxes out at 3500 RPM.
The belt tension lever on this table sander is located on the side of the sanding belt instead of the back. This makes it much easier to use.
The 3.5 amp motor kicks out up to 1/3 horsepower, meaning that it can handle almost all woodworking projects.
The on/off switch is bright and located in the center, making it easy to reach in the event that you need an emergency power down.
The surfaces on both sander tables have groves that keep the dust and debris out of the point of contact while you’re working with the belt.
For some reason, it can be difficult to maintain proper belt tension with this model. You’re going to find that you need to make regular adjustments as you work.
Unfortunately, a thinner metal stock was used for the tables. This means that the vibrations from the motor are going to transfer through the wood as you work. While this isn’t ideal in the best benchtop belt sander, we think that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Quick Guide For the Best Benchtop Sanders
Let’s have a quick rundown of all the best benchtop belt disc sanders.
Wen: Powerful for the compact size of the bench sander. 2.3 amps that output a total of 3160 RPM for your disc, and 3540 RPM for your belt.
Rockwell: Heavy-duty induction system. High quality and dependable. 4.3 amp output means a fast belt.
Jet: Unkown motor.
Rickon: Unkown motor.
Palmgren: Best in class for power and motor. 1/3 HP, 120/240v AC motor, and 3.5/1.75 amp motor. Has a minimum of 3500 RPM for the disc and 4000 SFPM for your belt.
Wen: Small and compact, 4 x 36 inches. Great for smaller workshops and for moving place to place. Decent design that doesn’t cater to any experience level.
Rockwell: Extra surface area on the belt means a longer table and a generally bigger unit. Not great for transport, but not terrible. Can’t comfortably be mounted to the edge of a table. One of the better pure belt sanders
Jet: Terrible for accessibility. The frame is made from a sturdy cast iron, which drives the weight up, which makes this sander less than ideal for moveable work.
Rickon: Great accessibility. The ideal model for a beginner woodworker, easy to reach the switch, strong belt, and good design.
Palmgren: Okay level of accessibility. Intuitive design, made from poor table material, but a quality belt.
Wen: Miter gauge markings are colored, and there are plenty of angle adjustment options. The table is weighted so that it doesn’t wobble, small and compact making it ideal for smaller projects, not bigger ones—a good small belt bench sander.
Rockwell: Large belt width allows the Rockwell to cater to larger woodworking projects. Good adjustment options, but it is clunky and takes up space.
Jet: Good adjustment options and miter gauge, but a tiny sanding belt. This model is only recommended for smaller projects.
Rickon: Great versatility in your adjustment options for the price. Good for beginner projects. 1 x 30-inch belt.
Palmgren: Difficult to maintain proper belt tension. Powerful motor that can cater to nearly every kind of project.
How to Tell if You Need Disc Belt Sander
We’ve discussed every detail of our favorite models of benchtop belt sanders. We’ve listed the best of the best belt and disc sander options, so now let’s dive deeper into the reason to get one.
We’ve talked speed and energy, and those two really are the big ones. The biggest advantage of using tools like bench sanders is the burden that it takes off of you. When the power motor is doing the work, then you don’t need to worry about spending hours grinding your wood down by hand.
Having the ability to use things like a miter gauge and dust port allows you to save time on cleanup, and get more accurate work done.
There are multiple types of bench sanders; you have bench belt, belt disc, or just a regular bench sander. This gives you way more variety than doing the work without equipment.
If you struggle to get accurate work with traditional sanding, then you need a bench sander that has a miter gauge. If you need something that does the work fast, then you need a belt disc sander with a strong power supply.
Whether or not you need a bench sander is entirely based on your situation, but if any of the benefits that we just listed sound appealing to you, then consider getting yourself a belt disc bench sander.
Hopefully, our guide on bench belt sanders has been useful for you.
We’ve run you through everything that you need to know, from the miter gauge to the power supply, to the width of the sanders belt.
If you’re not a fan of the bench belt units that we’ve listed, we hope that we have given you the tools to pick out your own one.