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Belt Sander vs. Orbital Sander: What Is The Difference

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Written By John Gibbs




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If you are planning on doing any type of woodworking, you will need to know the difference between a belt sander and an orbital sander. These two types of sanders serve different purposes, and it is important to know when to use each one. This article will explain the key differences between a belt sander and an orbital sander so that you can make the best decision for your next woodworking project.

Belt Sander Vs. Orbital Sander: What Are the Differences?
The main difference is in the type of abrasive each tool uses and in the type of motion. A belt sander uses sheets of sandpaper that are moved rapidly back and forth over. Orbital sander uses a special sanding disc. They work by moving the sanding pad in a circular motion. This means that a belt sander is better suited for rough sanding tasks, while an orbital sander is better suited for finer sanding tasks.

What is a Belt Sander: Overview

A belt sander is a powerful tool that uses an abrasive belt to sand down wood and other materials. It is a popular tool for many woodworking and home improvement projects. Belt sanders come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be used for a wide range of tasks.


Belt sanders are typically used to remove paint, varnish, or stains from wood. They can also be used to remove rust from metal surfaces. Belt sanders are also sometimes used to sharpen knives. Belt sanders are available in both handheld and benchtop models. Handheld models are typically smaller and more maneuverable, while benchtop models are usually larger and more powerful.

Belt Sander: Types

Belt sanders are one of the most versatile tools in any woodworker’s arsenal. Whether you’re looking to remove material quickly, smooth out a rough edge, or even create a custom finish, a belt sander can do the job.

Stationary Belt Sanders

Stationary belt sanders are the most powerful type of belt sander on the market. They’re ideal for removing large amounts of material quickly, making them a great choice for projects like shaping tabletops or removing old paint from furniture. Stationary belt sanders are also great for creating custom finishes. By changing the grit of the sandpaper, you can create anything from a rough, distressed look to a smooth, polished finish.

Stationary belt sanders typically have a large table that keeps the material you’re working on stable as you sand. This is a great feature if you’re working on larger pieces, but it can make maneuvering the sander around tight curves more difficult.

Handheld Belt Sanders

Portable belt sanders are a great choice for projects that require more maneuverability. They’re lighter and smaller than stationary sanders, making them easier to carry and maneuver around tight spaces. Portable belt sanders are also a good choice for projects that require sanding in difficult-to-reach places, like the inside of a cabinet door.


One downside of portable belt sanders is that they’re not as powerful as their stationary counterparts. This means they can’t remove the material as quickly, so they’re not the best choice for projects that require a lot of material removal. Portable belt sanders are also more likely to vibrate, so it’s important to hold them steady to avoid damaging your workpiece.

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Characteristics of Belt Sanders

Belt sanders are one of the most commonly used power tools in woodworking and carpentry. They are very versatile and can be used for a variety of tasks, such as sanding, polishing, and finishing. Here are some of the most important characteristics of belt sanders.


The speed of a belt sander is an important factor to consider when purchasing one. The faster the sander, the more quickly it will remove material. However, too high of a speed can create gouges in the workpiece. Choose a sander with adjustable speed so that you can control the amount of material removal.

Sanding mechanism

Belt sanders use a continuous loop of sandpaper to sand surfaces. The sandpaper is wrapped around a drum, which spins at high speeds. The sandpaper is moved over the surface of the material being sanded. The sandpaper wears down as it sands and eventually needs to be replaced.

Sanding grit

Belt sanders use a variety of sandpaper grits. The sanding grit is the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. The larger the grit, the finer the sandpaper. Finer grits are used for removing smaller amounts of material and for creating a smooth finish. Coarser grits are used for removing larger amounts of material.



The power of a belt sander is measured in watts. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the sander. More powerful sanders can remove material more quickly. However, they can also be more difficult to control.


Belt sanders use a variety of sandpaper types. The most common type is alumina oxide, which is best for sanding wood. Other types of sandpaper include zirconia oxide, silicon carbide, and ceramic. Each type of sandpaper is best for sanding different materials.

Dust collection

Belt sanders create a lot of dust. It is important to choose a sander with an effective dust collection system. Otherwise, the dust will quickly cover the work area and potentially damage the sander.

When To Use

Belt sanders are one of the most versatile tools in a woodworker’s or metalworker’s arsenal. They can be used for a variety of tasks, from shaping edges to removing paint or rust. But with all that power comes the potential for danger, so it’s important to know when to use a belt sander and how to use one safely.

When using a belt sander, always keep the sander moving to avoid damaging the surface you’re working on. And be sure to use a dust mask or respirator to avoid breathing in the dust created by the sanding.

Here are some common uses for belt sanders:

  • Shaping edges: A belt sander can be used to create beveled or rounded edges on a piece of wood.
  • Removing paint or varnish: A belt sander can quickly remove paint or varnish from a surface. Just be sure to sand with the grain of the wood to avoid damaging the wood itself.
  • Removing rust: A belt sander can be used to remove rust from metal surfaces. Just be sure to go slowly and evenly to avoid damaging the metal.
  • Preparing a surface for staining or painting: A belt sander can be used to rough up a smooth surface to help paint or stain adhere better. Just be sure to sand evenly to avoid creating gouges on the surface.
Advantages of Belt Sanders
  • Belt sanders have a very powerful motor that spins a belt of abrasive material at high speeds;
  • The belt is usually made of aluminum oxide or silicon carbide and is available in a variety of grits;
  • They are also very versatile and can be used for tasks such as shaping, contouring, and finishing;
  • Belt sanders are available in a variety of sizes, from small handheld units to large stationary machines.
Disadvantages of Belt Sanders
  • Belt sanders are very aggressive and can remove a lot of material very quickly;
  • Belt sanders generate a lot of dust and noise, so it is important to wear proper safety gear and have proper ventilation when using them.

What is an Orbital Sander: Overview


An orbital sander is a hand-held power tool that is used for sanding down wood, plastic, or metal. It has a rectangular base with a sandpaper pad attached to the bottom. The sander is turned on and then moved in a circular motion over the surface that needs to be sanded.

Orbital sanders are available in a variety of sizes, with the most common being the 1/4-sheet and 1/2-sheet models. The size refers to the size of the sandpaper pad. The 1/4-sheet sander is the most maneuverable and is ideal for getting into tight spaces. The 1/2-sheet sander is best for larger surfaces.

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Characteristics of Orbital Sanders

Orbital sanders are a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of projects. They’re ideal for sanding down rough surfaces and for removing paint or varnish. They can also be used to create a smooth finish on woodworking projects. For example, orbital sanders are used in creating beautiful and unusual wood and epoxy tables.


Orbital sanders have a high speed, making them ideal for quickly removing material from a workpiece. The speed is adjustable so that you can choose the right setting for the job at hand.

Sanding mechanism

Orbital sanders use a random orbital sanding motion, meaning they move in a circular pattern while also moving randomly. This motion is what gives orbital sanders their unique ability to remove material quickly without leaving behind any swirl marks.

Sanding grit

Orbital sanders come in a variety of grits, from very coarse to very fine. The grit you choose will depend on the material you’re sanding and the desired finish.



Orbital sanders are available in both corded and cordless versions. Corded models are more powerful, but cordless models offer the convenience of not having to be plugged in.


Most orbital sanders have a handle on the top and the bottom. This allows you to use the sander with both hands for increased control.


There are a few different types of orbital sanders, including hand-held, benchtop, and stationery. Hand-held models are the most common and are perfect for small jobs. Benchtop and stationary sanders are designed for larger projects.


Orbital sanders use special sandpaper discs that are attached with velcro. The discs come in a variety of grits and can be easily swapped out as needed.

Dust Collection

Most orbital sanders come with some type of dust collection system. This helps to keep your work area clean and free of dust.

Corded or Cordless Orbital Sander?

Most orbital sanders are handheld and moved over the surface to be sanded. The sander’s orbital motion does the work, and there is no need to push or pull the sander as with a belt sander.


Corded orbital sanders offer the advantage of continuous power, meaning you can work for as long as you like without having to stop to recharge the battery. Cordless orbital sanders offer the advantage of being more portable, as there is no cord to drag around with you. However, the battery will need to be recharged periodically, which can be a drawback if you are in the middle of a project and the battery runs out of power.

In terms of power, corded orbital sanders will usually be more powerful than cordless ones, as they are not limited by the battery. However, this is not always the case, and it is worth checking the specifications of the particular model you are interested in.

  • Faster than hand sanding;
  • Can reach tight spaces;
  • Dust-free sanding option available;
  • Less arm fatigue than hand sanding;
  • Can use a variety of sandpaper grits.
  • It can create swirl marks if used improperly;
  • More expensive than hand sanding.

Which Is Right for You?

Belt sanders are ideal for quickly removing large amounts of material. They’re also great for shaping and smoothing rough surfaces. If you’re working with hardwoods or metals, a belt sander will save you a lot of time and effort.

Orbital sanders are better for finer sanding and finishing work. They’re also less likely to damage delicate surfaces. If you’re working with softwoods or veneers, an orbital sander is probably a better choice.

So, which orbit vs. belt sander is right for you? It depends on the type of project you’re working on. If you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to ask a professional for advice.

Can you use an orbital sander on furniture?

An orbital sander is a handheld power tool that uses a sanding pad that spins in a random orbit. This type of sander is ideal for sanding flat surfaces, such as tables and chairs. It is also great for removing paint or varnish from the furniture.

Can you use a wood sander on metal?


You can use a wood sander on metal, but it’s not the best tool for the job. A wood sander will remove paint and rust from metal surfaces, but it will also leave behind scratches. If you’re looking for a smooth, scratch-free finish on your metal project, use a different type of sander.

What sander to use to remove paint?

For large, flat surfaces, an orbital sander is the best choice. These sanders use circular motions to quickly remove paint without leaving behind any swirl marks. For smaller, detailed areas, a vibrating sander is a better option. These sanders use rapid vibrations to remove paint without damaging the underlying surface.


The article covered the main differences between belt sanders and orbital sanders. Belt sanders are better for bigger projects and removing rough material quickly, while orbital sanders are better for smaller projects and finishing work. Which sander do you prefer? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!


  • Belt sander – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belt_sander
  • Sanders – https://home.howstuffworks.com/sandpaper.htm
  • Orbital sanders – https://www.engineeringchoice.com/electric-sander/

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About John Gibbs

Hello everyone! My name is John Gibbs. I am 60 years old and have been in the family construction business all my adult life. Construction is not only my profession but also my passion. I know everything about building and repair materials, tools, advanced methods, techniques, and approaches. I will share the same knowledge with you in my articles.

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