What are the differences between a belt sander and an orbital sander? Let me explain to you the difference between the two tools and which one is best for what type of job.
Regardless of the type of project, sanding is typically a part of the process that most of us do not really enjoy. In its simplest form, a piece of sandpaper and some stamina is all it takes. However, if you need to quickly finish the process, then power sanders can do a much better job.
However, having the wrong tool for the job only makes it worse. So, it is crucial that you are getting the best type of sander for your projects.
And even though they’re both sanders, belt sander and orbital sander are different in the way they work. They are both power tools which use sandpaper in order to shape and smoothen wood, however, they have different application and specialty.
So, which one should you choose?
Belt Sander vs Orbital Sanders Comparison
Here is a quick comparison between these sanders. Please note that there are two types of orbital sanders. The regular orbital sander which is also known as the sheet sander and the random orbital sander with a round head.
Hence the following comparison chart shows the difference between Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander vs Random Orbital Sander.
|Belt Sander||Orbital Sander (Sheet Sander)||Random Orbital Sander (ROS)|
To remove a large amount of material from the workpiece fast
|A finishing sander that can achieve a smooth surface finish. Especially useful for sanding corners.||ROS is also a finishing sander with a higher material removal rate that orbital sander.|
A continuous loop sand belt circulates between two rotating drums.
|The rectangular head moves in an orbital motion to remove the material.||The round head rotates as well as orbits creating a random orbital motion.|
|Belt Sander Pros:||Orbital Sander Pros:||ROS Pros:|
|Belt Sander Cons:||Orbital Sander Cons:||ROS Cons:|
|Belt Sander Uses||Orbital Sander Uses||ROS Uses|
|Best Belt Sander – Makita||Recommended Orbital Sander – Dewalt||Top Random Orbital Sander|
Now let’s take a detailed look at each of these electric sanders.
Belt Sanders: For Aggressive Material Removal
Essentially, a belt sander has a motor attached to 2 rotating drums. As these drums turn, they move a sandpaper belt, running across the desired surface.
The primary purpose of a belt sander is to remove material fast. They can be used to smoothen up rough wood surfaces easily. Being the most aggressive type of sanding tools, belt sanders are great for processing large and rough surfaces, adding curves, smoothing edges, and can strip off not just the wood but also coating materials such as paint as well as removing beads of glue which bleed out from between boards.
Advantages of a Belt Sander
Broad Range of Use
Belt sanders can be used in providing finishing touches to metal, woodwork, and flooring. They can also be used for time-consuming projects like smoothing corners and removing burrs. You can even use belt sanders to remove stains and paint from woods, to resurface and renovate old furniture.
As I’ve mentioned before, belt sanders are the most aggressive type of sander and they can remove a lot of material from the surface in just a short time. It is usually used for initial stages of sanding where there are large amounts of materials are required to be removed.
Belt sanders can be stationary or handheld. Stationary or bench-top sanders are mounted on workbenches and are used to sand material which can be brought close to the tool, Handheld sander, on the other hand, are used for non-movable surfaces and floor.
Ease of Use
Belt sanders are super easy to use and operate. You only need to move the belt sander over the work-piece while applying even strokes. You don’t need to apply too much pressure; instead, move gently on the wood and let the sand-belt do its magic.
Also see: Recommended list of best belt sanders
Disadvantages of Belt Sanders
Because a belt sander is too aggressive, it may cause damage to delicate work-pieces. And no matter how fine a sheet of sandpaper you use, there will always be unsightly sanding marks left on your project.
Belt sanders are essentially for smoothing rough lumber in preparation for further sanding, this is not a tool to use for adding finishing touches or final sanding. Moreover, when sanding where 2 different grains meet, you are going to end up with nastier scratches.
In addition to being aggressive, belt sanders can be too loud to work with, so I highly recommend ear protection especially if you plan on using it for long hours.
Orbital Sanders: Finishing Sander
An orbital sander is a finishing sander that is used for fine sanding and polishing.
There are two types,
- Regular orbital sander which is also known as sheet sander and
- The Random Orbital Sander.
When you are ready to put the finishing touches on your wood piece and are going the power tool route, then you need to get an orbital sander.
Orbital Sander vs Random Orbital Sander
Well, they are 2 different tools made for different applications. An orbital sander is a handheld sanding tool with a rectangular or square sanding pad that moves back and forth at a high speed in order to remove a small amount of material. On the other hand, a random orbital sander has a round sanding pad and makes an orbiting motion to the spin of the discs.
Related info: Orbital sander vs palm sander
Advantages of Orbital Sander
One of the greatest advantages of an orbital sander is that it has a rectangular or square sheet that allows it to fit into corners and flush against edges. This makes finish sanding the underside of a cabinet or assembled table possible without leaving any parts untouched.
Orbital sanders do not require you to purchase big sheets of sandpaper. You can purchase rectangular or square sandpaper sheets of different coarseness and stick it onto the sanding pad. Unlike random orbital sanders, you do not need to buy the special sandpapers. You can just buy sandpapers in bulk, then manually cut it to the correct width and length.
3. Smooth Surfaces
An orbital sander is used to sand projects which have just been sanded by aggressive belt sanders. It smoothens the surface while also eliminating deep gashes left by abrasive sandpaper. The back and forth motion help reduce the risk of any deep scratch marks while also making the surface free of splinters and smooth as possible.
Disadvantages of Orbital Sanders
Orbital sanders are not meant to remove a lot of material per second. It just scratches the top mildly, so you will have to spend a lot of time on a single section. And although an orbital sanders leave considerably fewer scratch marks than belt sanders, these marks are still noticeable.
Belt Sander VS. Orbital Sander— Which Should You Get
Truth be told, most sanding projects cannot be completed with only one of these tools. You will need a belt sander for aggressive and heavy-duty sanding and shaping. Then an orbital sander is used to eliminate deep gashes that are left by a belt sander and dealing with annoying edges and corners. Also, you might need a random-orbital sander in order to eliminate ugly marks that both sanders leave behind.
But, if I would recommend a tool over the other, I’d say go with a belt sander. It uses a belt of sandpaper that covers large areas for faster sanding. It can quickly remove lots of material with coarse paper and then you can mount finer sandpaper for final touches. And although there is no elegance in a belt sander, in terms of sanding large wood projects, it is the more time-efficient power tool.