How to use a Belt Sander

What Is A Belt Sander?

belt sander being used in a workshop to sand wood

A belt sander is a type of sander that makes use of electrical power to partly automate the sanding process. It is handheld. This makes it ideal for tradespeople going from client to client, and for DIYers who want to make their projects that little bit more labor-saving. They work by incorporating an electrically driven continuous loop of sandpaper.

Safety Equipment

When it comes to using a belt sander, there are a few safety considerations to bear in mind. To begin with, you should never wear loose clothing. This is because belt sanders have the potential to be ‘grabby’ and the last thing you want is your clothing getting snagged while you are working.

Given the vibrations involved, gloves will keep your hands protected. They’ll also keep them clean and free from abrasions due to the potential for dust.

Eye protection is another definite requirement. Even with the dust bag feature, sanding, in general, isn’t the cleanest of DIY methods so you’ll want to minimize what gets into the air as much as possible. Depending on your personal preference, you may want to wear a mask as well.

To keep your clothing free from dust as well – in addition to wearing tight clothing – old clothing is also an option. Wearing an apron will keep whatever clothes you choose to wear as clean as possible.

What To Look For in a Belt Sander

When it comes to buying a belt sander, there are a few things in particular that you should pay attention to. These are pretty good general guidelines for all belt sanders.

Variable speed motor – While you may think that a motor that gets the job done as quickly as possible is ideal, a motor that goes from nothing to speedy really quickly offers you no control whatsoever. When it comes to DIY projects and professional work for clients alike, a variable motor offers you a degree of fine-tuning and control that is definitely needed.

Solidly built – This ties into the motor feature above. Why’s that? Because given the power that a motor can output, you want a casing on the sander that can handle the vibrations. The last thing you want is your belt sander falling apart while you are trying to use it.

Dust bag – This ties into the safety paragraph above. Why’s that? A dust bag keeps the sawdust produced from the act of sanding itself contained. This makes it easy to dispose of.

Using A Belt Sander (Handheld)

  1. First of all, you need to remember that belt sanders involve a lot of torque. Be aware of this as you proceed.
  2. It takes time for a belt sander to get up to full speed. This allows you to have a higher degree of control than if the sander went from zero to working right away without any build-up.
  3. You’ll need two hands to use a belt sander effectively. One hand should be on the forward handle. This is the hand that gives you stability. The second hand should be on the trigger handle. This is what actually gives the sander the forward motion, and is the hand that involves all of the control.
  4. Remember, ease forward and down gently. Put the rear roller down first and then the rest of the sander. Don’t just put it down horizontal right from the off.
  5. Keep it moving. Don’t keep the sander in one place. Remember the power that we mentioned earlier? Belt sanders aren’t a lightweight tool by any means and keeping a belt sander in one place for longer than you mean to can do damage that is either very difficult or impossible to repair.
  6. Check your progress routinely.

Using A Belt Sander (Stationary)

  1. First of all, make sure that it is plugged in. There is no point getting it all set up if it isn’t going to work when you want it to.
  2. Clamp it upside down securely onto a work table. This is to keep it static so then you can do the maneuvering that is required.
  3. This is ideal for sanding smaller handheld pieces BUT it can be imprecise. It is worth becoming familiar with the level of control necessary by testing it out on a few wood pieces.
  4. You need to make sure to lock the trigger into the on position. This is so then all of your focus can be on maneuvering the item that you are sanding.
  5. It can also be used as a rough sanding tool.


When it comes to using a belt sander, if you remember the safety precautions and have a game plan in mind to methodically work through, they are simpler than they look. This article provides a list of features that any decent belt sander should have, what to bear in mind in terms of safety, and how to use a belt sander in either a handheld or stationary manner.

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