Difference between belt sander and orbital sander? Which is better?

Difference between belt sander and orbital sander?

No matter what kind of wood project you are working on, sanding is the first step we don’t really like to do. It feels frustrating and there is no creativity that as a DIY enthusiast you would enjoy doing so.

Furthermore, it takes time and effort to rag sandpaper with hands using sand grit paper.

To overcome that burden. There are three types of sanding tools available, each of them has been designed for specific tasks- that should be known to get the job done just right.

In this blog post, we’ll compare two of the most popular sanding power tools: a belt sander and an orbital sander.

Here is the difference between a belt sander and an orbital sander.

They differ mainly in terms of how they make wood smooth and shiny. A belt sander is a good choice for heavy-duty sanding and shaping of wood. Their sand pad moves in a horizontally back-in-forth position.

Orbital sanders are suitable for delicate furniture without heavy sanding requirements. Their sand pads move in an orbital motion often used on a surface being prepared by a belt sander to clean deep gashes left by a belt sander as well as eliminating edges and corners that are problematic. 

Orbital sander usages in wood

Orbital sander

If you need to sand stairs, edges or cornered-areas, or any other angle that is not flat for sanding, an orbital sander is what you need. It could feel a bit heavy but more portable and is easy to use. 

Another big advantage is the use of regular sandpaper, which is readily available, cost-effective, and easy to obtain.

 If you need to prepare a wood surface for staining or varnishing, an orbital sander is ideal. It’s power-packed enough for most DIY sanding jobs.

Belt sander usages in wood.

Belt sander

The belt sander, on the other hand, is powerful and designed to heavily sand. Using this sander, a metallic surface can also be sanded.

I highly recommend it if you need to work on a large surface quickly and efficiently. Using it is also helpful if you need to remove a lot of thick, tough wood that requires too much sanding to get the surface ready. 

Generally, this type of sanding is required for doors and flooring.

Though the main job for both tools is to get the surface ready, means make it shiny and smooth so you can begin to work like paint or stain them.

But they are not the same thing, to put forward the difference on you. Let’s know how they’re actually designed.

How does a belt sander work?

In a belt sander, two drums rotate the belt and the attached sandpaper with power coming from the built-in power. 

Motor size means power can be a choice. There are powerful motors for heavy sanding that are usually found in the carpenter’s workroom. 

And many models come with a rotator to take control over how much rotation you need to put on, which simply means you can increase or decrease the power.

Moving ahead, once the drums start spinning, the sandpaper belt is drawn along, moving the belt across the wood’s surface to sand.

Speaking of the types of belts the belt sanders come up with, two types are common. Handheld belt sanders and benchtop belt sanders. 

You can get an idea of their applications, the handheld is the portable version that is an ideal pick when you’ve to carry the sander. And the benchtop belts are designed for heavier work and are more powerful compared to handheld ones.

How does an orbital sander work?

When you go on to purchase an orbital, there will most likely be two types of orbital sanders you might come across. Named: A regular Orbital sander and a random sander.

If you ask for a difference between them, then it depends on how their sanding pads move. The 

Regular orbital sanders spin their sanding pads in a consistent pattern, whereas random orbital sanders don’t. It spins randomly, following no pattern whatsoever.

However, both are designed in the same manner, as the name implies both use orbital sandpaper that rotates in a circular motion.

A Sandpaper is attached to the orbital sander’s sanding pad. That rotates in an orbit with a super-fast circular speed that works to remove off the desired layer from wood to make it smoother.

A belt sander is typically used to smooth out uneven spots or to give a little detailing after the belt sander. In small-scale carpentry jobs, orbital sanders are mainly used for smoothing out uneven spots.

Power levels vary among orbital sanders. If possible, you need a random orbital sander with an electric motor that can be controlled by a speed dial.

Things to look for in an orbital sander and a belt sander.

Regardless of which one of these sanders you admire, there are a few things to look for before you make any purchase. 

These things are common in both sanders so to say you will surely benefit from understanding them.

  • Motor power– Your first step should be to examine motor power. We recommend not to put too much money on the power that you don’t use, or you should not go to save some bucks for buying a less powerful motor. Thus, aim for what you exactly need.


  • Sandpaper size– Sandpaper size plays a very important role in sanding. The mistake most people make is buying a smaller sandpaper pad, which takes more time. As a rule, the larger the piece of sandpaper, the more it will cover.


  • Speed controller– One of the most important features that you should ask for is the speed controller, it allows you to control the belt speed, it comes in both types; a belt sander and an orbital sander. With the help of it, you can take full control of when to sand rough and light.


  • Dust collection– Another ideal feature is the dust collection, there are sanders available that have a dust control bag or many can be attached to a vacuum. With this functionality, you can collect dust while sanding to keep your working space clean, eventually, it’s a time saver.


  • Cord/cordless– a vital thing you should keep in mind is to decide between cord or cordless models. There is a difference between them. Sanders with cord has more than the cordless models. 

Advantages of Belt sander and Orbital sander.

Let’s take a look at some advantages that both tools are offering.

Advantages of belt sandersAdvantages of orbital sanders
It can smoothen a very rough surface, either of wood and metal. Due to its high power.To achieve a smoother finish, an orbital sander is the best fit for this job.
These sanders are great to work with larger surfaces because they cover more surfaces.Compared to belt sanders, they are lighter in weight that’s why increases portability.
They are suitable for sanding decks, tables, or any big-flat surface.They are the best tool for sanding over corners and edges.
They are faster, thus allowing the sanding process quickly.Unlike belt sanders, all sizes of sandpaper can be used by them.

Disadvantages of Belt sander and Orbital Sander.

Disadvantages of Belt sandersDisadvantages of Orbital Sanders
They boast a lot of power, making them difficult to control for beginners. Their sanding rate is slow, meaning it will take a while to sand the surface.
In case of mistakes, while using this power sanding tool, you might spoil your work subject.When not used properly with these sanders, you might put some swirl marks on the wood.
Compared to an orbital sander, it still looks rough.It's a little problematic to remove and attach sandpaper to them.

What is the best sander for furniture, the belt or the orbital?

There are many variables behind the word furniture. Without knowing the type of wood, softwood or hardwood, and the thickness of the wood furniture. None can tell which one will work best.

However, there are few words to take into account.

If the furniture is made off of hardwoods, which means it’s thick and strong then ideally the belt sander will do the sanding right. They boast powerful motors and have higher spinning rates.

With these functionalities, a belt sander can tackle a sanding job that requires too much power.

On the other hand, If you have an orbital sander on hardwoods then be ready to see swirl marks on your furniture. 

Since it would not penetrate the top layer, thus most likely will leave some marks.

Similarly, sanding a small piece of furniture, which is also made of thin wood with a belt sander will spoil it. For this, you should use orbital sanders ideally.


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