Disc vs. belt sanders--which is better? Many people keep both types in their shops for various uses but there are some of the differences that may help you decide which is best for you.
Disc sanders are some of the oldest models of electric sanders. When electric power tools and drills were first manufactured, a round attachment with abrasive material was one of the first accessories, and this accessory became the first electric sander. A problem with the early models getting a perfectly even surface after sanding. Often, sanding would ruin the wood, leaving large circles indented in the product. This, however, is no longer the case with modern disc sanders--especially the random orbital sander which works in the same manner as the original disc sander. Because the random orbital sander rotates in smaller orbits than the original, it does not leave circular indentations on the finished product. Newer disc sanders are great for working on projects that need little wood or surface to be removed to obtain a finer finish. These sanders oscillate at a much faster speed than most belt sanders and move in an orbital fashion at the same time as rotating the actual discs. However, for larger projects disc sanders might not be the most efficient tool for the job.
Belt sanders, for the most part, are only used for the first steps of the finishing process when working with wood. They are known for being able to remove a lot of material very quickly and efficiently. They are not recommended for the finishing process when using softer woods and smaller wood pieces that require a more delicate finish.
Belt sanders can be quite convenient when a fast speed is required. They are good for stripping paint and metals off products cleanly and efficiently.
Both belt sanders and disc sanders can be purchased to be bolted or clamped to a workbench. The stationary sander can be very useful when you need to work quickly as well as accurately. The hand-held version is much better for smaller projects and for sanding difficult-to-reach spaces.
When working on larger projects, you may want to use both the belt sander and the disc sander--one to start the job and one to give the wood a nice finish. Neither of these sanders is better than its counterpart--they are simply used in different ways for different jobs. Chose which is right for the projects you are working on--or better yet, get both!
Looking to purchase a new sander? Check out our Sanders Buyer's Guide.