September 18, 2022
Imagine you’re renovating and refinishing your home’s floors and other wood components, and you feel enervated while sanding manually. Well, this is pretty understandable, for without using an electric sander, you will indeed tire yourself quickly. The reason for this is that manual sanding is a backbreaking task. Sanding, however, becomes easy using electric sanders.
When it comes to electric sander types, your best options are the orbital sander and the belt sander. These two sanders can work hand-in-hand in sanding and stripping hardwood floors of dents, gouges, scratches, and old stains or paints. Hence, it will be best to rent or buy these two electric sander types to ensure your home renovation runs smoothly and efficiently.
Table of Contents
- Understanding the Orbital and Belt Sanders
- Understanding Further the Differences Between These Two Sanders
- Comparison Between Orbital and Belt Sanders Based on Critical Factors
- Which Between the Orbital and Belt Sanders Should You Purchase?
Understanding the Orbital and Belt Sanders
When choosing the best sander for your renovation jobs, you would often get confronted with the choice between the belt sander and the orbital sander. If you can’t afford to have both sanders, you need to choose which of these two electric sanders you would buy. To make an intelligent choice, you need to understand well what each of these two sanders can do:
What is a Belt Sander?
The belt sander has a different appearance from the orbital sander. It got two drums to which the belt is attached. Moreover, it is bulkier than the orbital sander and is powerful than the orbital sander. It can remove materials quickly and can work a large area faster. Besides, it is best for the early stage of the sanding process when you need to shape and finish wood. It is also perfect for removing dents and damages from the wood.
Belt sanders can be stationary or handheld. The stationary belt sanders get mounted on the workbench. As such, they are also called bench sanders. You can bring the material you would like to sand to the stationary belt sander. Thus, the stationary belt sander is perfect for sanding small wood pieces that you can easily carry around. You can use it to sharpen your tools likewise.
On the other hand, the handheld belt sander is portable and features a disc sander. You can use it with both your hands, one on its trigger and the other one on its forward handle. This sander is also powerful. Hence, it will be best to hold on to it tightly when sanding.
What is an Orbital Sander?
The orbital sander uses a sanding disc that spins in orbits or small circles. Hence, it gets referred to as an orbital sander. The orbital sander is square-shaped, perfect for sanding edges and corners. Moreover, it is excellent for sanding large furniture pieces, and it quickly does the job. This sander, however, leaves swirl marks that make this sander best suited for pieces that get painted afterward.
Understanding Further the Differences Between These Two Sanders
If you’re new to the use of electric sanders, you might be asking about the differences between the belt sander and the orbital floor sander. The belt sander got a powerful motor, best for sanding more extensive materials. However, the orbital sander is best for sanding hard-to-reach areas and small pieces of furniture. Moreover, the belt sander works best when sanding flat surfaces. On the other hand, the orbital sander can work well in sanding various angles.
Furthermore, the belt sander comes with a continuous loop belt, looped over two drums. On the other hand, the orbital sander got a rectangular head that rotates and removes unwanted material. Lastly, the primary use of the belt sander is to remove a large amount of materials from the wood, while the orbital sander is perfect for achieving a smoother finish.
Comparison Between Orbital and Belt Sanders Based on Critical Factors
Aside from knowing the apparent differences between the two, it will also help compare the belt and orbital sanders based on their speed, power, handles, sandpaper used, dust collection systems, and applications:
Since the orbital and belt sanders work using different mechanisms, they vary in speed measurements. The orbital sander’s speed, for example, gets measured in orbits per minute (OPM), while the belt sander’s speed gets measured in feet per minute (FPM). The orbital sander usually works at about 10,000 OPM. The faster it works, the more challenging it is to control.
You will also find orbital sanders with variable speed, allowing you to match their pace with the work you are doing. On the other hand, the belt sander might also come in variable speeds and works at a tremendous speed likewise.
The power of both the orbital and belt sanders depends on their motor types. The higher the amp of the motor, the more powerful it is. Orbital sanders are less powerful than belt sanders. So, if you need to strip a large amount of materials, you should go for the belt sander.
Belt sanders are extremely powerful. They have around 8 to 11-amp motors, and they could work on any wood type. Moreover, they work faster. So, you need to take extra care when handling belt sanders because they are capable of high torque.
Orbital sanders feature several types of handles. Their handles can be pistol-grip or jug-grip or palm-grip handles. The pistol-grip type allows for reasonable control of the sander, with you using one hand for directing and another hand for applying pressure.
The Jug-grip type, however, is best for reaching hard-to-reach areas. The palm grip type is the most common type you will find and allows for a comfortable grip of the sander.
The stationary belt sander, of course, doesn’t require you to handle or hold it. Yet, you should hold your workpieces to sand them using the stationary belt sander. However, the non-stationary belt sander usually has the front handle and the rear handle or trigger handle.
The orbital sander comes with a round sanding pad. The larger the pad, the more space it can sand. The standard size of the orbital sander pad is the quarter-sheet sander. Attaching the sandpaper to the orbital sander is quick by simply peeling and sticking the paper. Thus, the orbital sander is excellent if you want to cut the cost of sanding.
On the other hand, the belt sander utilizes a sandpaper loop. It can be three-inch wide. The smaller the belt sander loop is, the more compact and lighter the tool. Moreover, the sander belt can be wrought in zirconia or aluminum oxide. The zirconia is sharper and is more durable. Besides, it is more expensive than aluminum oxide.
Dust Collection System
The use of the belt and orbital sanders usually generates billows of dust. These dust particles can be injurious to your lungs. Thus, you need to determine beforehand if the sander you intend to use comes with an efficient dust collection system.
An excellent orbital sander will come with filters for filtering dust. It will also have sealed switches to prevent dust from entering the vital components of the sander.
Dust collection systems can be active or passive. The passive dust collection system includes a dust bag for collecting dust. The active dust collection system consists of using a vacuum system connected to the sander’s dust port.
The orbital sanders might leave behind swirl marks, and for this reason, they are not ideal for sanding surfaces and furniture that you want to leave untreated. They are suitable for sanding edges and corners, and they work best when sanding round edges. Besides, if you intend to paint a piece of furniture afterward, you can use the orbital sander for sanding it.
On the other hand, the belt sander is not best for working out smaller wood pieces and furniture. Since the belt sander got a larger size and greater power, it is perfect for sanding rough surfaces and hardwood flooring.
Thus, if you are renovating your house, you might find the belt sander the perfect tool for your use. You can use the belt sander for fixing doors as well as tables and cabinets.
Which Between the Orbital and Belt Sanders Should You Purchase?
Although it is best to have both the belt and orbital sanders in your tool arsenal, you often need to select between these two types of sanders for lack of money. If you are engaged in home renovation and refinish your hardwood floors, you will find the belt sander perfect for stripping the worn and dented hardwood floors. Nevertheless, you will find the orbital sander handy when dealing with the edges and corners of the hardwood floors.
The belt sander is brutally powerful, and if you need something to get the sanding job done, you can always rely on the belt sander.
Orbital sanders, on the other hand, move in orbits or circles. You can use it for the finishing sanding job. It can also come in handy when removing varnish or paint. Yet, it features a relatively smaller head. So, it is not suited for sanding a larger area. If I were you, you should get both types of sanders, because these two sanders complement one another well.
If you renovate your home or refinish your hardwood floor, you will need to get a sander because you need to sand the hardwood floor. You can’t sidestep the sanding process because it is essential in restoring and refinishing your hardwood floor and other furniture, significantly if they are damaged or dented.
Furthermore, the two most important types of sanders you can get your hand on are the belt sander and the orbital sander. These two sander types can indeed come in handy in the renovation and refinishing process of your hardwood floors or decks. They could facilitate the renovating process. So, if money isn’t an issue for you, you should use or have both types of sanders.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.