Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander – Is There a Difference?

When it comes to sanding wood you want to make sure you choose the right tool for the job. While there are a variety of sanders out there, using the wrong one will make the sanding process a nightmare. Wood sanders range in power and finesse depending on what they’re needed for. That’s why I’ve put together this article Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander – Is There a Difference?

If you are new to woodworking, you probably wonder what tools you will need. This is especially true if you’re working with a limited budget since you’ll need to prioritize which tools you buy now and which tools to buy later.

Two essential tools for woodworking are belt sanders and orbital sanders, but again, if you’re new to woodworking, then you may not know what these tools are, what are the main differences are between them, and if you had to choose one to purchase which should it be?

Before we begin, are you looking for some general information on tools like miters saws, chainsaws, table saws, etc.? Then, check out our complete resource guides on Miter Saws, Table Saws, Chainsaws, Band Saws, and Circular Saws

What is a Belt Sander? 

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander


A belt sander is a tool with the primary purpose of removing large materials from a piece. Belt sanders have electric motors that turn two drums that are fitted with a loop of sandpaper. Belt sanders are generally capable of working with large surfaces and durable tools. They are best suited for the beginning stage of finishing and shaping wood.

Characteristics of Belt Sanders

Stationary Belt Sander

Stationary belt sanders are mounted to a workbench, making them stationary. Whatever material needs finishing or shaping is held against the sandbelt as it turns. This tools is best suited for smaller wood projects and is actually a great tool sharpener as it can be used on both wood and metal.

Handheld Belt Sander

A Handheld Belt Sander is a handheld tool. Hence the name, they’re portable and are usually unified with a disc sander. The operator has to use two hands when working with this tool, one hand is on the trigger and the other hand holds the forward handle. Belt sanders are strong which means you need to hold on tight.


The speed of a belt sander is measured in feet per minute. The higher the number is, the faster your sander is running. However, you can always go for a belt sander that has variable speed. This will allow you to toggle your speed up and down if needed.

What is an Orbital Sander?


An orbital sander, also known as a disc sander, is a power tool that uses a spinning sanding disc, these discs spin in small circles so you can deal with the edges and corners of large furniture pieces. Orbital sanders are square-shaped and work quickly, making them a popular choice for larger woodworking projects. Their only downside is that they can leave swirl marks. So I recommend only using this tool on projects that need painting later

Characteristics of Orbital Sanders


Most orbital sanders work at approximately 10,000 orbits per minute. If you are working with larger projects, a faster speed is ideal, but it’s important to note that the higher the rate of the orbital sander, the less control you’ll have over the tool. However, I would like to note that there are models with variable speeds.


The power of an orbital sander is measured in amps, essentially the higher the number the faster the tool can run. Orbital sanders usually have lower power and aren’t meant for jobs that require you to strip away a lot of wood.


Orbital sanders have a few different types of handles:

  • Jug-grip handles – are ideal for projects that require you to reach underneath a piece of furniture.
  • Pistol-grip handles – provide reasonable control and allow the user to use one hand.
  • Palm-grip handles – these handles are the most popular have a relatively comfortable grip.

What Are the Differences?

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander


There are three main differences between belt and orbital sanders:


Belt sanders are noticeably more powerful than orbital sanders. To put it into perspective for you orbital sanders aren’t good for jobs where you need to sand off a lot of wood while it’s easy to accidentally sand off too much with a belt sander. Orbital sanders offer the perfect amount of power for those who are worried about sanding away too much material.

Sanding Mechanism

The actual sanding mechanisms on these two sanders are different. Belt sanders have sandpaper that moves in a loop so that material can be sanded down quickly. Orbital sanders have sandpaper that is laid flat and moves in a circle. The sandpaper is usually attached to the sander with a Velcro or peel and stick system.

Sanding Grit

The sandpaper that is used on both sanders is different as well. Orbital sanders are the easiest option because you can use almost every type of sandpaper that will connect to the device. Belt sanders need a specific kind of sandpaper since the sandpaper moves in a loop on the tool. Because of this belt sander sandpaper is more expensive.

When To Use Which?

Even though belt sanders and orbital sanders are similar, they both should be used in different applications. Here are a few examples of when to use which:

Uses for Belt Sanders

  • Big surface jobs
  • Level rough surfaces
  • Create smooth and even finishes
  • Jobs that don’t require additional treatment after sanding

Uses for Orbital Sanders

  • Small surface jobs
  • Corner projects
  • Rounded surfaces
  • Jobs that do require additional treatment after sanding

Which One Should You Choose? 

If you have to choose between the two, I recommend picking up the best sander. A belt sander. Despite the possibility of it leaving marks on your project, it can cover large surface areas in a short period. It can also eliminate a lot of material using coarse sandpaper, and if you need a more refined finish then you can use more light sandpaper. Overall, the belt sander is a more powerful and time-efficient power tool.

Looking for a specific tool? Check out these comparisons:

Wrapping Up

There is Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander – Is There a Difference? I hope this article helped you understand the difference between a belt sander and an orbital sander! Do you prefer one of these over the other? Do you own a belt or orbital sander? If not, are you considering purchasing one now? Please feel free to leave a comment; I would love to hear from you! 

Did you enjoy this article? Check out some other articles I have written: 

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