When you talk about buying a sander. Three sanders are usually at the top of the list. The belt sander, the orbital sander, and the palm sander.
This post is going to examine the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between belt sander vs palm sander. This post will also help you identify which of the two you will need for your task.
This is going to be the third article examining the differences between two of the three most common types of sanders (the belt sander, the orbital sander, and the palm sander). If you are interested in the previous posts, check them out on this website.
So let’s get on with our topic. First, let’s check out belt sanders.
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What Is a Belt Sander and What Is It Used for?
Belt sanders are very common sanders used across a wide range of tasks and fields. Belt sanders are used in homes, workshops, job sites, construction sites, and the likes.
The main reason the belt sander is widely used across various fields and tasks is because of the sander’s power.
Belt sanders are by far one of the most aggressive sanders you will come across. The belt sander is powerful enough to remove multiple layers and coats of finish or material from wooden surfaces easily and quickly. Belt sanders are not only powerful, but they are also one of the largest sanders you will come across.
Belt sanders work best on plain and flat surfaces. The sander is usually too aggressive to be used on bent or curved surfaces. Belt sanders do not use the regular type of sandpaper.
The regular sandpaper is usually square or rectangular. Some other sanders like the random orbital sander use circular-shaped sandpaper. Belt sanders on the other hand do not use any of these types of sandpaper.
The downside to belt sanders is that it is usually difficult to control. If you are a beginner and you need to use a belt sander, you should start with the smaller 18-inch belt sander.
On the bright side, the belt saw is powerful and that’s its main strength. Now let’s check out palm sanders.
What Is a Palm Sander and What Is It Used for?
Palm sanders are usually the smallest sanders you will come across. Palm sanders are usually so small that they can fit underneath your palm, hence the name “palm sander.”
Palm sanders are largely suited for work that requires a smooth and clean finish. Palm sanders generally use fine sandpaper grit.
Most palm sanders use sandpaper with a grit of 150 and above. This means the sander is usually used to achieve a smooth and fine finish on materials.
Palm sanders are great for precision sanding. Palm sanders unlike many other sanders can also sand corners, curves, and edges well. The small size of the sander makes it possible to move the sander across different types of surfaces. In addition to having a small build, palm sanders also have moderate power and speed meaning they are very easy to use and control.
Palm sanders use regular square-shaped sandpaper to sand wooden surfaces. The sandpaper is usually held firmly by two clamps designed with the palm sander. To replace a sanding pad or sandpaper, you will need to release and tighten the clamp. Palm sanders rotate the sanding pad in small circles or orbits.
Palm sanders due to their lightweight, small size, and moderate power are best suited to small-scale tasks. You shouldn’t use a palm sander on large areas like decks and floors. The main downside to the palm sander is that it can’t handle large-scale tasks and this means it can’t remove finish or materials from wood either.
Asides from that, palm sanders are efficient power tools. You can even sand your furniture and other wooden objects at home with a palm sander and you wouldn’t need to paint the furniture or apply a finish later.
The sanding result of a palm sander is so good that it can be used as a finish in itself. Isn’t that fascinating? But how good is the palm sander when compared to the belt sander? Let’s find out.
Belt Sander vs Palm Sander Head to Head
Both the palm sander and the belt sander are good power tools. They both help to sand wooden surfaces and they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s put them head to head and see who wins.
What matters most about a sander is its finishing. The finishing of the sander determines if you will need to sand again or use another sander. In terms of the finishing, palm sanders win by knockout.
Palm sanders hands down have one of the best finishes of any sander. The finishing is usually so good that you decide not to paint or finish the wooden surface after sanding it with a palm sander. A palm sander is what you use on the surface before finishing or painting.
The reason for this increased level of finishing and smoothness is because palm sanders generally are built to be finishing sanders. They also have a small and light design which makes it possible to move the palm sander across a surface easily. All of these combined with the fact that palm sanders use fine-grit sandpaper or sanding pad means they will generally have a smooth and very fine finish.
Belt sanders on the other hand aren’t used for their finishing. Belt sanders are aggressive sanders which means they are used to remove finishing, paint, varnish, and other materials from wooden surfaces.
Belt sanders are what you use after constructing or building a piece of furniture. When you are done constructing the wooden object, a belt sander is what to use to even out the sides and remove edges from the wood. Belt sanders do not have a good finish. After using a belt sander, you will still need to use an orbital sander and a palm sander on the surface before you can finish it.
The power of the sander determines how much material you can remove from the surface you are sanding. In terms of power, belt sanders are more powerful than palm sanders.
Belt sanders are used to remove multiple coats of finish and paint from wooden surfaces easily. Palm sanders can’t be used for this. Palm sanders can’t even remove the finish and paint from surfaces.
Belt sanders usually have a motor with a power range between 2 amps and 4 amps. On average, belt sanders use a 2.5 amp motor to power the sander. The 2.5 amp motor is capable of producing speeds of up to 3200 RPM (revolutions per minute) which is incredibly fast. This is why belt sanders are suited to large-scale tasks and are used for removing materials.
Palm sanders on the other hand aren’t even half as powerful as belt sanders. Most palm sanders use a motor that is less than 1 amp. The size and weight of the palm sander also make it lose out in this battle. Belt sanders because of their big sizes and powerful motors are more powerful than palm sanders.
The Size and Weight
The size and weight of the sander determine how easy it will be to move the sander. In terms of size, belt sanders are way bigger than palm sanders.
Palm sanders are so small that they can fit underneath your palm. Palm sanders are even called mouse sanders to depict how small the sander is. Even the biggest palm sander for woodworking will be about the same size as a small belt sander.
Belt sanders are larger than palm sanders. The bigger size is because of the bigger parts that the belt sander uses. For starters, belt sanders use a larger and more powerful motor than that of the palm sander. The belt sander also uses a larger sanding pad or sandpaper to sand surfaces. Not to mention the two or three drums designed inside the belt sander to rotate the belt sanding pad. All of these explain the bigger size of the belt sander.
In terms of weight, belt sanders also weigh more than palm sanders. Most palm sanders at best weigh about 2 pounds. On average, palm sanders weigh just 1 pound or a little above one pound. Belt sanders on the other hand have different weights.
The weight of the belt sander depends on the model of the sander, the size, and the type of belt sander being used. Belt sanders usually weigh between 4 pounds and 20 pounds for the regular models. There are other types and models of a belt sander that weigh up to 50 pounds and some weigh more. The bigger the belt sandpaper, the heavier it will be and the more powerful it will be.
Ease of Operation
The ease of operation determines how easy a sander will be to use. Palm sanders are generally easier to use than belt sanders. Palm sanders are smaller, lighter, and less powerful than belt sanders. This makes it easier to use and control the palm sander than the belt sander.
Belt sanders are largely restricted to experienced professionals. Belt sanders vibrate a lot while working so you will need to keep a firm grip on the belt sander to prevent it from vibrating out of course. This makes it difficult to use and control the belt sander especially if you are a beginner.
You are even more likely to damage your wooden surface with a belt sander than with a palm sander. Belt sanders are aggressive sanders so they can easily gouge wood and damage delicate aura faces. Palm sanders on the other hand can’t damage your wooden surface.
It is also more difficult and complex to change the sanding pad of belt sandpaper than that of a palm sander. With palm sanders, you can replace the sanding pad easily by pressing or lifting a lever that releases the clamp holding the sandpaper in place.
With belt sanders, it’s more difficult than that. Palm sanders are generally gentler than belt sanders so they are easier to use and more recommended for beginners than belt sanders.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that belt sanders are more expensive than palm sanders. For the increased power, speed, and size that a belt sander has, it will always have a higher price tag than palm sanders.
Should You Buy a Belt Sander or Palm Sander?
Which of the two sanders should you get? Both sanders are very efficient power tools that make your task easier and faster. Belt sanders are used for power while palm sanders are used for finesse and precision.
So for starters, the task at hand matters. If you want to remove multiple costs of finish from a wooden surface, a belt sander should be your pick. If you just finished working on a piece of furniture or you want to remove edges from the wood, a belt sander should also be your pick.
However, if your task involves sanding edges, corners, curves, or you are looking to sand a surface before staining or finishing it, then a belt sander should be your pick.
Asides from the task at hand, the cost also matters. Belt sanders are costlier than palm sanders so if you need a pocket-friendly option, you should go for the palm sander. But, if you can afford a belt sander, then you should get that. You will enjoy using either of the two power tools.
Your Experience Level
You can also consider your level of experience with sanders before picking one. Belt sanders because of the bigger structure and power require more experience from the user than palm sanders. Even if you have no experience with sanders, you can still use a palm sander but not a belt sander.
The bottom line is just to go for an affordable sander that will fit your task and one that will be convenient to use. You should also remember that expensive brands are not always the best. So either you decide to go for the belt sander or the palm sander, you should choose wisely.