Budget Belt sander or disc sander? Worth it?

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Forum topic by Walker posted 01-25-2020 05:04 AM 829 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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234 posts in 1113 days

01-25-2020 05:04 AM

For years I’ve gotten by with a 1/4” sheet sander or hand sanding. I’m thinking about finally adding a stationary sander of some sort. I’d love to have a midrange unit, but unfortunately the budget is more like <$300. I’ve had my share of cheap tools that I’ve made passable, but with a sander if the choice is mediocre results or spend $800+, then I”ll just stick with the palm sander. Besides, I have other means for making things flat. I’m usually confident in doing my own research, but I’ve been digging around for reviews and articles and every single tool regardless of price point, seems to have a range between “at least the metal will grab a few pennies at the scrap yard” to “can’t live without it”. Even within lumberjocks. So the basic questions are…

Are low end sanders even worth it? Almost everything I’ve looked at seems to get terrible reviews. The generic Wen/Rikon/Ryobi/Rockwell etc that is everywhere seems to be complete junk. The Ridgid OSS/Belt sander gets both terrible reviews and rave reviews. A few of the combo disc/belts seem okay. For under $300 is there anything that will give good accurate results? Or should I just wait for the craigslist deal of the century.

What type to get? Disc sander, belt sander, or both? My first thought is to get one of those combo disc/belt sanders. Current frontrunner is the Rikon 50-114. A few of the 4×36” belts seem okay, but most suggest the 6×48. I’m not sure I could afford the bigger ones tho. Some people say they’ve got the combo and have never used the disc part. Others say the have a bigger 12” disc stand alone unit and say it’s the most used tool in their shop.

What type of things can I do with a sander? I do a lot of smaller projects for etsy like cutting boards, picture frames, knife racks, small boxes, etc. I also do bigger projects for myself, like dining table, shop stands, kitchen cart, bed frame, TV stand. Can I get perfect 90* edges? Can I flatten bigger panels like cutting boards? Can I do finishing grade sanding or just shaping with lower grits?

If there are any existing threads with relevant info, please point me to them.

-- ~Walker

27 replies so far

View ChefHDAN's profile


1533 posts in 3490 days

#1 posted 01-25-2020 11:41 AM

Walker, I’ve got two stationary sanders in my hobbyist shop, a Clayton oscillating spindle sander and an Older Ryobi 4×36 belt & 6” disc sander,that looks just like the Rikon (disc gets occasional use). The OSS is always a dream whenever I need to sand a curve, and the belt sander seems to get used for every project. The Ryobi was an impulse buy when I ran across it at the big box store for 50% because they were changing the displays. I set it in the vertical and have never really needed to change it for anything. I’ve built jigs etc. to shape to certain angles etc, which are all dependent on tweaking all of the adjustments, but I rarely rely on the sander to get dead on faces/cuts, I’d go to a shooting board for those. I’m always looking to see a deal for a drum sander that will fit in my footprint, I really do not think a stationary belt is useful for bigger panels or cutting boards, but I have done box lids from time to time.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2790 posts in 3563 days

#2 posted 01-25-2020 12:46 PM

I bought a harbor Freight 6”x48” sander in 2010 and still use it. Then in 2014 I bought another. (Both for less than $200) Both work fine, and I spend more time at these sanders than at any other tool. I have two different grits on these sanders. Before I had these, I had a Ryobi 4” wide sander that also worked well for me. I have used these sanders to make over 2000 cedar boxes with images inlaid into the hinged lids. I keep these sanders with the belt in the vertical position and do not use the disc sander at all. (It burns the wood) I doubt any of the stationary sanders, like these, will work well for cutting boards. A hand held belt sander would be more useful I think.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View Lazyman's profile


4681 posts in 2028 days

#3 posted 01-25-2020 12:48 PM

You could always make your own like I did. I use mine on nearly every project I make. I designed mine, based upon a Woodsmith design, around an old blower motor that was basically free from an A/C repair. I decided to build my own because I wanted to see if I could and because I wanted the larger 6×48 size but I am cheap. There are other DIY designs out there. I do wish I had a stationary disk sander as well. I have a bunch of different types and grits of belts that I use on it. I will sometimes use a 220 grit belt to get a nice surface but you will still need to finish sand either by hand or with a ROS. I also use it for metal grinding and I have made jigs for sharpening my lathe tools that are based upon the Sorby Proedge sharpening belt grinder.

Click for details

I bought a Ridgid oscillating belt/spindle sander at a garage sale last year and frankly I prefer my home built unit for most things.

The Harbor Freight unit get decent reviews, especially considering that you can often get it for around $60 with a 20% off coupon. They also have a 6×48 with a stand for $200 with coupon.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View splintergroup's profile


3300 posts in 1863 days

#4 posted 01-25-2020 04:00 PM

I have an old Powermatic 6×48” + 12” disc that I couldn’t live without for general edge and other sanding tasks. Bought at a local MachineryMax auction for $150 (Yes, keep your eyes open for auctions and of course Craigslist).

Of course if you need instant gratification there is not much available for “cheap” that isn’t “cheap” quality.
Bigger always seems to be better in the case of stationary sanders.

I also have a drum sander that is probably my most used tool short of the table saw. Aside from the lure of a spindle sander, all my gritty friends cover all the sanding tasks I have.

View LesB's profile


2364 posts in 4084 days

#5 posted 01-25-2020 06:31 PM

I use my 30 year old Craftsman 6×48 with a 12” disc all the time and wouldn’t be without it. However I also find the Rigdig oscillating belt and spindle sander(drum) combination ($180 or so) very useful and if I had to chose between them I think I would start with the Ridig because of its versatility. Also having a table to rest the wood on is a great help when sanding to a line or to keep things square (or angled if you tilt it)...also the belts are less expensive and offer more grit sizes.

For the most part I do not find disc sanders very useful and they too often end up burning the wood, at least for me.

-- Les B, Oregon

View RDan's profile


137 posts in 2965 days

#6 posted 01-25-2020 06:48 PM

I own the Ridgid and use it when needed, really like it. If you register it you get the lifetime warranty. I have not used it yet, but bought a handheld oscillating sander from MLCS, looks a lot like the Triton one. Mine came with clamps to mount on a table edge. It should also fit the Rockler Table mount if you would want a table one. Dan

View Lazyman's profile


4681 posts in 2028 days

#7 posted 01-25-2020 06:49 PM

Les, I have a least a 220 grit 6×48” belt and I think I have seen at least 400 grit belts available. Also, since a 6×48” belt has 3 times the surface area of the 4×24, the 6×48 belts seem more economical to me since they aren’t 3 times more expensive. YMMV.

I find the Ridgid oscillating sander really only good for edge sanding, and takes up a lot of bench space doing it, while I can also do some surface sanding with a piece laying flat against the 6×48’s platten or even by sliding it along the top pulley to sort of simulate a thickness sander when the piece is too long for the platten.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Madmark2's profile


852 posts in 1229 days

#8 posted 01-25-2020 07:10 PM

Portable sanders should be considered consumables.

I have lots of different sanders for different things.

  • Two 5” ROSs (coarse 120 and fine 240) so I don’t have to unstick to change grits
  • Benchtop OSS
  • 4×36 benchtop belt sander with 8” disk
  • 1×42 belt knife sander with 6” disk
  • Combo OSS and 4×24 oscillating belt sander
  • 1/4 sheet sander (free with router purchase)
  • ‘mouse’ detail sander
  • 6×48 stationary sander with 9” disk

Not to mention various and sundry sanding foams, blocks, sheets, pads, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve got more tied up in sanding gear than the saw with the Incra!


-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View fuigb's profile


573 posts in 3598 days

#9 posted 01-25-2020 08:41 PM

6×48 Jet belt sander with a 9” disk: has changed my life immeasurably. The time saved is time that, for me, is pure tedium. Complete in 15 minutes a job that otherwise might take and hour or two and see what i mean.

I love my Jet although they’re selling for around $800 today. If i were on a budget I’d make it a habit to visit estate sales until something affordable like a 60s or 70s-era Craftsman popped up. My buddy found a 4×36 Craftsman, dirty and uncared for, but only $25 and he is as happy as am i with the Jet.

Re: sanding disk on the combo sanders… mine is very useful to me. They eat wood like magic and so for rounding edges, as in a table or bench top, they cannot be beat.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Andybb's profile


2509 posts in 1244 days

#10 posted 01-25-2020 08:50 PM

Yes. They are worth it for a hobbyist shop. I built this one

which works great but usually just use my little 4” Harbor Freight $50 cheapie. Plus I have a HF oscillating spindle sander which I only seem to use once every 2 years. :-)

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Lazyman's profile


4681 posts in 2028 days

#11 posted 01-25-2020 10:49 PM

Nice Andy! A much cooler design that mine. I’ve been thinking about remaking mine. I made the rollers too big and didn’t add the disk.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Andybb's profile


2509 posts in 1244 days

#12 posted 01-25-2020 11:07 PM

Nice Andy! A much cooler design that mine. I ve been thinking about remaking mine. I made the rollers too big and didn t add the disk.

- Lazyman

LOL The one in the picture isn’t mine but it had free plans and Sketchup files. Mine is nowhere near as pretty but it works the same. I used a 10” disc. It was easy to upsize the whole thing. I just loaded the Sketchup file and clicked the + button and made it bigger. Like I said, I rarely use it but when I need it it’s awesome.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Kelly's profile


2696 posts in 3585 days

#13 posted 01-26-2020 06:00 AM

I started with a Ryobi or some other bench model drum disk. It was little better than a belt sander, and not as well built. I sold it, cheap and bought my Powermatic 6×8 drum-disk.

I can say just about any floor model would be a game changer. While I’d rather have a used PM or Jet or Grizzly, knowing what I know, even a HF unit would be a sweet addition to a shop.

Note that even my PM can be bogged down, so some cheaper unit might be even more prone that that, but then how much pressure should I really be applying to the belts?

I had both a Powermatic and a Jet edge sander too. They were excellent machines and far more capable than my drum-disk, because of their long belts. Of course, they didn’t have the disk, which is handy. Anyway, if you got a good deal on on of those for the money you set aside, you wouldn’t go wrong and could sell them for more to put toward the drum-disk.

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


3679 posts in 1461 days

#14 posted 01-26-2020 07:57 AM

Do you have a lathe? Is it variable speed?

If yes, consider making a disc for that.. plenty of examples here at LJ (I think).

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View sansoo22's profile


625 posts in 295 days

#15 posted 01-26-2020 09:16 AM

Just spit balling ideas here in cheapest to most expensive within your budget:
1. Hand held belt sander clamped in a vice. Scary the first few times but works
2. The Triton hand held which comes with clamps so it can be clamped to a table
3. The grizzly 4×36 w/ 6” in disc looks like a solid unit at $160
4. Harbor Freight 6×48 w/ 9” disc for $250

The Ridgid is definitely super versatile but I just don’t have a ton of need for the spindle sander. A dedicated belt sander is probably my next small stationary tool purchase. My shopsmith has a 10 or 12 in disc I can toss on if i really want to go to town with a disc sander.

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