A bench grinder and a belt sander are comparable in this way – the former is for sharpening metal while the latter is for smoothing large flat surfaces that are relatively soft. These handy power tools handle specific tasks, and each is designed to work differently.

In this post, we’re going for a head-to-head comparison to help you make a better-informed decision before you make that purchase. Let’s dive in. 

We Are Going to Look At: 

  • The key differences
  • Similar applications
  • Which one should you use?
  • Final words

Key Differences between a Bench Grinder vs Belt Sander

While these workshop tools are known to horn dull surfaces, they have varying applications for smoothing surfaces. 

Application

Bench grinders include a large selection of wheels for grinding down metal to buffing and polishing. If you’re looking for a piece of equipment to sharpen tools, the best option would be a bench grinder. 

You can sharpen knives, scissors, axes, saws, chisels, and other metal tools with dull blades with the right wheel.

Conversely, belt sanders are best for smoothing to ensure no jagged points on large, flat, and smooth surfaces like plastics and wood. The key difference here is that the belt sander won’t sharpen items but will smooth them out as part of the finishing process. 

Design 

Another reason to go for a bench grinder is that it gives you a clean edge. Why? The tool includes different wheels that feature a rough abrasive composite material that can grind and sharpen. 

There are two wheels located on opposite sides of the housing motor. Although they are self-sharpening to a certain degree, you need a grinding dresser to remove the current abrasive layer and expose a new work surface. 

     Here are the various types of bench grinder and belt sander wheels:

Bench Grinder Wheels

belt sander wheel

Many types of bench grinder wheels are used for grinding non-metallic materials such as porcelain and stone. 

The machine is mounted on a workbench or desk to allow you to work with both hands and grind metal. It offers stability and minimizes vibrations when working thanks to a robust cast iron base.

It also features a 2.1 amp to 4.1 amp motor for heavy-duty grinding applications. For increased safety, bench grinders feature a protection guard. Below are the most common wheels;

  • Diamond wheels 

Diamond wheels are best for profiling work in hard material or anything that needs quick trimming. 

  • Straight wheel 

They are the most common types of wheels you will find in bench grinders. Straight wheels can sharpen a wide range of tools to produce a slightly concave surface. They vary in size, diameter, and width. 

  • Wheel ring 

Wheel rings come in large sizes of up to 12-inches and produce flat surfaces on a workpiece in vertical or horizontal grinders. 

  • Tapered wheel

They are more robust than straight wheels and can grind lateral loads.

Belt Sander Wheels

belt sander wheel

In contrast, belt sanders are less aggressive than bench grinders for producing sharp edges in metal materials. A belt sander will do the initial work to smooth a surface and give it a basic shape. 

However, it can rapidly remove material from wood and non-ferrous material like aluminum. Also, it won’t slow down even when the belt is under immense pressure. It can sand thick layers of paint and wood material.

The machine features two pulleys – an electric motor and a sander belt, which work well in sanding metal, wood, and other non-metal materials. It also features a long sanding belt that runs slackly over the body. 

A belt sander is available as a handheld or stationary model. It comes with a disc sander, which includes fine-grit sandpaper for smoothing surfaces. 

They can vary in size from small handheld units to mountable models. There is also a dust collection system combined with the machine for sucking dust particles. 

There are numerous belt sander contact wheels, but here are the two common types;

  • Compressed canvas wheels

They are the most versatile types of wheels used for general tasks. They are non-directional and produce uniform wheel action.

  • Serrated Rubber wheels 

They feature rubber construction and offer higher cleaning and grinding efficiency.

With the advancement in technology, there are countless contact wheels to meet specialized conditions and applications.

Operation 

Since bench grinders have inherent properties that differ from belt sanders, they also operate differently. Here’s how;

A bench grinder comes with abrasive wheels for sharpening, cleaning, or polishing workpieces. The wheel speed includes maximum RPM ratings indicated on the label. 

Ensure that you use the right grinding wheel for the right workpiece material to avoid the risk of cracking the wheel or injuring the operator.

When working with a bench grinder, keep the tool rest tight to within 2 to 3 mm of the wheel to prevent the workpiece from slipping down. 

On the other hand, a belt sander includes a long sanding belt in which the operator exerts pressure to sand a workpiece. Sanders can run fast or very slow based on the motor’s horsepower and torque to sand soft metals without causing injury or damage to the machine.

Power 

There are two types of units available in bench grinders – the 6-inch and the 8-inch models: each feature different horsepower and torque for heavy-duty sharpening. 

A ½ horsepower motor is powerful enough for DIYers and home workshops. Bench grinders with powerful motors are best suited for commercial use. 

On the other hand, belt sanders include motors that range from 1 HP to 3 HP with 1725 RPM to tackle challenging sanding operations. Unlike bench grinders, they rarely build up heat when sharpening material as they are built for light-duty tasks.

If you compare the two machines, bench grinders are winners in horsepower and torque. 

Here are the pros and cons of bench grinders and belt sanders to clarify the comparison between the two machines.

Bench Grinders Pros and Cons 

Bench grinders are power tools for sharpening edges and removing rust in metal material like screwdrivers, lawnmower blades, and more. Here are the key advantages; 

Pros

  • Sharpens tools rapidly
  • Robust motor
  • Easy to use 
  • Mounted for stability 
  • Can be used with a selection of wheels

Cons

  • Not for wood, non-ferrous material like aluminum and plastics

Belt Sanders Pros and Cons 

A belt sander will even out rough parts of material and bring it to a smooth finish. Here are the key advantages of using this tool:

Pros

  • Available in stationary or mobile versions
  • Ideal for aluminum, stainless steel, and other soft materials 
  • Quick and easy to change sanding belts
  • Excellent for longitudinal grinding of flat surfaces

Cons

  • Not the best for edging

Similar Applications in a Bench Grinder vs Belt Sander

Although bench grinders and belt sanders are different in design, power, and usage, they feature similar applications. Here are brief points where they can be used for the same purposes:

  • Both include rotating wheel abrasives. 
  • Depending on each type and model, they can grind, smooth, or sharpen different material types.
  • Either tool can be modified to perform the opposing tasks. 
  • Both have robust motors. 

So Which One Should You Use Between a Bench Grinder vs Belt Sander?

bench grinder belt sander

It depends on your need and the task at hand. Some people will opt to have both a bench grinder for sharpening tools like knives and a belt sander for smoothing out flat surfaces. 

However, if you’re looking for a robust tool that will aggressively grind material away for sharp edges, then we’d recommend a bench grinder. Also, it comes with a wide range of wheel options that you can change for various uses. 

Also, depending on the type of wheel you are using, a belt grinder will allow you to shape metal before welding. 

On the other hand, belt sanders available in freestanding and mounted units are best for lightweight tasks like flattening out surfaces. However, this machine is limited when it comes to sharpening metal and steel material. 

A belt sander will not offer a sharp edge on dull tools as it doesn’t include the features to perform such kinds of tasks. However, it can remove paint efficiently from a surface or smooth furniture and other wooden surfaces. 

Besides, it doesn’t have enough power to handle heavy-duty metal materials. It also builds up heat faster than a bench grinder. 

Each of these tools works best to do their intended task. For instance, you can’t use a bench grinder to grind aluminum or soft metal as it could get lodged in the machine causing damage or injury to the operator.

Final Words

We hope that at this point you can now tell the difference between a bench grinder vs belt sander. 

If you want nice sharp edges on dull tools, we’d recommend a bench grinder, but if you want to smooth out a flat workpiece, then a belt sander would do the job.

The only downside with the machines is that they are safety tools that you need to handle them carefully to avoid any injury. We hope this information will help you make the right decision based on your needs and tasks that you need to accomplish. 

We would like to hear what you found helpful in this post. Are we missing anything? Let this conversation continue with the comments below.