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Belt/Disc Sanders

These machines help you smooth and shape wood and fine-tune joinery with ease.

There’s an old adage that says combination tools perform multiple tasks, but none very well. Although that’s often true, it’s simply not the case for the six sanders in this review. These combination machines performed admirably at both belt and disc functions. Adding one to your shop would be a smart decision.

Start with power

We tested each machine for its ability to hog away wood aggressively. The Powermatic BD31A and Laguna DB12/6 resisted our attempts to bog them down, earning top marks. With the others, we could bog down the belts easily enough, but the discs fared better. Bottom line: In normal use, you’ll be fine with any of the tested models.

Then add finesse

For precision sanding, a sturdy table and flat platen make all the difference. Cast-iron tables, anchored well, provide the best workpiece support. We like those on the Grizzly G1276, Laguna, and Powermatic. The belt platens all supported the 6×48" belts well, but the longer platens on the Laguna, Powermatic, and Rikon 50-122 provide the most sanding area.

Three of the machines have 12" discs (Grizzly G1276, Laguna, and Powermatic), while the others have 9" or 10" discs. That smaller surface area means less contact for your workpieces, and potentially quicker abrasive wear. All but the Rikon had disc platens that showed no wobble; with that machine, workpieces tended to vibrate more.


Sanders create choking dust that must be sucked up by a vacuum or dust collector. A single 4" port on the Jet JSG-96OS and Powermatic serves both belt and disc; the Jet fared best. The other machines have odd-size ports that require adapters for a typical shop-vacuum hose. (Connecting a dust collector to a 212 " or smaller port greatly reduces the collector’s effectiveness.)

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The cast-iron table of the Jet (and the Grizzly G1014Z) mounts on a single rod, resulting in a not-so-steady worksurface.

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But the Jet table’s crisscrossed miter slots and circle jig provide lots of sanding options.

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You can mount Powermatic’s belt-sanding table in-line with the belt, ensuring precise-angle sanding along the platen.

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Or, mount it perpendicular to the belt, but that renders nearly 40 percent of the platen area unusable.

Drawing lines in the sand(paper) among these combo sanders

Powermatic BD31A, $1,490

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800-274-6848, powermatic.com

High Points

▲ This machine sanded fastest in our trials, both on the belt and disc.
▲ Its cast-iron belt table can be used either perpendicular to the belt or in-line next to it, as shown above. (You can add the included stop when sanding in-line, but it must be removed to position the table perpendicular.)
▲ No tools needed to change the belt orientation from vertical to horizontal or back.
▲ The table’s 90° tilt stop ensures quick and accurate right-angle sanding.
▲ This model comes with a 5-year warranty.

Low Points
▼ When using the table perpendicular to the belt, you reduce the sanding area to 858 " in length, nearly 6" less than when using the stop alone.

More Points
The enclosed base houses the motor, but there’s no storage for accessories.

Jet JSG-96OS, $790

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Also available without stand (JSG-96, $715) or on an enclosed stand (JSG-96CS, $865)
800-274-6848, jettools.com

High Points
▲ The small aluminum belt table holds solidly with ratcheting locks on each side, and tilts down 55°, 10° more than the cast-iron table—which swaps between the belt and disc—in the same position.
▲ A layer of graphite on the belt platen should help reduce platen wear over time.
▲ The cast-iron disc table’s 90° tilt stop, shown on above, ensures quick and accurate right-angle sanding. We like the X-Y miter slots and circle-sanding pivot for sanding circles 5–19" in diameter.
▲ The table removes easily for faster abrasive-disc changes.
▲ Dust collection was best on this model because of its single 4" port and blast gates that let you close off the side not in use.
▲ This model comes with a 5-year warranty.

Low Points
▼ The cast-iron table mounts to the base on a single 34 "-diameter rod. Even when tightened securely, the table still wiggled a bit.
▼ We could easily stall the belt with moderate workpiece pressure.

More Points
The plastic housing on the base belies the overall quality of this machine.
The disc spins clockwise, and you have to work on the right side of the disc. (Most discs spin counterclockwise.)

Grizzly G1014Z, $410

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Also available on an enclosed stand (G1014ZX, $495)
800-523-4777, grizzly.com

High Points
▲ The table removes easily for faster disc-abrasive changes.
▲ A layer of graphite on the belt platen should help reduce platen wear over time.

Low Points
▼ The cast-iron table—which swaps between the belt and disc—mounts to the base on a single 34 "-diameter rod. Even when tightened securely, the table still wiggled a bit.
▼ We could easily stall the belt with moderate workpiece pressure.
▼ The two dust-collection ports require different-size hoses—a big nuisance.
▼ The stamped-steel stop for the belt lacks the surface area of most other machines’ tables (for sanding in the vertical position).
▼ The belt-tension lever protrudes 8" from the housing—a snag waiting to happen.

More Points
The power switch, located on the back side of the base, was not easy to reach when using the belt vertically.

Grizzly G1276, $755

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High Points
▲ Spot-on 45° and 90° tilt stops on the disc table ensure quick and accurate settings.

Low Points
▼ You get the shortest belt-sanding area in this test group with the table removed and the stop in place (10") or removed (1412 ").
▼ The two dust-collection ports require different-size hoses—a big nuisance.

More Points
You cannot remove the housing on the belt sander’s idle roller, preventing use of that end for sanding an inside radius. (All other machines allow this.)
At 145 pounds, this unit will not be easy to move or lift. Plan to dedicate it to a benchtop space or shop-made stand.

Laguna DB12/6, $1,000

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800-234-1976, lagunatools.com

High Points

▲ Despite belt and disc speeds slower than the others, we could not bog it down.
▲ It has the longest belt-sanding area in the test with the stop in place (1512 ") or removed (18").
▲ When powered on, this machine jumps almost immediately to full speed. Others take 1–4 seconds to ramp up.

Low Points
▼ The disc table’s miter slot, 458 " from the platen, allowed more wiggle room for the workpiece to move when sanding miters with a miter gauge.
▼ The two dust-collection ports require different-size hoses—a big nuisance.
▼ Belt changes require patience because you have to remove the table and guards.
▼ The owner’s manual can be difficult to follow; its photos and illustrations lack clarity.

More Points
The 33"-high disc table requires taller users to stoop.
The disc spins clockwise, and you have to work on the right side of the disc. (Most discs spin counterclockwise.)
We wish the enclosed base had an access door. It’s a shame to waste that potential storage space.
No miter gauge provided.

Rikon 50-122, $475

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Also available without stand (50-120, $450)
877-884-5167, rikontools.com

High Points
▲ Its belt was among the easiest to adjust for tension and tracking.
▲ This model comes with a 5-year warranty.

Low Points
▼ The aluminum disc platen measured .032" out of flat, producing a notable wobble. All the other discs measured within .009" of flat, more than acceptable.
▼ We could easily stall the belt with moderate workpiece pressure.
▼ The disc’s aluminum table wiggled slightly, its miter gauge fit sloppily in the miter slot, and the 14 ×58 " miter slot won’t accept standard 38 ×34 " miter gauges and accessories.
▼ The stamped-steel stop for the belt lacks the surface area of the other machines’ tables (for sanding in the vertical position).

More Points
The dust-collection housing around the belt’s drive roller cannot be removed, limiting work-
piece length when sanding in-line with the belt.
The disc table has the only rack-and-pinion adjuster in the group, but excessive play and a lack of positive stops made it difficult to reliably set table-tilt angles.
The power switch, located on the back side of the base, was not easy to reach when using the belt vertically.

Care to make that a combo?

As you might expect from a sander that costs nearly $1,500, the Powermatic BD31A emerged as our Top Tool. It scored high marks for power, easy abrasive changes, and ease of making adjustments. It also has reasonably effective dust collection and a 5-year warranty.

But for about half that amount, you could get the Jet JSG-96OS (or the benchtop version for $715), which performed nearly as well as the Powermatic, but with even better dust collection, and the same 5-year warranty.

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Turn the belt sander into a spindle sander, such as on this Laguna, by removing the top guard, exposing the idle roller. You don’t get the benefit of a table, so use care to keep workpieces oriented as needed.

Download PDF of Belt/Disc Sander Comparison Chart

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