Reviewing power tools from Craftsman hasn’t always been a positive experience, but in this case, I’m happy to report a very good outcome with one of Sears’ most usable power tools.

I tend to work with wood and metal in just about equal proportions. One day I’ll be busy making something out of hardwood, and the next I’m building a bracket out of aluminum or steel. When I cut out a piece of metal or wood, it always needs to be sanded or shaped, so I tend to use one tool for both. That’s hard on tools, or at least their consumables like belts and sanding discs, because I rarely have the time to stop and change my abrasives.

With this handy little bench-top sander, though, I’ve found a terrific compromise.

Flip one rocker switch, and the Craftsman Bench-top Belt and Disc Sander simultaneously spins two elements—a rigid 6” sanding disc, which spins vertically; and a 4” wide, 36” long sanding belt. I can use a metal-specific sanding disc and a wood-friendly belt or vice-versa, and voila, no time-consuming and wasteful abrasive abuse.

Not that disc and belt changes take a long time on this machine—they don’t. The cast aluminum deck of the belt sanding function and the solid disc on the side of the unit quickly accept new abrasives, and belt adjustment is easy with one knob. You may become familiar with that knob—I do have to adjust the tension fairly often, or the belt will misalign.

The unit comes with a heavy cast aluminum work table that you can attach or remove in various positions or tilt up to 45 degrees, and which makes the sanding disc and the belt even more usable. The table comes with a miter gauge for precise work. Sitting on vibration-dampening rubber feet, the unit isn’t whisper-quiet when running, but it doesn’t shake the bench much at all, either. It has a single sawdust collection chute that attaches to your shop’s standard 2-inch port.

The best feature of this tool, though, is its tilting belt sander. With a simple pull to manually adjust the tilt (turn it off first, of course), you can go anywhere from full horizontal to full vertical in a second. With that sanding arm at full upright, you have access to both sides of the belt at once, and to its curved top surface, as well. That means you can sand just about any part or piece, no matter its shape, configuration or size—very handy.

Sears sells this cool tool for about $180; and you can buy its big brother (3/4 horsepower) for $290. Online retailers sometimes beat those prices, and SearsOutlet.com sells reconditioned versions of this tool—with the original warranty—for a lot less. You can order this sander from Amazon for $230 right now.

Summary

The Craftsman Bench-top Belt and Disc Sander gets a very good Contractors.com rating: 4 out of 5 Stars. One of the handiest and most reliable little sanders on the market.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Pros

  • Fits easily on a small workbench
  • Well-made, solid construction
  • Takes standard 4x36” sanding belts and 6” discs
  • Tilt feature on the belt sander: priceless
  • Rugged, reliable

Cons

  • Not cheap, unless it’s reconditioned
  • Only one speed
  • Belts tend to misalign easily