September 28, 2022

Woody Woodworking

and its tools

Milwaukee M18 Belt Sander Review

4 min read

Milwaukee M18 FUEL Belt Sander

We were super excited to see the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Belt Sander released recently. Milwaukee has been slowly providing battery-powered solutions to replace traditionally corded carpentry and remodeling tools. As a remodeling carpenter, I’m excited when I see releases like this and am paying close attention. While a belt sander is not used daily in my line of work when you need one, nothing else will do – so having one in the van is a must.

First Impressions

The Milwaukee M18 FUEL belt sander has a 3" x 18" belt and Milwaukee claims that it has the same torque and power as an 8-amp corded belt sander.

I immediately noticed and liked the adjustable front handle. This handle has two adjustments – forward and aft. The handle moves approximately 2-inches and allows the handle to project in front of the tools or flush with the front edge. The adjustment lever is located on top of the handle and is recessed flush and does not create any hot spots or pinch points.

Dust Collection

An internal fan or wheel helps suck up the dust and send it out the rear chute either to the dust bag or an integrated vacuum hose. Milwaukee claims that the belt sander collects over 80% of the dust.

The dust bag is a durable, multi-layer, zippered bag that is permanently attached to a spring-loaded, clip-on connector that locks onto the belt sanders dust port. I have to say, nicely engineered and robust connection!

A universal hose adapter also comes with the tool. This adapter also has a clip connection and allows for several different-sized hoses to attach. It obviously fits nicely in the Milwaukee vacuum, but it also fits on my Makita and Festool dust extractors as well.

The adapter fits 1-1/4", 1-7/8", and 2-1/2" hoses. It’s the same design as the new Milwaukee AirTip accessories.

I did notice that if you pull on the hose hard, on the dust bag, and the adapter it will disconnect. This is like dragging the vacuum with the tool attached and having the adapter disconnect from the hose. this could easily be remedied by Milwaukee making the adapter and belt sander dust chute connection points engage deeper.

Variable Speed | Power Lock-On

The M18 belt sander has a power lock-on which is useful for awkward positioning, or long-standing applications, and a variable speed dial to control its speed and material removal: the variable speed dial has 5 settings, which allows for 700-1350 SFM [surface Feet Per Minute]

Belt Changing

Like other belt sanders the M18 sander has a spring-loaded lever on the left side of the base for changing belts. The platen [plate on the bottom of the sander that meets the workpiece] of my sander was perfectly flat.

Belt Tracking

A small belt tracking knob is located on the front left of the base of the sander. The knob worked well as dialing in the belt positioning and was not overly sensitive.

LED Lighting

There are two LEDs on this tool, one is front mounted and the other is on the right side of the tool. The right side of the tool is the side that allows the sander to get closest to a vertical surface or edge. The light brightness is good and has a decent throw pattern,

Using the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Belt Sander

This sander feels heavy, but all belt sanders are heavy. As a bare tool, this sander is 1 lb. lighter than my corded belt sander, with a battery it’s probably the same or a bit over.

When using the belt sander, I was looking at power and control, I want both at the same time. This sander certainly has the power for belt sanding, and I was able to get the control I needed through the variable speed dial and trigger, mostly the trigger.

Comparison between Milwaukee and Porter Cable
Improvements

I don’t have a lot of hours on this tool and won’t for some time, it’s just not a tool I reach for often. What I did notice was that the platen of this sander measures 3-3/4" wide and the belt measures 3-inches. there is some concern that a slight edge misalignment on the sander may scratch your workpiece.

I also noticed that the variable speed dial is on the rear of the tool. I prefer the adjustment up front where I can manipulate it with my forefinger while using the tool. This is a minor dig on the belt sander, as most folk will either "set-and-forget" the variable speed dial, or if it’s a short use application they will use the variable speed trigger to feather the sanders speed.

Overall Impression

This belt sander works great. It has excellent power, impressive battery life, and control. Milwaukee has always been committed to providing trade-focused tool solutions, but their recent 5–6-year commitment to the carpentry trades is most welcome.

Being able to have all the carpentry trade tools you need, on one battery system is important to many folks working in the trades. This new M18 belt sander is fully compatible with the entire M18 line, which now boasts more than 250 power tools. Well-done Milwaukee.

Woodworking News Source: A Concord Carpenter / ToolBoxBuzz

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