How to choose the best sanding belt for your grinder?

There are 4 major categories of abrasive sanding belt material that are most common. These are, Aluminum Oxide, Zirconia (aka as Zirconia Alumina), Silicon Carbide and Ceramic.

Aluminum Oxide
Aluminum Oxide is a very common and relatively cheap belt available to purchase. Aluminum oxide works well on hard and soft woods, non-ferrous metals like aluminum and even on most grades of steel.

Zirconia is a man-made material and is very hard and works well in applications where high heat ocurrs from sanding hard materials especially in heavy removal applications. Zirconia is used for rough sanding or shaping of steel and stainless steel.

Silicon Carbide
Silicon Carbide is sharp and brittle. Most commonly found on wet & dry sanding sheets, Silicon Carbide is used for sanding glass, plastic, ceramic. It is also very popular in the very high grits for fine finishing on both metal.

Ceramic belts are a specially heat-treated aluminum oxide grain that is extremely hard. Although ceramic is more expensive to purchase, it last longer that Aluminum Oxide belts. Ceramic belts work really well to shape and in grinding hard metals such as Stainless Steel and Tool Steel. VSM Ceramic Plus belts are made in Canada and are great for knife makers.  Most Ceramic belts are in the lower grits 36 to 120 are the most commonly used.


  • Grits 16, 24, 36, 40, 50 & 60 are for material removal and rough shaping.
  • Grits 80, 100 & 120 are for smoothing surfaces and removing imperfections.
  • Grits 150, 180, 220, 240, 320, 400, 400, 600 and 800 and up are for final finishing.

Backing Material
There are 2 categories of backing material for sanding belts. They are paper backing and cloth backing.

Paper Backing
Paper backing is typically about 25% cheaper than cloth backed belts. The weight of the paper belt is identified by a letter. Belts are typically either “E-Weight” or “F-Weight”.

Cloth Backing
Cloth backing is the most durable and versatile backing material for sanding belts. The weight of the paper belt is identified by a letter.  The further into the alphabet you go, the heavier the backing material.

J-Weight is a light, flexible cloth backing that is suitable for applications where you are sanding over contours.
X-Weight is a medium weight backing that is good for general purpose use.
Y-Weight is a heavy duty backing with the most strength to withstand the pressure of heavy sanding and product removal.

Wet and Dry sand paper
We also sell sheets of Wet and Dry sand paper in starter packs. These VSM Wet Dry sheets are great for hand sanding your metal.

For more information, please see Nexus Grinders or VSM Abrasives Canada.