- The ZRBE319 is designed to be a light duty tool. Its light weight means it can be used in applications where a heavier, bulkier belt sander would not cut it. In keeping with the goal of versatility, Ryobi included a locking trigger on the ZRBE319. This is an all-too-uncommon feature on belt sanders.
- The locking trigger function means that, when engaged, the belt sander does not turn off when the user releases pressure on the trigger.
- The lock keeps the trigger pulled back, which keeps the motor running. This is very useful on long jobs. Playing more to the ZRBE319’s style, the locking trigger means that the user can easily sand with only one hand in hard-to-reach areas, such as ceiling corners.
- The ZRBE319 has a dust collection port and comes with a dust collection bag. The port is the standard 1” size so a vacuum hose could be attached (or different style of dust collection bag). Like most dust collection systems, the cloth bag is the weak point. Many classes of particulate are small enough to pass right through the pores of the cloth. Use of a shop vacuum would certainly make the dust collection system more efficient.
- The ZRBE319 has a standard lever-lock system for replacing the belt, as well as a manually adjustable belt tracking feature.
TOOL DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
The Ryobi ZRBE319 has a pretty conventional belt sander design. The housing is a consumer-grade plastic. It’s durable enough for practical use, but it’s not an exceptionally strong material. The platen (surface upon which the belt rests) is steel.
The ZRBE319 has the standard pistol grip for the rear handle. This is a great design because it’s ergonomic and comfortable, and also allows the user to apply more downward and forward force while using the tool. That is especially useful for a light sander like this one. The grip sits almost parallel to the platen, which means it is most useful for downward (rather than forward) pressure.
This tool also has a front grip for resting the auxiliary hand on. This is an important feature for belt sanders. Having a place to grip the tool with both hands really comes in handy for long jobs of sanding hours on end. The extra grip helps the user control the tool better, and it also gives the user a place to rest his other hand. The ZRBE319’s front grip is rather small and knobby. This makes it a little less useful as a place to rest one’s hand, but still perfectly useful for controlling the sander.
The ZRBE319 weighs right around 6.5 pounds. This is definitely on the light end as far as belt sanders go. The light weight, combined with the motor size, is what defines the ZRBE319 as a household or specialty use sander.
Though it seems counterintuitive, a heavier belt sander is actually preferable to a light one. In the course of normal use, the user must constantly push on the back of the belt sander to keep the belt in contact with the work surface. A heavier tool can handle that on its own. A lighter tool means the user has to apply more force for the sander to operate correctly.
One good thing about the light weight, however, is the specialty commercial use. Belt sanders are usually too heavy to be used on ceilings or walls. Obviously a sander like the ZRBE319 would fit that niche perfectly, so it would be very useful for sanding drywall or finishing crown molding in place, or other jobs that require heavy sanding in a vertical or upside down position.
The motor on the ZRBE319 is rather small, putting out only 5.3 amps. Most belt sanders are closer to ten amps. 5.3 amps is still perfectly usable but it will not chew through wood anywhere near as effectively as a sander with a beefier motor would. While it can still be used for lighter (less dense) materials or smaller projects, the small motor renders the tool less versatile than some competitors’ models.
The ZRBE319 does not have a variable speed control. With such a small motor to begin with, variable speed control would not really bring much more to the tool’s functionality.
The small motor, however, means a lighter sander. It seems likely that Ryobi designed the ZRBE319 to be a light duty sander, and a small motor fits in well to that purpose.
The ZRBE319 uses a 3”x18” sanding belt. This is a fairly standard size. It is large enough to expedite bigger jobs and the common size means replacement belts are fairly easy to find and fairly inexpensive.
The ZRBE319’s 5.3 amp motor can power the belt up to around 700 square feet per minute. This is a shockingly low figure compared to other sanders on the market. The ZRBE319, though designed intentionally to be lightweight, is simply underpowered. A smaller belt or slightly larger motor would have improved this tool tremendously.
There is a plastic lip protruding out over the nose of the sanding belt, meaning this sander could not be used for sanding flush surfaces or any curved sanding applications.