Ryobi PSD101 – The Cordless Belt Sander You Didn’t Know You Wanted

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Ryobi PSD101 1/2" x 18" Belt Sander

There are some tools that the more you use them the more uses you discover for them. When we first received the Ryobi ½” x 18” belt sander for review, it seemed like a great “occasional tool” for reaching into the random tight quarters of woodworking projects and household repairs. But it quickly proved itself a lot more handy than we originally reckoned. Let’s take a closer look at Ryobi’s model PSD101, ½” x 18” 18V ONE+ cordless belt sander and a handful of its many uses on wood, metal and more.

Not Just Another Sander – A Cordless Narrow Belt Sander For Everyone!

Ryobi PSD101 1/2" x 18" Belt Sander
The Ryobi PSD101 is sold as a bare tool and comes with three sanding belts: 60, 80 and 120 grit.

There are many types of electric sanders out there: belt, disc, random orbital, spindle, drum, etc… (and assorted variations of each). But they all have limits on what they can and cannot do. Disc sanders, for example, are great at shaping outside curves on the edge of a board. But they’re useless on the inside curves; that’s where a spindle sander usually comes in.

Variable Speed Control
Variable speed for better control on delicate jobs.

Ryobi’s ½” x 18” belt sander has its own suite of strengths and advantages. It’s narrow enough that it actually can be used on many inside curves. It’s long and thin enough to reach places other sanders can only dream about. Because it’s a belt sander, you can even use the very tip of it. And because it’s untethered – having no air hose or power cord – it’s a truly portable, super convenient solution for a wide variety of sanding, grinding, shaping and sharpening applications.

Sanding a dado with the Ryobi PSD101
You may normally think of a sander as a woodworking (or drywall) tool. The PSD101 is great for a lot of your woodworking needs. But that’s only one of many places it shines.

Narrow belt sanders are nothing new. They’ve been used for automotive body work (and other niches) for a long time now. They’re good for rust removal, shaping, grinding spot welds and other tasks on metal and fiberglass panels. But nearly every model on the market is either pneumatic or corded; and “good” ones can be quite expensive. Ryobi has made what was once considered a “specialty tool” accessible to all.

Ryobi PSD101 – Handheld Power File

Belt tension lever
Belt swaps couldn’t be easier. Just flip the tension lever and slide the belt out.

First released overseas as the Ryobi R18PF “Power File”, the PSD101 (as it’s called in the U.S.) is a cordless, handheld, narrow belt sander that can sand, file and grind in places that may otherwise be inaccessible. But its use isn’t restricted to the tight and narrow.

Ryobi PSD101 easy belt change.
Slip the new belt in place, return the tension lever to the tightened position and you’re ready to go.

The 18V ½” x 18” belt sander is fun and easy to use. It features tool-less belt changes, variable speed ranging from 880 – 2,065 FPM (feet per minute) and a trigger-on lock. Ryobi says it gets up to 90 minutes of run time on a 4Ah 18V ONE+ battery pack. We tested with a 6Ah battery and it took a surprisingly long time to even dent the charge. The bare tool weighs approx. 2 lbs., 4 oz and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Ryobi PSD101 Belt Sander – The Multi-Talented Tool You Didn’t Know You Wanted

Stripping paint and rust with the PSD101.
A ½” x 18” belt sander works surprisingly well on inside curves like this. Rust and paint removal are just the beginning of the uses you’ll find for your Ryobi PSD101. Photo – HomeDepot.com

Pretty much anything you can do with a good flat file or rasp can be done with the PSD101. And more. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, metalworkers, mechanics, lawn care specialists, homeowners and hobbyists will all find uses for the sander. Chainsaw (and other large scale) carvers are going to love it as well.

Getting groovy with Ryobi.
It took no time at all to make this curved notch. It would work well for notching sheet metal and fiberglass too.

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to use the tool for things like shaping, sanding and grinding. But it’s also great for deburring sheet metal, and pipes and tubing over about 1-1/4”. We even used it to smooth over a chipped edge on a piece of sheet glass.

Ryobi PSD101 gets into those tight spaces.
Freshly cut metal tubing can have nasty, razor sharp burrs. The Ryobi PSD101 knocks them out in no time.
Ryobi PSD101 Power File
Deburr steel, aluminum, cast iron and more. In this case, PVC.

The Sharpest Tool In The Shed?

Great for sharpening!
We effortlessly took a couple hatchets from dull to sharp in what felt like only a few minutes each using the 120 grit belt. Most of the sharpening was done as shown. Then each side got a couple light passes in the opposite direction to remove the burr.

One thing we’ve found the PSD101 to be particularly handy for around the house is sharpening yard and garden tools. Lawnmower and edger blades, hedge shears, axes, hatchets, root cutters, tiller blades and more are no match for the ½” x 18” belt sander.

Even curved blades can tackled with the PSD101.
The Ryobi “Power File” navigated the undulating curves of these shears with ease. And I got the job done far faster than I could have by hand.

You probably wouldn’t use it on your kitchen knives or woodcarving gouges. But for rough tools like these, it’s a lot easier and faster than manual filing. And probably just as good. If for some reason you need a more refined edge, use finer grit belts.

The Rough And Smooth Of It – Ryobi PSD101

Belt tracking adjustment.
The tracking control keeps the belt running true on the rollers. You can also use it to shift the belt to the edge, allowing you to better get into corners.

With such a straightforward tool, there isn’t much to criticize. But there is one thing that could use a tweak: the angle of the belt in relation to the hand grip. When you stand the tool on end, the belt has a slight backwards angle. Personally, I’d prefer it to tilt forward a bit. Because, in some cases (like when working at chest level), it’s tricky to point the tool at a downward angle. It can be a minor inconvenience, but it’s no deal breaker.

Overmolded grip with trigger lock.
The trigger lock gives your finger a break during extended use.

By adding the PSD101 ½” x 18” power file to their 18V ONE+ lineup, Ryobi introduced narrow belt sanders to a whole new audience that may have never known what a valuable asset they could be. They’ve made it practical and affordable for the average woodworker, general tradesmen, hobbyist and home owner alike. And way more convenient to operate, with no cords, hoses or compressors to lug around.

Ryobi PSD101 1/2" x 18" Belt Sander
Welcome to the world of the narrow belt sander. Come on in and get comfy; you’ll want to stay awhile! Photo – HomeDepot.com

All in all, this is the kind of “sleeper” tool that many are likely to overlook because of unfamiliarity. But don’t be fooled by its unassuming posture; the PSD101 most definitely deserves your attention and consideration. It’s a tool you may buy on a whim for that one oddball job. But once you own it you’ll find more and more ways to use it. And soon you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. Seriously.

Buy the bare tool for just under $80:

Buy Now - via Home Depot

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About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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