Belt sanders are useful for removing stock, surfacing, smoothing and even creating decorative straightline finishes. These sanding tools come in many sizes--from 1/2" wide strip sanders to huge stroke sanders with a sanding surface as large and wide as a door!
Strip Sanders use narrow sanding belts, usually just 1 or 2 inches wide, which travel vertically. A table supports the work as you press it against the sanding belt. These tools are commonly used for sanding and shaping small parts, fitting joints and sharpening. A few can be configured to sand the edges of interior cuts.
Mid-size stationary belt sanders mount sanding belts between 4 and 6 inches wide, providing a generous sanding surface. They're versatile tools, capable of a wide range of sanding tasks. Most can be used in two positions--horizontally and vertically. Sand concave surfaces where the sanding belt travels over the rollers, and straight or convex surfaces where it rides over the flat metal platen between the rollers.
Stroke Sanders are among the largest sanding machines, mounting belts up to 52" wide and over 12 feet long! The belt travels horizontally as you press it down against the surface of the stock with a large pad or stroker. This is a production tool used in commercial shops.
Common Sanding Procedures
These tips will speed your sanding and help produce better results:
1. Do not press too hard when you sand! It may cut more quickly for a few moments, but the abrasive will rapidly clog due to excess heat and soon become ineffective. In addition, you can bog down and damage the motor.
2. Use a worktable, fence or miter gauge to support the work whenever possible. This practice is safer and it also helps you to be precise in your sanding.
3. Adjust the worktable to within an 1/8" of the abrasive. Where the sanding belt travels past the work table, there is a "pinch point". If you should let your fingers stray too close to the moving abrasive belt, they may be dragged into this opening and pinched--or worse! Even though sanders have no knives or cutters, large abrasive machines can tear off or sand away fingers if you give them a chance. By placing the work table close to the sanding belt, you reduce the pinch point and decrease the risk that your hands might be caught in it.
4. When using a vertical belt sander, set up the work table so the belt travels down, past the table. The motion of the abrasive helps hold the stock on the table, making the operation both safer and more accurate.
Sanders require more maintenance than most tools for the simple reason that they generate more dust! This fine dust is a mild abrasive that can eventually ruin bearings, rotors and other moving parts. Make it a habit to regularly vacuum your sander. If any part of the sander becomes difficult to operate, it probably needs cleaning. Follow the instructions in your owner's manual to take apart, clean and lubricate. From time to time, wax and buff the platen of a belt sander to help the belt slide across it smoothly. Also wax and buff the work table, fence and miter gauge. Just be sure you always buff out the wax after you apply it! Otherwise, the wax will mix with the sanding dust and form a gummy mess...
As the Internet grows, more information will become available on older models of sanders--instruction manuals are popping up online and miscellaneous parts are for sale. Keep in mind that Abrasive Resource can help you with any size sanding belt--even if the sander you have has been discontinued!
For more information on custom sanding belts for older model sanders, check out:
Information for this article was taken from the book "Sanding and Planing" by Nick Engler with permission from Rodale Press.