Using The Belt Sander

by Frank Drebin
(Ohio)





Using the Belt Sander; The belt sander is an awesome tool that I have used throughout the years. If you place a belt sander on a surface and then turn it on, the belt will work like the treads on a tractor. The tool will try to get away from you or pull you along with it, but it won't do any sanding. So a primary rule is to grip the tool securely and start it before making contact with the work. Initial contact must be with the platen flat on the work. Only part of the belt will work if the tool is tilted, and the gouges that result will be difficult to remove. Keeping the sander moving is another important rule; hold it in one spot and you'll have a dent the size of the platen.


Generally, the sander should be moved in long strokes run parallel to the wood grain, working to and fro and moving the tool so you overlap the strokes a bit. If the stroke direction is oblique instead of in-line, you will, in effect, be doing cross-grain sanding which is an acceptable technique at times but not robe used when you are sanding to smooth a surface for finishing coats. Cross-grain lines might not be seen under paint, but even slight ones become very apparent after an application of stain.

The major feature of the belt sander is its straight-line action which makes it easy to sand parallel to the wood grain, and this procedure is what always produces best results. It's even advisable to sand with the grain whenever possible since working against the grain can raise a nap which requires more sanding to eliminate. This basic rule can be ignored when you wish to remove a lot of material quickly. Then, working against the grain or across it is the way to go.

Keep the platen flat on the work at all times and don't bear down on the tool more than is necessary to keep the sandpaper cutting. Most of the time. the weight of the tool alone will provide adequate feed pressure. Forcing won't accomplish much and can interfere with correct belt tracking. Turn the sander off after you have broken contact with the work and don't set it down until the belt has come to a stop.

Keep the sander on the same plane when you come off the end of the work. Allowing it to tilt will form a ramp or will round off the end of the workpiece. Another error to avoid is lifting the tool before the stroke is complete.

Remember that the sander, especially when coarse-grit belts are used, removes material quickly So be cautious when sanding veneers or plywood. It isn't difficult to sand right through surface plies. This is especially important when working on fancy hardwood plywood where surface veneers 'might be quite thin.

Keeping Work Secure

Just as the belt sander can travel like a tractor and take off on its own unless you hold and guide it with firmness, it can grip pieces of wood and throw them back at the operator. Anytime you are sanding material that is not heavy enough to stay put on its own, or is not attached to something solid. secure the job to a bench top or across sawhorses by using clamps or weights, or even by tack-nailing in waste areas. When the part is small, you can secure it by bracing it against a backup strip that is clamped or tack-nailed to a solid surface. The backup, of course, must be thinner than the stock thickness.

Some types of clamps,like the "Tru-Grip" model shown in do nicely as work holders since they have back-to-back jaws—one set grips a solid surface, the others secure the work. Even very small pieces can be belt-sanded safely if you improvise a means of keeping them secure. A typical jig, designed to hold discs, is shown in. The hook prevents the sander front throwing the work, while a cleat braces the jig against the edge of a bench. This concludes my writings on the belt sander unless I can think of something else to write about for more carpentry tips continue to visit my webpages Mr Sander better known as Frank Drebin Thank you.


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