Every belt sander works pretty much the same way. A motor enables two cylinders or rollers to rotate a belt of sandpaper, which serves as the surface used to sand material. The more powerful the motor, the faster the sander covers areas, making it the choice of sander over disc sanders, or manual sanding techniques. While other types of sanders are developed for more intricate and smaller-scale sanding jobs, you can count on a belt sander to get a job over a wider space quicker and in a more efficient manner.
Because of this, you should understand that belt sanders can do permanent damage to your project as much as it could get it done quickly. The thin line between these two possibilities is how you use and maintain the power tool in the first place. The power that can remove material quickly, efficiently, and easily is the same power that could just leave the entire project in a mess due to one miscalculation.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you use and maintain your belt sander
- 1. Use the right belt for the job. Most, if not all hand-held belt sanders can use sanding belts that are 3 inches wide on average. These belts don’t vary much in width as much as they would in quality, or rather, grit. Depending on what material you would be sanding, you would be choosing sandpaper belts with grits between 80 and 120, on average. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s best for you to be extra careful using cheaper belts, as these break easier and subject your belt sander to greater damage. If you can, it’s always better to invest a little extra for a higher-quality belt made with aluminum oxide or exotic material zirconia.
- 2. Keep an eye out for issues of gouging. Though this sort of problem pops up more if you use overused belts, you may experience gouging if you use sandpaper belts that are rougher than 120 grit. Gouging is the occurrence of uneven, and occasionally deeper sanding finishes looking like literal gouges at the start and the end of a proper sanding pass. Again, if you have a more durable belt made out of higher quality material, this shouldn’t be a problem. Regardless of what sort of belt you use, however, you would want to make sure that you use newer and cleaner belts every time, and it’s also good just to keep the entire power tool clean at all times. If you must use belts rougher than 120 grit, handle the sander with greater care to keep this from happening.
- 3. When sanding plywood, use caution. Plywood is easier to level with less powerful sanders, but if that isn’t an option, you just need to be a little more careful when using a belt sander on this and any other similar materials. Don’t think that you will never be using plywood – sometimes, it is the most logical material to use in a given situation, and when you do need to sand it, it is especially important that you do not press down when sanding – not only is this totally unnecessary, but you can be sure that it will not just leave a bad sanding job, but an awful-looking finish, with the face veneer of the material literally scraped off to reveal the unsightly material beneath all this.
- 4. While you are watching out for gouging, make sure your belt isn’t tracking as well. Another phenomenon that reveals its ugly face as you use a belt that’s near retirement is tracking – this is when a belt is used to the point that it warps, and is no longer wrapped around the sander’s rollers as tight as it used to be. When this happens, the belt no longer moves in a straight line, but in the path of less resistance, resulting in noticeable changes in sanding results. Besides this, the motor would probably work harder just for you to notice the same results you would usually see from a fresh belt. Again, it’s always best to use a newer belt each and every time – however, when this is not an option due to time constraints or any other reason, you can quickly stretch the belt a little further with a little help from the adjustment knob on your belt sander.
- 5. Take time to keep the belt sander clean. Belt sanders respond quite negatively to dust exposure, just as any other power tool would. If you want to keep your belt sander alive and efficient for a significantly longer time, you would do well to keep it clean and dust free as much as you can. Regular cleaning can achieve this. Though your belt sander may already have its own dedicated dust collection system complete with a built-in vacuum and bag, you can’t always be sure that it gets all of the dust, all the time. A quick clean and adjustment each and every time you change the belt on the sander would do wonders to the tool, making sure none of the other problems mentioned earlier would happen anytime soon.