Doing heavy-duty sanding with an orbital or other kind of finishing sander is likely to put too much strain on that type of machine. That’s when the workhorse of the power-sanding field, the belt sander, is required.
Heavy-duty sanding includes such things as removing paint and rough sanding on large surfaces. If you are likely to engage in this kind of sanding only a couple of times a year, you can rent a belt sander.
A belt sander is a powerful machine. Its belt runs over pulleys, drums or cylinders and usually utilizes a coarse belt, but medium and fine belts can be attached to get a very smooth finish. Because the belt sander is such a rugged machine, it usually has two handles so it can be gripped with both hands. Even so, only a moderate amount of pressure should be applied. It should be guided back and forth in a kind of stroking action.
How much you pay for a belt sander depends on its capacity, power and ability to handle supplementary movements. It’s a good idea to select a sander with a dust bag attachment.
By its very nature, a belt sander stirs up a lot of dust particles and can be very messy without a bag to collect the dust.
For the average householder with a home workshop, a sander that takes 3-inch sandpaper is a good choice, but you may do enough heavy-duty sanding to justify a slightly larger one.
If you are working with a belt sander for the first time, be sure it does not touch the work until the motor is in operation. Lower it slowly so the back part of the belt touches the wood, after which the belt is quickly brought to a horizontal position as it is moved forward.
Do not stop the machine while sanding. The belt should always be moving forward or backward. When you are ready to stop, lift the sander from the surface and then, only then, turn off the motor. If the machine is kept in one place, even for the shortest possible time, it will take off too much wood at that spot. Because of this, lift the machine a bit as you come to edges and corners, thus preventing it from tilting.
Even though the kind of sanding you will be doing with a belt machine usually involves only rough work, make it a habit to sand with the grain all the time. It’s a habit that will stand you in good stead when using the finishing types of sanders.
Whatever knack there is to using a belt sander can be learned easily by starting out on scrap wood. The machine you buy will have instructions on how to change the belt. It will include information on the necessity of following the designations on which way the belts should be installed. By following these directions, you will avoid the possibility that the splices in the belt might come apart.
A belt sander is activated in different ways; the most common being with a trigger switch. If you buy a model that has a device that locks the switch trigger while you are sanding and releases it when you press the trigger, so much the better.
As with all power machines, don’t make any adjustments before unplugging it from the electrical from the outlet. Power machines have a nasty habit of starting up accidentally while they are being handled, even when you think the switch is off.
Whenever possible, the work being sanded should be clamped down. This is more important when using an electric sander than when sanding by hand.