How to Use a Belt Sander

How to Use a Belt Sander Featured Photo

You want to know how to deal with a lot of rough wood or surface without having to go through the stress of paper sanding manually? I can walk you through the steps but first, let me explain some salient points. Using a sander, that isn’t mechanical like a belt sander, on your project can really be a tough option.

It requires more energy and consumes more time. A belt sander can really save you a lot on your project in time and energy but that is if you use it right. But I am often faced with the question of how to use a belt sander which I feel inclined to answer.

Using belt sanders is actually very simple. They are basically used in removing a considerable amount of rough surface from a piece of wood or items made from it, to leave a nicer, smoother and more sight-pleasing fine wood.


The structure of Belt Sander allows for it to have a removable sander wrapped around its structure as a whole. The motor then moves the belt circularly to help maintain a smooth surface. The structure, however, makes it both easy and difficult to use at the same time. This is because at the speed the belt sander moves, it is very easy to plane out more than you intend to have smoothened.

Understanding a Belt Sander

While there are a lot of brands manufacturing belt sanders, you also need to understand that there are different types of belt sanders. Generally, the Belt Sander is categorized as the portable handheld belt sander or the stationary belt sander.

The reason for this classification is almost vivid. The portable handheld allows for you to carry the belt sander all around for all forms of sanding while the stationary is often attached to a bench on which items are then tabled on to get them planed.

Unlike the portable handheld category for belt sanders, the stationary belt stander seems to have more components such as tracking knob, sanding disc, work support, bevel gauge, and belt tension lever. When you understand these things, then you will know how best to manage and use your chosen belt sander.

The sandpaper that may be attached to your belt sander can either be the aluminum oxide sandpaper or the Zirconia sandpaper. Well, in my own opinion,  Zirconia sandpaper is better that is if you ask me why. It is more abrasive and tough on surfaces especially when you want a perfectly finished fine surface. This makes the Zirconia sandpaper very effective for shaping and coursing.

If you are tight on budget, then maybe you may consider using the aluminum oxide sandpaper, which is cheaper.

Choosing the right belt

Belt sanders have their specially designed belt but not all belts may work for you. For best result, you should choose belts with 80-120 grits if you want a perfect finish in whatever you do. Depending on the belt sander brand you have, the belt sizes may differ. It’s normally within the range of three inches in width but the brand may offer you wider or narrower belts sizes.


Using the Belt Sander

The basics have been discussed above and that is choosing the right brand and choosing the right belt for your selected brand. Once this is done, get the materials you want to work on and follow these simple steps.

  1. Always try to clamp the materials you want to work on before starting at all. This allows for much neater and perfectly finished results as well as protect your materials from sliding off while working. Some stationary belt sanders may come with the clamps but if not, you may get them in any tool store.
  2. Your safety is important. As fine as the wood dust may be, it is very dangerous, especially to the eyes. Always protect your eyes before working. You can get safety google to achieve this. The eyes are not the only organ to protect. Because the dust coming from the sanding process is often so light, it may easily be carried off by air and you may inhale some. You can prevent this by using ventilation masks.
  3. With the two steps in check, you may then proceed to sand. Put on the power button gently and apply steady pressure on the material you want to work on. Remember that I pointed out early in this article that a belt sander may perfect your work or destroy it. The sudden application of the belt sander of the surface you want to work on or applying more pressure than necessary may file out a surface deeper than intended. Let your application be regular, move at an even direction. Do not go clockwise and anti-clockwise on the spot on a surface unless doing so is intentional and for a design purpose.
  4. Always observe regular pauses. This is to give your belt sander a little time to cool off so as to prevent it from heating up too badly and damaging essential components. This would also give you time to examine the work you have done and to make sure you are achieving exactly what you want and not the other way round.
  5. Finish up what you have started. Depending on the brand you got, there is always a dust bag or ventilation bag where the fine particles are collected. Check at regular interval to ensure that it doesn’t get clogged up. Use your pauses to empty if it is filled up.

In case your belt sander comes with other belt options, you may want to choose another belt with a finer grit to help you finish up a well detailed and fine look.


Keeping your Belt Sander Safe

There are high chances that your belt sander may get damaged or perhaps just the belt would get destroyed the very first time you use it. This is not because the brand you bought isn’t a good one but because you were probably ignoring some safety measures.

In keeping your belt sander safe, always make sure you keep your working table free of other items such as nails, screws and so on. This may puncture your belt and get your belt sander hooked. You really do not want this to happen.

Your belt sander, as a matter of design, will always have a lever which you can pull to change the belt. Do not pull this lever while the belt sander is still actively in motion. Switch it off and disconnect before pulling the lever and changing the belt.

When you want to clean up the sander, always opt for a belt cleaning stick to do the job for you, not soap and water. Cleaning stick helps to effectively purge out all the wood that may have built up in the sander system while working.

Some consider belt sander to be abrasive enough to sharpen basic tool items but I really do not advise it. Make sure you read through the instructions of your sander to learn whether you can do that with it. If not abstain from such task completely. After each task don’t forget to wrap it back up and keep completely away from moist and water so as not to expose it to elements that cause rust.

Because it is a somewhat mechanical tool, always keep it away from children and pets. You sure do not want to have your kids touching this extremely dangerous tool as this may result in a serious injury.

In Conclusion

Belt sanders are really essential tools for people that deal a lot with wood finishing. In a world that has provided us with a simple machine that puts an end to the stress of manually sending a surface, you shouldn’t be left out from benefitting. Belt sanders are very basic to use and most brands often have a detailed manual on any unique feature they are trying to introduce to you.

With a belt sander, you are going to be saving a lot of time, energy and even money. You also would be adding more value to your work as it will definitely come out finer and more detailed with a belt sander than manual sanding. With all of these benefits, what else are you waiting for?

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