As a DIYer or tradesperson, a building project or job can sometimes call for a serious bit of sanding and one sander that is often relied on to carry out these larger jobs is the portable belt sander. The belt sander is a powerful sanding machine that needs a certain level of mastery to use correctly and as a result is not really recommended for beginners or the inexperienced. The belt sander also does its works very quickly, so much so in fact, that it is entirely possible to make a mess of a project if one is not careful.
Belt sanders are, above all, ideal for the sanding of extra rough surfaces and they are usually used as the first step in a sanding project which is then followed by a less aggressive sander such as the random orbital sander or the detail sander to obtain the final smooth finish. The belt sander especially comes into its own when working on large areas such as on flooring or on table-tops particularly when removing old coats of varnish, paint, or other similar coatings which can take significantly longer with a less powerful sander. It can also be especially useful when a significant amount of material needs to be removed from a surface such as when reducing the length of a workpiece that has been inadvertently cut slightly oversize.
In this review of portable belt sanders, we first look at how one typically uses a handheld belt sander before exploring the features found on today’s crop of belt sanding machines available to the UK consumer. Then, once armed with this knowledge, we will be in a better position to choose a portable belt sander for purchase (which is presumably the reason for your visit to this page today!) as we examine the properties and technical characteristics of popular belt sanders on the UK market today.
How to use a portable belt sander
When using a portable belt sander, especially for the first time, there are a few important things to remember to ensure good results:
- First and foremost, one should not press down too heavily on the machine but instead let its weight do the majority of the work. This makes it easier to apply uniform pressure across the workpiece being sanded, and decreases the chance of over-sanding in any one particular spot, which might lead to an uneven depression forming in the workpiece. Not putting excessive pressure on the sander also means that the sandpaper belt does not wear out prematurely.
- The next thing to remember when using a portable belt sander is to always keep it in motion, constantly moving it around the workpiece gently in a slightly orbital or zigzag path. This, together with frequent stopping and checking of one’s progress, will help prevent any one area of the work project getting over-sanded.
- If sanding a narrow edge, then ensure that the belt sander is perfectly level and parallel to the plane being sanded. This will help prevent rounding at the corners of the workpiece. Alternatively, if multiple narrow edges need to be sanded down, then consider clamping them together and sanding them all at once.
What to look for when buying a belt sander
Like most power tools these days, portable belt sanders are made by a number of companies, each of which also might field more than one model of belt sander on the market. As a result, choosing the best belt sanding machine for oneself can sometimes be a difficult task. In order to make the choice of belt sander easier, we outline below some of the characteristics to look out for when purchasing one.
In general, and as with most power tools, the higher the power rating of the tool, the tougher the jobs it can handle. In the case of the belt sander, this means the more power the machine has, the faster and more aggressive its sanding action will be, which should result in more efficient smoothing down of a rough surface.
The sanding area of a belt sander is represented by the area in contact with the workpiece. Intuitively, the larger the sanding area, the faster one can finish the sanding task. Most consumer-targeted belt sanders, however, have similar dimensions with differences of only a few centimetres in some cases.
Sanding Belt Dimensions
The sanding belt dimensions represent the total length and width of the sandpaper belt when it is opened up and laid out flat. There are a few common sizes that sandpaper belts are made into, and when choosing a a belt sander, a good idea is to look at the availability of the size of sandpaper that it is designed to use. Above all, one wants to avoid being locked into a sandpaper belt size that is only used by a single brand of belt sander since this usually means more expensive sandpaper replacement costs as one is forced to buy them from what is most likely to be an expensive brand-name manufacturer.
Some belt sanders have the ability to vary the speed at which the sanding belt turns. This increases the versatility of the belt sander as different types of sanding jobs can benefit from being able to set an optimal speed. In general, the more delicate the sanding work that needs doing, the slower the speed that should be set on the belt sander.
Dust Collection System
Any type of sanding job is usually a messy affair and this is even more so for the belt sander, which can remove material at an accelerated rate. As a result, this means that the belt sander of choice should have some form of dust collecting system. This will usually be in the form of a dust collection bag, which if designed correctly, can capture the vast majority of the sawdust and debris created by the belt sander. Ideally, the belt sander should also be able to easily swap out its dust collection bag for a vacuum connection if facilities are available.
Popular Belt Sanders in the UK
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