View Full Version : Belt Sander, which size to buy?
01-05-2001, 05:48 PM
I'm going to buy a belt sander for the first time, can sombody recomend the right size to buy 18,21,24. And why?
01-05-2001, 07:26 PM
The first question I have for you is why?
what are you going to use this belt sander for. I own one but have not used it in years. It was a tool i bought before I new better. Before I had learned how to make good joints and use the belt sander to "fix" the problems poor other tools caused.
For general sanding a random orbital is a much better choise. For smothing rough cut curves a drum sanding attachment to a DP or the new PC drum sander is much better.
If you just have to have one then I would go for a 4 x 24, The belts are easy to find and the larger area will help you from digging into your work as much as the smaller size units.
A belt sander can cause much more damage than it can solve.
01-05-2001, 08:35 PM
Belt sander with a coarse belt will chew thru wood at an amazinb pace. It can completely destroy hours of planing and careful cutting in a second or two. If you use it cross grain you'll essentially NEVER get the marks out!
Having said that I own a 3x21 for no more reason than it was a gift. When that one blew in the middle of a project right before the stores closed I went out and bought another because I was doing one of those rare projects where it was appropriate and I had a shipping deadline to meet.
Mine is not used as a regular belt sander. Rather I have a simple bracket to hold it in place on it's back and I use it like a bench combination sander w/o the disk. Much easier to control that way.
I've been making a lot of the PO Banks (visit my web page for details) and I use it to trim down the box joint fingers as I tend to err on the side of slightly proud. But even then its awfully damn easy to chew thru something you didn't intend. I often have shallow grooves from where I've moved too slow or pressed too hard. These are sanded out in the #150 and #220 passes, but you can feel 'em even if you can't see 'em.
This is the only thing I use it for, everything else my 5" ROS does a much cleaner job.
A belt sander is really a specialty tool, not a general purpose sander. It'll cut so fast on pine that you almost can't use it on softwoods. It is to fine woodworking what an axe is to surgery.
Check out my web page and shop:
Click on the picture of the shop to see what tools I have.
I agree with the other guys to a point. I, too, use it a lot less since I got better joinery tools (and skills), but there are certain jobs for which the belt sander is uniquely qualified. For example, scribing countertops or firring strips to an uneven wall.
I have the 3 X 21 PC and it works great. The dust collector is especially good.
01-08-2001, 04:56 PM
Yeah, but you can't lay it on it's back and use it as a stationary sander!
The belt sander will remove wood quickly, but it takes some practice to get the result you want. A good example is a getting a nice curve and still have the edge at 90 degrees to the face. You can build a jig, but if I had to do it over again I'd choose to save up for a drill press with a sanding drum attachment for my own general purpose needs.
01-09-2001, 04:33 PM
Which size to buy depends on what you will be doing most. I use my heavy duty 4x24 for outdoor carpentry, decks and the like. I use a variable speed 3x21 for furniture. Although a beltsander can butcher your project if handled improperly, I find it to be an invaluable tool. I use it primarily for smoothing curved edges and smoothing drawer sides where the dovetail pin endgrain is exposed. A spokeshave and low angle block plane can handle either of these jobs but not as quickly.
I also use the beltsander for first pass sanding of large panels after handplaning. It seems to make the final planing and scraping phases go a bit quicker.
I think the key to good performance with a beltsander is a well balanced machine, i.e. when the center of gravity of the sander is directly over the platten. That, and really good quality belts.