Indispensable tool when doing DIY at home and wanting to properly prepare a surface before applying a finish . The belt sander is a hand tool used primarily for sanding and stripping wooden surfaces. Before starting to use it, there are a few basic rules to know. Let’s see how to properly use a belt sander.
What is a belt sander?
First of all, a little reminder of what sanding means: it is the action by which a surface is stripped/polished/machined. This operation can be manual or mechanical, in which case a sander is used. There are two types of sanders:
- Power hand tools.
- Stationary workshop tools.
Thanks to its electric motor which drives two rollers on which a strip of abrasive paper is fixed, the belt sander, otherwise known as a roller sander, makes it possible to carry out all types of work.
The speed of the belt varies between 200 and 400 meters per minute for a working width ranging from 75 to 100 mm, it is of great help for work such as sanding a beam, parquet or even blades of outdoor terrace.
What types of work is it used for?
The belt sander is a very useful tool when starting a renovation project. Ideal for working large surfaces, and for roughing the materials being worked on, it helps to prepare the support for the future finish.
The stationary belt sander
When used in the workshop (particularly in carpentry/cabinet making) it is a machine that complements jointers or planers. As its name suggests, it is fixed and is generally large in size. A distinction is made between long-belt sanders and stationary belt sanders.
The former are used to sand very large surfaces and the quality of the band can be varied depending on the materials and the finish desired. The second model is equipped with endless abrasive belts, with it, it is rather mass production that is targeted. This model is mainly used in cabinetmaking and small carpentry. The special feature of stationary models is that they can work both vertically and horizontally.
The choice of a stationary sander is guided according to the type of work that one wishes to carry out (intensive use or not) which will determine the power of the motor and also according to the length and width of the desired strip. It is used, for example, to sand doors, shutters, beams, etc.
Portable belt sander
Unlike its big sister, the portable version is less bulky, like these lighter and still very versatile belt sander models.
The portable belt sander allows use directly on the construction site rather than in the workshop. These can be equipped with a speed variator that allows you to adjust the speed of the belt to the type of work and the surface you are working on.
Although being a hand tool, its weight is still quite substantial since it can go up to 8 kilos depending on the model and the brand. The type of work remains the same as a stationary machine, namely rough sanding of:
Handheld belt sanders also have a variation called an electric file. It’s actually a belt sander, but much smaller in size, weight, and belt width. It is often used to access difficult corners and also because it is lighter and easier to handle.
All these models have one thing in common: they are not made for precision and finishing work.
The primary function of a belt sander is to remove as much material as possible to trim in the shortest time.
It is therefore important to handle it with care so as not to irreparably damage the piece of wood on which you are working.
Tips and precautions for proper use
To make optimal use of a belt sander, there are a few recommendations to observe. On the one hand so as not to sand the surface too much and on the other hand so as not to tire yourself unnecessarily or cause an accident.
As with all work with rotating machinery, it is imperative to wear your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before starting to use it. To protect yourself, you can use:
- A mask.
- Safety glasses.
- Ear plugs.
With these, you will protect your hands if you ever come into contact with the still rotating belt, your lungs and your eyes from fine particles from sanding as well as your ears from the noise generated by the electric motor.
The main inconvenience encountered when working with wood is dust. It is therefore strongly advised to use a belt sander that can be slaved to a vacuum cleaner or has a collection bag. The effect is, in this way, twofold: you spare your lungs from dust and you drastically reduce the dust to be cleaned afterwards.
As with any machine tool work, it is best to wear close- fitting safety clothing to prevent a sleeve or the bottom of the sweater from being sucked into the rotating belt.
To use a belt sander properly, it is strongly recommended to work (hold it) with both hands. This increases your gesture precision while limiting your efforts. It is not necessary to force it, its own weight is sufficient to ensure satisfactory and regular sanding.