Is there some special technique to using a belt sander?

I bought an oak bookcase from Wood You and stained the unit and the shelves in Fruitwood. While staining the shelves, I stained one side, then turned them over (apparently before the stain had full dried) to stain the other side. When returning to side one, there were light stripes where the shelves laid across two boards I was using for support. I decided to attempt to sand the shelves down to the wood using a belt sander, but ended up with gouges and deep scratches in the wood. I'm using a B&D belt sander that was right out of the box. Is there some technique to using a belt sander so I don't roll the unit from side to side to create gouges? ( I didn't feel that I was).
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There is a technique to prevent gouging but a belt sander is normally reserved for lot's of wood removal. You need to hold the sander perfectly flat.
You need to be using a random orbit or finish sander to remove stain. These are much less aggressive, you really don't want to be removing wood, just the stain finish.
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"Blockhead" wrote

The wrong tool for the job rarely works except in the most skilled of hands, and you're using a bazooka when you need a pea shooter. While a belt sander has its place at certain stages of a project, the "finishing" stage is generally not one of those.
A finish sander of some type would be a better "tool", but that said, quality sandpaper of various grits, a sanding block, and some elbow grease may get you better results than anything.
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Blockhead wrote:

That's not the right tool to be using for that process. Try a finish sander.
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THE important thing for most usage of a belt sander is to KEEP IT MOVING and let the weight of the sander do the job. If the sander isn't removing material as the rate you want you put on a belt with a courser grit. Obviously, you try to have the belt move in the direction of the grain.
Most of us with belt sanders have violated these rules deliberately when we are just trying to get rid of as much material as we can as quickly as we kind or we want to get closer to an edge than the "nose" permits.
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In general, a belt sander is meant for aggressive sanding. It is easy to go overboard with a belt sander. I would try an orbiter sander. Since you already damaged the wood, you will need to start with a course sand paper (60-80) then sand again with 100-120, then 150 and finish with 220. If applying poly, than lightly sand with 220 or 400 between coats.
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The belt sander is one mean mutha. The slightest tilt or skew and you have problems.
Yes, an orbital or other sander woul have been better but now that you have the gouges, the belt is about the only power hand tool that is reasonable to remove the problem.
First, you should have started with very light grit, 220 or lighter. Some times kind of hard to find for belts. They want you to use 100 and remove lots o' material at once.
Second, technique. Get the board held in place so it never slips. If you have access to a real wood working bench you would use a bench dog and a vice with a pop-up to clinch it, but rubbarized under sheet can be used also. Hold the sander with two hands, one at each end of the bel. Most units will have some handle/body setup to allow this. MOST IMPORTANT Hold the sander at abou 15 to 20 degrees off axis of the grain. Always move the sander up and down the board in line with the grain but the sander is skewed across the grain and is not perfectly in line. It is spitting sawdust off to the side of the board. It is much easier to control it even 5 degrees off of straigh then sanding straight forward and backward in line with the belt. This will minimize the rocking and give much better control. Finally, use lots of feel. Let the sander float on the board and keep it moving (as others said) continuously. You can get near perfect flat if you are careful.

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On Fri, 18 Apr 2008 10:51:54 -0400, Blockhead

A belt sander is too aggressive for this task, unless you are using a light grit (150 or 220), slow speed, careful control especially near any edges. A better sander would be a random orbit sander, or you can simply use a wood block and hand sand which will give you the ultimate control. Always sand with the grain from coarse to fine grit. Feel the surface frequently and peer at a low angle to reveal any gouging. Don't fret too much about the shelves, as they will be covered with books and dinged up a little anyway. There are sanding frames that fit some belt sanders to prevent side gouging but I haven't tried this technique. For book shelves allow a full 2-month cure (patience is a virtue), wax (Johnson's Wax or Butcher Wax is good) and buff, then load up with books. Sometimes I use a fine steel wool to rub on the wax, if you want a matt-finish look.
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"Blockhead" wrote:

A belt sander at best can be considered an abrasive cutting tool.
Definitely not for finish work.
Unless you build counter tops for a living, you will have very little use for it.
I'd try to sell it and get a ROS for finishing tasks.
Lew
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Absolutely. We have them going all the time. You CAN get a decent result levelling edgebanded strips on plywood if you are careful, and that the belt sander is in primo condition. When we level the countertop edges on a countertop prior to laminating the top, we use pencil scribbles to indicate where the heel and toe of the sander is doing the cutting. A Makita 3 x 24 with a fresh Klingspor 180 grit belt and a fresh graphite skid pad, is easy to handle and any of us in the shop are able to do some pretty fine sanding without gouging. (assuming you don't step on the cord, etc, etc.)
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My technique for using a hand held belt sander is that I don't! :-)
I will use it for sharpening a chisel or a plane iron.
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Blockhead, by now you know you have used the wrong instrument to correct your error. However, the elephant in the room is what you have now done to the wood you were sanding.
With ruts, gouges and deep sanding scratches in it, it will never, ever match the other shelves. Give it up now, no kidding. Theoretically you could sand all the marks out completely, but then the actual texture you left behind by so much sanding will not take the stain the way your other surfaces did.
I would sand it down with a ROS or finishing sander and restain. Then I would find a way to mount the shelf so that the side in question would not be seen.
Just my 0.02.
Robert
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First of all, use a fine grit. When in doubt, use the finest grit you can. It cuts slower, but won't wreck wood as fast.
Second, (for large flat surfaces) I let the weight of the sander do the work. I hold it with only one hand, so the belt lies flat on the wood, and let the belt pull the sander forward. Then I pull it back, and let it go forward again.
I guess I start it with two hands, and once it's flat on the wood, I remove the hand in the front of the belt sander.
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Wrong tool for the job - should use an orbital sander. Bob-tx
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On Sat, 19 Apr 2008 13:54:19 +0000, steve robinson wrote:

Only in the same sense that you could use a chisel to get a straight edge instead of a plane...
Yes they fundamentally do the same job, but it's much easier with a ROS than a belt sander to just take the stain off. The chance of digging in or making 'surface features' with a belt sander is far higher, just because it is so much quicker to take stuff off. And it has well defined edges to it's action, which a ROS doesn't.
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