Belt sander question

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Hi All, I am sure this is a tried and true conversation topic, but I don't seem to able to find good info in the arcives and was looking for some help.
I am thinking about purchasing a belt sander for some home renovation needs, and am wondering about their application in the woodshop. I have never had access to one, even in the best outfitted shops which I assume has something to do with either their lack of suitability or that those shops had edge sanders. Basically I am wondering what if anything people use their belt sanders for in terms of furniture fabrication and the like. I am trying to decide if one of the cheaper Porter Cable models will suffice, which it should for my occasional home repair needs, or if I should save and spring for the 504 which I understand to be a clear winner.
I know the cry once or cry twice mentality, and while I fully understand it there are sometimes and some tools that I have used so infrequently that it seems silly to have the absolute best simply sit on the shelf.
As always any thoughts advice or off the wall commentary is appreciated
Andrew
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I have the 504 Choo-choo train model. I've even used it to sand some small oak floors. Hard on my back, but no sweat for the machine.
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I rarely use mine, but when I do need it there is no good substitute. (If I didn't have a horizontal belt sander I am sure I would use it a great deal more.) On the other hand, some people swear they have great control and can do finish sanding with them. I sure can't; I have to make sure to leave enough to finish with a ROS.
You don't want to buy junk, the lack of proper tracking will drive you crazy; but a bottom of the line brand name should be fine.
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Hand held belt sanders are notoriously easy to make big mistakes. A little rocking motion and you have a 3" long x 1/8" deep gouge. On the other hand, they are fantastic for removing lots of material real fast.
I'd just look at the power rating (amps). If you need a belt sander you are gona want one with some juice. It's not something you are going to use for hundreds of hours so a more expensive one will likely not be worth the extended life it (might) give you.
Note: In my very first little woodworking operation (just after high school), I built fixtures for my one craftsman belt sander so I could use it as an edge sander and as a horizontial belt. Rarely ever used it by hand.
Finally, in my first commercial job in a furniture factory, we used to have Friday night belt sander races. The trick is to load up some 80 grit and break it in a bit for the best traction.
BW
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I tend to use finer grits to minimize that problem.... It takes longer, but safer...
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A frame using 1"x1" or so fixed around the sander and flush with the belt surface can help prevent this and makes them suitable for sanding large panels with minimal effort. 'Tis almost as good as an OS provided one works consistently with the grain, especially when care is taken to work down the grits.
I've noticed that the better quality belt-sanders have started including mounting holes for various geegaws in recent years; these are ideal for fixing the frame.
- Andy
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What needs? Hardly anything a belt sander does in a cainet shop that can't be done as easily and quickly by a plane or scraper. I have owned two - one purchased, one inherited, and they are both now in other hands, having been weight for the lathe for years.
Then there's the ROS, which can strip paint almost as aggressively, and still be used as a finish sander.

Take the plane off the wall and cut back that protruding end grain. Take the ROS down and get that cope/mold in perfect register without cross-grain marks.
Take the belt sander and use it for an anchor. Unless you have really good hand skills, it'll gouge into soft woods, eat through veneer, burn hardwoods, and spread vast quantities of dust while abusing your ears with its howling motor. Of course the motor noise will cover up some of the creative cursing you'll learn as you develop those hand skills....
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I rarely use my hand held belt sander but I OFTEN use my stationary belt sander. I've got the Ryobi that looks almost like the Bosch. It's super noisy but it works fine and is about as compact as they come. For furniture making, I'd use a scraper plane, a scraper, a plane...anything but a belt sander. For general carpentry I've used it now and again.
What I wish I had in my shop by now (money and SWMBO prohibits) is a Performax drum sander (22") and a decent sized edge sander. Being a hobbyist, I'm having a heck of a time convincing SWMBO (and myself, if the unvarnished truth be told) that I NEED those two items. Besides which, I'm running out of room in my shop.
Dave
Tattooed and Dusty wrote:

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I had a Bosch like that...funny thing was...it was green! There was a rash of green Bosches around for a while and the stuff was cheap. Was that just up here in kanuckistan? That was 1985-ish That had to be the most comfortable little machine. Too bad it didn't last. (Bushings instead of bearings..plastic gears...) I have been tempted to try that Ryobi, but my experiences with Ryobi haven't been great. The BLUE Bosch version of that sander is too expensive just to buy one to try it.
Lew Hodgett is making me buy the choo-choo. That thing is heavy though...I need to handle one and see.
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make sure you get one you can clamp in the jaws of your wood bench. I turn my 3x21 Makita upside down and use it for simple freehand sanding. I've also used it to refinish my porch floor several times. I also used it to surface the top of my wooden bench.
<
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'Tattooed', Can't speak to the 'fine furniture' use, but a occasionally useful tool for boatbuilding. A little bit of practice, a light touch, and a LOT of 'PAY ATTENTION !!' is all you really need.
I have an 'inline' Ryobi that works just fine. Variable speed, too. A couple of 'Planer' belts {24 & 36 grit} to really 'hog off' and do shaping, and some progressively finer ones to about 100-120 grit should be all you need. {For finer grits I use the RO or 1/4 sheet 'bug}
Get a short length of plastic hose and fit it to the bag/dust port. Connect it to some form of vacuum system. A lot cleaner and neater then frequent stops to empty the dust bag.
Regards & Good Luck, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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Hey!
I have a PC 327VS...but WANT a 504 Choo-Choo PC. I go through a new PC 327 VS about once every two years...I beat the hell out of them...such is the life of a belt sander in a solid surface shop. I couldn't live without one...tried them all..'cept the Choo-choo..I have yet to cross that psychological price barrier...
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Robatoy wrote:

The Choo-Choo hasa no equal.
Been there, done that.
Lew
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Do you have the dust collector option (503)? Does it work? Talk me through dropping close to $800.00 of Kanuckistani money. *G*
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Robatoy wrote:

No.
Don't haave a clue.

How mny times have you replaced the 327VS?
SFWIW, I had to buy 2 of them to get to keep 1.
First one was stolen in less than 6 months.
IMHO, it is the only one to have if you are in the top business as you are.
That comment is based on watching a top guy at work.
Just have to bite the bullet and give up aq couple of jugs of Crown Royale for a while<G>.
Lew
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Wish it was that simple...I no longer imbibe...and when I did, I certainly wouldn't drink that highly overrated paint thinner. Bushmills Black or Hine's Jarnac....and, of course, just-about any single malt.... with verrry few exceptions. (Funny thing is, the closest I have ever been to Scotland was to get thoroughly hammered in The Brasser's Arms near Queens Gate in London.) I still have a taste for scootch [sic] just that I couldn't drink anything 'cuz it messed with my arthritis meds. Can't say I miss it enough to get started up again. I do miss my nightly snifters of cognac with my 84-year old dad, but he's on heart meds now and shouldn't be doing that kinda thing anymore. Two snifters before going to bed..as long as I remember. Never 1 or 3...always 2. ("can't walk into heaven on one leg, Robbie.")
I digress.
Yes.. the next time a 327 dies, I'm going to choo-choo.
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DJM uses his (Bosch) to whack off the dried resin glue. Says it dries hard as glass. I was given a big Poter Cable 4x24". Too big for my tasks.
I was given a Home Depot gift card and decided to take a chance on the Ryobi BE321 (the second Ryobi tool I'd ever bought).
I like it. Noisy but not too bad. 3x21, variable speed and so far holding up. This belt sander appears to have been designed and built when Ryobi cared about quality and longevity.
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Tattooed and Dusty wrote: I am trying to decide if one of the cheaper

If you truly need a belt sander, there is the 504 and everything else that when it grows up wants to be a belt sander.
I destroyed at least 6 belt sanders including the cheap Porteer-Cable units before I got a 50*.
YMMV
Lew
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I"ve had the PC 352 3x21 for ever and it's worked like a champ since day one...I especially like the auto on switch
Tina
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

Glen
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