debating belt sanders


I've been doing some small joinery projects ie dovetail boxes and box joint boxes. In order to not undersize the pins and tails I cut them just a little longer than needed and then sand them down flush with each side of the box.
I've been using my hand held 3x21 belt sander to sand but even with a light touch I tend to round the sides unevenly.
I've started looking at benchtop belt sanders wondering if this would be a better way to sand the box sides flat. I've looked at the ryobi, ridged 4 inch $99 belt sanders and also the delta. All of these have the disk sander. I've seen the larger 6 inch belt 9 inch disk sander but not the Jet.
The larger delta seems to have a better movable work table than the $99 sanders.
I've just about decided on the larger delta but 2 things concern me.
I work outside. When the weather is nice on weekends I'm doing woodworking. When it is crappy like today I'm doing other things.
All of my tools need to be portable. I don't use the stands for the most part that come with the tools. I just set it on a portable table when I need it (using clamps to stablize if needed) and put it on a shelf when I don't. How heavy is the delta without the stand?
Second, will the wider belt really help me much? I'm not sure I need the disk sander part. I would sooner just buy a wider belt without the disk but I have not seen one yet. I've thought of one of the wide belt sanders but those would probably too heavy and seem to require a dust collection system (my dust collection system is a broom and the occational breeze that blows across the front yard).
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I have both the 4" and 1" Delta sanders. I couldn't give you a weight but they are not difficult to carry. That said, I wouldn't use either for what you are doing. Invest in a plane and a scraper. Level the joints with a plane, smooth everything with the scraper and then, if sanding is still necessary (I do it), a sanding block is all you need. This will keep everything flat and level.

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I've tried it with a plane etc but cutting cross grain is an SOB especially with really hard wood. Have you ever tried to plane purple heart or ebony end grain?
CW wrote:

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Yes. No problem. Sharp is the key.

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You might want to try a flush-cutting router bit with the bearing on the bottom, or a jig with a spiral bit in your router table.
Big disadvantage to sanding the off - though it's possible, is you have to be pretty high up on the stationary sanding chain before you get a good table to move them side to side to prevent burning and end checking. I've a JET 12x48 that fills the bill, but at $500 dollars, there are other ways. Perhaps if you're also the turner Bill you might justify the purchase by using it for making up pieces for segmented turning.
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I tried the flush trim router bit and discarded that approach. It would work to a point but a little slip really screwed up the edge of the box.
I also tried using a plane but with such thin stock and hard wood I had problems with breakout at the ends. Cuts had to be into the wood but getting the angle right when cutting in from the edge was a problem as is keeping the cut square. I ended up with flush pins and tails but not square to the surface of the box (which is the same problem I'm battling with the hand held belt sander) but power sanding avoids the chip out problem. Then if cutting in and getting close I ran into a problem of starting to cut the side of the box. Nothing is more irritating than getting close to finishing a step then to put a gouge into the side of the work because the angle of the plane was just a bit off.
After many experiments I decided that the easiest approach was the carefull use of a belt sander to knock down the pins enough so I could proceed with using scrappers, planes and sanding to smooth the surface for finishing
I've used the hand held belt sander with success and a light touch on many projects. My main problem is in holding the belt sander level and not being able to see what I'm doing while sanding. My idea is that with a stationary sander I can get more control and more consistent results. I also tried a fein detail sander. I could see what I was doing but the small surface area takes too long.
Many of the boxes are small about 6 inches wide using 1/4 inch stock. Examples of my work can bee seen at http://home.comcast.net/~wskossack/new_boxes.html
I looked again at the $99 solution and the tables are not good enough. The Delta 6 inch belt and 9 inch disk has a better table. I seems light enough to be transportable but provides a better table and a wider sanding surface.
George wrote:

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william kossack says...

How about this for a risky, but possibly accurate and easy way to get them down: Use your table saw. I use mine to shave pieces down all the time. If the box isn't 100% square, you can even tilt the blade a little. I'd try it. Maybe I'd regret it, but I'd try it.
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I think I tried it and my little skil tablesaw would not do it. The problem is that the little pins and tails pieces that are sticking out tend to catch and drag.
On my list one of these days is a better work site tablesaw good enough for what I need but light enough to pick up. I don't have the room for a big good tablesaw.
Hax Planx wrote:

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Snip
I a very sharp low angle block plane ,to get about right and then a ROS sander to finish it off ./
One other consideration ,the setup. I take a board a width about the length of the inside length of the drawer . clamp it on the bench so it extends several drawer depths .Slide the drawer onto the, preferrably with out the bottom in place , this makes for a well supported drawer side so you can confidently do any operations you desire on the sides
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william kossack wrote:

If I had this problem I would try to solve it this way. I would place a layers of duck tape under the sanding belt to make the platen slightly convex. My Mikita sander can be easily mounted on its side. With the sander in this position, I would sand at the highest point of the curve. This could solve your problem of rounding over the dovetailed corner, and without buying more tools.
Good luck,
Ray
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[snip solution to problem]

I'm sorry...*what*? Not buy more tools...? What on earth would he want to do that for? : )
Jason
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wrote :

to
Rethinking the question , what he needs to do is practice woodworking for say 5 or ten more years then he could possibly get the sides of his drawers right.mjh
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I had thought of trying something like this except for the need to put everything away at the end of the day. The best solution would be some kind of jig that would hold the belt sander at 90 degrees to a table top.
I typically do a run of 3-5 boxes at a time so sanding out the dovetails on all of them takes me say 30 minutes to an hour at which point I go onto the next step such as continuing to refine the surface until it is smooth and flat and nearly ready for finish.
PS I like to put all my smaller tools back into their original box at the end of the day and all the larger stuff has their place in various nooks in the garage.
Ray snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

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Since no one else has said it...
I have the small oscillating Ridgid sander and love it. Okay, it isn't big enough, and the dust collection is terrible, and it probably won't last 10 years; but it works pretty good and can't be beat for the price. (and what do you care about dust collection.)
I have used it to sand down a lot of box joints (and a few dovetails) and it does a good job. It will burn cherry at times, but it comes right off with a ROS.
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On Tue, 31 May 2005 20:39:32 -0600, william kossack

A short tip on keeping those boxes under control when you get the stationary sander- I've found that holding them with my left hand on the front edge with my forearm across the top of the box with my right hand gripping the back edge makes it very easy to keep things level while moving the piece to prevent burning. (I'm right-handed, so if you're a southpaw, you may need to do the reverse.) I shot a couple of pieces across the shop before I figured that one out, so I figured I'd pass it along, just in case. The same technique works especially well for web frames.
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I was wondering if some kind of clamping jig would help especially one that fits into the guide slot on the table
Prometheus wrote:

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I mentioned that I did it, and it does work.
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