How do you tame a belt sander?

I'm able to do a fairly decent job with the other tools in the shop, but I don't seem to be able to get a belt sander within a foot of a piece of wood without destroying it. It digs in, slides off and rounds edges, leaves belt-edge marks, and generally messes up what I'm working on. I can't judge where it is, and have trouble keeping it square.
Is this just me, or is this a hard tool to learn to use properly? What do people use them for, and how do you get the proper results?
Lionel Pensacola, FL, on the Redneck Riviera
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Easy get one with the motor on top and the widest belt available .When in use just let the weight of the machine do the work all you need to do is guide it . If it is not removing enough wood increase the belt grit dont try and apply more pressure ....mjh

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Exactly. Ever run a floor buffer? Try to muscle it around and it will kick your ass. Same with the belt sander. Just gently steer it.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I have found it best to gently lift the belt sander so that it just kisses the work. After a few minutes of this, if all is well, good belt tracking, no tendency to dig in, etc, I let the weight of the sander do the work. Dave

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I only use mine for really really rough stuff (or stuff I don't care about how it looks). When I get close to endangering it, I switch to a ROS.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net says...

amount of wood needs to be removed. There shouldn't be any pressure applied other than the weight of the sander. Keep the belt running true, keep it flat on the platen, use two hands, sand with the grain, and keep it moving. If you do all those things, there shouldn't be any of the problems you describe.
--
Mark

The truth as I perceive it to be.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hello there,

See if there is a "sanding frame" for your model of belt sander. It is like training wheels for a belt sander.
Thanks,
David.
Every neighbourhood has one, in mine, I'm him.
Remove the "splinter" from my email address to email me.
Newbies, please read this newsgroups FAQ.
rec.ww FAQ http://www.robson.org/woodfaq / Archives http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search Crowbar FAQ http://www.klownhammer.org/crowbar
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Is it possible that you are using a belt that is too coarse? That would allow you to do a lot of damage fast.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
A hand-held belt sander has made more converts to planes than anything else out there, I'll wager.
On hardwoods they burn and burnish so quickly even at 100 grit that they're worse than useless. Difficulty is that you have to use fine coordination on a rough job. Mindset is difficult to overcome.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It's like the old joke "How do I get to Carnegie Hall"?
Practice. Like the other guys said these are for rough shaping and removing lots of material but as you get more comfortable with it you can do some finer work. Grab the thing with both hands and control it. You really don't have to push down, in fact sometimes you are lifting it up a little. Also get a wide selection of grits. I have seen some complaints but I have had good luck with Norton blue belts. They seem a lot better than the no name red belts from Harbor Freight. You are still going to need a finish sander or a block of wood and some sheets.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for the advice. I think I was expecting it to do more delicate work. If I have it right, it's first the chainsaw, then the belt sander, then a ROS.
As to different grits, we mainly just have yellow and white here. Quick-cooking grits are all right, but the instant ones don't have a good texture. SWMBO does a pretty good cheese-and-spinach grits casserole.
Thanks again.
Lionel

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Lionel, I got into this a bit late and maybe I missed it . . . What type / Brand is the sander?
I have a Ryobi 'in-line' type. {Very similar in silhouette to a Bosch}. It has about 6 speed settings. These two things allow a great deal of balance & control.
My belts come from Klingspor {via the Post Office} . . . a GREAT variety of belts !! One 'type' they have are 'Planer Belts' - extremely tough INDUSTRIAL belts that are available in Extremely Course grits {36 grit !!} as well as the 'normal' grits. {I use 40 and 60 on the stationary Belt Sander, and 40, 60, and 80 on the Ryobi}. This tends to get you out of the habit of 'bearing down'. In fact, quite the opposite - it teaches you a 'light touch'. In addition, I have covered the platen with a 'Graphite Belt'. A full explanation of 'what & why' is in their catalog.
It is a very useful tool - from straight up 'Material Removal' to 'Rough Sanding'. I have used it for the shaping of gunnels & thwart edges, as well as 'knocking down' cured epoxy and rounding of chines. I have even flattened & 'cleaned up' large surface areas . . . 'glued up' panels. Although there are belts available in the finer grits, I really wouldn't select it as the tool for anything finer than 120 - even at the slower speeds.
Regards & Good Luck, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Lionel said:

Well I have one, and I don't use it for fine woodworking... But I DO use it for outdoor projects and such. All I can offer are these tips:
The platen on the bottom should be flat. The belt should be adjusted to run properly over this platen. When you are setting the sander onto the material, turn it on first, and gently lower to the workpiece while moving in the direction of your stroke. Don't hold the sander still for ANY amount of time. Don't press down! It takes a bit of practice to use it, but they can be useful. The biggest problem is learning to hold the sander flat against the workpiece. Use both hands, and be in a comfortable position. FWIW,
Greg G.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The best thing you can do to tame a belt sander is to give it to someone you don't like particularly well.
Unless you put it in a stand and use it as a sanding station they are project ruining accidents waiting to happen and have little use outside of rough construction.
You want to take off material or flatten and smooth a panel use a hand plane and scrapers.
--
Mike G.
snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 29 Dec 2003 11:20:22 -0500, "Mike G"

been unsuccessful so far. When i bought it I also got the stand. It normaly stays in the stand and is very useful there. I using it for sanding small pieces and for sharpening tools. It sharpens everything from lawnmor blades to lathe tools. its not the ultimate sharpener but it sure is the handiest. Ken makin dust in NS
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Please tell me you take the dust bag off when sharpening.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I like to use scrapers and hand planes, but I also have room for a belt sander. I have the 4" Porter Cable, and it is a heavy SOB, but there are times it's the best tool for the job. If one knows what he's doing and works carefully those "accidents" don't seem to happen, at least not in my shop. I wouldn't want to give my belt sander up. YMMV
Glen

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 27 Dec 2003 12:43:48 -0600, "Lionel"

It's horses for courses. I have used a Skil "Sandcat" (OK, so it's real old nowadays!) for 20+ years and it's fine for some jobs. Yes it rounds corners, is brutal, and removes a lot of lot of wood, very quickly. But sometimes that's just what I want. You need at least 2 sanders IMO, a belt sander, and a ROS. (Well, OK, I have 5 sanders) The belt sander can be used, or a real Chinwanese Cheapie, as it's going to be rough anyway.
Barry Lennox
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.