A belt sander is a versatile tool that can be used in a number of different situations. For those who are into woodworking, the belt sander is an essential item for your shop.
What follows are the different situations in which a belt sander can be quite useful.
There is no questioning the value of the belt sander for those who work with wood. Here are some of the common uses of belt sander in woodworking.
- Flattening Rough Sawn lumber
- Sanding Large, Flat wood Surfaces
- Reducing the Thickness of the Wood
While the belt sander is not the ideal tool to use in reducing the thickness of wood, it can take the place of a thickness planer if you do not have one.
A belt sander is perfect for cabinetry, especially when sanding cabinet doors for staining or painting. If you are planning on repainting or re-staining your cabinets, remove them from the walls, take them apart, and sand each section. This will ensure that all the sides are covered before you start the painting or staining process.
Alternatively, you can simply remove the doors and the rest can be sanded by hand or by using a smaller sanding device.
If there is one task where the belt sander is perfect, it is to refinish furniture. This is because the belt sander is perfect for sanding large, flat areas such as wood furniture and doors. You can adjust how much of the surface you want to remove by either increasing or decreasing the coarseness of the sandpaper.
If you are trying to remove dark stains or polyurethane, then you’ll want to use 60 to 80 grit which is considered medium-grade sandpaper. For sanding shelves and cabinets, you can choose a medium grit of 80 to 100 and finish it with 120 to 220 grit belts.
However, I recommend using the belt sander only where you have to remove a lot of material. Finishing work must be done with a random orbital sander or palm sander. The orbital sander when compared a belt sander produces smoother finish and has less chance of gouging and burning the wood.
So far, most of the belt sander uses revolved around woodworking and carpentry. In addition to wood, this tool can also be used to strip away the finish on metal surfaces as well. Simply match the grit of the sandpaper to the job at hand.
For outdoor furniture, your belt sander can strip away the layers of stains and damage from UV rays to reveal a new surface. By removing the finish, you can showcase the natural beauty of the wood before you re-stain it. Start with a heavier grit first to remove the finish, then switch to a lighter grit to create a smooth surface. This will also help prevent splintering when you apply the new finish to the furniture.
DIY Art & Crafts
A portable belt sander is a heavy-duty sander. However, you can also use to sand small pieces to size and fine shapes.
The trick here is to secure the belt sander on a vise and move your small workpieces over the moving sand belt.
Of course, you will need to be careful when using the belt sander in this manner. Wear the proper safety gear and take care not to get your fingers anywhere near the sander when in operation.
This is a nifty way to sharpen knives, chisels, and even scissors. You could either use a portable belt sander clamped on a vise or an upright belt sander for this task, the latter is a more efficient tool for the job.
- The first step is to secure the sander with a vice or clamps.
- Next, match the angle of the blade parallel to the sand belt.
- Turn on the sander and move the chisel, scissors, or knife across the circulating belt.
- Do a few passes and then flip the chisel or knife to the other side and run the edges across the belt sander.
- Check to see if the edge is sharp and repeat the process until the edges are sharp.
For large tools such as a garden shear or an axe it could be difficult to grind this way. You will need a smaller file belt sander used for detailed work. I prefer to sharpen the garden shear with the Dremel tool since it offers better control.
Removing paint is pretty close to removing the finish. The general principle is the same as you run the belt sander across the surface to remove the paint that is present. Plus, you can remove the paint from metal as well. You will need to choose light to medium-grit sandpaper and run it across the surface so that it removes the paint without damaging the underlying material.
Fine grit sandpaper is a good place to start. 120-grit is fine enough to remove the paint while keeping the wood or metal relatively smooth. You may want to increase the grit slightly (lower number) if the paint is being stubborn. The 80-grit or 60-grit sandpaper should do the trick. But avoid going with a coarse grit, otherwise, you might gouge or damage the wood or scratch the metal which will require repairs.
Using a belt sander to remove paint offers the additional bonus of prepping the material that is revealed for a new coat of paint or stain. This is because the surface will be slightly roughened which helps the new paint or stain to stick.
Rust Removal from Metal
You can use the same technique to remove rust that is forming on the surface from metal. This assumes that the rust is still at the surface level and has not significantly damaged the material. You will need to evaluate the amount of rust and start with a grit size that is appropriate for the work that needs to be done.
In many cases, you probably want to start with a fine grit to see what effect it has before moving to a coarser grit if that does not work. Conversely, for thicker rust, you’ll want to start with the coarser sandpaper, such as 80 to 100-grit. Once the rust is fully removed, switch to a finer grit such as 220 to smooth out the metal.
Fixing Doors and Windows
One of the best ways to fix a door or window that sticks is to use a belt sander. Doors and windows stick during the warmer months of the year when the wood slightly swells. During summer the warm air carries more moisture (high humidity) and this moisture courses expansion of the wood. Although the expansion may be minor, it is enough to cause them to stick given the limited amount of room they have to move.
Start by finding out which edge has swelled on the door or window and mark it. Remove the door or window from its frame and place it on a pair of saw horses or the edge of a large table and secure it with clamps. Then, run the belt sander along the edge that you have marked. Quite often, all you will have to take off is a 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch which should provide enough room for the door or window to move smoothly again.
Just be careful and not take off too much, otherwise, you will have a gap sizable enough to let in the outside air. Mark and measure the side that you are working on and then remove a 1/16th of an inch. Replace the door or window to see if it opens and closes properly. If not, remove just a little more.
The belt sander can be a good option to refinish decks since it can cover larger areas quickly. However, you will need to be careful when using the belt sander on decks depending on the type of wood from which it is made. If the deck is made from softwoods, the belt sander may tend to gouge or chip.
Know what type of wood the deck is made from before using a belt sander. For softwoods, you should use another type of sander to refinish the deck that does not gouge or damage the wood.
- Brush off the loose debris
- Rinse the deck
- Use a degreaser for stains
- Let it dry and start the sanding process
Of course, the amount of work it will take when using a belt sander will depend on the size of the deck itself. Therefore, you may want to employ a random orbital sander which is large and does not cut circle patterns into the wood when used properly. And save the belt sander for edges and the columns where it can be of better use.
To Smooth Concrete
If you need to sand a small area on concrete, you can use a belt sander to do the job. Using a belt sander to sand concrete is much more efficient than manual sanding to smooth out rough concrete.
However, do not expect the tool to produce a professional-quality surface. Sanding concrete requires diamond grinders or diamond grit papers. You need a walk-behind sander to cover large areas. Even for smaller areas, an angle grinder with diamond wheels would perform better. If you don’t have access to a large angle grinder, then a belt sander can be an option that will give you decent results.
A belt sander can be quite handy for a lot of jobs around the house. Be sure to wear the proper safety equipment, work in a well-ventilated area, and plan your work accordingly.
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