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Considerations and Safety Tips For Using A Wide Belt Sander

Updated on April 21, 2016

How To Best Utilize A Wide Belt Sander

The invention of the wide belt sander has changed woodworking industry.

That said, many companies and individuals aren't getting the most out of their sander because they are not using it properly.

Aside from safety issues, you must take into consideration all the working parts and/or systems involved.

Dust extraction, application, the abrasive and the very machine itself are all parts of the equation.

In this lens we'll examine how to get the most out of your sander and make a few recommendations if you are in the market for one.


Safe And Proper Usage Of Your Wide Belt Sander

The system for dust extraction

Not only do you not want to breathe in the sawdust created by one of these big boys, improper extraction can lead to the life and performance of the sanding belt being seriously compromised. Streaking and poor cutting can be the result of all that dust not being properly removed and disposed of.


Here we go: Will there be a need for hand sanding later, time between finishing and final sanding, cross grain, wood type, is the sander’s entire width being used, first pass flatness of piece, material removal’s sanding sequence, parameters (ending and starting), and other variables must be well thought out.


This, not the machine, is what does all the work. Things of significant consequence where the abrasives are concerned are: scratch pattern and depth, correct and even use, run speed, abrasive type, backing, grit, and how/where was abrasive stored when not in use and was it subjected to any elements?

The machine

Set-up, testing and adjustments of the machine are all essential steps that will determine the proper functioning of the wide belt sander. Operation and maintenance are also crucial factors. All of these must come together to assure quality, acceptable operating costs and safety.

Now for some safety considerations

Rules of the road (so to speak):

1. Avoid ‘cheat lowering’ the table and avoid sanding materials 5 ¾” or thicker.

2. When running a number of pieces or an exceptionally large piece – get help.

3. After the first pass do not turn the handle for table adjustment height more than ½ turn.

4. A pressure setting of 20 amps should help eliminate motor stress and paper burning.

5. The machine must be immediately shut off in the case of a broken belt.

6. Do not start cutting until the machine is at full speed.

7. Do not sand against the grain.

8. Insert very narrow materials at somewhat of an angle to avoid paper burn.

9. Belts should never be used if torn or frayed.

10. Before sanding starts open vacuum gate.

11. Always use chaser board on anything 9” or shorter.

12. ¼" down to 1/8" is good upper conveyor guard clearance.

13. In position to the table, always stand to one side.

14. Never leave the machine without shutting it off, and never do that with the emergency shut off unless it truly is one.

15. When a machine is running, NEVER reach inside. Before reaching in, it must come completely to a stop.

16. Barriers and guards must always be kept in place.

17. During part feeding, keep hands clear.

18. Never ever operate without eye protection.

Safe and proper usage of these wide belt sanders will pay off each and every time. Operating costs, accident records, turn over time can all be reduced while employee morale and safety awards can be the real rewards!

Now Let's Talk About Some Of Our Favorites

Powermatic makes some of the best in the industry

Powermatic makes a number of wide belt sanders ranging in size from this 16" model all the way up to a whopping 37 inches.

We like this one best for a number of reasons.

At 16" it's big enough to handle most any job but not so big that it's cumbersome to use.

And it's priced at a point where it can be used for woodworking at home as well as in a manufacturing plant.

This Powermatic has a 4 inch dust collection port, which, as we talked about earlier, is very important.

You can get it with a 5 HP or a 7.5 HP motor so the power is there to handle most any job.

And best of all, the belt always stays centered thanks to automatic pneumatic conveyor belt tracking.


Does Size Matter?

When it comes to wide belt sanders, you bet it does.

Smaller is general easier to use and much less expensive.

Like Powermatic, SHOP FOX makes affordable quality sanders but with plenty of features.

What we like best about the SHOP FOX 15 inch model is how easy the belts are to change and how all the controls are placed. The placing of the controls makes their model very easy to operate.

The 5" dust port and the emergency break pedal also are essential features that are included.

When you start getting bigger, up into the 24" range, you're starting to play with the big boys. At this point you are serious about sanding.

If you want something that can quickly sand quick and short pieces of wood, the 24" sander from Grizzly is the one to get. The double infeed and double outfeed rollers are tucked very close to the drum. That means you'll get continued pressure on the wood all the way through. And it's designed so it won't distort even the thinnest pieces.

The model pictured here also contains plenty of digital features designed to make sure your sanding is perfect every time.

And a 10 HP motor gives you more than enough power for any job.

But What If You Run A Large Woodworking Operation

Truthfully, you'll most likely be fine with a 24" sander. But if you really need to call out the big guns, then there's a 37" model from Grizzly you should seriously consider. For most of you owning this sander would be simply showing off, but some of you could benefit from the amount of work you'll be able to get done in half the time.

This one is only for those who have a business to run and realize time is money.

The Grizzly model featured here is designed to cut your sanding time in half with two heads. Using one head to sand through two grit levels is inefficient at best. This model takes care of that problem.

But this is not something you can just buy and hook up yourself. It operates on 440 volts, so when you buy the machine, you'll also need to get a Grizzly tech to hook everything up and bring you the additional needed components. Don't worry, the service is just a phone call away.

But don't even think about something like this unless you have some serious sanding to do. That will eliminate 99% of the people reading this right off the bat.

Watch A Wide Belt Sander In Action

Why Do You Love Your Wide Belt Sander? - And what's your favorite model?

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