On a belt sander, a single loop of seamless sandpaper is held taught between two motorized cylinders that drive the loop quickly in one direction. The “belt” portion, on both stationary and handheld belt sanders functions as the sanding surface. With their powerful electric motors, belt sanders are designed to tackle larger, more extensive sanding projects than orbital or hand-powered sanders.

Because belt sanders are the work horse of the sanding world, they can both save you time and quickly ruin your project. Belts sanders function to remove material very quickly and very evenly. In the right hands they can be used for leveling, shaping, trimming and flattening. In the wrong hands or on the wrong project, they can wreak havoc.

What are the top 5 belt sander problems?

#1 Belt Choice

All multipurpose, hand-held belt sanders use interchangeable, 3-inch wide sanding belts to get the job done. These belts come in a spectrum of grit counts and are made out of various materials. As to be expected, cheaper belts have shorter life spans and are much more likely to break on the job. These cheaper versions also open your belt sander up to a whole host of issues that are almost non existent with higher quality belts. For the most commonly used grit counts, between 80 and 120, it is best to invest in a high quality aluminum oxide or zirconia belt.

#2 Gouging

The correct method for belt sanding any given surface is to sand in long, straight, overlapping passes that move in the direction of the woodgrain. Gouging is a phenomenon that occurs when a belt sander leaves deeper curved gouges at the top and bottom of these passes. This tends to result from using overused or dirty belts, grit patterns higher than 120, or having debris between the sanding plate and sanding belt. Preventative measures to stay away from gouging include: using new or clean belts, staying away from ultra fine grit patters, and keeping your machine clean and dust free. This problem is very common in new belt sander uses

#3 Sanding Plywood

Because the belt sander is the burliest member of the power sanding community, it frequently runs into problems when used on daintier, more sensitive tasks. While this seems self-evident, certain materials do not always throw up that red flag initially. One such material is plywood. While plywood is durable, reliable and cheap it should always be sanded with caution. This is because plywood’s face veneer is only fractions of an inch thick, and is therefor easily sanded through. While the particle board layers beneath plywood’s face veneer are sturdy and structurally sound, they tent to be unsightly when peeking out through an over sanded face veneer.

#4 Tracking

When the sanding belt on a belt sander fails to remain taught around the sander’s rollers it tends to track back and forth toward the path of least resistance. When this occurs during a sanding job it decreases the belt sander’s efficiency and functionality noticeably. Normally this can be fixed by tightening the tracking adjustment knob usually located on the side of the belt sander’s body. However, it is common for this problem to occur even when the adjustment knob its tightened down fully. When this is the case, the problem usually comes back to the sanding belt. If the belt is loaded, stretched from overuse, or the wrong size for your sander it will track all day long. Also, cheaper models of sanding belts are notorious for tracking after only limited use. The solution to this problem comes back to personal preference. If you fed up with tracking issues on your belt sander, upgrade to a quality sanding belt.

#5 Dust Buildup

Belt sanders, like other power tools, are victim to wear and tear. One trick to getting a longer and more fruitful life out of your belt sander is committing to cleaning your machine regularly. This process revolves around dust management. Dust buildup is any power tools worst nightmare. While it might seem innocuous enough, the problems that stem from dust accumulation affect every component every tool. When it comes to belt sanders, the dust management system is built in, you just have to use it. The majority of belt sanders on the market today have a dust exhaust built into their assembly. The hard part is remembering to empty the dust receptacle regularly. During longer projects the dust receptacle should be emptied multiple times. This process can be made more efficient by attaching a shop vacuum hose directly to your belt sander’s dust exhaust.

To make sure to prevent most of these problems, you have to buy a quality product. Read belt sander reviews to get a feel for what’s on the market. You should also ask friends or experts to help you out.

I hope this article was helpful to you. See you soon and stay toolerant, be more toolerant…get out there and create!