Woodworking Tools - Portable Belt Sanders

Do-it-yourselfers find it hard to justify the expense of portable belt sanders, but this versatile tool is commonplace in the woodworker's shop. What they are as well as what they'll do are the subjects here, and there's a handy comparison chart.

Portable belt sanders do several important things well. While they're designed primarily to remove lots of wood quickly and make surfaces flat, you also can flip many models on their back and use them as a bench sander for smoothing small and irregularly shaped pieces, and for sharpening tools.portable belt sanders woodworking tools

Compared to your food processor or a Swiss Army knife, a portable belt sander may not sound like the world's most versatile tool. But when you think about it, the need to remove stock or flatten surfaces (or sharpen tools) pops up with depressing regularity during most woodworking projects. Fact is, if you build solid-wood furniture, make glued-up cabinet doors or tabletops, or do much woodworking at all, you'll learn to appreciate a belt sander in a hurry.

How Portable Belt Sanders Work
The business end of a portable belt sander consists of a removable abrasive bel that is looped around- and held in tension between - two rollers. The tool rests on a flat metal plate over which the abrasive travels. A belt-and-gear drive system or an all- gear drive apparatus links the roller assembly to the tool's motor.

Most machines are belt-driven - system connects the sander's motor to a set of reduction gears attached to the tool's rear, or drive, roller.

All-gear portable belt sanders models eliminate the drive belt entirely, and with it, the problems of slipping belts. They can present interesting design problems, however, since the tool's motor must be placed relatively close to the drive roller. One manufacturer, Black & Decker, positions the motor inside the sanding belt on some portable belt sanders models, a smart solution that also keeps the weight of the machine centered and low.