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I need some opinions on belt sanders

Metal

Active Member
Active Member
#1
So long story short, I want a like 1" ish wide, small footprint belt sander that isn't hand held, I could go bigger if there's a big difference

I haven't really been able to find a whole lot of "what is good, what is bad, what features you want"
I mean its just a belt sander.

Its primary use is just plain old deburring of steel, and maybe aluminium polishing, nothing crazy.
 

terrywerm

New Member Liaison
Staff member
H-M Supporter-Premium
#2
For the money I don't think you would go wrong with a sander from Harbor Freight, especially if you wait for it to go on sale. I cannot speak about the 1" model, as I do not have one, but I did purchase one of their 4"x36" belt sander / 6" disc sander combo units a few years back. Paid a whopping $54 for it on sale. It isn't a great machine, but for the money it's not bad. The only real drawback I've seen with it is that it is a little low on power, but that is easy to work around.

There are better units out there, but with a significant increase in price. I figure I can burn up two or three of the cheap ones for the price of one real good one.
 

terrywerm

New Member Liaison
Staff member
H-M Supporter-Premium
#4
I guess I should have included that I have never found anything that a 1" belt sander could do that a 4" could not unless you need to sand a narrow area. In that case I just break out my flex shaft tool and do the small area that way.
 

Uglydog

Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
#5
The HF and equivalent items I've seen and used, feel and perform differently from the relatively heavy and their sometimes much older competitors.
As an old iron guy I'll take a rebuild with bad paint, bearings, and parts I need to make, and a machine which my grand kids might use into their retirement over a lighter less powered sometimes newer model.
This isn't a rant about imports, merely about bang for buck.
This is my perspective, it may not be the best fit for you and your needs....

Daryl
MN
 

Silverbullet

Active Member
Active Member
#6
I have a Foley belt sander 1"x 42" or 44" both will fit , I bought the machine with the stand in 1976 , it's seen a ton of sanding and sharpening jobs over the years but it's still all original . I also have a buffalo 4" x 36" I've used since about 1987 . I inherited a delta 1" x 30" rinky dink machine with bad bearings seals with no lube , cleaned and lubed and it gets lots of use because it's light to take where ever you need it. It also does lots of sharpening.
Sharpening and Deburring works well on a 1" belt , the wider ones work well for flat faces and edges. I used my 4" for doing lots of gunstock work , blending in a new pad or spacers , adjustable combs things like that. Just my uses up to you how you work.
I should add I'm looking for an old heavy 6"x 48" or bigger. When I find them now I'm unable to go get them so I'm liable to have to build my own.
 

Joncooey

Active Member
Active Member
#7
I agree with what most of the guys are saying; the six inch disc/4 inch belt combination is about where you should start. Every hardware store on the continent has belts for them too. As it goes with me, though, nothing is ever big enough. I am now working on the next step up; I think that it's an 8 inch or 9 inch disc /belt combination. I will keep the smaller one for sharpening and smaller work but I hope the big one will be less prone to stalling when you want to lean on something big as the smaller ones are prone to do.
 

Metal

Active Member
Active Member
#8
Yeah I think even a 4" might be too big sometimes, but I'm looking there

The harbor freight one has a lot of complaints about belt tracking on their website (and is on sale right now) it doesn't sound like anything I can't fix or just machine a part to fix
 

Rustrp

Active Member
Active Member
#9
For deburring and polishing I use the 3M EXL wheel. At $50 a wheel they are spendy but they last a long time. The link is a 3M demo and the guy doing the demo is moving waaaaaaaaaaaaaay slow for the capabilities of the wheel. This is just another angle to look at. When they get to small for the pedestal grinder I use them on an arbor mounted in a drill or die grinder.

 
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randyjaco

Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
#10
I would check out a 2"x 72". It is the most used machine in my shop. I am constantly finding new uses for it. It is an extremely versatile machine. Yeah, you can spend over a grand for one, but I built mine for @ $250. I have 2 one inch machines and now I hardly use them.

Randy
 

armytbone

Iron
Registered Member
#11
I have the HF 1x36. Works great. I'd recommend good belts from McMaster-Carr to make it work more effectively. It bogs down if you push too hard, but for $35 after coupon, it's a good value.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Dave Smith

Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
#13
a belt sander is a very simple machine to make--with very little cost---If you lived closer I would be glad to help you build some----first look for a very good bargain on a good quantity of belts and build your sander to use them---old motors are easy and cheap to provide your power---I've made several for under $20 ---one of mine is 6" by 102" belt, with an 18" disk, and a 4" by 18" long drum ----at one time in 1983 I bought a whole pickup load of good quality new sandpaper cloth belts---the longest ones are 6" wide by 20' belts(40' of belt)---some were 5' wide----I have never had to buy any more belts or emery cloth ----and I am still going to make more sanders to use the belts in my shop-----Dave * note---to make it heavy like Ugly Dog says---and a small footprint that you desire is to mount it on another heavy machine or bench that you already have
 
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coolidge

Active User
Active Member
#14
I purchased this Made in USA Kalamazoo 1x42 recently for $290, Baldor motor, blah blah. I thought that by spending more for Made in USA, Baldor motor it would be more but I'm honestly not that impressed with it. It works 'okay' but look at the thing its sheet metal.


Then shockingly this beast came up for sale on our normally ridiculously high priced craigslist for only $300, its a 6x54.5 cast iron monster. Can be used vertically or also tilts at any angle all the way to horizontal. 2 speed. Has a dust port. McMasterCarr has belts in stock for it. The difference between this and the Kalamazoo is from Earth to Mars.

 

Tailormade

Iron
Registered Member
#15
I saw this post a few days ago and wanted to comment, but refrained until now. Partially because I'm envious of that beast of a machine from Syracuse.

So anyway, I've got the HF 4x36 and disk sander. It is the bench top unit. I mention that because for all I know the free standing unit may not have the issues mine has.

Issue #1 power.

This thing is ridiculously weak. The belt also moves quite slow. It's like they decided that they could use a high speed motor, gear it down for some power, and then said nah, lets just put in the 99cent motor direct belt drive and call it good. My 8 year old easily and repeatedly brought the motor to a stop when working on his PW derby car.

I know it isn't much work to put a bigger motor on it. Or to add a weighted flywheel (assuming the motor could even spin it up) to increase rotational inertial. Probably a recycled washer or even dryer motor would be much more powerful. Maybe my old drill press motor once I upgrade it and slap a VFD on that. That said, it is work to upgrade the motor, and the motor that comes with it is so weak I'm not sure what I'd do with that one afterwards. Feel free to add suggestions of cool shop projects for recycled wimpy motors.

I am pretty sure my shop fans are packing more heat than this thing.

#2 Belt changing.

This thing is clearly made for a user that is going to put a belt on, use it till its worn out, use it for another month after that, and then replace it when it breaks or they have half a day to kill. And by use it till it wears out, I don't even mean cleaning the belt once in a while, just till its totally dead.

I don't know if you've changed the belts very often on this thing, but heres what you do. I wrote up this set of instructions for users new to the HF 4x36 +6" disc sander.

First, watch a few videos of knife makers, welders, and machinists, and otehr hobbyists with 2x72 belt grinders where they, in the space of 5 minutes, start at 80 grit, and move up through every grit in between to 2000 grit and follow it up with a mirror polishing belt, producing a beautiful piece of work. And then they remark on how most of the belts have been in service for 2-5 years each. Bonus if the videos include 2x72 units that have VFD speed control, 5hp motors and can turn that belt from 5 fpm up to mach 27. Take special note of the beautifully flat and square tool rests and tables in use, especially if you see any interesting table jigs for doing special tasks with perfect precision.

Then head over to your machine.

Think longingly of those 2x72's in the videos with motors that weigh more than your entire sander, and understand that they are running belt grinders, and you are definitely running a belt sander.

Loosen the belt tensioner lever.

Pull off the belt.

Realize that you cannot just pull off the belt.

Remove 4 screws without lock washers on the piece of plastic that is there to make sure all dust from the belt gets an equal chance to migrate directly into the motor or belt drive.

Pull belt off.

Realize that you still cannot just pull off the belt.

Think about just cutting off the old belt.

Remember that this will not help you get the new one on at all.

Realize you should have done all this with the belt in the vertical position.

Realize that if it was designed right you'd have some knobs or levers, but no, go get a wrench to loosen the two nuts that hold it in position.

Put the belt sander part in the vertical position and realize that now your adjustable wrench will not fit in there. On way to getting specific sized wrench remember that you taped the wrench that came with it onto the stand. Go back to stand and get the stamped metal wrench that came with it.

Put the belt sander back in the vertical position (it sure wasn't going to stay that way with the nuts loose). Tighten the two nuts enough to hold it firm but not so tight that it strips the nuts, bolts, and your knuckles. The measure of force is precisely 37 newton milligrams per tri phasic turn, compounded by the phase of the moon.

Remove the entire back of the belt sander piece, via 4 more screws with lock washers.

Put these near but not with the other screws without the lock washers. Make sure to choose a side and treat one group of screws better than the others so one group knows you do not favor them. Or hate them all, that was my path.

Remove sheet metal rear peice, realize that the way it's made it has been grinding itself on the inside, on the bottom side of the belt sander.

Pull belt off.

Realize that you really still cannot pull off the belt.

Remove bolt for the "tool rest".

Try hard to not to notice how pathetic and out of square it is in every direction that matters.

Pull off the belt.

Belt finally does in fact come off!

Replace belt, thinking about which grit you want to leave on till it dies.

Consider leaving all the extra crap off so you can change belts with more ease.

Realize that without the rear plate the entire belt sanding piece becomes even more flexy than it was before.

Sigh, and tell yourself it wont be such a pain next time (it will be).

Get much more serious about building that 2-5hp 2x72 belt grinder.
 

Grandpop

Active Member
Active Member
#18
I have an old craftsman 2 x 42 with a 6" disk bought at auction for $30, and I find it to be about the ideal size. If it blows up I will be looking for another 2" machine.
 

samthedog

Active User
Active Member
#20
As with any tool you will get what you pay for. For a more spendy unit you will get the ability to change belt tracking and tension on the fly with handles and knobs. You will also get a commercial grade motor with sealed bearings that won't get knackered out from abrasive dust. The additional mass of a heavier, more expensive unit will go a long way in helping with a smooth finish as it will help reduce the vibration as will the better quality bearings, motor and rigid construction. The wheels will also be better quality and survive continued use and the plenum will be made of heavier stock instead of toilet paper.

Better quality units will have a cam belt tensioner that allows you to flip a leaver and remove the belt in seconds as they are designed to accomodate varying grits for commercial work. Because of their commercial nature they have better design features that help save a lot of time.

I have spent a great deal of time operating belt grinders and have used cheap and expensive units. I recommend a more costly unit with the above features every time if you expect to use it for more than deburring once in a blue moon.

Paul.
 

umahunter

Active User
Active Member
#21
I think for the money you would spend on the fein you could probably make one of the 2x42 belt grinder kits like the knife makers use they have plenty of different accessories available I plan on building one eventually
 

The Liberal Arts Garage

Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
#22
For the money I don't think you would go wrong with a sander from Harbor Freight, especially if you wait for it to go on sale. I cannot speak about the 1" model, as I do not have one, but I did purchase one of their 4"x36" belt sander / 6" disc sander combo units a few years back. Paid a whopping $54 for it on sale. It isn't a great machine, but for the money it's not bad. The only real drawback I've seen with it is that it is a little low on power, but that is easy to work around.

There are better units out there, but with a significant increase in price. I figure I can burn up two or three of the cheap ones for the price of one real good one.
I bought one, cheap, but of course was assembled wrong, needed help from a rat tail
file, and a gentle rap in the vise. Moral: if your labor is free, a good buy. BLJHB.