When you need material taken off ... in a hurry, nothing works like a belt sander. They can be rough and often hard to control but do a great job of taking the rough spots off so you can start getting down to the finer work.
Portable belt sanders have been around for many years and come in a variety of sizes. Some of the smaller ones look deceivingly like you can operate them with one hand, and maybe some of you can, but even these smaller units pack a lot of power so using 2 hands is far safer and much more accurate.
Many of the portable belt sanders have attachment or receiving nuts embedded in the top of the unit. Often one in the front and rear of the machine. The purpose of these receiving nuts is that these belt sanders can be adapted to many different uses. The first time I ever saw someone using this feature was at a shipyard. Some poor sole had the dubious job of scraping and sanding a hull of what looked like about a 40 foot boat which had recently come out of the ocean and was nicely encrusted with lots of, now, dried on marine life. He had innovated a belt sander to long wooden board and was using it run the belt sander up and down the underside of the hull. It was tough work, but he seemed to handling it.
Some years later when I happened upon a used belt sander at a swap meet or garage sale somewhere, I noticed it too hand these receiving bolts on the top. This meant that when I got home I could actually mount the belt sander on it's side and use it as a stationary sander ... and did it work great ...
When I first mounted it on a board, I notice that if I adapted it a bit more I could actually put a horizontal board underneath the sander to act like a table. This unit worked well, but one problem was that it was permanently mounted to the top of my workbench with three screws and every time I needed it off, I had to dismount the unit and store it under the workbench. Then I decided that if I elongated the back support, I could simply mount the whole unit in my workbench vice, thereby setting it up and using it when ever I need. I love the way this unit works, it is not very dusty and when you are sanding small parts you are actually looking down on them so you get a great birds-eye-view of what you are doing and can make some very accurate small parts and components.
With my bit belt sander, somewhat permanently mounted in on make-shift work-stand, I kept thinking it was time to treat myself to another belt sander. I have seen other using the small Porter-Cable sander and always thought it would be a great addition to my suite of tools, and so when I found them on sale recently, I snapped one up.
The first time I used this unit, I was surprised by the weight and power this unit has. Between the two of them, it can be a handful to use. I can see now why they have 2 handles on the unit, you often need them, especially if you are using a coarse grit and aggressive sanding techniques.
The design of this portable belt sander is great, the switch is mounted at the top near the front so as you hold the unit, it is easy to turn it on and off. Changing belts is also easy, a simple leave releases the tension on the belt and they slip on and off with ease. If you find the belts tracking to one side or the other, smile knob on the side of the sander will adjust that ... and that's really all there is to it ... simple ... easy, just the way I like it.
If you don't currently have belt sander, check around the used options in your area, you might be surprised what you will turn up, and if you can't wait, you can always buy a new one, and I have found them all quite reasonably priced, so the choice is yours.
Copyright - Colin Knecht