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Variable speed belt sander may revolutionize shop

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Review by NoSpace posted 12-26-2018 09:33 PM 1808 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Variable speed belt sander may revolutionize shop Variable speed belt sander may revolutionize shop No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve bought several tools in the last couple of months, and if I had to pick the tool that has made a greater improvement in my output than any of the others it would be this belt sander.

I’ll forgo the unhappy circumstances that brought me to buy the sander in the first place—it was a desperation purchase, not a fun shopping adventure purchase. I’ve never even considered getting a handheld belt sander because I have a stationary belt sander that I refer to as my project destroyer. What I ended up getting with this belt sander is a reasonable compromise on a drum sander, something that I do want, but that I don’t have space for.

I bought the Makita because it was the most expensive and best reviewed over all. I’m tired of regretting not having paid 20 – 80$ more for the better hand power tool—I’d rather just get it and worry that I spent 40$ more than I needed to. I don’t think most of us are buying a new power tool ever week or even every month so if it’s a few hundred a year extra who cares.

It seemed like a large percentage of reviews of this tool assume the purpose of a belt sander is to refinish hardwood floors, which is strangely, a bigger job than the tool is really meant for. But don’t let that stop folks from complaining that it’s underpowered or that the variable speed is useless since it always needs to be on 5, so let’s start there. For the purposes of a woodworker, this device is not underpowered by any means. In fact, the secret sauce is the variable speed.

I’m using it on woods 2500+ on Janka scale and I haven’t dared put the speed past 2.5. Typically I’m running it at 1 to 2, just to be safe. The major problem this has solved for me is the gray area between planing and bringing out the ROS.

I also have a Makita ROS, I assume it’s a quality device, but I hate using it. The ROS is extremely loud when factoring in the vibration of the workpiece on top of the motor noise, and then indoors, add the noise of the vacuum attached to it, and it’s sustained noise—it could be 20 minutes of sanding for a small project.

One of the cautions when using a hand belt sander is the tendency to round corners, which I did initially do slightly, but was able to correct easily by a few quick passes moving it sideways along the edge. In the time I’ve had the belt sander being totally new to the tool, I’ve done more damage to projects with both my stationary belt sander and my ROS. The problem with the ROS of course, is it’s not meant to flatten or quickly take down material, and I don’t think I’m the only one who gets frustrated with that one nick or glue spot and presses the edge of the ROS disk into that spot to move things along, often ending up with a low spot. Since the belt sander works much faster, there is little temptation to ever press down on it to get a stubborn spot worked out. On the little project in the pic, I got my ROS time down to just a couple minutes to get rid of the lines in the maple squares (the grain is opposite of the dark squares) with 120 grit and then another minute or so with 220.

With a little practice, the flat bottom does nicely with getting the project flat, or keeping it flat—at least relative to what I’m used to.

On the low speed, the sander is quiet, and dust control isn’t an issue at all. It’s way to bulky to be used with a vacuum, but the bag is good enough. With my air filtration on medium, and the sander at half speed, dust levels stay flat. I have a Dylos particle counter. With the bag accidentally open at one point, yeah, the dust levels soared. And by comparison the ROS with a bag only is a dust storm indoors.

The long cable makes it far easier to use than my ROS which strangely, has only a 5 or 6 foot cable.

One complaint I’ve read about this model is it has balance issues. I haven’t used another device for comparison but I believe I’ve felt the problem, but it’s really a matter of just getting used to using it. As I’ve said, even with holding it steady being a little tricky at first, i still have done more damage in the same time frame with my other sanders.

I do have a complaint about the bag—it has a silly removable plastic thing to keep it closed instead of a zipper. I’ve already misplaced it and so I’ve got a brand new tool with duck tape attached.

Anyway, a typical review would be to compare the tool to others in its class, which unfortunately I can’t do, but in this case, I’m reviewing the merits of owning one in the first place, and I can say this went way beyond my expectations in solving problems that I’ve had due to the noise and time wasted using an ROS, except for in the very last stages where the ROS is needed to get rid of the lines from the belt sander. Whatever model purchased, I’d say for the purposes of woodworking, it’s pointless without the variable speed.




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NoSpace

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3 comments so far

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swirt

4405 posts in 3538 days


#1 posted 12-27-2018 02:34 AM

I have the same sander. It has held up well for many years. I don’t use it that often, but when I do I have been happy with it.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

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BnC

45 posts in 459 days


#2 posted 01-01-2019 04:47 PM

Great review and comments on belt sanders. I’m finding more merits of mine too every time I use it.

-- The garage is calling, I must go. The dog is Fred, and yes he’s well fed.

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JoeTrekker

1 post in 2583 days


#3 posted 02-02-2019 05:30 AM

Makita also makes a nice range of accessories for their belt sanders such as sanding shoes, replacement sanding plates (steel, graphite, and cork), and a stand. For some reason they don’t import them into the USA, but they’re available in Canada:

https://bcfasteners.com/search-results/?q=makita%209903&page_num=2

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