Wide-belt sanders?

devrock

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Posted this on MLP, but know this is just as great a forum, with smart folks...

Since I'm finally on my journey to expand my woodworking offerings and start my own business (to get the all away from IT and work for myself), I'm evaluating what I need to add to my arsenal of equipment. A lot of what I'll be doing are countertops and tables, so a wide-belt sander is high on my list. Aside from the fact, I may have issues related to our electrical system, I'm not sure where I should look. I've been scouring Craigslist for a while and haven't seen any pop up for quite some time. Once in a blue moon, a woodshed will go out of business and sell everything, but haven't seen that in a while, either. While I'm looking around for shops that rent time, my wife asked me why I wouldn't just buy one if I was going to make x-amount on each table or counter-top. Also, what better way to flatten guitar bodies?
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At a MINIMUM, I'd need a 24"-wide, but a 37" (weird standard) would be more ideal for larger pieces. Curious to know what anyone's experiences have been with certain brands, where to buy, etc. I see the 24" Grizzly's starting around $12k, and of course prices go up depending on size, phases, and whatnot.
 

guitarbuilder

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My first thought is to buy a brand where you can get replacement parts. That would mean a brand that has been around for years and is still in existance. Grizzly and Jet come to mind first. Delta/Rockwell not so much these days. My reasoning is I have had a lot of machines where the company has gone out of business.
 

Freeman Keller

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I do not own a wide belt sander (or a drum sander for that matter), but they are one of the very important shop tools for anyone building acoustic guitars. Most top and back sets are resawn to about 1/8 inch, for bending and building its common to take tops to about 0.110 or so, backs and sides to 70 or 80 for bending.

Finding or building a sander that will do that is one of the rights of passage for acoustic builders - it is traditional to cobble something together because most of us can't afford the commercial option.

In my early days I would have my wood supplier (often LMII) thickness sand plates for me. My local lumber yard had a thickness sander but theirs was marginal for the thin dimensions I need. Then I befriended a guitar player who happens to have a very nice cabinet shop and he does have a Grizzly wide belt sander that will do the trick. I take my wood up to his house, we talk guitars while he sands it and life is good.

I do not know the model, it easily takes the 8 or 10 inch wide pieces that I build with. He frequently will run them thru at a pretty good angle so I'm guessing his belt is 24, I've never paid much attention.

There is, of course, the option of sticking a piece of wood to a carrier board if you sander won't go thin enough, fortunately that isn't necessary with my friends machine.

I could probably fire off an email to him to get more information, that is the little I know.
 

oldunc

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Out of my league- I paid nearly $1000 for a 10" from Jet, and the prices escalate rapidly from there- the geometry makes rigidity and accuracy difficult and the difficulty grows rapidly with size. The little machine works great and is big enough for anything on a guitar (one end is open, so you can do 20" by reversing the piece). Good luck in your quest- in my day you'd search ads in woodworking magazines, such as Fine Woodworking. Maybe you still can, I haven't kept up with the literature in recent years. PS- you REALLY need a dust collector with one of these.
 
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old wrench

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A wide-belt thickness sander is a different type of machine than a drum thickness sander, although they both perform the same function :)

Drum sanders use a strip of abrasive that is spiral-wound around the contact drum and generally has two pressure rollers to push the workpiece down in contact with the rotating drum and the feed belt.

Wide-belt sanders are more sophisticated machines that use an actual sanding belt that wraps around the contact drum (or two drums and a platten) and an idler drum which rotates likes a regular old belt sander. They usually have multiple pressure rollers on the infeed and outfeed sides. They are a more efficient design than a drum sander, in part because of the long belt that not only runs cooler, but exposes way more abrasive surface than a simple wrapped drum does.



edit - Another option with the wide-belt thickness sanders is multiple drums where you can use a coarser grit belt on the lead drum and finer grit belt on the secondary drum - the coarse belt hogs off material and the finer belt puts a smooth finish on the workpiece ;)

.
 
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old wrench

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I see that Grizzly now offers a combination wide-belt/planer machine :)

The planer uses replaceable carbide cutters set in a helix pattern.

24" 15 HP 3-Phase Planer/Wide-Belt Sander at Grizzly.com




edit - Efficient dust collection is pretty much a must with these machines - even the smaller drum thickness sanders.

If the sanding dust isn't being continuously evacuated, it clogs up the works, creates more heat, and just kills the efficiency.

I run my little 16/32 drum sander outside and still connect a 6 hp. shop-vac to it to make sure I'm pulling the sanding dust from the abrasive grit ;)
 
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devrock

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I watched a great video today that compared the wide-belt vs thickness sanders after I posted this. One of the big selling points of the wide-belts that I never knew until today was that it slightly oscillates back and forth, which eliminates a lot of grooves that the thickness sander (which my 10-20 is prone to do). That's a huge feature.

Old Wrench, I have a dust collector. When I first got the thickness sander, I was dumb enough to think my shop-vac would suffice. Boy was I wrong!
 

Jim_in_PA

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Old Wrench, I have a dust collector. When I first got the thickness sander, I was dumb enough to think my shop-vac would suffice. Boy was I wrong!
Always a good lesson.

That said, you're going to find that you need a "kick butt" dust collection system for a big wide-belt and preferably something with excellent pre separation and filtration. The amount of fines produced by one of these machines when you are working at width can be incredible. And you need "real" CFM, (as proven by fan curves) not "marketing" CFM which is very much inflated relative to mass market products. The specs for the sander should indicate minimum air flow requirements. To be sure, you may already have this covered in a professional environment, so this information is merely "provisional". :)
 

devrock

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I have an 800CFM ShopFox, so I hope that is sufficient! (I just looked at a Laguna 37" manual and looks like that isn't enough - 3500CFM!!! Gah!)
 

Jim_in_PA

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And your ShopFox will be hard pressed to develop 800 CFM in the real world, too...you may hit 600 or so with a 6" hose, but with a 4" connection, you're limited to about 400-450 CFM by the laws of physics. Big sanders are truly demanding beasts for collection!
 

devrock

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And your ShopFox will be hard pressed to develop 800 CFM in the real world, too...you may hit 600 or so with a 6" hose, but with a 4" connection, you're limited to about 400-450 CFM by the laws of physics. Big sanders are truly demanding beasts for collection!

businessman-shouting-sky-waving-hands-white-background-79646424.jpg
 

El Famoso

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Another option with the wide-belt thickness sanders is multiple drums where you can use a coarser grit belt on the lead drum and finer grit belt on the secondary drum - the coarse belt hogs off material and the finer belt puts a smooth finish on the workpiece

I have seen drum sanders with the dual drums, coarse and then fine. These work really well. You can get a very nice Powermatic dual drum sander for way under $12k. I installed one of these at a woodshop and had major tool envy after watching it flatten out and thin some doors and tabletops. Not sure they offer one with a single phase motor, though. Powermatic makes great tools. Easy to work on, easy to get parts for.
 

loco gringo

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If you end up with a 36" or 37" belt type, the belts can be had with different splices. The butt splice will leave fewer marks than an overlap splice. In Norton Abrasives lingo, the butt joint is called the SAABA joint. Other manufacturers do this splice, too.
 

devrock

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I have seen drum sanders with the dual drums, coarse and then fine. These work really well. You can get a very nice Powermatic dual drum sander for way under $12k. I installed one of these at a woodshop and had major tool envy after watching it flatten out and thin some doors and tabletops. Not sure they offer one with a single phase motor, though. Powermatic makes great tools. Easy to work on, easy to get parts for.

Yeah, I have a PM jointer/planer and absolutely love it.

After doing further research last night, it appears this actually might be my only option. The wide-belt sanders not only require a ****-ton more CFM than I have for dust collection, but also require hard-wired 220V nice and ALSO an air compressor. Sadly, our house only has 100A service and it would cost a small fortune to upgrade to 200 b/c our power line is underground. Crap. :-/
 

Jim_in_PA

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Ouch on the power situation...that severely limits your machinery choices as you surmise. You can use a typical drum sander on a 20 amp 120v circuit (my 19-38 is an example) but they do not have the "thicknessing" power of a wide-belt.

BTW, when I have something larger that needs to be surfaced on a sander, I take it to another shop that has one. A local hardwood supplier has an ancient 62" wide "beast" of a sander in their shop as they do a lot of live edge countertops, etc., as a parallel business. It costs me next to nothing to have them make a few passes on a table top or whatever. They also happen to have a large Logosol flattening system that I've employed to surface large slabs that are not manageable in my own shop. I use the drum sander I have for smaller work. So see if you can find a local resource you can use for "big stuff".
 




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