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  1. #1
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    Default Which Belt Sander (hand held)

    I'm in the market for a belt sander, and my preference would be for a 100mm wide jobbie. That's restricts the choices quite significantly, and will be more expensibve to run, but many of the targets for it will be ~100mm wide (e.g. fence palings that I don't necessarily want to put through the jointer/thicky).

    100mm choices that I can spot are:
    Hitachi at $365 (1020w)
    Makita at $409 (1200w)
    Festool - a snip at $1587 (1400w) That comes with other accessories, but it's a matter of whether I'd use them....

    75mm width opens up more choices, and cheaper running, but means twice as many passes....


    What thoughts does the Brains Trust have on this please?
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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  3. #2
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    Hi Brett
    Let me open the great chasm of wealth of experience [Boy, that don't sound right]
    When I was working in kitchen cupboards,16 years, we used 75mm machines. They were Makitas and stood up really well to the battering they got from some of the morons that I worked with. Belt sanding is a task that can be a very lengthy, time wise. So you want a machine that will not make you tired after only a short amount of time. When we would laminate, with Laminex, bench tops we would sand down the Laminex edge with a belt sander so that it was well and truly flush with the surface of the top. This could take 20 minutes to half an hour. To do this type of sanding you had to keep the sander moving so it didn't "dig in" and cause you a problem with that dig in showing up with a duvet visible in the finished Laminex top. I suppose what I am trying to say is that you have to exert physical strength to do the operation and I think a 100mm machine would be just that little bit bigger and heavier than you would like.
    Even sanding 100mm palings you still have to sand the timber in a circular/oval motion to move the machine over the surface to get it flat. If you are sanding an edge of a board (vertically) you have to cradle the whole weight of the machine as you move it over the surface.
    Another thing that I have found that any belt sander can't do is sand a flat surface without leaving "gougy" type lines in the surface. I have tried many times over the years and have had no success.
    I have 2, 75 mm Ryobis that have served me well over the last 15 years. I have 2 because I left one at home in the workshop while the other was in the wagon to be used on site. The only thing I have done to them is change the bearings in the motor and in the roller mechanism that drives the belt.(Actually, I bought the second one second hand from Coffs Harbour and always wondered if it was used to shape surf boards)
    Price wise I don't think 610 X 100mm compared to 533 X 75mm is much to worry about (belts I am talking here).
    If you can, pick each prospective machine up and see how it feels in your hands and feel the weigh and think about having to hold on to it for say 10 minutes while you are sanding a board

    Well I think I have waffled on enough to bore you to death, so I will let you go. I will keep an eye out for you, to see what you end up with.
    Have you got your fire on....ours has been on for about a week, yep winter is not far away
    Just do it!

    Kind regards Rod

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    Thanks very much Rod, some really good info there. Yeah, they sure weigh a bit.
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    For years I borrowed my brothers Makita but eventually bought my own about 8 years ago.

    The first thing I did with it was sand the back veranda floor. using 40 then 80 and then 120 Grit. The boards were badly cupped so it took a while but it did it.

    For many years I used it in a jig upside down as a small stationery belt sander and it did a very good job.
    See https://www.woodworkforums.com/f13/using-belt-sander-upside-40572

    Dust extraction is essential with these machines and it works very well attached to a normal DC

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    The festool 75 is a great unit. Unlikely to kill it and it has some great features if you buy the set. The cradle is nice and so are the stands for holding it upside down. There is also a guide so you can use it almost like a planer. It is a lot of money but if you will use it its worth it. Dust extraction is very good.


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    Listening to Rod, perhaps a 75mm is a better option. It certainly opens up more choices, and is lighter.

    This Metabo BAE 75 looks pretty reasonable, and has the "inpatient" facility, as the Germans call it. Otherwise known as a stand.

    I'm told that nails play havoc with belts, and that's pretty easy to see, but what if the nail head is flush (or slightly recessed) to start with? Will it just grind it down reasonably uniformly, or is it a case of the timber around the head will go much faster than the nail head, and therefore rip the belt?

    Yes, I'd be using vac extraction.
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    As previously mentioned, both above by others & elsewhere by myself, a belt sander tends to be a rather rough & coarse tool. I also have difficulty producing perfectly smooth surfaces. Machine ergonomics has a great bearing on this I believe.

    There's basically only 2 different configurations for belt sanders, and surprising similarities between manufacturers too. Undoubtedly the most successful design in 3" models is Reich's Holz-Her "sidewinder" style, with an inline motor taking the drive to the rear wheel through 90 degree bevel gears & belt. So successful has this design been that it has spawned many imitators and licencees along the way, with none offering any significant improvements.

    Bosch licenced the design for manufacture by Scintilla in Switzerland, which it is still doing some 40 years later! Black & Decker chose it for their now long defunct German made SR500E range topper: this in the days when B&D actually made quality power tools worthy of the description! If the biggest players in the world choose to licence the design rather than start from scratch it must speak volumes about the integrity of the original design, doesn't it?

    Additionally, Reich manufactured & "badge engineered" on behalf of other well renowned companies also: Wolf (latterly known as Kango/Milwaukee), Wurth, Metabo, Milwaukee & Fuss-tool all have had Reich produce their Holz-Her 3" sander design in their respective liveries! Significantly all parts, spares and consumables are freely interchangeable across these variants, meaning even the oldest & most obscure of them still have all parts available.

    Festo was sufficiently impressed to have actually bought the Power Tool division of Reich in order to call their sanders their own! Whilst simultaneously squeezing out all other customers along the way, who now produce inferior designs instead.

    There's something about the overall excellence of Reich's design that seems to hit a particular "sweet spot" in ergonomics & utility. The handles are at each end, and set low enough and at the correct distance apart to provide exceptional control and balance in my opinion. Of the particular variants offered, the Metabo (Ba E 1075) and Wurth (HBS 533E) are easily the best in having an ergonomically superior removeable front handle.

    This ovate handle is from Metabo's Random Orbit sander range, is threaded and is much better formed to suit the human hand. Much more importantly it's tool-free removeable to provide reduced clearance against vertical surfaces such as walls, corners etc., and relocateable to the threaded holes on the top. This makes using the sander on vertical surfaces or even overhead a much safer and more viable proposition. In contrast, the original "blobby" integrated moulding is uncomfortable and slippery in comparison: why Fuss-tool chose this particular variant to continue with is puzzling: maybe due to it being a competitor's part!

    Just as the 3" variants are ergonomic triumphs, Reich's Holz-Her/Fuss-tool's 4" version is a failure. It's significantly bigger & heavier obviously, but with greater mass and overall dimensions, the ergonomics tend to fail this particular variant. Of significance is the fact that no other manufacturer has chosen to either licence, imitate or clone this tool. In my opinion it just fails: the handles are too far apart for extended use, and the balance is off.

    Its mass works against it: other heavy sanders use their mass to provide operator comfort. It shouldn't be necessary to provide any significant downward pressure in operation: the tool should be loosely & comfortably held back to maximise control. The 4" variant always seems to be in a permanent tug-of-war with the operator over who's actually in control! This can become extremely tiring over extended use. The handles on this tool are just too far apart.

    If you must go 4" then I'd recommend looking elsewhere. The alternative "east-west" motor configuration just seems to work better in these 4" models. Most definitive 4" sanders use this layout to good effect: shorter overall, better front grip layout ABOVE the front roller, and the much more commonly available (i.e. everywhere) belt size of 100 x 610mm, as opposed to the "weird" Euro standard of 105 x 620! Fuss-tool/Holz-Her swear that Aussie standard belts will actually fit their newer models, but I'd be highly dubious about using a possibly dodgily modified sander which has the possibility of inducing belt slippage! Most other markets require the longer belts to be used!

    The current standard 4" sander on the local market is Makita's 9403. Undoubtedly the tradies' favourite, its fast, powerful, reliable & economical without any particular niceties or vices. Just an unassuming good quality long lasting basic machine.

    If you want a 3" model then you can get a second mortgage for one from the price-Nazis, or get a second-hand clone from the same factory for a fraction of the price! The Bosch blue variant is also particularly interesting too in that it offers horizontal & vertical stands, guide fences and adjustable angle stops as accessories, making a pricey but versatile sanding system.

    But I don't think I'd be buying one of those East Asian imitators' products either. The latest designs from DeWalt, the Bosch Green or the Clones from AEG/Metabo (BAE 75) seem to be triumphs of form over function in my opinion. Very nicely designed & beautifully proportioned, but I suspect lacking some of the engineering integrity of the originals.
    Sycophant to nobody!

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    Thanks very much Ratty, excellent detail.
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    I have a Makita 9924DB which I bought about 11 years ago. It takes both 75mm and 100mm belts. Works very well and removes stock in abundance. No problems. Suggest you attach it to a dust extraction system. I think it cost me about $400. It's been a while since I've worried about that.

    I don't use it much since I bought the Rotex RO150 though. Excellent stock removal, same pads as the ETS sander and does both orbital and random orbital sanding.

    But if you really need a belt sander, I'd go the Makita 9924DB, or if you want to use a belt sander that will give you a smooth level result, go the Festool.

    LGS

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    +1 for the Makita 9924DB, countless tables were flattened with it at work until we got a calibrating wide belt sander.
    It's nicely balanced and easy to handle and the dust collection is REALLY good as well, even without a vac, which is always a bonus.

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    When a 100mm belt is fitted to the 9924DB is it unsupported for 12mm on each edge? It looks like it must be from the pics I can find, so how does that affect things?
    Edit: having looked at the thread below the plate is wide enough but the rollers are 75mm, so I guess that works out ok.

    Just looking at this thread and Jim Carroll brings up a good point that with 75mm belts the exposed graphite can mark the job. It's probably not hard to have the machine tip just a little to do that, especially of the job is pretty rough in the beginning.

    So what belts do you guys normally use with it? 100mm?

    Ok, pluses and minuses that I can spot between the Metabo and the Makita then (and I find this excellent for decision making). Bold indicates significant.

    Pluses for Metabo:
    Has a sanding frame and inpatient facility (gotta love that )
    1010 watts (so 19% more power than the Mak - have to say that I'm probably not going to push it as hard as a tradie would though)
    Less costly belts (533mm where the Mak is 610mm) (can't necessarily say the the longer belt will give proportionately longer life, particularly if it gets ripped)
    Only have to stock one width of belt
    It looks as though the balance is excellent - handle at the rear, handle at the front
    Easily controlled variable speed with a thumb wheel (Mak looks like one speed only)
    Current design and technology (and I don't mean the looks) verses 20+ year old design. Note that it may have no practical implication, I'm just raising the point.
    Constant speed electronics
    4m long cable (2m Mak). Not a biggie, but still...

    Pluses for Makita:
    Longer sanding area by 38mm (unless it has fatter rollers which would take up some of the belt length difference)
    More versatility with two belt widths
    No need to remove front handle to get up close to walls
    $30 less to purchase, but belts will be more (wider and longer and two types)

    Neutrals:
    Both the same weight (within 100g)


    What I don't know is their current countries of manufacture. I've had tools from both brands since the 80s and they've all been trojans.
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    Quote Originally Posted by FenceFurniture View Post
    So what belts do you guys normally use with it? 100mm?
    Always got 100mm on it and honestly can't think of a situation where you'd need a 75mm instead of 100mm
    1010 watts (so 19% more power than the Mak - have to say that I'm probably not going to push it as hard as a tradie would though)
    Haven't managed to bog/stall the Mak yet and if you have to use that much downwards pressure it's time to be changing belts anyway.
    Only have to stock one width of belt
    Again, can't see a reason for 75mm, but happy to have it explained.
    Easily controlled variable speed with a thumb wheel (Mak looks like one speed only)
    Yep single speed on the Mak

    As for belts, Norton Metallite or the blue Deerfos are the way to go IMHO. Both have a long life and both have a thick cloth backing that is nearly impossible to rip.

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    Brett

    I think you really have to ask yourself what you are intending the belt sander to do. I know that sounds obvious, but consider what it does. It has the ability to rapidy remove stock, particularly with the coarser grades of paper (40grit and 60 grit) but it is not a thicknesser or a jointer and something that has a bed about 150mm long is not going to have a great capability at leaving a piece of timber dead flat.

    I have had my old AEG 100mm belt sander for over thirty years. It is still going strong, but it is very heavy and has the most irritating loud sound when running. I rarely use it other than in a horizontal position (that's the belt sander as I would generally be vertical) and in that case I see the weight as an advantage. I never exert downwards pressure on it as the weight is quite sufficient.

    Incidentally the belt size is unusual in that it is 560mm x 100mm. That has caused problems at times in acquiring replacements. i recommend that whatever you select, it is a common size.

    If I was sanding fence palings, as an example, I would definitely choose a wide sander and not be put off by one that had some weight. I would definitely try to get some idea of the noise it made because that can be very tiring during prolonged use as Rod pointed out.

    I think it the old story with more expensive machines in that they tend to have more robust components (bearings and gearboxes for example) so I would look into that and not be too tempted by the cheap end of the market.

    I can't help with specific recommendations because I have not been in the market for a long time.

    Regards
    Paul
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    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

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    Thanks Paul. Yes the 560mm length is problematic as we know.

    The Festool 105 sander is (obviously 105 wide) but 620mm long - 10 mm longer than the standard 620mm. That means very high running costs as you can only buy one brand of belt.($35 for for 5 belts I think it is).

    However their 75 mm BS is standard length of 533mm. Go figure.
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    You'd really have to decide for yourself which belts you use more frequently and thus what belts you keep in stock. I have a rather large hardware store close by, so I don't carry belts in stock, I just go and buy them if I need them. But I say again, I use the Rotex with 80 and 100g pads to do the same damage and in a more controlled fashion.

    I don't know about adjustable speed on a belt sander. Sounds like a bell or whistle to me.

    As far as power goes, the Mak has plenty of oomph for any of the things I do. Again "your mileage may vary".

    LGS

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