How To Use a Belt Sander

Get the details on how to install a sand paper belt, how to move a belt sander and what projects to use it on plus much more.

Power sanders can be real-time savers on your next wood project. The key to using a belt or power sander is to avoid underdoing it or overdoing it.  Follow our steps on getting just the right method out of this time-saving tool.

Remember to always read the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular belt sander. You should always wear protective gear like eyewear protection and a dust mask.

A belt sander spins looped sheets of sandpaper-like tank treads. It’s a powerful tool, so it’s best for rough work and you need to know what you’re doing.

To install the sandpaper belt, you’ll unlock the tension between these two wheels. Flip the tension lever, or on a spring-loaded model, push the front roller against your work surface. Slip the new belt on with the arrows pointed in the direction of the spin. And flip the release to put the tension back on the belt.  Turn it on to see if the belt rubs or slips.  If it does, adjust the tracking knob to keep the belt centered.

The sanding action is linear, so you want to move in line with the grain. Keep the sander moving to an even, smooth pace.  Don’t press down on the sander. Let it do the work.

Move in a zig-zag motion, let the sander go past the edge of the piece, and overlap your next pass slightly. When you’ve got a narrow edge to smooth with a wide belt, be careful to stay level. Or if you have several edges, you can do what’s called gang sanding. Clamp the boards together and sand all the edges at once.

The belt sander works so quickly, that you can really make a mess of your project if you’re not careful. If your sander has a variable speed, dial it down for delicate work.

Take care not to round off the edge of your piece by tilting the sander. It helps to use a scrap of wood as a stop at the edge of your project or to cut off the edge of your glue after you’ve sanded.

Gouges happen when the belt or sandpaper gets gummed up with dust, grit, pitch from the wood, and glue. Use clean belts, avoid sandpaper grits finer than 120.

Keep the sander moving at all times so you don’t sand depression. Lastly, keep it even on the surface so you don’t create dips, bowls or other imperfections.