First, some good news. The dust blowing all over last time was not indicative of poor dust collection in this machine. After closing up shop for the day, it bugged me all night, and I figured there must have been something I missed. There was. Under the belt on the back of the machine is a blast gate. D’oh. Opening that, the dust collection becomes quite good. No more dust spewing in all directions, but this thing sands very aggressively, so hard sanding does result in a little bit kicked down and past the table. This is the stuff that never makes it near the bottom of the belt and into the metal shroud that surrounds the dust collection area. That said, it’s minimal. I still want a rafter mount air filtration unit one of these days, though.
Here’s an example of some aggressive shortening of a fern pine (Podocarpus gracilior) root with the belt sander:
The sanding belt and disc fill up with dust, so I broke out one of the two blocks of latex rubber I got on sale from Rockler a long time ago. I’ve used this one a little on my random orbital sander, but this new machine really chews through it! The rubber, being so spongy and tacky digs in around the grit, adhering to the dust and pulling it right out, and ending up as hot, sticky crumbles on the table:
One thing I’ll be doing now that I have this is using up small cutoffs, things most woodworkers would probably throw away. Here’s an example cutoff from the end of a 1×3 of alder. The boards were on my log rack outside and the ends got rained on, and then molded over. The mold doesn’t go very deep, though, so it can be planed, sawn, or sanded away. It’s too hard to run such small pieces through saws, jointers, or planers, but this belt sander handles them with ease. An example of what I can do with these is glue up blocks for things like segmented cups and bowls. Watch the mold disappear as I create 90° angles:
I figure I’ll create jigs eventually that ride in the miter slots and let me sand blocks all to exactly the same size and angles. This would make whipping out bowl segments pretty fast.
Another nice thing is that I can sand wood to concave curves so easily now. Here I just took a scrap of ply with some examples of my poor long division skills scrawled across it and used another piece of wood with a simple curve on it as a French curve to scribble out a curvy quadrilateral. You can see how nearly effortless it is to sand right to the shape. This was the first time I’d ever done it, so clearly it’s pretty easy! For an encore, I slapped it on an identically sized scrap and used it as a pattern to sand a second, identical piece. This will certainly come in handy:
Finally, I’ll show off the disc sander for the first time now. My only critique of this thing is that the table is held on by a rod under the right side, and therefore any pressure on the table pushes the left side of the table down, because there’s no support whatsoever underneath it. This won’t work so well for heavy pieces. I don’t think I could put a big log on this thing. I even accidentally pushed the left corner of the table into the sanding pad at some point and sent a few sparks flying.
That said, the sander came with a little accessory for the T slots, seen in this video. It’s just a slider that sits fully inside the slot with a sharp metal spike sticking up. You can slam a piece of wood down on it and use it as a pivot to sand circular things, all the way up to 18” diameter, and perhaps just slightly beyond. I decided to use it to create a circle from scratch. I couldn’t believe how well it worked. I used a piece that’s been floating around my shop for 2 years. It was an old attempt to see how much I could recycle. When I made a small TV stand for my mom, I ended up with a little pile of birch 1×8 cutoffs that were only about 5/8” long, cut right off the ends of the boards to true them up. I set up my drill press as a spindle sander jointer to make the sides very straight and edge glued them to create a little end grain platter. Not having thought of anything to do with it in all this time, I figured I’d use it as the test piece and create a little end-grain coaster out of it. Here’s that process:
It sands so fast! I think this is going to be my new goto method for creating circles. Setup time is so fast it’s ridiculous. It leaves just a little spike hole in the bottom, too. I’m going to create a little spacer, maybe with a strip of aluminum on my mini mill with holes spaced every 1/4” and labeled so I can loosen the spike, push the bar end up against the sander, and align the spike with the appropriate hole to rapidly set up my radius.
Here are some final shots of the ‘coaster.’ I’m probably going to use my router table and a bearing bit to create a decorative edge around it, then maybe use it as a stand for something. If I end up with a pile of similar cutoffs, I can glue them all up and create a coaster set out of them. I love to keep reusing scrap until there’s nothing but powder left. I just wish I had a hammer mill and pelletizer so I could then turn the powder and chips into useful, burnable material, too! I’m like a native American :)
Thanks for reading!
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator