belt sander help

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Forum topic by Jeff82780 posted 08-11-2011 11:26 PM 1382 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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204 posts in 3019 days

08-11-2011 11:26 PM

I am building my first shaker inspired dresser and the project calls for a panel glue up for the sides. Well, i did this and after the glue dries i noticed a little dip in the middle. So i went to the HD and purchased a rigid belt sander. Needless to say i ruined my 1 side for the dresser. im not sure if i was doing something wrong but the sander was leaving unsightly marks and gauges. i have a planer, but never have never used yet. What do you recommend i do to flatten out a large panel?

Thanks, jeff

10 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2995 days

#1 posted 08-12-2011 02:43 AM

Depends on how much material you have left and how much you need. If there is material to work with you might be able to get a cabinet shop to run it through their drum sander.

Or, if you are feeling real frisky I have been able to flatten a cherry desk top once using a good straight 2 ft long 2×4 wrapped with sandpaper. Not easy and not quick, but it looked good when I was done.

Now that I have hand planes I think the easier way is to plane it flat; well, easier of the choices if you don’t have access to a big drum sander anyway. Careful application of a scraper can work as well.

I’m sure you know this, but I’ll mention it anyway in case there are newbies out there; any thing you do has to be done following the direction of the grain.

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4032 posts in 2995 days

#2 posted 08-12-2011 03:16 AM

Yes, cr1, I have seen that also. Kind of like training wheels for the belt sander; but without wheels.

Actually wheels would not be too bad either. My dad’s floor sanding machine had an 8” drum and a 3 HP motor, a hand lever to lower the drum and a set of iron wheels under the frame that kept everything level and square to the floor. Always amazed me how he could sand the floors in a whole house and you could not find a single place where the floor was not perfectly flat and smooth.

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104 posts in 2714 days

#3 posted 08-12-2011 03:35 AM

I did a glue up of 5 oak boards for a 12’ x 30” bar top, and was able to achieve a nearly flat top with a porter cable belt sander. The trick was to sand straight along the grain, 45 degrees left, straight, 45 degrees right, straight, and repeat. It takes forever, but the tips I would suggest are to never push down, only use the sander weight, use good paper and change it before it is worn out, and most importantly – ignore your progress. It would be best to do it with your eyes closed, this way as you leave marks and fail to perfectly level everything on the first pass, you leave those failures in place for the next pass, otherwise you create dips and deeper grooves.

-- Time to get started

View Jeff82780's profile


204 posts in 3019 days

#4 posted 08-12-2011 04:25 AM

Well i busted out my planer , which by the way is prolly a piece of garbage (paid $20 @ lowes), but anyway no luck. How the heck do you guys use this thing? I’m getting so frustrated! Maybe ill just use a lonf 2×4 with sandpaper wrapped around it?

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3259 posts in 2700 days

#5 posted 08-12-2011 04:41 AM

I nearly ruined a preject with a belt sander. I just didn’t have any experience and I would run it over to the other side of the board then you want to stop the travel and let is slide over then draw it back. Well that just leaves trails. I had a mess. I cleaned it up and was able to salvage it and made a good looking project out of it in the end. It was really easy to clean it up using a scraper. I was in a school shop and we had a BUNCH of card scrapers about 3” x 6”’s. We had been taught how to sharpen them and they would really cut when held right. I cleaned it right up. Since I have bought and worn out a belt sander and think I am fairly decent with one. You really have to change directions quick with no stopping. I am on my second sander and it works nicely for me now.

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3301 posts in 2586 days

#6 posted 08-12-2011 04:45 AM

I’ve actually done the 2×4 wrapped in sandpaper to smooth/flatten my workbench top

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

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Jim Finn

2657 posts in 2946 days

#7 posted 08-12-2011 03:17 PM

I just bought a new belt sander and a “frame” for it. The “Frame” holds the tool flat and up off of the wood a little. It is adjustable. I have not used it on a project yet. Seems that it should correct the gouging problem for you.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

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4032 posts in 2995 days

#8 posted 08-12-2011 05:46 PM

Jeff, since you said you “busted out” your planer and mentioned you paid $20 for it, I have to assume you mean a hand plane. I can’t think of a new hand plane that could be bought for $20 except maybe a block plane. A block plane is way too small to help your problem. Also, since you didn’t mention it, I’ll assume you did not spend an hour sharpening the iron (blade) and flattening the sole and inexpensive planes are about useless out of the box untill they are sharpened and tuned properly. There are books on this subject and way more info than I can include here.

Seriously, you would probably be more succesful with the sandpaper wrapped 2×4. Start with 80 grit, then go to 120, 220, etc up to about 400. Mark all over the panel with a soft lead pencil. Sand each grit till all the marks are gone; then move up to the next finer grit and repeat.

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3075 days

#9 posted 08-12-2011 05:51 PM

Are you also marking the entire surface with pencil lines? Basically take the pencil and start in the upper left corner, then make one continuous line that runs back and forth, like an “S” shape. That’ll also help you gauge your depth. You’ll have to do this quite a few times, but it will help you remove your flat spots.

I’d also second what others have said about going with the grain, and to keep the sander moving steadily and evenly, without really applying pressure.

It’ll also help to keep your sandpaper clean by using a rubber stick every now and then. It’ll make the sandpaper more effective, as well as prolong the life of the paper.

Also make sure to have a nice long straightedge that you’re constantly using to check on your progress. Use good backlighting and you’ll be able to see where you’re off, as the light will shine through where the low spots are. Then draw more pencil marks and focus on knocking down the high spots. Once you get close, it also helps to draw little “stop marks” on your one long line so you have an idea of where to turn back with the belt sander so that you are not knocking down the low spots any farther.

Do you have any good pictures of the work in question? That may help us provide even more specific advice about problem areas.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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204 posts in 3019 days

#10 posted 08-12-2011 08:06 PM

thanks for all the replies! So i guess i will flatten my panel with a long 2×4 and will brush up on my planing and belt sanding skills. I had no idea that you have to sharpen the blade out of the box. You would think they would be razor sharp? Does anone know if there are universal belt sanding stands like the mentioned aboveAnyway thanks again everyone

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