Belt sanders use a continuous belt of manmade abrasive material.

Belts run over a drive pulley at one end and an idler pulley at the other. Rear pulley usually provides power through a chain, cogged belt or gear drive, while front pulley is free riding.

A pistol-type handle enables the user to push and pull machine over work with little effort. Front has knob or handle for easy guiding in any direction.

Belts normally travel at 1,300 ft. per minute or less and are usually from 3″ to 4″ wide, in different grits ranging from fine to coarse.

Belt sanders are available with or without dust-collecting systems, which eliminate flying dust caused by fast sanding action.

Belt sanders are offered in nominal sizes of 2 1/2″- to 4″-wide belts; 3″ wide is the most common size for home use and intermittent jobs and is available in standard-duty or heavy-duty ball-bearing construction for professional use. Four-inch belt sanders are typically heavier and more powerful than the 3″ size.

Belt sanders are available with or without dust-collecting systems, which eliminate flying dust caused by fast sanding action.

Most belt sanders have an adjustment feature that keep the belt tracking properly. Some sanders offer a design feature that automatically maintains the belt in the center of the pulleys during operation to eliminate belts that wander off the pulleys and require regular readjustment.


A finishing (or straight-line) sander and an orbital sander are similar in appearance and operation and are often combined as one tool with a selector switch to activate each operation.

Both are used for finer finishing work than the belt sander. Sandpaper is attached to a rectangular pad on the bottom of the sander.

In an orbital sander the pad moves in a small circular direction; in the finishing sander it moves back and forth. Movement in any direction is usually less than 1/4″.

For general home use, the orbital sander will usually provide a satisfactory finish. The finishing sander is necessary where it is absolutely essential that the sandpaper move only along a given plane.

Orbiting sanders usually operate in the range of 4,000 to 10,000 orbits per minute. Finishing sanders run at about 4,000 opm. There are also high-speed models available that run at 12,000 opm. Generally, the higher the opm, the faster the stock is removed.

Orbital and finishing sanders do not work as well for heavy sanding. The restricted motion of the sanding surface does not require the skilled handling necessary with a belt sander, which can gouge or ripple a soft wood surface if not used properly.

The random orbit sander has stock removal approaching that of a belt sander with the quality of finish similar to that of a finishing sander. The round pad allows sanding of contours, but restricts sanding into corners. The two separate motions of the sanding pad mean that the customary “swirl” marks from orbital sanders are eliminated. Random-orbit sanders run from 5,000 to 10,000 rpm and have an orbit diameter of 3/16″.


Disc sanders are usually offered in two styles: the angle head, where the disc runs parallel to the motor, and the vertical style where the disc runs in a plane perpendicular to the motor. Disc sanders are most often used for metal sanding or grinding, but are capable of removing stock in plastics, wood or concrete when used with the proper accessory stone, disc or wheel.

Polishers are offered in the same styles as disc sanders, but polishers (most often used for automotive polishing) are lower rpm than sanders. A high-speed disc sander could easily burn the paint if used in a polishing operation.

There are non-adhesive sanding disc pads on the market. Some use a special textured surface to grip the sandpaper discs, while others use a metal coding device either built into the sanding disc or a separate nut and bolt system.

Many paints manufactured prior to 1978 may contain a high amount of lead pigment. The dust created by sanding lead paint or the fumes created by using a heat gun to remove lead paint can make the problem worse. Lead poisoning is a condition which can cause brain and nervous disorders, anemia, high blood pressure, kidney and reproductive problems, decreased red blood cells, slower reflexes and even death. Small children are especially susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning. Lead paint chips and lead paint dust can flake-off or wear away and stick to children and their clothes. Lead paint outside can flake-off into the dirt. Children can swallow lead if they play in contaminated dirt or chew on window sills and other painted areas. They can also swallow lead if they are in areas where lead dust has accumulated from remodeling or redecorating activity.
If you are contemplating home renovation or remodeling and your home was built before 1978 you should consider having your home tested for lead. Some local Health Departments offer a lead testing service. If this service is not available you should hire a qualified inspector.
If your home does contain lead based paint, you should not attempt the renovation or removing the lead based paint by yourself. Inadequate removal of lead based paints can make the problem worse. If possible, find a trained professional to do the paint removal. You can also contact the local Heath Department or the regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a list of recommended lead removal contractors.
Additional information is available from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and the Health Department The E.P.A. is working to establish a Federal Lead Hotline in the summer of 1992.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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