Newbie Belt Sander Question: grain direction?


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Hey everyone I recently picked up a belt sander, I have been using a ROS for awhile now but needed something that would take off a little more at a time. My questions is which way to run the sander? Should it be at a 45 or should it be straight with the grain? I tried looking up info on the web but didn't have much luck so I figured I would come ask the pros.

Thanks for the help everyone.

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Yup, with the grain 99.999999 of the time. If you do say a 45 or 90 from the grain, even with moderate paper, it will scratch it up pretty bad. You'll regret it then, after hours of sanding with your ROS trying to get those deep scratches out. ;)

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My questions is which way to run the sander?

Depends on what you want to accomplish: Running the sander with the grain is slower but leaves a cleaner surface. Running the sander across the grain will rip material off rocket fast and leave a gawdawful mess. You can also relate this to the choice of grit: A 40 grit belt is ideal for maximum destruction in the shortest possible time, so it makes sense to work across the grain. But with a finer grit, this would be counterproductive. So your work flow might look something like this:

a.) Start with 40 grit running across the grain to get close to what you want.

b.) As you get close, start working the sander at 45 and finally with the grain, leaving 40 grit scratches running along the grain.

c.) Switch to higher grits and/or a more subtle tool such as an ROS to make things pretty.

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One other caveat to mention is that if you want something flattened with a belt sander, you need to lean into it. If you just let it ride rather lightly, the belt will undulate over the surface and abrade it unevenly. The best is to lean into it to sandwich the belt between the surface and the platen. Then you will get a flat surface. Of course you have to move quickly with that, too :) If yours is variable speed, turn it down a notch and/or go with a less aggressive belt since you want to gain the control while flattening.

Worse comes to worse, keep it for belt-sander races

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Belt sanders are highly aggressive and create a TON of dust. I'd opt for finding hand tools to get there. I can see using a die grinder to shape, but the size of most belt sanders don't give you much finesse.

Every time I think of belt sanders, I think of two things. the first is a scene out of "Captain Ron," when the belt sander is set down on the top of the boat, and someone plugs it in, so it races across the top of the boat to knock someone off the boat. (Incidentally, I never seem to see any dust coming off of the sander; it's flying too fast and bouncing too much to remove anything...)

The second thing i think of is the belt sander races.

So I agree with Vic. Belt sanders seem to me to be the "cannon to remove a square inch" concept, and I'd rather use a scalpel. I opted for a set of card scrapers over a belt sander, myself. (Now to figure out how to use them properly...)

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