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Remember the days when all you had was a block of wood and a few used pieces of sandpaper?
You could sand something that way but you'll grow old before you finish.
These days there are machines and equipment we can use to speed up the process and give better results.
Here are some examples:
These are a versatile workhorse in every wood shop. Whenever you need to sand a flat surface, out comes the R.O.S.
In the 'Home Based Wood Shop' I own and love my Dewalt DWE6423K with a variable speed. It takes a beating and the results are superb.
It has a hook and loop 8 hole pad that lasts and dust collection is superb.
I didn't think the variable speed would get much use but you notice the difference on coarse grain work.
Go through the grits from coarse to fine and you'll wind up with a finish to be proud of.
Tip - The pencil technique
I like to use the pencil technique to avoid the peaks and troughs you can get if you spend a little too long in some areas.
Mark the whole piece with pencil between grits. Once the pencil is gone, move on.
Tip - Keep the sandpaper flat against the board no matter how tempting it may be to lift and take a shortcut.
Travel at about an inch per second and you'll get a better result in less time than if you're waving that thing around like a lightsaber...
A belt sander is a monster of a thing. It can strip away wood in the blink of an eye if you're not careful.
In my view, the dust bag is a waste of time because it'll fill up in about 3 seconds so, what's the point.
It'll spit sawdust everywhere no matter what but a good dust collection hook up will help.
Safety tip - Dust in the air will hurt your lungs for years to come. Please wear a face mask...
A belt sander comes into its own when you need a more aggressive solution than a Random Orbital Sander.
I use mine to remove glue and irregularities after a large panel glue up.
Given that a belt sander takes no prisoners, the pencil technique comes in handy here.
In fact it can turn you into a sanding hero in your own shop.
When you need to sand a workpiece you can hold in your hands, often a bench mounted sander is the only way to go.
My Ryobi combination belt/disc sander does it all.
Everything from small part sanding to taking the head off screws that are a little too long.
A palm sized piece of hardwood is smooth in seconds. Way faster than setting up a hand held sander.
Need to square up or remove a fraction from the end of a small component? The disc sander will do that for you all day long.
More accurate than a table saw and without losing a finger in the process.
Then there's an oscillating spindle sander like the Triton TSPS450.
It will remove saw marks from intricate work you'd have to sand by hand otherwise.
Tip - Both of these machines need powerful dust extraction. A good quality dedicated shop vac like the Craftsman 16 gallon 6.5 peak HP we have does a superb job.
A drum sander will flatten your workpiece and thickness it without tear out or snipe. Problems common with a thickness planer.
That right there makes them valuable in a wood shop.
The open type like the Supermax 19-38 will allow you to sand a piece twice as wide as the drum on the machine.
Run through the first side of the face then flip the piece around and sand the other side of the same face.
There's a micro adjust feature so you won't see a line.
Sand off glue squeeze out and flatten panel irregularities at the press of a button.
Requires a 4 inch dust collection system but it'll still pay for itself before the year is out.
If you need one for smaller work, you should take a look at the Jet mini 10 inch bench top belt sander.
Owning a tool this useful is an out and out luxury that'll take your wood craft to the next level and beyond.
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That's how we keep the lights on around here... Sometimes...