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should I invest in a belt sander?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by anonymous278347457, Nov 15, 2006.

  1. anonymous278347457

    anonymous278347457 Guest

    Feb 12, 2005
    I was thinking of redoing my bass, since I kinda rushed the sanding/finishing process because it was my first built and I just wanted to play it. So, some of the sides on my bass are a bit rough. I have a power sander(a hand held flat one) and it sucks at taking out large amounts of wood

    Ive seen people use belt sanders to carve tops etc, It seems to fit the bill nicely, as I can take out all the nicks with the belt sander(had held aswell) and then make it nice and smooth again with sandpaper/powersander.

    is a belt sander actually more powerful than a sheet/powersander

    also, can you use a belt sander to do contours? or do you need a spokshave/router/angle grinder for that?
  2. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    For a hand held belt sander you don't actually need to invest all that much. I picked one up from my local PrincessAuto (farm supply / surplus store, you've got to have something similar around) for around $30 CDN. It's about the bottom of the barrel price (and quality) wise, but if you don't push down too hard it'll grumble along nicely.

    A belt sander WILL remove much more material than your standard random orbit jobber. I've used mine for all kinds of tasks from shaping a neck (worked like a champ) to rough carving small figurines (clamp the sander to a bench and use both hands to hold the part). Just remember that because they generally use fairly coarse belts you won't get a show finish with one. That's what the much less aggressive random orbit boys are for.

    My personal theory on contouring is that if it removes wood in a (semi) controlled manner, it'll work. I've done the angle grinder thing and loved it, but a belt sander (and a bit of creativity) will work just as well. Remember that you don't always have to use the flat underside to sand, the big round rollers can be useful, too.

  3. I also suggest having a decent hand-held belt sander, but a wide-belt floor model will be very pricey. Another possible option until you start making money at this(assuming that's your goal)is seeing if a local cabinet or other woodworking shop can run pieces such as body blanks, tops, etc. through their sander. I do this through a place I was employed at but any shop(the smaller ones will be hungry but may have less tools to choose from; larger ones will have great tools but might be too busy to 'waste time' w/a small job)should be willing to make a few extra bucks on the side. The place I use actually used to 'rent' the shop; for $20/hr I could use their stuff- mind you, having been previously employed there, it's a given that I know how to use the tools, & I'm not sure how commonplace this practice is.
  4. anonymous278347457

    anonymous278347457 Guest

    Feb 12, 2005
    the cheapest one ive seen, not going to ebay that is, is around £20
    there was a half price deal somewhere (£10)but it seems to be out of stock right now.

    when you say it wont get a show finish, does that mean it will really scratch/gouge the wood? Or will it just need some furthur polishing off with higher grit sandpaper?
  5. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Meaning it's not going to do your final sanding, but they're great for getting out planer skips and a little shaping.
    Totally depends on the belts you use, it's hard to find belts above 120 grit, so you'll end up doing hand sanding to get your smooth finish.
  6. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too

  7. tribal3140

    tribal3140 Inactive

    Nov 9, 2004
    near detroit...uh
    I have a porter cable 4x24 the biggest hand held, but its too heavy to be nimble with so I clamp it to the bench horizontially and use it like a horizontal belt.
    It works ok but I am going to get another
    horizontal belt sander and a spindle sander.
    I like the way the 100 grit belt takes away wood instead of scraping!
    get a horizontal belt sander
    either flat or 90degree (then you can buy one of those fancy jigs that grizzly sells for radiusing)!
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Here's my 2 cents to muddy the waters.

    I have never owned a belt sander. So it is not necessary by any means. I do own a random orbital and a spindle sander and anything I could do with a hand-held or small benchtop belt sander I manage to get done with those two tools. I find the ROS is better at flat surfaces and the spindle is better at body sides than a belt sander because you can get into the cutaways with the OSS.

    I would own a wide (48") belt sander if I had the space. Mainly because I would like to throw away my radiused sanding blocks and never talk to them again.

    All that said, a hand-held belt sander or a small benchtop belt sander has its uses. Guitar builders that I know tend to own the small benchtop disc/belt sander. The hand-held version is cheap. They can take wood away in a hurry -- more quickly than a random orbital or a spindle sander. Be careful, especially on flat surfaces, because they can become uneven very quickly.
  9. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    Do you talk with your sanding blocks??? :eyebrow:

    I talk with my dog, I won't get an answer back but at least she can move her tail!!! :p
  10. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    I would say yes.

    They are very useful tools that can cut down shaping time quite a bit, but one does need to be careful as the can chew off a larger amount of wood than one desires if you are not careful.

    They also seem to have an affinity for shirts and the tips of fingers.
  11. Holmann


    Dec 23, 2005
    Ashland, WI
    I find stationary belt sanders indespensible- I've got a 6x48 flat belts sander and a 6x80 edge sander. I also have a handheld model that I got at a garage sale- I've never been able to find a use for it. I much prefer having two hands on my workpiece- more control, IMO. As far as hand tools go, I like my orbital sanders plenty good, but the inflatable drum that chucks up in my drill is a godsend. inflate it soft & sands roundovers without changing their shape- inflate it hard & you can carve with it. Total time to sand a guitar from rough shaped to ready to finish- 20mins. used to be half a day. Sorry for the ramble, I guess the point was that the last sander I would buy is a handheld belt sander.
  12. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I build furniture (and teach college woodworking), and although I haven't used a hand-held belt sander in a few years, Porter Cable has just introduced a model that is small enough to be used one-handed; it is to other hand-held belt sanders, what a trim router is to a PC7518 - could be just the ticket for someone looking for a controllable hand-held belt sander.

    The powered sanders I use most often are a 48" finishing sander (for large items like tabletops), a Performax 22/44 drum sander, a 12" disk sander, an oscillating edge-belt sander, an oscillating spindle sander, a 5" random orbit sander, and occasionally an angle grinder fitted with coarse abrasive (mostly for coping crown molding).

    For shaping I use a bandsaw, and a combination of hand tools that include patternmaker's rasps, a two-sided Shinto rasp, drawknives, spokeshaves, carving tools, scrapers, travishers, compass planes, and scorps.

    Using these kinds of tools, I bandsawed and contoured a mahogany 5-string body a few years ago. It was a quick and pleasant experience. Contouring took about 4 hours; hand sanding took an hour or two more, and I was ready for finish after one day of labor.

    When I re-shaped the body of my P-bass, about 25 years ago, I did the entire job using abrasives. My P-bass turned out very well, but it was a punishing task that was slow, dusty, noisy, arduous, and not at all fun.

    The one wood shaping tool I find indispensible is a patternmaker's rasp: I can't imagine creating contours without them. If you are someone who appreciates the hard lines and fair curves of a hand-shaped bass, buy a Nicholson #49 or #50 (if you have deeper pockets try an Auriou, Grobet, or Gramercy Park), and you won't be sorry.
  13. It sounds like you are going to be using it for a very narrowly defined job and it would be perfectly suitable for doing that and doing it well. But the best answer to your question will come from deciding what other tasks it would be, not only suitable for, but actually used for. I emphasize that last part because I have a nice professional hand held 4 x 12 belt sander and simply don't use it at all in my bass building. Take on one hand the approach of buying ANY tool you currently don't have with the goal of expanding your collection (a great justification BTW!) and compare that to buying only the tools you need for building instruments. Making a distinction between these two will stretch your dollar the furthest.

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