Tool test: How the belt sanders were tested
In this video, Asa Christiana demonstrates the test he put 10 belt sanders through so you know which one will earn its spot in your shop.
First, to level the playing field, I removed the sanding belt included with each model and put on a fresh 80-grit belt from a single manufacturer. In the process, I checked the belt-changing lever and belt-tracking adjustment. I also checked the trigger lock, which is essential on a belt sander, allowing you to release the trigger and hold the two handles in the most comfortable position for best control. And I checked for variable speed, which isn’t essential but helps with fine shaping.
Most of the tests for each sander fit onto a single piece of oak plywood, roughly 24 in. square. To check each tool’s balance, control, and footprint on a large, flat panel, and its ability to remove a uniform layer of material, I marked off a section on the plywood and attempted to remove just the outer veneer layer. I timed this test to check the rate of stock removal.
To see how easy it is to control the sander on a narrow surface, like the edge of an entry door, I cut off a 2-in. strip of plywood and attempted to remove an even layer from that, too. I combined the strip and the large-surface tests into one rating for sanding flatness. Next, to see what it was like to hold the sander on its side and work up to a line, I set up a simple scribing and shaping test. I penciled a wavy line along one edge of the plywood, sanding in and out of the shallow curves, and added a compass-drawn radius at one end to try sanding a smooth round corner.
Each of these sanders comes with a dust bag, but if it was possible to attach my vacuum hose to the sander’s dust port with a standard round adapter, I did so. Without active suction, even the best leave piles of dust that make it hard to see pencil lines and gauge progress, and produce clouds of dust. Some have odd-shaped openings, and attaching the hose required duct tape (which doesn’t hold), so I stuck with the onboard bag for those.
-So which sanders earned a spot in your shop? Check out Asa’s article in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue here.