Although a good belt sander is a formidable machine that can be one of your best workhorses in an arsenal of tools, it needs proper maintenance to keep it operating safely. The Occupational and Health Safety Administration reports that most power tool injuries sustained by operators are due to faulty machines that were not properly maintained. Almost everyone is familiar with properly maintaining an automobile, but some novice and part-time do-it-yourself enthusiasts need to understand the importance of maintaining a tool like a belt sander. Here are some suggestions to help keep your belt sander in tip-top shape and running safely.
The simplest place to start with your periodic maintenance of a belt sander is to check the rollers (drums) on which the belt sits and runs to make sure they are aligned correctly. The rollers need to be aligned properly to keep the belt from slipping off. Adjust the “tracking” of the belt with a knob found on the side of the sander. Refer to your owner’s manual for the exact location. If the rollers tilt, the belt will either move toward the inside or slip off altogether. An improperly running belt can push the housing and can damage it as well as the belt.
Check the platen for wear and tear and cracks, scratches or dents whenever you change the belt. The platen is a piece of metal usually backed by a piece of cork that sits on the underneath side of the sander between the shoe and belt. Its function is to act as a shock absorber and to support the weight of the machine. The belt will rub over the platen. At some point it may need replacing because after time, the cork will start crumbling or the metal will thin. The more you use the belt sander, the more the constant friction will wear on the platen. Chipped or missing cork may cause unnecessary wear on your sanding belt.
It is a good idea to periodically vacuum your belt sander. A belt sander vacuum adapter is an attachment that can constantly remove sawdust from the machine as it operates. Sawdust, not cleaned from the tool properly, is the number one culprit that can cause a sander to malfunction. If your sander did not come with a vacuum adapter, check with the manufacturer to see if one is available for your model. If not, use a wet/dry shop vacuum periodically to keep your belt sander as dust free as possible. Use compressed air to get at those hard to reach places that the vacuum may not reach. Check out Do-It-Yourself for resources to find a good shop air compressor or have on hand ready-to-use cans of compressed air.
A worn out belt can present a very dangerous situation when operating your belt sander. Worn belts can jump and skip and possibly break at worn spots due to excessive stress. This can be quite dangerous for the operator and the machine as well. Refer to your owner’s manual for proper belt changing instructions.