How to Use a Belt Sander

A belt sander is a useful power tool, which helps to smooth wood before the finishing process. Some of its uses are

  • · Sanding rough surfaces
  • · Shaping wood
  • · Stripping paint
  • · Making rounded corners

A belt sander is not your ordinary sander that you can manually handle with ease and carelessness. It requires special care on part of its use; otherwise, you may end up ruining days of your hard work in just a couple of minutes. However, using a belt sander is no rocket science; you don’t have to fret about it. If you just but follow a few instructions, you can surely handle it.

The best belt sander for working on horizontal surfaces is a large one because it will be easy to handle. However, if your wooden project is vertical, you will prefer a smaller sander as it will be lighter in weight and won’t fatigue you during work.

In this guide, I bring you a step-by-step process of how to use a belt sander.


· Belt Sander

· Goggles

· Workbench

· Wooden board


Firstly, you have to decide which sander you want to use on your project. You have to determine its size, frame, speed etc.

Generally, a large size sander is suitable for horizontal sanding and a small one comes in handy on vertical surfaces.

If you are buying a new sander, look for the one that supports a frame. A frame is a desirable feature, which prevents the sander from tipping.

The next feature to consider is the speed variation. If this is your first project with a belt sander, I suggest that you use a low speed on a fine paper. Once you are a pro, you can accelerate the sander to a higher speed. Thus, variable speed provides a good control.


Set up the wooden board in such a way that it does not run away or slip from the sander.

For this purpose use a stop in the vise or a no-slip router mat; both of these are available at woodworking stores. Do not lock the board on the table, as it is a lot difficult to work around the clamp.

Take a pencil and make a line on the face of the board as I have shown in the image below. In this way, you will be able to know how much surface you have sanded and whether it is uniform removal. When the previous line disappears, make a new one to continue the work.


For a smooth working, keep the sander cord out of the way. You do not want to keep one hand busy, moving the cord out of the way. It is better you drape it over your shoulder or keep it well out of the way of the spinning belt.

Lift the sander slightly above the board and switch it on. Slowly, ease down the machine, making a smooth stroke on the board. Continue working with the platen of the sander parallel to the board and without any turbulence. Don’t bend on the machine and exert pressure on it because its own weight is enough to do the work. Keep on moving the sander back and forth, following the direction of the wooden grain. Make strokes such that each pass overlaps the previous one.


You have to take care of how much platen length projects out of the edge when you reach the end of the working board. The allowable length of projection is 1/3 or less; otherwise, if you allow more length to go over the edge, the sander will make the edge rounded, ruining your project. So don’t let the weight of the machine rock and roll over the edge and keep more of the platen length on the board.


Keep the sander belt clean off the sawdust. It builds up in the sander and affects its operation. Apparently, the sandpaper appears sharp but it will not do any cutting. This is due to the accumulation of wood resin and sawdust.

You can avoid this issue altogether with the help of an abrasive cleaning stick. It is available in the specialty store from where you make your purchases. You have seen a rubber erasing pencil lines on a paper; this stick just works like an eraser for the sandpaper.

What you have to do is paste the stick to a board, which you have already clamped to a table. During working, when you see the sawdust gathering in the belt area, simply touch the sander to the stick and it will remove all traces of the sawdust, permitting you to work once again, smoothly and neatly.

The image below illustrates this process very clearly. In the first one, the sanding paper is almost white due to wood resin and once you pass it over the cleansing stick, it shakes off all its dust.

Continue using the sander in this manner, until you have your desired surface ready.


You can also use a belt sander by placing it on its side while it is running and bringing the work piece in contact with it. However, this process is suitable only when the work piece is very small like I have shown in the images below.

I hope you found this blog useful for your next project involving the use of belt sander. Don’t forget to share the useful information with everyone. Leave your comments and queries in the section below.

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