There’s no catch-all solution for sanding because the applications are so varied. For small shops and serious hobbyists, a drum sander may be a good core machine because of its relatively low cost. They’re an excellent solution for short runs of stiles, rails and panels. But woodshops that need to work large numbers of assembled five-part or MDF doors will need a wide-belt sander for faces, and a stroke sander for edges. Shops building furniture without straight lines have other challenges when it comes to sanding. Fortunately, there’s always something new.
The new ‘Findustry’ Format 4 models from Felder Group USA have a couple of interesting innovations. Automatic thickness measuring means the workpiece is measured directly on the machine and the dimensions are wirelessly fed to the controls. A touchscreen can then be used to adjust height to an accuracy of 1/10th of a millimeter. And because the head moves up and down and the infeed table is at a fixed height (35-1/2”), the machine can be integrated into a processing line with conveyors fore and aft. Felder also presents an interesting edge sander, the FS 900 KF, which has a built-in platen for sanding veneer edge banding.
Stiles Machinery in Grand Rapids, Mich. offers seven wide-belt models from the German manufacturer Heesemann, five from Ironwood, and 13 Homag units. Among them is the Heesemann FBA 8, specifically designed for veneer and thin sheet sanding. It’s a very precise machine with remarkable thickness tolerance and very accurate height adjustment, so it’s popular with luthiers, plus shops that do lots of inlays and other fine work. It has built-in thickness monitoring that’s linked to an automatic head adjustment, so it compensates for belt wear.
Timesavers in Maple Grove, Minn. makes 17 wide-belt machines for in-line sanding, calibrating, orbital sanding, veneer and lacquer, brush and panel sanding, plus heavy stock removal. The company offers the entry-level SpeedSander that uses a combination drum and platen head. Timesavers also makes a Moulding Sander model that’s an economical way to sand and de-nib cabinet and furniture parts. Its customizable head and flexible strip abrasion make it ideal for brush or veneer/lacquer sanding.
By the way, Woodshop Specialties in Rutland, Vt. sells reconditioned industrial woodworking machinery including wide-belt sanders. The team completely disassembles used machines, checks for wear and damage, and then repairs and reassembles them with new or remanufactured parts. The current catalog includes rebuilt Sandingmaster brand wide-belt sanders, which were once a division of Timesavers.
SCM North America in Duluth, Ga. offers 15 DMC wide-belt sanders with models sized for every level of production. The company also offers the Minimax Is, which is an inline stroke sander with a double gooseneck that is designed to sand edges and faces. The controls are easy to use and well located, and it operates at high belt speeds to avoid clogging.
Safety Speed Mfg. is also located in Minnesota and the panel saw manufacturer makes a 37” and 43” wide-belt sander. Both are available in single or 3-phase, and the smaller unit can be set up with either a 10- or 15-hp motor. The 43” comes with 10-, 20- or 30-hp options.
With an Italian parent company, Biesse America is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. and offers a cohesive range of equipment (sanders, CNCs, panel saws, edgebanders, etc.) that can be integrated with Sophia software that sends alerts in real time to help woodshops be more efficient. The entire Biesse worldwide service network is interconnected, and can access the Sophia web portal for quick, incisive reactions and resolutions. The S series wide-belt machines are high performance calibrating and sanding solutions for small- to medium-sized shops. Among the medium to large finishing centers is the new Viet brand Opera 5, which is available with two to four working units and is equipped with cross units, pad units, superfinishing pad units and/or sanding brushes in any positioning order.
Another Italian manufacturer, Casadei-Busellato, offers half a dozen Libra model wide-belt sanders through JKL Machinery in Brighton, Mich. Models are available with working widths from 27” to 53”.
Located in the Czech Republic, Houfek’s catalog is imported by Akhurst Machinery in Mississauga, Ontario. The line includes 21 wide-belt sanders, the largest of which (the Buldog 9 1650) handles stock up to 65”. Houfek also makes brushing machines and edge sanders.
Staying in Europe, HolzHer USA is a division of the German manufacturer Michael Weinig AG. It offers two series of wide-belt sanders, Premium and Brilliant. The latter includes machines with at least one sanding unit with Kundig patented oblique sanding technology. In order to avoid problems created by parallel sanding units, engineers came up with the idea of using pivoting sanding heads. This means that the sanding belt doesn’t rotate parallel to the feed direction. Defects on the belt are shifted slightly sideways with each rotation, so they don’t leave visible marks on the workpiece.
With more than twenty models to choose from and prices beginning under $5,000, Grizzly Industrial has become a major player in this market for small and medium sized woodshops. Even the narrowest model, a 15” open-ended unit (G0819) has a lot to offer with a 5-hp motor, a tiny footprint (about 5 sq. ft.), and an adjustable sliding support that helps guide parts up to 30” wide. There’s an Amp meter, a separate table feed motor and pneumatically-controlled belt oscillation. Other models range all the way up to 51” wide with dual heads.
Powermatic is a division of JPW Industries Inc. (which also includes JET Tools), and the catalog offers five wide-belt sanders. These include two 16” open-end models (they’ll handle a maximum 32” wide board), plus a 25”, a 37” and a 43” machine. Powermatic also makes combination disc and belt sanders plus stand-alone disc sanders, drum sanders and edge sanders. These are high-end hobbyist and small professional machines.
Martin Woodworking in Charlotte, N.C. carries five Weber machines and even the smallest one has a patented ISA segmented platen system. This segmented platen technology adjusts the sanding pressure of individual segments to the workpiece size via electronic control, so the machine can process tolerances down to 2mm.
Cantek America makes several larger sanders including the PR-NDA series of planer sanders. These large units (24” to 51” working widths) can be set up with spiral insert planing knives and/or a variety of wide belts. They are available in models with one to four heads.
Castaly Industry in La Puente, Calif. carries a very inclusive range of sanding equipment including the complete gamut of wide-belt machines from a 15” open-end unit through several industrial strength models to the 52” four-head WS-DDDA5275.
Castaly also offers several disc and belt units plus a selection of brush heads and pneumatic drums for sanding irregular shapes and profiles. Everything on the website (lobomachine.com) has a price listed, which makes it a lot easier to shop comparatively against other brands.
Baileigh Industrial in Manitowoc, Wisc. also offers wide-belt and other formats, and lists its prices. The catalog includes 25” and 37” units, plus three models of drum sanders, a 15” open-ended machine, four edge sanders (two oscillating), and both floor and benchtop spindle sanders.
Few manufacturers can accommodate the needs of smaller shops the way Laguna Tools can, now that it has added the SuperMax inventory to its range. Shops looking for small-job brush, drum, edge or spindle sanders will be spoiled for choice when it comes to raw wood sanding, breaking edges, blending defects, sanding sealer or primer, scuff sanding, cleaning up profiles and reclaimed wood, or wire brushing soft grain to create textured surface. And for larger jobs, Laguna also offers five wide-belt models ranging from 25” to 51”.
With roots reaching back 130 years, Oliver Machinery is one of the grand old names in this industry. The modern manufacturer offers a couple of very sturdy spindle sanders, three oscillating edge sanders and a basic tilting 6” x 89” with a 9D-degree swing (it can be used vertically or horizontally) that lists for $900. The largest Oliver model has a 9” x 138” oscillating belt, a couple of 4” dust ports and a 3-hp single-phase motor. The company also makes two 25” and two 37” wide-belt sanders, each of which comes in single or double heads.
Grizzly Industrial carries a baker’s dozen of edge sanders, the largest of which takes a 9” x 138-1/2” belt. There are two stroke sanders and even a specialty guitar fretboard radiusing sander. Stroke sanders let the operator concentrate pressure in different areas, rather than the even pressure of a wide-belt machine.
Opti-Sand, Inc. in Geneva, Ill. offers molding, rotary, panel and other sanders including a wire brush for texturing or distressing the surface of wood parts such as paneling, siding, flooring, frames and more. The texturing or distressing creates a 3D surface on the wood parts. Generally, the first spindle is set up with a wire brush and the second is an abrasive impregnated nylon brush, but both spindles can be equipped with the same type of brush.
JET Tools North America in LaVergne, Tenn. makes combination belt/disc sanders, plus drum, edge and spindle machines for small shops and hobbyists.
For woodworkers who are manually sanding with orbitals or portable belt sanders, SandMan Products in Osceola, Ind. makes eight different downdraft tables, a sanding booth and several inspection lights that show up minor cross-grain scratching and other blemishes.
Shop managers who want to see several manufacturer’s brands side-by-side, Global Sales Group in Chico, Calif. carries curve, round, double drum, edge, wide-belt and orbital sanders from a variety of suppliers, including used machinery.
Sanding options aren’t limited to stationary machines and portable tools. There’s also sandpaper. Among the choices here are Precision-Shaped Grain wide belts from 3M, which have an abrasive material called Cubitron II that is made up of closed coat ceramic particles on a cloth backer. It’s an aggressive solution that’s offered in 36, 60 and 80 grits and requires less pressure than silicon carbide, plus it resists heat-based deterioration and can be used wet or dry.
The Shopsmith combination machine has been around since the 1940s but today the brand is almost as well known for a line of sandpaper products manufactured by Ohio-based Ali Industries. Available through Lowe’s, Ace hardware and other big box stores, they are billed as professional-grade products being sold in the DIY market. The film back discs are made with super sharp and fast cutting aluminum oxide, with an anti-clog coating. The flexible film backing is tear resistant and won’t crack or peel, even when wet, and special edge wear protection helps the pad on the sander last longer.
Fintech Industrial Abrasives in Belding, Mich. presents helpful information about common wide belt sander issues and solutions at fintechabrasives.com. The company supplies a huge range of belt sizes and other abrasives.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.