It’s just about unanimous – woodworkers would prefer not to sand. That’s because it’s a dirty, temperamental task that can ruin parts and entire projects in a heartbeat. It creates more waste than any other aspect of working wood and keeping ahead of the dust is both expensive and noisy. The airborne fines are toxic because of their microscopic size, and they’re often contaminated with man-made additives such as adhesives, resins, plastic and fillers.
But the trade-off is dramatic. There are few things as satisfying as applying a stain or clearcoat to a well-sanded project, and then watching the grain and color jump off the surface.
Woodworkers don’t just sand flat boards, so a variety of machines reflects the diversity of needs. There are wide belt sanders for panels, brush sanders for textures and moldings, profile sanders, edge sanders and buffers. Then there’s equipment for CNCs, aggregates and robots. If the surface isn’t right, the whole project looks wrong. So, it’s important to match the machine to the task.
Wide belt models
Biesse (biesse.com) offers eight wide belt sanders plus brush sanders and calibrating machines for wood. There are three models in the entry-level Viet S line. These are compact, high performance machines that can handle the workload in smaller shops. The S211 is the smallest, and it has disc brakes with floating calipers, just like a motorcycle. It can be set up with pads or rollers and, depending on the hardness of the rubber used and the roller’s cross-section, it can be used to calibrate, sand or finish. The middle range machines are the Opera 5, Opera 7 and Opera R, while the Valeria is a calibration-sanding center designed for large-scale industry applications.
The range of wide belt sanders from SCM Group (scmgroup.com) starts out with the small shop DMC SD 10, which has a 37.4” working width, automatic table positioning, and a diamond-shaped belt pattern to prevent slipping. At the top of the range is the DMC System BT line that offers top and bottom calibrating, a vacuum hold-down and an air blade for panel cleaning. Eight other models fill out the catalog to meet the needs of any sized woodshop, and the company also offers the Minimax LS stroke sander with more than 8’ of worktable length.
Felder USA (felder-group.com) has three edge sanders, the FS 900 KF with a veneering device the FS 900 K (both with 5-7/8” capacity) and the Hammer HS 950 that has a belt oscillation feature than can be turned on or off. The company also offers three wide belt sander series. Its FW machines come in 37” and 43” wide models with continually adjustable speed and a selection of sanding modules. And Felder’s Structura 60.02 brushing machine handles stock up to 25-5/8” wide and 7-7/8” tall, with either a steel or Tynex brush aggregate.
Stiles Machinery (stilesmachinery.com) in Grand Rapids, Mich. carries a massive range of sanding machines including wide belt, brush and profile models, plus edge sanders and buffers. The catalog includes Heeseman, Ironwood, Homag and Steinemann wide belt units in every size and configuration. There are Makor profilers and edge sanders, Gottschild sanding, polishing and buffing machines, and Unique shape and sand units. Stiles also carries planer sanders from Ironwood.
Timesavers (timesaversinc.com), is based in a suburb of Minneapolis and offers orbital sanders, segmented polishers, planer sanders and self-centering planers in addition to wide belt models. Among the latter are the entry-level Speedsander that uses a combination of drum and platen head action, and the 53 Series that is made for large-scale sanding and calibrating plus heavy stock removal, panel sanding, and veneer and lacquer sanding during 24/7 operations. Then there’s the highly customizable 33 Series that’s built like a tank and is packed with features, and the 23 Series that includes wide belt, planer, orbital and veneer capabilities, and the 13 Series that can be set up with up to three heads.
The catalog at Global Sales Group in Chico, Calif. (globalsalesgroupllc.com/machinery) includes both new and used belt, disc, curve, double drum, edge, finish, orbital and wide belt sanding machines from manufacturers such as Dotul and Castaly. The latter (online at lobomachine.com) supplies many models including some planer/sanders where the machine has a planer head with carbide inserts that work in combination with either one or two sanding belts. Castaly/Lobo offers a full catalog of innovative, and sometimes very specific machines that shape, sand, profile, texture and follow curves and other shapes.
Martin Woodworking Machines (martin-usa.com) carries five Weber models. The LCS has a segmented platen, single or double belts, and does calibrating or finish sanding, or both in combination. The KSN models are either compact or wide, and they include a cross-sanding option. And the large KSL industrial model has reinforced construction, contactless work-piece detection and high-speed electronics.
Northtech Machine (northtechmachine.com) offers edge, planer, profile and wide belt sanders, including the NT 10-1100PRP that has a working width of 43”. It has an insert planer head and two sanding heads including a spiral fluted contact drum and a 3-1/4” pad. Feed speed is from 15 to 60 feet per minute and the table lift is 4-3/4”, by PLC touchscreen. It draws up to 136 Amps of 3-phase, 460-volt power.
JLK Machinery in Brighton, Mich. (jklmachinery.com) carries wide belt sanders from Casadei-Busellato and SCM Group. The lines include single-head sanders that are ideal for custom and small shop work to three-head sander/planers that are designed for heavy-duty workloads. The Casadei machines include the Libra 30, 40, 50 and 60 wide belt machines. The Libra 30, with a roller and roller/pad combination, is primarily used for calibrating and sanding solid wood and pre-sanding and sanding veneered panels while the 60 is designed for medium to high volume production. Its long belt length allows efficient cooling that extends the life of the abrasive and increases the quality of the finish.
Laguna Tools (lagunatools.com) also makes five different wide belt machines and they range from the very affordable Wood Compact 25” single drum 7-1/2- hp model through 37” and 43” units to the Wood Pro 51”. That machine has a double drum setup (as does the 43”) and a beefy 30-hp main motor.
Laguna also offers a full range of smaller sanders through its SuperMax and Laguna lines. Those range from 16/32” open-ended drum models to a 19/38” brush/drum sander that’s equipped with a 180-grit flap sanding head and variable speed. Other sanding machines from Laguna include three profile units and two brush sanders (single and double brushes).
Maksiwa (maksiwa.com) in Pompano Beach, Fla. makes two small sanding machines, a combination 9” disc and 6” x 48” belt sander floor model, and a benchtop disc sander with a 12” disc, tilting table and electronic brake.
Mirka (mirka.com) offers a number of robotic sanders including the Airos, which works with both collaborative and industrial robots. The company’s solutions include sanding heads, controller unit and abrasives.
Opti-Sand (opti-sand.com) in Geneva, Ill., has machines designed to sand molding, trim, flooring, paneling, siding and other linear parts. They are modular so a shop can start with one configuration and add top, bottom or side spindle modules in the future as needs change. Opti-Sand’s rotary machines can be used to sand cabinet doors, drawer fronts, face frames, entry doors, shutters and other three-dimensional parts. They come standard with a vacuum conveyor belt and are also available with edge sanders.
For small shops, there are a family of nine disc, belt or combination sanders and an oscillating spindle sander in the Rikon Power Tools (rikontools.com) catalog. The discs run the gamut from 5” to 12”, and the belts are 1”, 4” or 6” wide. The abrasive sleeves on the spindle sander are 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”, 1-1/2” and 2” in diameter.
SandMan Products (sandmanproducts.com) sanding machines aren’t abrasive. Rather, they provide a safer, more controlled method of sanding. Eight models range from a 48” x 26” work area to a full 96” x 48”. This largest model, the Sand Pro DL9648, doubles as a workbench and includes electric receptacles, shelves, drawers and even a magnetic tool holder. It’s available in single or three phase versions.
Voorwood (voorwood.com) is known for innovative solutions that include shape sanding machines that can be configured to accommodate multiple stations. For example, the A11 Table Shaper Sander shapes all components of cabinet doors, parts of drawers, and other wooden components and simultaneously sands the desired profiles, sizes the substrate to the desired finished dimensions, squares the substrate as all four sides are being processed, and processes straight edges as well as contoured shapes using a template system.
Hardwood floor installers face a whole slew of challenges not addressed by stationary machines. To bring the machine to the wood, companies such as American Sanders (americansanders.com) in Sparta, N.C. offer belt, drum, rotary and orbital portable sanding machines and edgers.
The ShopFox (woodstockint.com) catalog includes a wide range of smaller machines from benchtop disc/belt combinations to oscillating spindles, open and closed end drum sanders, oscillating edge sanders and half a dozen wide belt sanders designed specifically for small professional shops. They run from a 20”-wide single belt unit to a 43”-wide double head that calibrates and finishes simultaneously.
Cantek America (cantekamerica.com) in Blaine, Wash. carries four edge sander models, ten wide belt machines and a molding sander, the LBS300-5S, that is a three-sided lineal brush sander that was designed for everyday linear profile needs. It can be used for white wood sanding and sealer sanding of linear parts such as moldings, flooring, furniture components, window parts and the like. The machine works well as a standalone unit, or as part of the finishing line.
The Chatternator (profilesander.com) is a patented machine that allows woodshops to mold and sand in one operation. Designed by woodworker Bill Grom, it removes the chatter marks left behind by cutting knives. It’s a small volume, 110-volt, variable speed brush sander that runs trim at about nine feet per minute.
The Danish company Alpha Brush (alpha-brush.com) has created a line of innovative and very flexible machines for brush sanding wood profiles. There are models that accommodate most production line volumes, including large heavy-duty machines and short-run, one-man models for hands-on work.
Ritter Machinery (rittermachinery.com) in Holland, Mich. has developed five edge sanders including the very tall CR25814 with a 14” wide oscillating belt.
Sand-Rite (sand-rite.com) in Bangor, Mich. offers the Duo-DLX all-purpose finishing sander that is set up with a pneumatic drum and a brush head. The company also supplies abrasives and can make any size belt, sleeve or roll in aluminum oxide, cloth back in both X and J weights and P-Grade.
South Bend Tools (southbendtools.com) recently introduced a 9” oscillating edge sander, model SB1117, with a 3-hp motor. The machine has 1/4″ oscillation action and an auxiliary contour sanding table that acts like a drum sander. The platen size is 9-1/2″ x 47-1/2″, and the surface is graphite coated. The main table is 11-3/4″ wide and 47-3/4″ long, which is ideal for working on the edges of cabinet doors. It tilts from zero to forty-five degrees and can be raised or lowered up to 8” to take advantage of lesser used portions of the belt.
South Bend also presents a 37” wide belt sander, model SB1096, with a 15-hp, 3-phase main motor and digital controls for the table elevation and conveyor speed. The operator can dial in exact settings from a minimum of 1/8″ thick work to large tables and slabs. The belt moves side to side automatically (it’s variable from 5/16” to 5/8”) to get the best sanding results, and also to prolong the belt life. There’s an Amp/load meter to monitor the machine’s performance, a built-in regulator/water separator, and an emergency stop panel and disc brake for safety. There are keypad controls for the table elevation, with a digital readout.
GDP GUHDO (guhdo.com) has developed a new CNC Sanding Unit named the CNC-Ag, which is designed for use on CNC routers and machining centers such as Weeke, Homag, SCM, Biesse, HolzHer and others. Made in Germany, this unit is ideal for sanding flat panels such as cabinet doors and furniture tops. It simply mounts to a standard tool holder (16mm shank), or, if the machine has an HSK interface then the shop can order it on a 16mm HSK heat shrink holder, which is the preferred clamping system for optimum performance. GDP will mount the sanding unit to the tool holder at no charge. The unit has a floating distance of 3.2 mm and a Velcro backed 150 mm (5.9”) diameter sanding plate. It’s equipped with three different springs for presetting pressure (resistance). GDP says that until now, the only viable option for sanding parts on a CNC machine was an investment in a floating head aggregate. With the new CNC Sanding Unit, it is within reach of many smaller shops. The company is based in Mariette, Ga.
Smaller professional woodshops have an opportunity to enter the world of robotics with a new sander from OnRobot (onrobot.com). The all-electric random orbital sander is an out-of-the-box tool that’s easy to use with all major collaborative and lightweight industrial robots. Included is a plug-and-play sanding tool, a variety of standard sanding and polishing pads, easy-to-use programming software, an optional force/torque sensor and a Grit Changer that changes grits without any operator intervention. The sander supports flat, curved and uneven part geometries, and adding a force/torque sensor lets it adapt to surface variations or part misalignment.
Triton’s new oscillating spindle/belt sander, the Tspst450, was introduced a few months ago and has just been added to the Woodworker.com catalog (Woodworker’s Supply). The benchtop machine has dual action rotating and oscillating movement, and the tabletop tilts as far as 45 degrees for chamfering and edge work. It takes sanding sleeves from 1/2″ to 2″ diameter that are 4-1/2″ tall and the belt is 4” × 24”.
Stanza Machinery in Charlotte, N.C has added the Galaxy Double Rotation sander to its catalog. Each of the sanding heads rotates on the Z axis as it spins on the X axis, so all of the parts are sanded equally from all angels and directions. Each of four sanding units rotates around its own axis while the main carousel is also turning. The Galaxy comes standard with a 7.5 kw vacuum table motor, which holds parts securely while they go through the machine. The rotation, carousel and conveyor speeds are all variable, and the machine is equipped with an easy-to-use PLC and vacuum suction belt.
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.