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Souped-up sanders

Now marking their fifth consecutive year, belt-sander racing continues to be highly anticipated by woodworkers and gadget enthusiasts alike. Hosted by Accuride International and the Belt Sander Racing Association, competitors vie for awards by racing their customized belt sanders on a 75’ wooden track.

A big crowd turned out for the finals at the 2011 AWFS fair.

Jamie Goodwin, Accuride’s West Coast regional manager, says that the races started as a marketing effort to promote the company’s name at the 2007 AWFS fair in Las Vegas. Word spread quickly and contestants were clamoring for more races. The national championship is now a regular part of the biennial fair and other events are scheduled at the company’s distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada.

This year’s schedule has eight races.

“These events were a big hit last year and we expect some of our hard-core competitors to break out some pretty serious sanders they’ve souped up over the winter,” says Goodwin.

There are two racing categories: stock and modified. Competitors also vie for the best-dressed sander and a judge’s award.

Competitors ready their belt sanders at the starting line.

While some racers aggressively compete for the fastest times, others are just there to have fun. The winning sander in last year’s modified race, “Turbo Charger,” posted an impressive time of 2.61 seconds.

“In the modified race, participants will literally take a sander and pull it apart. The most common thing they do is switch the gear that runs off the motor with the gear in the shaft of the belt to increase speed. They also go in and remove fans, coolant motors and anything else necessary to make it lighter. Some even take out the standard motor and put in a higher rpm motor, like a router motor.”

This sander might have been slow, but it was a crowd pleaser.

Modifications to the mechanical or electrical components are not allowed in the stock divisions, but nonfunctional decorations are allowed and encouraged.

“The sillier that you can make your sander, the more attention you will get from the crowd, and that’s what the fun part is. Last year we had an entry with a small motorcycle mounted on the sander. This sander was the slowest model we’ve ever had go down the track, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not about the speed. It’s about having fun and doing something silly and dressing it up in your own style.”

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This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.

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