The belt sander is a powerful sander, it is typically used at the beginning of a sanding project. They are really good at removing stock quickly. If you on the other hand want a smooth surface, a belt sander is not the best tool.
The belt sander gets its name from the seamless loop of sandpaper that runs between two drums. An electric motor powers the belt, generally only the rear drum is powered by the motor. The front drum can be retracted so that the belt can be changed. Most belt sanders have the motor mounted parallel to the body, known as inline configuration, which gives a balanced sander with a low center of gravity.
The motor is powerful and generally a relatively coarse sanding belt is used. This makes the belt sander perfect for levelling stock and eliminating large flaws. Note that a portable belt sander can also be mounted on a workbench which frees up your hands.
By changing the orientation of your belt sander, you also change its efficiency. At 45 degrees angle to the grain, the belt sander removes stock quickly. By running it parallel to the grain, it becomes less aggressive and can be used to smooth the surface.
A belt sander can be either stationary or portable. Stationary belt sanders are typically larger than the portable models but the difference is often small. Portable sanders generally use belts that are 3 or 4 inches wide. Stationery belt sanders for hobby use are often combined with a disc sander.
The powerful action of belt sanders produces a lot of dust. Most belt sanders used for woodworking have some kind of dust collection.
When using a portable belt sander, always secure the workpiece by using clamps or stop blocks. Always operate the sander with both hands and don’t put the tool down before the motor stops running. Since belt sanders generate a lot of dust and noise, you should always wear dust mask and ear protection when operating a belt sander. Needless to say, eye protection is also highly recommended. Always unplug the power cord before changing the belt, don’t rely solely on the power switch.
Once the belt sander has done its job, a random orbit sander is used to produce a smooth surface. Here is more information about random orbit sanders
Belt sanders are also used for racing. Their design makes them suitable for power tool drag racing. The belt sander is fitted with a long extension cord and placed in a wooden channel.