View Full Version : Small belt sander advise needed

01-17-2007, 04:22 PM
First of all thank you for the great forum community you have here and for excellent tutorials. I have ordered a custom knife from the local knifemaker about a month ago. I read a lot about knives, steels etc. before and after ordering and decided to try the knifemaking as a new hobby. So far I made just a couple of kitchen knives from 440C blades I purchased and I was very impressed with the results - they look and perform better than what I can buy for reasonable money. But shaping the dimondwood handles with files and sand paper was pretty difficult.
Now I am looking to buy my first belt sander. I am looking for something not expensive (under $150) and as small and portable as possible. I rent my place and do not have a garage, so the only way for me to work on my projects is to have some "portable" setup which I can assemble and use on the backyard and disassemble after usage. Now I have Black & Decker Workmate 225
I need a small belt sander that I can easily mount/unmount on that workbench.
I've seen Delta, Craftsman, Ryobi products which cost $99. They are all very similar and looks like made by the same manufacturer - just different labels. They all use the same belt size 4x36. I am thinking about bying Ryobi Sander from Home Depot.
Are there any other products in that price range I have overlooked (the smaller the size - the better)?
My other concern are belts. I have not seen to many belts available in size 4x36 and never seen them with the grade finer than 220. Are they so difficult to get or I am just looking in the wrong places?


01-17-2007, 05:03 PM
Hi Sergiy,
I started with an inexpensive 1x42" that can do a lot of work for you. Try to track down good belts intended for metal (whatever grinder/sander). I used it to do bulk metal removal, but then switched to files to true up uneveness and hand sanding to put on a finish. Never tried a 4x36", but I imagine it could help keeping things flatter than a narrower belt.
Take care, Craig

01-17-2007, 05:18 PM
I'd go with a 1x42 if you can find one, it should be a similer price but you'll have an easier time finding higher grit belts for it.

01-17-2007, 05:54 PM
I'd go with a 1x42 if you can find one, it should be a similer price but you'll have an easier time finding higher grit belts for it.
I've seen those for the same price at Lowes. But they are almost 2 times bigger and heavier. Weight and side are very important for me since I am going to carry it around before and after work. Is it a crazy idea to have this kind of "portable" setup? There is also 2x42 belt sander from Craftsman which sells for $129 at Sears, but I have not seen it yet. I am trying to find a small sander, but at the same time want to make sure that I will have no problem with finding belts for it.

01-17-2007, 06:12 PM
I just purchased and received the 2x42 craftsman. I love it but then I was using hand files. I also purchased it to modify it for 2x72 belts since it has the drive wheel and idler wheel in 2". All I need now is to get the contact wheel I want and the mods look easy. It was $129.00 from Sears and they don't have it in the stores so you have to pay shipping, but it's only $20.00 more then a 1x42.

01-17-2007, 07:06 PM

You've already found the big problem with the 4x36--belt options. Unless you want to order them, your grit sizes will be limited. I use one, primarily for wood. It does a good job for that, especially when using 36, 50, or 60 grit. Higher grits are possible, but by the time you get to that level of finish on dymondwood you are probably better off going to a hand rubbed finish, at which point you can get the 400 grits and up in 9x11 sheets from the automotive department at Wal-Mart. The belts on the 4x36, especially the finer grits, heat up the resin in the laminated woods pretty fast, and you end up burning the material rather than removing or polishing it. If you are really limited on size, you might want to look into getting a Dremel style tool or even a Foredom with handpiece and the rotary sanding sleeves. Delta has something similar for drill presses, and you might be able to adapt it for a hand drill. The grit sizes are also limited in the sleeves, but again, for handle slabs once you get to 220 or 320, you're probably better off finishing by hand, until you're ready to buff. There are buffing wheels available for the Dremel/Foredom if you don't have a bench grinder.

01-17-2007, 07:25 PM
Years ago when I first started making knives I found a used 1 x 42 and still have it in the shop. Used it alot untill I found out what a 2 x72 would do. I still use it alot for everything. The belts can be found on ebay for around $1 ea. Look for the seller BarbKat. Good product and price. Buy the best you can afford and save the money you make for future purchases.

01-17-2007, 08:07 PM
I'd order belts either way, and you'll be able to find plenty of inexpensive belts for a 4x36 if you order them. That being said, I'd go with a 1x42 or a 1x30 if I were you, because you're mostly doing handle work (at least that's what I gather from your post). I think handle work will be easier on a 1" belt sander than a 4" anyways.

If the 1x42's are too big, look at a cheapo 1x30 like these:

Grizzly also sells some for a bit more:

and enco sells these ones:

I don't believe there is a significant difference in the tools, so I would go cheap. That being said, I have personal experience with a little delta 1x30 that is no longer made. It looks so similar to the enco without the disc that I would wonder if it's not made by the same people. It's a very good tool and a reasonable bit smaller than my 4x36.

Not to mention all of these fall well within your price range, even after shipping.

01-17-2007, 08:33 PM is where I used to get my belts when I used a 4x36. I had a lot of personal issues with mine and finally decided to get the Grizzly 2x72 what a differance but not really portable at all. Check out they have a 1x42 Kalamazoo that is just a little over what you wanted to spend but it is very compact.

01-18-2007, 01:19 AM
Thank you, guys. Your responses are very helpful.
I think I will go with 1" belt sander, now just choosing between 1x42 and 1x30 models. The 1x30 models Harbor Freight carries look really nice with 1/3 HP motors which seems plenty for the size they are.
How useful is it to have a belt/disc combination vs. just a belt sander? I read that discs were cheaper than belts so it is nice to have a disc, but belts are not that expensive if you order them online in bulk. How often do you use discs if you have belt/disc combination model?
I think that disc could be useful for flattening the surfaces especially with the belt which is just 1" wide, am I right about it?
Another question: is there any difference among 1" belt sanders as to belt changing convenience? It looks like you have to unmount some parts in all of them to change a belt or disc.


01-18-2007, 05:47 AM
Disks are useful for getting flat surfaces. The disks are even cheaper when you buy the 9x11 sheets and cut them yourself.

The combos are useful if you are tight on space. But, you'll find if you work with one enough that if you are using the belt, the disk will be in the way, and vice versa.

If you are ever thinking about making your own knives from bar stock and not from kits, go with the 1x42.

01-18-2007, 07:33 AM
Depending on what you are cutting, I would say that discs can easily get more expensive, because it seems like you can get a whole lot of wear out a belt compared to a sheet.

I took my disc off my 4x36 for pretty much the reason armory414 mentioned, I didn't use it and it was in the way. Thing is, I lost it and then wanted it later. You can always take it off and mount it directly to a cheap motor that you get your hands on later.

If you don't have a use for the disc now, I'd just buy it without one to save space and money. You can buy a "replacement" disc later on down the road if you decide you want to mount it to a seperate motor like I mentioed above.

As mentioned already, 1x30 is not going to be anywhere near ideal for grinding knife blades, neither is a 1x42, but it's going to be at least a bit better.

01-18-2007, 09:59 AM
This is somthing I was looking at in my recent Northern catalog
or you could make your own
This site has a lot of neat old time make it yourself articles.

John T Wylie Jr
01-19-2007, 12:36 AM
I started with a 4 x 36 and a 1 x42 , got a lot of belt from barbkat on Ebay , cant remember if I got them from here , but I got 4 x 36 in up to 600 grit , now that I have a Bader , the 4 x36 is used for edges on my sheaths. The disk was pulled and put on a seperate motor.

01-22-2007, 07:52 AM
I have a Delta SA-180 1 x 42 w 8" disc that was purchased from Amazon for about $80. I find that I am using the disc more and more. It is good for tapering the "flats" of the handle toward the guard and also useful for shaping the convex curves fitting the handle to a full tang. I've also used the disc to shape bolsters.

01-22-2007, 11:02 PM
The only thing i like my 4x36 belt sander is to flaten out slabs or level a fresh billet. Have you considered a 1x30? I still use mine today for small jobs. If you continue making blades you will probably be looking at a way to manuver a 2x72 or have you considered neo tribal blades? lot less power tools.

01-30-2007, 08:11 PM
Thank you again for all the advises. I went as cheap as possible for my first belt sander. I got 1x30 Central Machinery unit for $29 on sale in the local Harbor Freight. They also had 1x30 belts in 80 and 120 grit for $1.99 for pack of 5. The sander is really compact and easy to carry around. Yesterday I received a couple of blades and some handle materials by mail and going to try the new sander this week. I do not plan to grind my own blades in the nearest future so it should be fine for the beginning.