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Old 03-13-2012, 01:50 AM   #1
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Default HF 1x30 Belt Sander

It seems that Harbor Freight has this sander on sale most of the time and that the price is so cheap that maybe it is worth checking out. Several other vendors also have one of these as well.||UserSearch1%3DBelt+Sander&eapr odid=255345%2D87%2D115%2D643

I have a Delta 4x36 Belt / 6-in. Disc Sander combination, but sometimes I think it is too big for some of the small parts I want to sand, in wood, metal, and plastic. In addition, the disc sander uses stick-on discs and it's quite a hassle to change them.

Maybe a bigger, faster, more rugged sander is really what I want, but at a price of $40 - $50 US I decided It was worth a gamble: Perhaps the parts could be used for something if this didn't pan out.

A quick online tour round some vendors proved that 1x30 belts are available in several grits and types that I might want to use, even though there are probably more 1 x 42 machines and belts in use.

This also gives me a chance to post some pictures of the machine for the forum, for other customers (victims?) like me.

Off to HF to spend money: It wasn't on sale that day, but $45.00 was still OK. I also got a couple each of the two grits of belt that they sell.

Once I got home, I opened the box to the usual broken-styrofoam packing and got the sander out to start taking pictures. The shop was too messy and I didn't feel like doing studio work, so the photos have been heavily modified so as to focus on the sander.

First Surprise: The sander is green, green suspiciously like someone else's green!!!

The belt rollers are heavily crowned and made of plastic. The top roller is on a shaft that is secured to the casting with a socket-head setscrew: Mine was extended way out so that only the end of the shaft was secured by the screw.

The two smaller rollers have metal inserts. The large motor drive roller does not have a metal insert, but is secured by a setsrew at an awkward angle: MIne was on the verge of stripping: I'll deal with that later. The rear roller has an insert and is secured to the adjustment shaft with an outside circlip. The adjuster is on the motor side of the sander: Mine was "out of adjustment range"

The toolrest is a rough alloy casting with deep slots on top and a large slot for mounting one of those spring-tensioned adjustable knobs. The lever on the knob that I received would not pull out far enough off the rest of the nut for setting it to a convenient angle without having to remove the screw and spring. Something else to deal with....

There is a hole at the top of the stage casting for another setscrew that is for setting a level stop position for the table: I did find the setsrew loose among the shredded styrofoam in the box later.

I set the sander up and ran it briefly. It seemed to have adequate power, but right away I found that the platen behind the belt is too weak and flexible to be useful. I expected this and I had been considering several alternatives. Following CFellows sander modification using a ceramic material, I thought about using that: I read his link to the vendor of this material and was duly awed and scared by the safety notices. Since I have lots of Murphy's-Law days I decided I did not want to do that. I look at this project as a learning and experimenting exercise, so maybe doing another, bigger sander later will be the time to look at that.

I really like using aluminum and I happened to have a piece of 1 x 3 6061 bar. I considered ordering some steel or cast iron and maybe even trying to do some hardening, but ended up deciding that would be too much to spend and too much to deal with for an experiment that might not lead anywhere. In the end I decided to make a heavy block from the 6061 and mill away part of it to fit the original platen.

The original platen was "massaged" to fit carefully and a countersunk hole was added to secure it to the aluminum block. After doing this with a 6-32 screw, I remembered that I should try to use more metric on a project that is already metric, just to avoid confusion. Three 4mm holes drilled and tapped for socket-heads.

At this stage I started wresting with the locating and securing of the new platen and ended up deciding that I would have to try to deal with the belt-tracking issue. This project is an experiment, so I was happy to proceed without going back to HF.

Here's what I found:

I have had lots of practice bending and straightening things, so I approached the problem by clamping the casting to a piece railroad iron (doesn't everybody have one of these?) and used one of my autobody pick hammers where the "arm" meets the "base"

It worked. But is the casting metal so bad that it'll come back? Time will tell.

Back to the Platen: Finally settled on a location and drilled the holes: Started rough holes and filed to fit and adjusted as I went.

Some tests without a stage confirmed better support and rigidity. I think I'll hack away part of the existing toolrest (stage) to fit around the new platen block and get some different types of belts on order so I can report back.

I'm thinking about a new toolholder similar to these models. I see this sander as mainly for sanding parts, not sharpening tools: I am pondering some type of a positive-stop system to the new stage for adjustable, but repeatable, results. I could also just end up with some type of calibrated setting with a strong lock knob. I'll report back when I get more done.

By the way, My life has been getting in the way of shop time lately. I have only had a little time to read and occasionally post here. Now that some things have changed I hope to actually get out in the shop and make more things.

Thanks for watching.


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Old 03-13-2012, 03:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander

Nice write up. Thanks for sharing.


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Old 03-13-2012, 03:46 PM   #3
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander

I have a delta one of these that I picked up at a garage sale for $10. I love mine. I use it for tool bits. The main difference with mine is that it has a slot in the table and miter slide so that you can keep the angle straight. I do like the mod that you did with the backing plate and may copy it. The table though could have problems. Where you have put the hinge, will cause a large gap as you tilt the table down. You would need two arms on the side so that you could push it forward when it tilts. Think something like this
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Old 03-13-2012, 05:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander

Dumb, but here goes... Does anyone have a mini-belt sander? Like 1/4" x 15"? Could use those tiny sanding belts that fit on the plastic sanding strips.
I'd like to sand tiny parts off the mill.
How about plans to build one?
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Old 03-13-2012, 06:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander


I use these air belt sanders as shown on here, they are great for those jobs that are a bit too big to file, and too small to use on my big belt sander.

If you don't try it, you will never know if you can do it!!
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Old 03-14-2012, 02:09 AM   #6
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander

Thanks to Sander Post 3-13-2012

Thanks cfellows, techonehundred, Mosey, and Bogstandard.


I had forgotten about the Grizzly tool rest. Thank you for calling it to my attention. I did think of the gap in the design I am contemplating and the table would slide to and from the belt as well as the table tilt. The intent was to actually mount it to the sander. I'm still thinking. The 3D model is not a plan for construction in any way, just a way for me to present my train of thought at the present time. Thanks again for your input.

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Old 03-22-2012, 08:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: HF 1x30 Belt Sander

HF 1 x 30 Belt Sander Update

Now that I've had a few more days on this project, It's time for an update. I cut off the corner of the stage as I was planning. Since I want to use this sander for finishing small parts I found the grooves in the existing table a hindrance to locating work and decided to cover the table with sheet aluminum to use it as I work on an alternate table. The aluminum was an unknown piece from an electronics minibox, so was soft, but OK for testing purposes.

I put the stage back in place with original hardware and set it square to the belt. I had trouble locking the table in place when the original plastic lever broke off with only minimal torque.

Yet another reason to make a better table! For now, tighten it in place with pliers.

I had a head cut off a cheap 1 inch bolt in my junk box that I decided would make a useful bench block and decided to use that as a test for the sander on steel. I milled the top and bottom of the bolthead and laid out a groove and some holes and milled and drilled them in the piece. I did this quickly, so I'm a bit embarrassed with the precision, but "This is only a test..."

Over to the sander and quickly work the faces with an 80-grit belt.

A little file work and then the 120 Grit belt.

240 Grit

320 Grit

There are "Deburring" belts available similar to the scrubbing pads sold by 3M and others, so I installed one of these in the "VF" grade and tried this. I had to relieve some more of the housing casting here and there in order to fit this belt so that the wheels would not bind.

This stuff was fun to use and I stop here, even though I could follow this with the buffer and buffing compound.

For further testing, I made up a puzzle block with brass and aluminum. Once again, speed over precision and I'm sorry about that.

Right out of the mill:

Out-of focus shot of block top showing toolmarks.

Over to the sander to work with the 240-grit belt:

Following up with 400 grit on glass plate and then the buffer created a very nice finish., which I won't show because I managed to drop it on the concrete floor and ding it up. I decided to stop and write this post before more mishaps: Did you ever have one of those days?

Conclusions: I may continue with the design of a better table or use the Grizzly one. If I do design one, I will post the design and execution and maybe some more tests. the stability of the whole rig is much, much better than out-of-the-box, but can be improved further. This is one of those projects that costs more (especially in time spent,) than buying a better machine to begin with, but is a good break from more precise work. I really think I can make use of this frequently, probably with 240-grit belt installed all the time. It is easier to use on small pieces than the Delta 4x36 belt / 6-in. disc. sander that i usually set up with 50-Grit belt and 80-grit disc for both wood and metal use. This 1x30 sander also cuts less quickly than the Delta (even with fine discs on the Delta,) which is useful on those small pieces. It also moves around easily as my projects change. I will say it was worth it to do this, but as a project: If I needed a sander like this right away I should have probably bought the Jet 1x42 or one of the better 2x48 machines for sale. Perhaps building from scratch even, though costs of parts seem to add up quickly.


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