How to Use a Belt Sander

A belt sander is a powerful wood finishing machine. It can remove a large amount of wood from your work surface quickly, particularly when using coarse grit sandpaper. It is easy to ruin a floor surface or piece of furniture, so take care and use the belt sander with care.

A belt sanding machine consists of an abrasive coated, continuous paper belt, driven over two rollers by an electric motor to create non-stop sanding. The roller at the rear of the machine is the powered one, and the front roller is adjustable for tracking and tension. Most come with dust collector bags, although they all produce a large amount of dust when in use, so wearing a face mask and goggles is a must if you don’t want to end up with a lungful of sawdust.


To sand, hold the machine with both hands. There are handles at the rear and front of the machine.

Lift the sander so the belt is off the work surface, then switch the power on.

Slowly lower the sander onto the work piece. Do not hold it in place once it is contacting the work, rather, keep the machine moving along the grain direction.

Additional pressure is not required, your main job here is to guide the machine so that it removes an even amount of material all over the surface.

The sander should be moved in overlapping forward and backward strokes, working your way across the work piece, section by section.

Before switching the power off, lift the sander off the work surface.

To remove any cross grain scratching, re-sand along the grain with finer grade sandpaper.

Changing the Sandpaper Belt

After a certain amount of time, you will find the paper becoming clogged or cutting less. It is time to switch belts. Unplug the machine before changing the belt.

Loosen the belt paper by making the distance between the two rollers less. You can do this either by flipping the release lever, or standing the sander upright on the front roller and pressing on it. The roller should push back and lock into a retract position. The belt can now be removed.

Get your new sandpaper belt. Look on the inside face of the belt. You will see a feed direction arrow printed on it. Follow the arrow to align the belt in the sander and slip it over the two rollers. Then release the front roller retract to take up the slack. You may need to adjust the tracking knob to get the belt running exactly parallel to the roller. There should be no overrun of the roller by the paper on either side. Do this with the machine NOT running, spinning the rollers manually.


It is important to use all due safety precautions when operating a belt sander. The powerful motor can suck loose clothes and hair into in easily, so dress appropriately. As mentioned above, safety goggles and a face mask are a must. Watch out for nailheads in the work surface, they can cause the machine to jump out of your hands. Most modern belt sanders now have safety switches, but if the switch is locked in the on position, a loose belt sander can run wild on it own. This can cause serious injury, not to mention ruining the work. Use common sense please.