Flatten the Platen

A cast-iron belt platen isn't necessarily better or flatter than one made of stamped steel.The least-expensive machines we tested have cast-iron platens; some of the more expensive machines employ stamped steel.We didn't notice significant differences between them during our test, but we did find an easy way to flatten platens made of both materials.

A perfectly flat platen isn't absolutely necessary, because the belt isn't intended for precision work. However, sanders ran more smoothly and quietly after their platens were flattened, reward enough for the 10 minutes we spent doing the job and the belt that we sacrificed.

First, joint the face of a 3- to 4-in.-wide board that's long enough to bridge the platen's entire length.

Disconnect the dust collection hose. Turn a clean used belt inside out and install it abrasive-side down.

Start the sander, position the flattening board on the platen and bear down lightly as you move it back and forth.

Don't bear down hard enough to stop the belt, or you'll score the rollers. Stop and check Flatten the platen with the results frequently. an ¡™de-out belt and a flat-bottomed board.


We found several combination sanders priced between $400 and $500 that are worthy of your hard-earned cash. These machines feature sanding performance similar to that of more expensive industrial sanders, but they're not as heavily built.

Our Best Buy award winners provide good value. Combination sanders that cost less than $300 are small, light-duty machines. These sanders usually include compromises that affect user-friendliness and performance. Some models are worth a look, if you're willing to compromise.


BW648BD, $430

In addition to being a top performer, this sander is a great value.


•The platen is heavy gauge steel (twice as thick as other stamped steel platens).

•The cast-iron belt tensioning mechanism is one of the best. •The well-made disc threads onto the I-in. drive shaft and doesn't visibly deflect.

• Both tables lock solidly.

• Dust collection is excellent.

• Belt and disc are both fully shrouded, including front covers for the disc.


• Access to the disc for abrasive changes is sub-par. •Adjusting both the belt table and the belt arm requires

• The miter gauge is only average. I I. • Heavy sanding pressure slows the I I|§ belt slightly.


Aluminum-alloy body castings lend an industrial-quality appearance.


• Cast-iron tables and belt platen are rock-solid. •The disc shows no visible deflection during use.

• Access to both belt and disc is easy.

• Adjusting the belt arm is easy.

•The backs of both belt and disc are fully shrouded.

• The miter gauge is above average.

• Dust collection is good. We made it better by replacing the small disc port with a larger shop-made one. Cons

•The operating mechanics of the belt-tensioning arm and belt-tracking knobs are hard to figure out, and the operator's manual is of little help. Once you understand the system, though, it works well. • Sanding on the top roller isn't recommended, because the roller is not supported on both ends. •The disc table is hard to lock, because the adjustment wheels are and located too close to the trunnions. • The belt table is easy to adjust, but it's a to remove.

Worth a Look



Central Machinery 40643,$290

The only sander priced under $300 with a 12-in. disc and two cast-iron tables Pros

•The trunnion-mounted tables lock solidly.

• Dust collection ports are barbaric, but surprisingly effective, once you make your own hose adaptor for the disc.

• A cam-operated quickrelease lever sets and releases belt tension.


•The disc deflects noticeably. •The belt slows easily.

• Belt tensioning and tracking adjustments require an Allen wrench.

• The miter gauge is a toy. •Table slots are milled too wide for a standard-size replacement. •There's no belt shroud.

Grizzly 1014Z,$220

The best of the rest. Pros

• It's equipped with a cast-iron disc.

•The platen/belt arm assembly is cast iron.

• It features adjustable belt tensioning with a quickrelease lever.

• Dust collection is very good.


•The post-mounted table doesn't lock solidly enough, especially on the belt, where the post mounts off to the side, instead of under the sanding action.

•The belt stop limits usable platen length.

•The belt isn't completely shrouded.

Consider These Alternatives

Industrial Belt-Disc Sanders

A $200 price jump from the most expensive sanders in our test gets you an entry-level industrial sander. The Delta 3 1-300 ($700) features a machined steel 12-in. disc, a cast-iron belt arm-platen assembly and huge cast-iron tables mounted on machined steel trunnions. Other features include full shrouding, easy belt and disc changes and adjustments, user-friendly knobs and handles and through-the-base dust collection with a single 4-in. port.

Stand-Alone Disc Sander

Benchtop 12-in. disc sanders feature trunnion-mounted cast-iron tables and dust collection ports. Prices start well under $200.

Edge Sander

An edge sander turns the belt on its side and features a long table that adjusts vertically, so you can use the belt's entire width. On more expensive machines, the belt oscillates.A second table around the end roller makes it easy to sand concave profiles. Prices start around $400.

Different Sander Combinations

The Grizzly G0529 ($395) features a 12-in. disc with an extra-deep cast-iron table mounted on stamped steel pivot arms.The spindle oscillates in a I-in. vertical stroke, accommodates up to 2-in.-dia. sanding drums and is surrounded by a generous cast-iron table. Power is supplied by a I-hp, 1,725 rpm, direct-drive motor.

Mitre Joints Negatives

This benchtop model is the most compact direct-drive sander in the test.


•This model is one of only two machines under $300 with separate tables for the disc and belt.

•The tables lock solidly, but they're relatively small. •The I-hp motor is gutsy. Cons

• Dust collection is good off the disc but could be better off the belt.

• The belt isn't completely shrouded.

Spindle Belt Disc Sander Craftsman

Craftsman Sanding Center


Palmgren Sanding Center


These unusual machines give you three sanding tools for the price of two. Mechanically, they are identical. Pros

•The oscillating spindle easily makes these sanders best-

in-the-test for shaping concave curves.

•Variable speed control allows you to match sanding speed with the job or your comfort level.

•The dedicated trunnion-mounted cast-iron tables are equipped with long lock levers.

•The l-l/2-hp motor has good power through normal speed range (though it loses torque above 2,400 rpm/ 1,900 fpm). Cons

•These are big, heavy machines; moving one is a two-person job. •The onboard dust collection doesn't work well enough on the belt. •The disc deflects slightly. •The belt wanders a bit. •The belt isn't completely shrouded.

j Brand

¡ Street Price

Motor Ratings

! Disc/Belt Speeds*

Direct Drive

j Drive Shaft Dia.**

j Disc Dia./Bore

Easy Disc Access

Dust Collection

Two Cast-Iron Tables

; Table Support

j Fully Shrouded Belt

Toolless Belt Access

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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