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most practical belt width for belt grinder / sander?

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  • most practical belt width for belt grinder / sander?

    Hello, it's been a while since I've posted, but really that's because I've been making stuff in the shop and working on projects. Glad to see this forum is still going strong.

    Recently I have decided to buy a belt grinder and am floundering between belt widths. There are lots of options for stand alone units in 2x48, 2x72, 4x36, and 6x48. I have see some others that bolt to bench grinders in 2x36 and 4x48 sizes.

    I have a Makita 9032 hand held 3/8x21 belt sander, and usually use it by clamping the work piece in the vice. I like it but it's just not big enough to do things fast and I use it for things it's not really ideal for since it is what I have. It is great for small detail work and dressing edges and smoothing welds. The boss recently gave me permission to spend the money since convincing her I can not possibly live without this new tool...

    I can see a huge difference in Makita performance at max belt speed (5600 FPM) vs lower speeds, and for that reason I want the higher belt speed on the new machine, however, for a good machine at low price, I could live with a lower belt speed.

    I almost never do internal radii or organic shapes, but maybe some day I will, but really, that's not the kind of stuff I end up making at this time.

    I don't make knives and have no interest in that.

    I use a lot of steel tube in 2"x2"x1/4" and 1"x3"x.125", and weld a bunch. I can't think of any material I've worked with recently which was more than 4" wide, but maybe some day I will.

    I want a relatively long belt and relatively high belt speed, probably a 48" belt. I can go through Amazon and find 48" belts of all types of material and grit in 2" and 4" and 6" widths.

    I want a platen to make things relatively flat and square.

    I would like to have an exposed drum diameter, but I don't know how useful that really is. I use the Makita nose diameter occasionally, but it is a very small diameter, and hard to control by hand.

    I would like to have an exposed belt edge for internal edge work, but I don't know how useful that really is. Granted, I do use the Makita for this all the time, so I suspect it would be very useful, but possibly hard to achieve on some of the larger 6x48 stand alone units?

    My bench grinder is only 1/2hp so I think it would be challenging to use one of the Multitool attachments. Otherwise, I really kind of liked the 4x48 Multitool product.

    I don't have time to build a DIY unit although they look really interesting. I'm not interested in a Harbor Freight rebuild project. Frankly, if I had that much time, the boss would never have approved the purchase to begin with. I really would just like to plug it in and turn it on, or as close as possible.

    What I am having problems deciding, is how truly important is a wider belt? At a 2" belt width, I am right at the edges of material on a 2x2 and too narrow for for the long side of a 1x3. I guess I could take the 1x3 and turn it 90 degrees. However, a 4" belt unit gives me options.

    I guess the machines I've been leaning towards most are the Grizzly (G1183) metal 6x48, and the Multitool (MT484-100i-Bundle) 4x48 with Jet grinder attached. The Grizzly does not have the exposed edge or drum radius. The Multitool does not have the tables which I could see as handy.

    Any advice on belt width? Experiences?


  • #2
    I've had one like this going on 30 years.

    I use it for everything from wood to tool steel. It sharpens HSS lathe tooling as well as it does lawn mower blades Most of my work is with steel less than 6" across or 4" in diameter. There are occasions I use it to radius a part or grind an angle. It's one of the most used tools in the shop.

    Mine is a 1950"s era Delta/Rockwell. It has a single phase 1.5 hp 120/240 volt motor. About the only maintenance I've had to do since I've owned it is change belts and disks. The only part I've had to replace was the original belt. I finally had to break down and do that a couple months ago. Not bad for a 60+ year old machine.

    A word of caution on the disks and belts. I tried using some from the local farm store and Home Depot. Neither worked out very well. The belts didn't track well and the disks didn't like to stay adhered to the platen. A while ago I tried some from McMaster. They seem to be heads above the others in that the belts always track well without having to be tightened to the point the motor struggles. They also seem to have a longer life. As an FYI I use a 60 grit disk and an 80 grit belt. Both are aluminum oxide.

    The zirconia belts are supposed to last longer, but I seem to get more than enough life out of the less expensive aluminum oxide ones


    • #3
      I bought a Kalamazoo 2"X48" belt grinder years ago and it's one of the most used tools in my shop. I use Norton belts in 80, 120, and 240 grit and assuming you don't load them up aggressively grinding soft metals they seem to last forever. It's been more than adequate for everything I do and my only complaint is that if you don't keep the item you're grinding or some other part of your body in contact with the frame you can build up one hell of a static charge. Ouch! Spraying the belt with some of my wife's Static Guard clothing spray helps.


      • #4
        If you can manage with a 2" width I'm thinking that it's tough to beat the cost per square inch of a 2x72" belt. From there if you go down to a 48" length look at the cost per square inch again.
        Chilliwack BC, Canada


        • #5
          If I were to only have belt sander then I'd make it a 1". If I could have two, then 1" and 6"...but that's just me.


          • #6
            I have a 2x72 and a 6x48. They both get used...


            • #7
              1" has its points.

              The only problem with a 1" sander is that they seem to be obsolete now, the belts are no longer as easy to get as they were. The box stores have tons of wider belts, maybe 4", every grit size and type. But 1" is only available in one way, in an "assortment" with a coarse, medium and fine belt, "Diablo" brand. You can't just buy the type you want.

              McMaster has the 1 x 30 belts, but they seem to have the same problem all my old belts have. I put them on the machine, turn it on, and the joint pops loose in under 60 seconds.

              So, it looks as if 1" has had is day and will not be available.
              CNC machines only go through the motions


              • #8
                Just bought a Kalamazoo 8" wet or dry with air belt tightening 7.5hp 3phase from a school. They were running a 4" & 2" with no problem. $198+ tax & bidder fee. I already had a 6" belt with a 12" disc like new 2hp sng phase.
                Last edited by flylo; 05-08-2017, 11:21 PM.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the input. I have already spent a couple weeks looking for used machines on Craigslist, and most of the used machines on CL are asking price of about the same as a new machine.

                  I really like the idea of a 6" wide unit. The 2" wide units may be more cost effective, but the 6" wide unit appears to be more versatile for grinding a mostly flat surface with a single pass. This is what I'm trying to figure out, is my assumption correct. The 4" wide units don't seem to be very common, except for the small, Home Depot style bench top units.

                  Granted, comparing it to nothing, which is what I have now, anything is a big upgrade.



                  • #10
                    In US I would take 2x72 because it probably has best selection of belts and its reasonably useful for many tasks.

                    Around here most common size would be 75x2000mm or 100x2000mm
                    Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe