Buying a Widebelt Sander

Advice on getting good value for the dollar when purchasing a widebelt on a budget. December 19, 2009

I run a small two-person custom cabinet and entry door shop. We have the basic tools: Delta cabinet saw, edgebander, blum machine, and etc. I am thinking of adding to our equipment as I seem to never regret buying good tools. I'm looking at either a sliding table saw or a widebelt sander. As it would be a major investment for me, could you share experiences with these machines? Which will add more to shop quality and efficiency?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor H:
My vote is for the widebelt. I think it will improve the quality of your finished product, and reduce your labor cost more than the saw. What width sander and number of heads are you considering? There are some great buys out there.

From contributor W:
Edgebander or wide belt, the delta is easier to work around when cutting when compared to labor intensive sanding.

From contributor R:
Widebelt - no brainer there. Since our induction of a widebelt we have used it for sanding of other shops (that did not have that capability) products and has well paid for itself twice over.

From contributor U:
Go for the widebelt. Buy the machine that fits your needs and does the correct job. It will cost what it costs. Too many times we look at the price of a machine and buy based on that. If you buy the wrong machine, you will pay more in the long run. I know of shops with a single head widebelt sander that they are running four to six passes to get the job done when a two or three head machine would have got the job done in one-two passes.

From contributor M:
I am curious how you build entry doors without shapers, joiners, mortisers, tenoners, molders, etc? I'll assume these are exterior doors, with some sort of applied molding, but how do you straighten stock, join parts, and deal with water/weather intrusion over time?

From the original questioner:
Regarding the widebelt, I'm looking at a 37" Timesaver 1300 2 head or possibly the Speedsander. I'm not a high volume shop and there seem to be some great deals on used Speedsanders. At the same time, these machines have clearly depreciated quickly, which I take as a warning. By the way, I do have lots of other machinery which we use to make our doors.

From contributor W:
Get a wide-belt. At the same time, these machines have clearly depreciated quickly, which I take as a warning. I view wide-belts as being largely disposable. They wear out faster than any other large machine you will every buy. We use ours eight hours a day, and at eight years old, it is past due for a complete overhaul, replacing rollers, etc.

Others will disagree, but I think the dressing of a roller by putting sand paper on a board and raising the feed bed is both dangerous and the results are not satisfactory. So beware when buying a used machine and someone suggests you dress the rollers. The machine is shot most likely. You should add in the cost of replacing the rollers at that point.

Consider a little used machine, very few hours, or if you can swing it, get a new machine from grizzly or similar, which are excellent deals for the money - two head at least. If you take care of it and only use it one hour a day, it should last 20 years or more. Eventually someone will put in a stick of wood while the bed is set too high, digging into the roller. Make sure your safety is just thousandths above the material going through it.

From contributor F:
Unless I had two-three years of signed contracts I would be careful about expenditures. Buying equipment at an auction can get you some very good values if you can inspect the machines. You may be able to buy a machine if you plan on using it for two or three years and pay for it based on the cost savings plus the expense to set it up and get it working. There are tons of auctions going on right now. We bought an edge bander at an auction a few years ago that we paid about 18 cents on the dollar for and then put about 15k into fixing the PLC. It had less than 1,000 hours on it and was very clean. It was still 65% less than a new bander.

From contributor Y:
Wide belts of the type you are considering are simple machines. Conveyor belts, and re-covered contact drums are available from suppliers other than the expensive OEM’s. Electrical and pneumatics are widely available so if you have more mechanical talent than money, a used machine a few years old can be a real bargain. I'll buy new or used. On simple, non-electronic machines I'll look for decent used. Right now there are a lot of repo machines out there.

From contributor Y:
What the questioner is considering is a very simple machine, not a string of heads that interact and are full of electronics. With a basic understanding of mechanical relationships a single head widebelt is easy to tame.

From contributor L:
I guess I missed out on the gremlins when I bought my Timesavers 2300. They are very simple, dependable, and accurate machines with minimal electronics. They are also easy to set up and adjust.