Shopping for a Widebelt Sander

A few suggestions about characteristics to consider when considering a purchase of a second-hand widebelt sander. September 18, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I'm looking to add a used WB. I'm more concerned with fine sanding but will want a combo head so some calibration can be done. What info is important regarding wide vs narrow platens? Air or pneumatic platens, segmented platens, and multiple speed drive motors for the abrasive belts as well as regular vs vacuum conveyer tables?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor T:
Several years ago I bought a Butfering 52" combi-head circa1986 (one belt with platen) for under $5000. Overall it was a great buy for general sanding (doors, flat stock etc.) It's pre-computer control, so not a lot to go wrong. It had an air-bladder but it didn't come with it to me. The graphite platen works fine. Meanwhile a colleague had bought a newer used machine with computer control (can't remember the brand) for about $25,000, which he thought was a great deal, since it probably cost 50 or 60 new as it was single head with the horizontal cross-belt. Overall he was out well over $30k and couldn't keep it running. He ended up finding a similar Butfering to mine, newer at circa early nineties, but with a vacuum bed and other features, and it's worked perfectly for him for both general purpose and fine veneer panel sanding. The other one still sits in the corner collecting dust.

From Contributor W:
If you are concerned about finer sanding you want a wider platen. The wider contact surface will give a shallower scratch pattern than a narrower one.
Bladder platens are nice, but not necessary for good sanding. Vacuum beds are great for small parts or holding down veneer panels flat. Segmented platens are great for veneer. Not always the easiest to use with solid wood like frames and such. The pop up and down settings as well as the side pressure or side segment subtraction all needs to be just right as the platen can extend down past the surface of the part if set wrong, causing all kinds of interesting issues!