How to Use a Belt or Drum Floor Sander
See also: How to Use an Edge Sander
Over the past few years, I have trained people to use belt sanders with great proficiency, within just a few minutes. I’m sure, with a bit of practice, you will be using a floor sander like a pro too.
First of all you need to open the front or side of the machine to load the new belt or sheet. Exactly how you should do this should be demonstrated by the company or person you have hired or borrowed the machine from. On belt sanders make sure the belt is facing the right direction (the floor sander will pull away from you so you want the arrows on the inside of the belt to follow the same direction as the travel of the drum) and that the tensioner is activated so the belt has no slack.
On some drum sanders you may only need to slot the belt onto the drum (again making sure the belt is facing the right direction) because there is no tensioner. Finally most rental sanders in the UK have a sheet system, that means you have to unscrew a small metal strip, wrap the sheet around the drum, doubling over where the small metal strip goes, then screw the strip back on to hold the sheet to the drum. Make sure the sheet is very tight around the drum because if it’s a little loose it will cause chatter marks across the floor.
Make sure you confirm with whoever you get your sanding machine from, exactly how to turn it on. Most sanding machines just have a green button to turn on and a red button to turn off. Others are slightly different so make sure you know what you are doing otherwise you will keep tripping your electrics or blowing fuses.
So here’s the most important thing to know about how to use a belt/drum sander: DON’T PUT THE DRUM DOWN WHEN THE SANDER IS STATIONARY, NOR LIFT IT UP WHEN IT IS STATIONARY. Doing so will create a little drum mark in the floor where the sandpaper has been in contact with the floor and not moving, even if its just for a fraction of a second. And there you have all you need to know in order to do a sterling job! Seriously though, to break that down a little further, when you are ready to start sanding, you push the sander to get it moving and then lower the drum onto the floor. This also means you should lift up the sander, using the lever or by tilting the machine back, before you stop moving. A great analogy I like to use is this: Using a belt/drum sander should be like an air plane landing on a run way and then lifting off at the end of the runway. When you start sanding you should go from one end of the room to the other (excluding the space for you and the machine), but don’t try to lift up the drum too late. If you try to lift it up as close to the wall as possible its likely you will put a drum mark in the floor. Be sure to get a good amount of practice before you even attempt this.
Many people are surprised to find that when the drum first touches the floor, the sanding machine actually pulls them along. If this does catch you by surprise, this usually will result in the machine jumping forward a foot before you then pull back to slow it down and it comes to a stop creating a drum mark. Expect the machine to pull you forward when the drum makes contact with the floor. Keep the machine moving at a steady speed. Even if you do accidentally create a drum mark, it can be rectified.
Just get in there and get used to it, as I said it takes mere minutes.
That’s about it. Other than that you really should empty your dust bags when they get to about half full. If you let it fill up completely, it may back up into the system and you will find yourself having to clean it out. Emptying the bag also helps to keep the dust extraction as efficient as possible. Good luck!