Like other heavy machinery, there are lots of factors that can affect the performance of a belt grinder. The machine’s design, for one, is an important consideration, as choosing whether to get a stationary or handheld unit can affect how you can use it for your projects.
Of course, the motor is another thing, as the power and speed of your rollers can easily help determine the finish of your workpiece. But if you want to make sure to really get the most out of your belt grinder, you should always pay attention to the belt you use with your machine.
As the belt is the primary component that will get in contact with your workpiece, you’ll need it to be the right kind and great shape. This way, you can be guaranteed that you’ll get your desired results when combined with a good machine in perfect condition.
Beginners may have a bit of a hard time when choosing a belt grinder, though. What with all of the options available, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, if you’re armed with a bit of the right knowledge, you can actually narrow down your options and make an easy call.
How to Choose Your Belt for Your Belt Grinder
So, how do you choose your belt for your belt grinder? Here are some tips:
1. Know the Different Kinds of Belt Grinders
There are various kinds of belts that you can use with belt grinders. They are made with various materials that are designed to suit various materials. They also come in different abrasiveness levels so you can choose the right kind for the project you have in mind.
Oftentimes, belts for belt grinders are made from paper or cloth. The abrasive material is made from various materials, though, including:
Silicon Carbide belts are often used for metal or paint. They wear down quickly, so they’re not the best for big projects. They are often sold in sheets so you’ll still need to cut them to size before use.
Alumina Zirconia belts are best for knife grinding. Also known as Zirc belts, they’re more durable and expensive than other types. They’re not necessarily great for working with wood and other natural materials, though.
Ceramic belts are popular options for knife makers as they considered as the top of the line option in metal grinding abrasives. This makes them more expensive but most people find the price worthy as it lasts long.
Aluminum Oxide belts are the most popular types of abrasives for belt grinders, thanks to their low price. They’re commonly used for woodworking, handle materials, and leather. They wear out easily but being affordable makes replacing them fuss-free.
Leather belts may not exactly be for sharpening knives, but they can hone chisels, carving tools, and plane blades to a gleaming perfection. You should use honing compounds with a leather belt, though, to ensure great results.
Engineered abrasives are specially made for very specific applications. They’re only great for metals, though, as they tend to release a dark gray dust that clings to other materials other than metal.
2. Choose One That Will Best Suit the Your Project
Aside from the different kinds of abrasives, you should also consider the grittiness of the belt if it will suit your project. The higher the number, the finer the abrasiveness. They will also have varied effects on different projects.
To help you choose the right belt for your project, here’s a quick guide to the different levels of abrasiveness in grinder belts:
Very Coarse/20-40 grit size: These belts are very powerful and can smooth out surfaces in a short amount of time. It should be used with extreme care as inexperienced users might damage their projects with this kind of belt.
Coarse/40-60 grit size: Ideal for sanding metal, belts in this grit size are still quite coarse. Not recommended for first-time users as they can still damage projects if not handled properly.
Medium/60-80 grit size: Deemed as an all-purpose grit size, this is most commonly used for wood than metal. It can be used to prepare wood for varnish or to remove paint from a wooden item.
Fine/80-120 grit size: Also popularly used for wooden projects, belts in this grit level can already do more delicate tasks with an experienced user.
Super Fine/ 120-220 grit size: Typically used for finishing and polishing a project, it’s great for smoothing surfaces and refreshing metals.
You can find at least a dozen grit measurements used for belts, so expect this part to be a bit tricky. However, grit is the most commonly used measurement in the US, so you can stick with this.
Familiarizing yourself with the different grit levels can also help you to choose, so make sure to do ample research before buying a few belts for your belt grinder.
3. The Size is Also an Important Factor
Belts also come in various sizes. Wide ones can help you cover more surface area and shorten the grinding process.
However, working with them can be tricky as it’s hard to mind a wide abrasive surface if you’re not used to the machine yet. This makes narrow belts a lot more desirable to many.
Your belt grinder can also factor into the belt size that you can use. Triangular belt grinders can be more versatile as they will have narrow areas that grow wider as you reach another roller.
However, some experts recommend getting different sizes of belt grinders instead so you can be sure to have good control in your finishing tasks.
Take note of these and you’ll quickly find yourself acing the belt shopping task. It might also be best to get a few backups in different grit sizes, especially if you’re still trying to get acquainted with your belt grinder.
Working with belts with varied abrasiveness levels can help you get more in tune with the task easily, so it might be a good way to practice.
With so many things to consider when it comes to belt shopping for belt grinders, it might take a while before you remember which one is best for what kind of project.
But that’s what guides are for, right? Hopefully, this guide helps you out in choosing the best belts for your belt grinder so you can enjoy professionally finished projects every time.