Shelf Life of Widebelt Sanding Belts

How long are widebelt sanding belts supposed to last? Here's a closer look at why a belt might fail early. June 16, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
Has anyone else experienced failures of tape on wide belt sandpaper? My supplier tells me that the tape is only good for a maximum of two years (small shop here). Is there a better method of joining the ends instead of tape? Does anyone sell this type of tape?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Try clear packing tape. I want to know how you get your belts to last two years!

From contributor F:
I've heard all different things about the lifespan of belts and not sure really what to believe? I know most of the belts I'm using came with my machine which I bought over two years ago. I'm also fairly certain they had been sitting in the previous owners shop for a good while. So I can say they don't just give up the ghost after one or two years. I also know I haven't bought belts for my handheld sander in over a decade and they still seem to work ok. Should be the same adhesive right? I do wonder if it has more to do with the conditions of storage and how hard the belts are used more than the actual age?

From contributor M:
I have a couple dozen belts that came with my machine (used Butfering) which are at least seven years old. The original owner bought them and I've used them with no issues at all. None have ever blown apart at the seam. Some of the lower priced belts don't track well - you do get what you pay for obviously! History has shown me that the 3M seem to perform the best. I still have four boxes (about 20 belts of different grits) I had built two years ago and yet to take out of the box. They never quoted a shelf life, but did state that you need to wait at least 72 hours after they build them to use. On the other hand I have some of the purple 3M belts (3" x 24") that are two-three years old, for my hand belt sanders and have had many of them blow apart within minutes of use. The glue seam lets loose as soon as heat begins to build. The salesman said to never stock what you can't use within a year - so much for my bulk purchases to save money!

From Contributor W:
I used to work for an abrasives company. Humidity changes over time have been known to weaken the glue bond in the seams. More likely they just didn't use the glue correctly. The glue must be applied and be in the right state before they press the joint to bond the glue. Sometimes they just don't get it right and the joint doesn't hold up under stress or even survive a long time in the box with the joint stressed. The best thing is to make a hanging rack for your belts with the rows far enough apart to not allow the belts to touch while hanging. Let the belts hang for a few days before trying to put them on the machine. This will allow the moisture content of the belt to stabilize and the belt to relax. Never store your belts on end, on the floor.