Tuning Up a Low End Widebelt

Advice on a few tweaks to get the best performance out of an inexpensive light-duty widebelt sander. April 12, 2013

I have a Steel City 15 / 30" widebelt sander and I am having issues with tracking the belt... Anyone have any experience fixing this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
I suppose you know this is a very light duty machine. If you are trying to use it as a thickness sander it will never track correctly. Take very light passes for finish sanding only. If it is tracking okay with no material then it is correct. If the tracking goes bad while sanding the problem is you are working it too hard.

Remember this machine has less power than a big router and likely has only a little more power than a good 4" belt sander after the losses incurred in the drive system are factored.

I had a Performax sander similar to yours with a 5 HP motor. I gave up on it and bought a Dynabrade orbital. The finish quality was a lot nicer and it was faster.

From the original questioner:
Yes, I am not expecting it to work like a 37" widebelt. It is a belt sander, however, not a drum sander like the Performax you are talking about. I got this for basically free knowing that it had tracking issues. I am planning on using it for sanding inlay material and shop sawn veneers. I have an array Festool sanders as well as Dynabrade so I am in full understanding of what to expect.

From contributor L:

Watch the tracking system looking for slack. Movement in the tracking system that doesn't actually make the idler roll move. I have an older Timesavers that had a poor design for the tracking system and lost about half of its tracking system movement before it got to the idler. A bit of work taking that out of it and it tracks much better. Check or play around with the tracking system air pressure and restrictor valve if it has one. Boost the pressure to make it respond quicker. Opening the exhaust restrictor on the tracking cylinder, if it has one, will also speed the response (within limits). If the edge of the belt runs crooked it will cause tracking problems. Replace the belt with a higher quality one. Does it use infrared sensors? If so make sure they are aligned for best signal. You can get a card that will show the infrared as a visible red dot to help in aligning the target and sending unit. My Timesaver came with one in the instruction manual.

Open sided, very light duty sanders may suffer from lack of rigidity, meaning the head is flopping around too much for the control system to compensate. Design a support for the pivot points to be much freer than they are now of the top cylinder.

From contributor K:
I considered buying one of these at one time, but didn't so I don't have any experience fixing one. From what I remember of the build, flex in the upper structure looked to be an issue. If you just want to sand veneers off the saw, and don't need the open end, then locking that end in place will help tremendously. At least, it would allow the tracking adjustment to have a predictable effect.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. It is indeed the sloppy upper roller assembly. Now these units ship with electronic eye sensors and tracking motor. In the meantime I have found a machinist that has a pretty simple fix. He is shipping me a package and I will get it installed and see how it works. He said he has fixed about 6 or so of these machines with his add on. Hopefully it will work because I think this will be a handy thing to have around. Seems better than a drum sander to me.

From the original questioner:
Just wanted to update that I got the sander working great! The fix parts that I got from the machine shop in Canada worked great but mainly it was a matter of getting a good quality belt. Sander runs fantastic and I have yet to hear it bog down. It should suit my needs fine. Not bad for under $200!