Widebelt Sander Choices and Power

Advice on shopping for a widebelt sander, and supplying it with three-phase power. May 18, 2010

I am finally ready to upgrade to a widebelt from a drum sander. The best selection for used machines means 3 phase. I am looking at 25 inch machines that go as high as 15 HP, and have seen some rotary phase machine sites that state that a converter that can handle a load that high can not be used on other 3 phase machines of 5HP or less. This is the first caution I have seen on making the jump to 3 phase power. Comments?

Also, I have always been confused about the quality of widebelts, given the huge number of brands currently available, relative to, say, a jointer or shaper. Ramco, Timesavers, Sandright, Safety Speed Cut, Cemco, Cantek, a ton of Europeans and twice as many from the far east... Who really stands behind these machines and what is the rational limit for how old one of these should be in terms of current tech? I don't want a dinosaur, but I also don't need or have room for a 3 head Butfering that can do lacquer sanding. Please help!

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor J:
I use a 25HP rotary phase converter in my shop to power my WBS (20HP), 5HP dust collector, 5hp table saw, 7.5hp shaper. I have no problem running just a 5hp machine by itself and have never heard of it being a problem for any rotary phase converter.

From contributor U:
Static phase converters use capacitors sized for a certain range of motors. Rotary converters put out a full range up to the rated max. I've never heard of a lower limit for a rotary converter. It could be confusion with a static converter spec...

From the original questioner:
I saw this in an ad in Delaware. The company was called Roto-Phase and the motor plate picture showed a maximum 5HP and minimum 3HP single motor application.

From contributor S:
As far as belts go, we went from Klingspore to 3M. Not saying that would work for you, but less chop lines (that's what we call them). They last longer too.

From contributor R:
I would talk to the techs at several phase converter companies to get a better handle on it. There is at least a dozen companies to talk to, including Phase-a-Matic, who will provide detailed info.

Why not a stroke sander? For general sanding it's far superior to a drum and it does overlap with some of the uses of a widebelt. Very inexpensive and belts are quick to change and cheap. One shop we had four different types of stroke sanders and one widebelt. The stroke sanders were going all the time compared to the widebelt.

If you go with a widebelt, make sure it has a platen. This allows you to go right to finishing from the sander. No platen means more hand sanding before finishing.

If I could line up each machine and compare them, I bet I could convince more small shops to go with stroke sanders over widebelts. I've put stroke sanders in custom metal shops that thought their special hand finish couldn't be duplicated with a machine.

Don't get too anal on sanders. Timesavers has been in the business for years and has an entry level sander.

From the original questioner:
I have several uses for a wide belt. Getting rid of tearout in figured stock is a big one. I like the accurate dimensioning from my little drum, but it is way too slow and narrow for what I need. I am getting requests from local craftsmen to prep stock, and plan to get back into piano rebuilding and doing harpsichords and clavichords. More custom furniture and less kitchen cabinets. Really wide stuff I outsource. Platen is a must. Timesavers, AEM and Ramco seem well regarded for American machines with good support history. Opinions?

From contributor R:
I would say the widebelt is your best choice. I wouldn't sweat the brand for the ones you listed. I think Timesaver is the stronger of those. I'd also consider SCMI machines. The platen can be moved up or down. For thicknessing you would have the platen up.

I would even look at the Grizzly. The imports have come a long way and I believe most of the American machines may be made overseas to keep the prices competitive. Don't think much is made here if the price looks inexpensive.

From contributor N:
As of today, the only widebelt sanders that are made in the USA are from SafetySpeedCut and Midwest Automation. In order to have their cost in line with the imported equipment, they have had to sacrifice features. If you only have single phase it is possible to get a 25" single head machine with a 10HP single phase motor. This would save you the expense of going to a rotary phase converter. 10HP is more than adequate for a 25" machine.

When sizing a rotary phase converter you need to consider the largest motor and as long as you are not running a motor larger than the HP rating on the phase converter, you are fine. Example: 20HP roto phase can handle a sander with a 15HP motor and a 10HP dust collector running at the same time. Visit Phase-A-Matic for more details.

From contributor F:
We have the Midwest 4275 and have had only one problem with the conveyor belt and they stood behind it and sent me a new one. Good company, good tech help. Plan on going to their factory and getting training for the machine. We made the jump to three phase, but did it through the line and panel instead of phase converter, and have never looked back.

From contributor L:
I have used a phase converter all my woodworking life. I have a 15 HP rotary that runs almost everything in the shop. It is a 3 phase motor with a starter circuit. Nothing fancy. It runs .5 to 7.5 HP motors, edgebanders, linedrills, table saws, etc. The only problem is service amps. I use a Ramco widebelt that is 15 HP. The small warehouse shops sometimes only have 100 amp services. If you run a converter that is 15 HP and a machine that is 15 HP, that is 80 amps easy. Still you need a sawdust collection motor and the wiring distance consideration in amps. The 100 amp fuse goes every time. The way to get around this is to use a starter circuit on the larger three phase motors. They will run once started without a separate converter and there will be less draw on amps. I do this on the widebelt.