The Benefits of Edge Sanders

Edge sanders are the perfect electric woodworking power tool for smoothing and finishing. You can choose from the two basic types: handheld floor sanders and belt sanders. The type of tool you will use depends on a combination of your intended application and personal preferences. You see, handheld floor sanders are great for hard-to-reach areas. They are designed to make these spaces easier to access and modify. With a traditional floor sander, certain areas are not always possible to treat, such as spaces against baseboards, walls, and railings. Belt sanders are beneficial for carpentry projects that involve smoothing edges. The structural design allows for more precision with less effort.

Edge Floor Sanders

Edge floor sanders are a popular asset for wood floor refinishing projects because they effectively smooth and polish wood flooring, removing surface blemishes like dents, dings, and more. They are similar to drum sanders in terms of power since they both offer a great deal of it; however, the edge sander is portable, like an orbital sander, making it more convenient to transport and use. Some have complained that they are a little on the bulky side, but many have also mentioned that they are very easy to operate with just one person. With a removable sanding disc on the bottom and an easy-to-grip handle on the top, it is no surprise they are easy to work with. Simply pressing the handle on top initiates the discs to lower, press, and rotate against the floor.

Edge Belt Sanders

These popular woodworking power tools are also known as oscillating edge sanders. They are preferred by many since they rest on top of a table, counter, or cabinet, making them at work-surface level for users. This level of height makes it easier for many people to work with wood for smoothing and finishing purposes. It also gives users a great view of their piece while they work. They operate by a continuous rotating belt that is made of sandpaper. The belt can be any grade of sandpaper, from fine grot to course grit. It all depends on the specific application. This sandpaper belt is stretched across two metal drums, which spin as the belt rotates. It is very similar to a conveyor belt. Users simply touch the belt with their item, and apply different amounts of pressure and movement to smooth out imperfections or create curves in the wood.

Which One To Get?

The type of edge sander you choose will depend on a few factors. Your preference and project needs are the top factors to consider. It is helpful to know that floor sanders generally come with a dust bag to collect the debris produced from woodworking, and belt sanders do not come with this option. This sometimes has some weight to it for consumers. Both devices can be used with several different grades of sandpaper, and are priced similarly in stores. However, it is a challenge finding them in your average hardware store. To purchase a quality device, you would have to contact rental facilities or a commercial carpentry store. If you are wonder which sander to choose, the best option is to acquire both. That way, you are prepared for all kinds of woodworking and carpentry applications!

How to Improve the Performance of a Folding Workbench

I like creating with my hands. I especially enjoy creating useful items out of wood. Unfortunately, my self-designed and self-built garage 6 X 3 foot workbench has a tendency to become littered with miscellaneous “stuff”, and I find myself at my wit’s end attempting to build projects on a piece of plywood strung across two folding sawhorses. Not ideal, I will agree. I do appreciate the convenience of being able to take down and put away the components of my makeshift working surface. What I don’t like is that the working surface is not that stable and requires a separate set of clamps to hold the working top to the sawhorses.

Casting about for something more robust than a hunk of plywood and some adjustable clamps, I found there are a number of folding workbenches on the market from manufacturers like Worx, Black and Decker, and sold at places like Home Depot, Lowes, and Harbor Freight. Their prices are varied, but they all have similar features. I especially like benches that fold flat, are easily stored, have built-in adjustable “vises”, and can carry moderate loads.

After researching the various offerings, I settled on an inexpensive folding workbench from Harbor Freight.

After researching the various offerings, I settled on an inexpensive folding workbench from Harbor Freight. Price was a determining factor. You can see what I finally bought by following the link embedded below in the Resource section below.

The folding workbench comes as a kit. The critical elements are preassembled. I had to mount the two hand crank assemblies to the two fiberboard work surface, then mount the legs and their stiffening cross members that also double as tool stations. Assembly went quickly; I only needed to supply a Philips head screwdriver.

Unfortunately, the finished workbench doesn’t fold completely flat. But the workbench does function as I desired: it’s a sturdy, portable workbench that I can easily carry around the house or out into the back yard to exercise my woodworking prowess. Adding a few extra speed clamps and a portable carpenter’s 6″ vise, and I’m good to go (my first project was to make and attach two ¼” wooden facing pieces to that 6″ carpenter’s vise’s metal jaws).

Upon looking at the workbench’s construction, it came to me that with a few minor modifications, this workbench could be materially improved. And that’s what prompted me to write this “How To” article to document what I did to my workbench.

There are five areas on that workbench that, with some minor rework, will materially improve its performance and probably extend its working life. None of these suggestions are critical, or even necessary for the casual user. None of these suggestions are complicated to implement, but I find that they will probably be worth the effort as time passes.

Area #1: The “fold-flat” feature.

When this workbench is assembled according to the directions, when folded, the handles lay pointing down the legs towards the floor. By reversing the way the legs are mounted (exactly reversed from the installation instructions), the handles now are on top of the folded bench, point away from the legs, and the legs do indeed completely fold flat! An easy fix.

Area #2: The hand-crank clamp lead screw adjustment.

I noticed that the board that’s mounted to the hand-cranked lead screw that makes the work surface boards function as a built-in vise, was loose, and flopped around as the handles were cranked. To remedy this, I used a wrench to tighten the crank shaft attachment on the moveable work surface so that there was less play as the unit is cranked. Don’t over tighten, or the board won’t move at all!

Area #3: The hand cranked lead screw sheet metal end clamp support.

Each of the hand crank lead screws goes through an end plate that’s bent from the leg support sheet metal. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the lead screw plate is secured to the sidewalls by two sheet metal “ears” and two small dimples in the sidewalls. That looks like a potential source of failure downstream: nothing prevents the sidewalls from separating and allowing the crank to become loose. My fix? Simple: I installed a clamping and securing bolt through the sidewalls just behind the end plate. To secure the sideplates and preventing them from spreading apart, about 1 inch from the end plate, I drilled a ¼” clearance hole through the two sideplates (that also mount the legs) and put a 1 ½ inch long, ¼ -20 bolt with a washer and a locknut. Tightening the locknut makes the endplate securely clamped to the sidewall plates; this will prevent any tendency for that endplate holding the leadscrew and cranking handles from coming loose over time.

Area #4: Reducing friction.

The assembly instructions had me using a bolt, two washers, and a locknut on each leg to hold it in place. Problem is, that means that the legs will wear on the sideplates. Not a good idea. I bought 8 more flat stainless steel washers and slipped those washers in between the legs and the sidepanels. Now the legs will wear on the washers instead of the sideplates. This makes the leg securing assembly consist of the bolt head, washer, sideplate, washer, leg, washer, other sideplate, washer, then the locknut. So each of the legs now has 4 washers: two washers on the outside of the side panels, and two washers to keep the leg from rubbing on the sidewall directly. Again, don’t overtighten, or the workbench won’t fold up.

Area #5: Making things run smoothly.

Be sure to lubricate all moving surfaces with oil, WD-40 or a dry film lubricant (You can use a light grease on the two lead screws, but if you grease the sliding rail, I think you’ll find that the grease will probably be a sawdust magnet!). Be sure to lubricate all sliding or rotating joints and connectors, especially those added washers on the legs where they mount to the sideplates.

Area #6: Replace the fiberboard work surfaces.

While this is a bench designed for light to moderate loads, you might consider replacing the worksurface’s fiberboards with lengths of 1½ X4 inch lumber, suitably drilled holes for the plastic dogging clamp inserts. If you are comfortable with a power planer or router, make a suitable undercut to clear the hand cranks and use 1 ½ X 6 inch planks for the work surfaces. That will give you a wider working surface when the two panels are cranked to the max.

As I said at the beginning of this article, none of these rework items are absolutely necessary; the workbench will function very well as is if you merely follow the included assembly instructions. But I think these minor mods and reworks will improve your enjoyment of this inexpensive folding workbench. I know I have.