Choosing a jewelry belt sander

We humans are fascinating creatures. For no apparent reason we are capable of generating a very strong and urgent need for new gadget. Or maybe it’s a male thing? Regardless I ended up in the situation where I felt very strongly that I couldn’t live without owning a stationary jewelry sander aka a disk sander or belt sander.

OK I make it sound like I am just a victim of an uncontrolled urge which is probably not entirely correct. I had actually for some time wondered if there wouldn’t be an easier way to file/sand down certain items like the excess bottom part of a bezel setting or sanding/filing a straight edge etc. I mostly focused on the time saving aspect of the question. Again referring back to the wood workshop I knew how useful a belt and disk sander is for a vast array of woodworking tasks so I gathered that it would be the same for metalsmithing.

So as always I set up the selection criteria:

Has to be suitable for Jewelry, If not specifically made as a jewelry sander it would have to be small enough to one fit on the jewelry bench and two not so big that small items could slip into places they shouldn’t go.

Should have Variable speed, for most metal work you want to be able to run machines at low speed to avoid material being removed too quickly and heat build up.

Large selection of abrasive options, It’s no good having a sander if you can only get 3 types of abrasives for it, rough, super rough and mega rough. Preferably it should be possible to get the more sophisticated types of abrasive like diamond grit.

Has to be mounted on the bench, I wanted to have the sander either permanently stationed on the bench or somehow mounted right at the bench pin or dust tray.

Solid Built, It goes without saying that I wanted the best possible quality so the “machine” would last my time out.

Dust suction possible, Ideally I wanted something where I could connect the shop vac suction system I use for the solder station if I was going to sand something that created a lot of dust.

Disk or Belt, I wasn’t fussed if it was a disk or a belt sander ideally I would of cause like to have a combined machine like the once I knew from the wood working workshop.

Search and thou shalt find

Armed with the above criteria I went where all good projects starts.. Google..

Wolf Belt Sander 00After a very short time searching I had bumped into the Wolf Belt Sander in a lot of places. It didn’t have it’s own motor but rather was driven by the flex shaft motor by just connecting the actual drive shaft into the machine. Pretty nifty indeed.

I went on to see if I could find a model that had both disk and belt but unfortunately all I found was focused on model building and didn’t have a large array of abrasive options.

Like the Proxxon models

Proxxon belt sander Proxxon Disk Sander

The only other Jewelry related belt sanders I could find were the Foredom and NSK Nakanishi KBS101

Foredom Belt SanderNSK Nakanishi KBS101

Both were handheld and not really suited to be fixed mounted.

Order

So off I went and put an order in for a Wolf Belt Sander and two different selections of belts from “monster micro” to “super macro” sorry too lazy to go check the actual grit values I initially ordered.

As always I ordered overseas as the Australian Jewelry market seem to think that all tools must be supplied with a 100% mark up.. Grrrr..

This time around I ordered from Rio Grande as they had the lowest base price and the best selection of mixed belts. For some reason when it is not a heavy parcel their postage cost to Australia is actually competitive.

Delivery

It took the obligatory 2-3 weeks for the box to turn up but that just ads to the excitement when it finally arrives. The paper was quickly stripped.

Wolf Belt Sander 01

The content of the box was instantly spread out on the work bench

Wolf Belt Sander 02

Over and above what was in the box I ordered the Benchmate attachment and a bunch of different belts

Wolf Belt Sander 03

The assembly doesn’t require a lot of mentioning it is really just two screws to hold the plastic suction attachment and one hex nut to attach either the benchmate attachment unit or the bench clamp.

Wolf belt sander in benchmate 03

So all assembled and inserted into the Benchmate this is how it looks

The belt has not yet been installed.

Wolf Beltsander on Custom Bracket 03I unfortunately found out that it wouldn’t be practical using the screw clamp on the edge of the bench top for one the drawers couldn’t be opened and I would have to stand up to use it making it hard to control the foot pedal for the flex shaft.

So a custom mounting bracket was developed.. Well it is actually just a small piece of a 90 degree alu profile that got a couple of holes for screws and subsequently mounted on the inside of the dust drawer

It is not exactly high tech but it works and it means that when the sander is not in use it can just be left attached to the drawer and pushed under the tool drawer

Having use the sander for a bit now there is only a few things to add. If I felt I could justify it I would have gotten a separate flex motor so I had two to avoid the connection and disconnection of the flex shaft. But to be honest it is a bit of a luxury problem after all it’s just a question of batching the tasks so I don’t swap from sander to drill handle and back all the time.

Wolf Beltsander on Custom Bracket 04The one thing I would like to see done differently on the machine itself is tool-less belt change. i.e. have some sort of spring mounted system that didn’t require a hex key to tighten. If I was to really pickish I would create a way to attach a “fence” that was screwed into the side of the machine so it sat in a 90 degree angle to the belt. That way if you tilt the sander on it’s side you could lay the work piece on the fence and there by be able to sand a perfect 90 degree edge.

Hope that make sense?!

So as mentioned I have been happy with my purchases but I’d be keen to hear if anyone has different experiences or maybe have other machines they could recommend.

Take Care

H