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Converting Widebelt sander to work with metal


May 21, 2009
Atlanta, GA
So...I purchased a 37" widebelt sander for the purpose of sanding down the plasma dross and graining the material. I've been doing this by hand for 5 years now and I really have to have a way to speed up the process. I jumped a bit before looking and might be in a pickle.

I purchased the machine off ebay, asked the questions I should have, was lied to, and received a wood working machine :(
I'm told that a metal machine will have the contact roller turning the same direction as the convener, whereas a wood machine will be opposite ?
I'm also told that I need a rubber contact roller, but I have a steel one :(.

Questions for your wood working guys....have you ever run a piece of metal through your wood working machine? Did it have the desired effect? Any issues?

I'm thinking replacing my metal drum with a rubber one will be the first step. Reversing the rotation would be easy...but I'm guessing the belt tracking wouldn't work correctly after that? What about just reversing the conveyor to run backwards....then the roller would be going the correct way and the dust collector would be in the right spot...as well as the tracking would work too. ?

Pretty sure you don't want to run the belt in reverse, I had that problem once when hooking up one of those machines with oscillating belt and it would not track, reversed belt rotation (3 ph motor connections) and it was fine, also some belts will be directional so make sure the belt is oriented correctly. I'd reverse the conveyor first before monkeying around with the tracking and belt direction, and even that only after confirming it didn't do the job with the conveyor running the way it was designed The powermatic 37" wood machine I have here runs the belt contact patch opposite direction of the conveyor feed. I'm not out there now but I'm pretty sure it has a rubber drum. If your machine was described on Ebay as a metal machine and is actually a ww machine the seller is responsible to take it back and pay shipping both directions. After that you can come up here (just north of Gainesville)and try to run your material on mine and buy this one if you like it!


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I have some experience playing with these machines. You should be able to reverse the drum without too much issue, but there will be a bit of playing with the tracking- I forget if I needed to reverse the air fittings or not. But it wasn't rocket science.

The bigger issue than the tracking is that the dust hood needs to be moved to the other side of the head once the drum is reversed. That may be easy depending on the machine and how much space is there.

The thought of running the feed belt backwards would not really be good on my machine as the infeed is much longer than the outfeed, and thus not desirable.

Not sure how you have an all steel drum- sounds like it is intended more for abrasive planing. My wood machine has a rubber drum. I believe they offered different durometer rubbers for different applications, so you may need to do some homework there. My drum did need resurfacing and it was a few hundred dollars.

My machine is actually almost a dead ringer for the one tom just posted (mine's a 25"). A powermatic, but its actually an AEM badged as a powermatic. Which turns out to be a very nice thing since AEM was acquired by Timesavers inc and they offer support. Pretty sure Powermatic would know nothing about that machine.

Mine is here MachineJunkie :: View topic - Powermatic (AEM) model 250 Widebelt sander I did a whole bunch of troubleshooting on it last year and ended up replacing the electronic eye to fix the tracking. The parts are all pretty available from typical suppliers.

Theo I just bought a track loader on ebay, biggest ebay purchase I ever made. It worked out well but before pulling the trigger I looked over the ebay promises and I think they have all kinds of protections for the seller. I'd first try to get the seller to take it back if he actually lied.
Thank you all for the responses! I'm working with paypal about returning the item but it doesnt look like it will happen. Not as described is not covered for "industrial machinery " which is what the seller is claiming.

I'm not going to get bogged down with that....if I need to buy a dedicated metal machine I will.

Tom Jelly thak you! I'd really like to bring a few bits by and run them through your machine to see if it will work. At least I could make a determination as to the effectiveness and either attempt to find or make a rubber rollerfor mine or resell it and buy your machine.

I'll update with om pics as requested soon
I got a timesaver (for metal) from a wood guy. I had to switch the airlines on the tracking- likely because he tried to run the head in reverse as mentioned above. He was never able to use it and bought a machine made for wood.
I cant tell you why (if?) it needs to run the same direction as the conveyer...just that the mfg. configure the machines that way when new.

If I can find a reasonable cost replacement roller I'll give it a shot. reversing the conveyor would be simple enough and then everything is oriented correctly.
I want to know if a wide belt sander will actually take off plasma dross.
I am curious if anyone is actually using a plain wide belt, on plasma cut edges, successfully.
I used to do a LOT of plasma cutting, and we never had any success with using belt sanders of any type on it- the little super hard nibs would rip a belt in about ten seconds.
I know that the high end commercial machines all have a rotary brushes FIRST before the belts- and some are even wet.

We always manually knocked off the worst of the dross, usually with 2" wide masons chisels, then sanded with flap discs on 4 1/2" grinders. I dont want to remember how many thousands of pieces like that I have done in my life.
Nowadays, I do much less volume, so it doesnt bother me as much, but when I considered a wide belt, I was always told it would have to have rotary wire brushes ahead of the belt. And be a hundred grand, and 20 hp or more, to do a halfway decent job on plasma.
I spoke with John Becker who works for or runs apex machine. Several of his videos and others on you tube running steel bits with plasma dross and nibs through wide belts. I cant afford a new one (even "cheapy" import at 14k).

My dross is on aluminum parts, I'm hoping to get a decent belt life...but saving the wear and tear on my joints will be nice.
Have you looked at the rotary brush machines, they give a lovely edge brake on laser cut alu parts, does not grain the surface as such, but the edges end up with a lovely little 1/32 ish radius and are dead soft to the touch, not typical ragged alu part edge dross, which even on a laser can be pretty nasty especially on aluminum.

Rotory brushes need way less hp and are way tougher than belts, its just such a simpler system.

FYI your steel belt roller, if you have space for the dia change, just send it out for coating, would be around the 1k mark at a guess to get it coated and ground true.