I have been having a problem with my sanding belts breaking within a couple of minutes of use. Even the new ones I bought at the store were breaking soon after I started using them. I went through four belts in about five minutes while sanding the planer marks out of my cabinet door today. I was not applying any pressure on the belt other than the weight of the hand-held sander and I wasn't hitting any edges.

I read this Belt sanding belt joints post to see why my sander belts are breaking so quickly and concluded that it is because the belts are old, even though they have not yet been used. The sander is an old (40+years) Craftsman, hand-held, 3" belt sander. My neighbor suggested that the belt tension may be too tight. I'll have to look to see if there is an adjustment for that.

Is there a way to tell at the store whether the belts are old and have been on the shelf a long time, and is there a trick I can use to keep them from breaking so soon?

  • What type of sander are we talking about. I do not believe it is the belts joint, but some issue with the sander. – Programmer66 May 23 '20 at 1:26
  • It's an old, Craftsman, hand-held sander. I edited the question just now to add that. – Stephen Daddona May 23 '20 at 1:49
  • Before the belts break, do they track well on the rollers? (Along with tension, I'd wonder about parallelism.) – Aloysius Defenestrate May 23 '20 at 13:38
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    There are pretty much two reasons they can be breaking so quickly: the belts are old stock (or have been stored in humid or hot locations) or the tension is too high. Or both. – jdv May 23 '20 at 13:50
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    Belts should only break really fast if they're old (old belts are infamous for becoming brittle) or are very poor quality. I guess both together would be the perfect storm of a belt that doesn't last LOL – Graphus May 24 '20 at 8:31

I did figure out a way to get a little more life from the belts: I stop sanding every few seconds and rest the sander on the steel table of my table saw to cool the belt. They seem to go a little longer before they break when I do that.

Based on the comments I received and on what I read in the other post that I mentioned in the question, I think the problem is most likely that the belts are old. I will also try adjusting the belt tension.

Then I won't keep belts in stock because I sometimes go a year or more between projects and my belts just get old. The garage gets pretty warm in the summer time, here in Rocklin, California, and I think it ages the belts faster.

  • Sounds like the glue is giving away from the heat. – jdv May 24 '20 at 14:24
  • @jdv That's what I think, too. If I stop after a few seconds and put the sander on my saw table, the iron table cools the belt and I get a little more time from it before it fails. But Graphus said that old belts die fast and these are probably a year old or more. – Stephen Daddona May 24 '20 at 15:26
  • Oh, I meant, the heat of long storage -- no one keeps these at the ideal temperature. And heat kills the glue, even if it was from a hot truck a year ago. – jdv May 24 '20 at 23:22
  • OIC. @jdv I guess it keeps me buying more belts, so there isn't much incentive for the manufacturers to use a different glue. It's kind of exasperating. – Stephen Daddona May 25 '20 at 1:12
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    I think this is a case where the main consumers of these things are commercial operations, who will go through them in lots of 100s if not 1000s. Supply chain for non-commercial users is probably an afterthought, and we are seeing the unintended consequences of this. – jdv May 25 '20 at 13:47

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