Dangers of Using Belt Sanders When Making Cabinets
One of the employees in the Florida cabinet shop that had hired me got her leg too close to the belt sander and her flesh got sucked up into the Porter Cable with a fifty grit belt installed on it. Needless to say, it was not a pretty accident that occurred. That was the day, my first day as a cabinet maker, when I realized that there were dangers to be aware of when working in a kitchen and bathroom cupboard manufacturing shop.
That was twenty seven years ago and believe me on many occasions I have remembered what I saw that day as the belt sander passed near my legs throughout the years.
When Belts Break
Inevitably there is always going to be a sanding belt that breaks. When this happens the sanding cloth usually flies out of the hand held machine with tremendous force. It is not an uncommon occurrence for wood particles and saw dust to fly in the air as the belt whips off of the machine. I have actually been hit by sanding belts on several occasions whenever they break. One should always be prepared for this type of incident by wearing safety goggles.
Controlling the Chord’s Position
This is by far one of the most important duties that a belt sander operator has to be skilled at, positioning the cord in the proper place as the wood is being sanded. One wrong move and the turning of the belt can grab the chord and with amazing force lodge or wedge it into the turning of the drum and the housing of the sander. I had this happen with a Makitta and a Porter Cable brand belt sander.
Once the cord gets stuck, depending upon the degree of the grab, it can take an hour to dis-assemble the belt sander and remove the chord and then put it back together again. The dangers of using belt sanders are many when you are making cabinets, avoid this one by handling the cord correctly by insuring that it is always away from the area where the sander will be sanding.
Avoiding Getting Your Cloths or Flesh Lodged in the Belt
As previously mentioned, one can get a huge “strawberry” on their leg if they are not careful when operating a belt sander. This is by far the most important danger to avoid of all of the dangers that I have mentioned so far.
One of these professional sanders, turning a full RPM’s, will literally rip the flesh right off of you if you’re not careful enough.
I am sure that there are other dangers to be aware of when using this type of cabinet making equipment. Most of the hazards will take common sense to avoid. Never get in a hurry when you are using a belt sander, treat this power tool with proper respect. It has the power to rip a finger completely off.