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How to Select The Correct Abrasive Belt for Hand Held Machines?

When choosing abrasive belts for powerfiles, tube polishers or drum sanders there are a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration.

Abrasive Grit Type

The full range of abrasive grit types are available for powerfiles, tube polishers or drum sanders belt sanding machines

  • Ceramic aluminium oxide abrasives are best used with harder metals and also in heavier duty grinding operations.  We particularly recommend the FX87 ceramic belts for aggressive grinding with powerfile machines where they provide excellent grinding power combined with a durable backing.
  • Zirconium Oxide.  Not quite as tough as ceramic abrasives the zirconia abrasive grits are still very popular for steel and some aluminium grinding applications but wherever the belt performance can be measured accurately zirconium oxide abrasive belts are often being replaced by the ceramic abrasives
  • Aluminium Oxide belts.  It is easy to under-estimate the importance of aluminium oxide abrasives.  They are not normally as tough as zirconia or ceramic abrasives but they are often the best choice for finer sanding of steels and stainless steels and most definitely the best option when fine sanding softer metals such as aluminium or brass.
  • Compact grain belts.  Not technically a different abrasive grain, compact grain abrasive belts are an agglomeration of a number of abrasive grains into a larger mass which is then coated on the abrasive belt.  Compact grain belts can therefore last considerably longer than a traditional abrasive belt and give a much more consistent finish.  Compact grain belts are often a great choice for satin finishing sheet stainless.
  • Trizact belts.  Trizact is in effect another agglomerate type of abrasive.  Trizact is stocked in lots of powerfiles, tube polishers and drum sander belt sizes for mirror polishing preparation. The two main differences between Trizact belts and other compact grain belts are
    • they are coated and bonded into a consistent shape from within a slurry.
    • All the abrasive grains used are to a measured and tighter tolerance mesh size so they are the most consistent abrasive belt you can buy if consistency of finish is critical.
  • Surface Conditioning Belts.  Often called conditioning belts or ‘scotch-brite’ belts.  As their name suggests they are excellent for refining and blending applications.  The biggest benefit of conditioning belts is that they will leave a consistent, burr free finish which is ideal wheel finishing stainless steel in preparation for food or pharmaceutical processing machinery. SCM belts are available from stock across the full range of hand held finishing and polishing belts.

Abrasive Belt Strength & Flexibility

Often over-looked by customers when requesting a new belt.  Flexibility can make all the difference as to whether a grinding or sanding belt will do what you need and is particularly important when working with hand held machines such as powerfiles, tube polishers or drum sanders.

Cloth belt backings are often given a letter code which gives a clue as to how flexible an abrasive belt is

  • F or J weight abrasive belts are very flexible and tend to be used in lighter and less aggressive applications
  • H or X weight abrasive belts will be stiffer.  As you might expect they are used in intermediate grinding applications, but also in finer sanding belts where flexibility is less important: such as on wide belt sanders.
  • Y weight are the heaviest duty backings are often also a polyester cloth to give even more strength to the product.  Premium performance backstand grinder belts such as the FX87 ceramics are often a Y weight polyester.

Flexibility can also be varied by drawing the abrasive belt material over a series of rollers and bars to create various flex characteristics.  If you believe you may need specific flex characteristics to improve your abrasive belt life then please contact AFS to discuss your specific application.

Is the Abrasive Belt Waterproof?

Perhaps less import in most hand held machine applications but it is important to note the capacity to have abrasive belts which have a waterproof backing.  Working under flood conditions will aid with removing grinding swarf and also in keeping both the abrasive belt and the workpiece cool.

Many of our abrasives are made with polyester or poly-cotton backings.  Any of these products can be used safely under wet conditions.

Note:  If a cotton backed abrasive is used in wet conditions then the abrasive belt is likely to stretch and deform.

Which Belt joint should I use on my Sanding Machine?

Cibo put a lot of care into the manufacture of abrasive belt joints and offer 8 different ‘standard’ belt joint options.  However, after years of research and development Cibo have now developed a standard tape joint option which accounts for 90% of abrasive cloth belt options.  Particularly for hand held power tools the standard joint is the BB butt joint.

If you would like to discuss using a different abrasive joint for a particular reason then please contact us at AFS to discuss your options.

Belts for Hand Held Machines

In woodworking applications, a strong backed aluminium oxide such as our HA66 and TX52 belts are the best choice for portable belt sanding.

Although we still stock some zirconia (blue) belts, AFS now mainly reccomend the Cibo Ceramic belts for high aggression stock removal using a powerfile belt.  With the longer belt life and finer finish, ceramic belts are the obvious choice.

The new Cibo Ceramic belts are ideal for initial and intermediate graining on stainless steel sheets and box sections.

Use the FX87 P40 or 60 grit for aggressive stock removal, and the P80 / 120 grit sleeves for pre-finishing and creating the grain finish.  A final burr free, satin finish can then be acheived with either a Tex wheel or an SCM belt.

If you need a very consistent finish, then you may wish to consider using the trizact 337DC belts.  The A300 is excellent for blending a 240 grit finish.  The A65 trizact belt is very similar to a finer 320 grit finsh.

Most small machines have a tolerance anywhere between +/- 5mm, and +/-10mm on some of the wider belt machines.  Cibo manufacture the belts to a tolerance of +/-1mm in length. which means that even if we do not have the exact belt length you need, you will often find a belt of similar length which will fit equally well. Below are a couple of common belt size examples:

Black & Decker DIY powerfile specifies a length of 451mm.We regularly supply belts 457mm for this machine.

Fein produce a 2-wheel tube polisher which is specified variously at 610 x 40mm, 618 x 40 and 620 x 40mm.  Not surprisingly, our standard belt is 610 x 40mm and fits the machine every time.