Belt Or Disc

Oct 19, 2023

Hand sanding a floor is possible but is time consuming and tedious – partly because one cannot exert sufficient pressure to strip off thick layers of paint and varnish and rubbish. One needs a combination of speed and weight.

So a sanding machine saves time, tedium, frustration and sore backs. It also creates a lot of dust very quickly!

The first machine sander dates from around 1819: a static model for use in workshops.

The first portable sander was patented in 1919 in the States for sanding bartops. Add a handle in 1925 – and the portable floor sander was born!

The most basic machine sander is the disc sander, which uses a rotating piece of sanding paper attached to an orbital machine. A familiar example is the sanding pad attached to a Black and Decker power drill.

A belt sander runs a sanding belt onto two drums, one of which is driven by a motor. This type of sander can sand away plenty of material in a short time, but is not very suitable for finishing jobs. The drum sanders for floors work on this principle.

For a smoother surface, the German company Fest introduced the first Orbital sander in 1951. This machine had sanding paper clamped to the sanding surface, and its small electric motor created a fast orbital motion to sand the surface.

As for the tiresome dust, the smaller early machines used socks and the larger ones canvas bags. In 1934, a patent for a portable sander with a ‘dust collection system’ was issued, which had a fan to suck up dust and blow it into a bag.

In the 1940’s, machines were still heavy and expensive, made of aluminium and mainly used by professionals. Home sanders flourished during the DIY boom of the 50s.  An all plastic body was available by 1956 and cordless machines came along later.

The random orbit sander from the mid seventies combines the strength of the belt with the finish of an orbital – i.e. the best of both worlds. From the original pneumatic workshop version, the electric home versions are now in wide use.

As for wooden floors, Eugene Haggler developed a cylinder floor sanding machine in the early 1950’s

And we benefit today from this revolution.