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Sanding Machines: No Need To Blow A Fuse

Alec Stacey, technical manager, Bona, explains what to look for when you need to buy
a sanding machine: 
IT IS one of life’s inevitabilities that at some point in the future a wood floor will require full refurbishment and will need sanding back to bare wood. This could be due to many reasons: The finish is badly worn, perhaps a new look is needed, or perhaps the flooring has become water damaged and ‘cupped’. The solution will involve sanding.
The type of machine needed will depend largely on the extent of the work. To sand a floor comprised of cupped boards, or a parquet floor where a number of blocks have been replaced, or other situations where a significant quantity of timber must be removed to render the surface flat, an aggressive belt or drum sander is needed.
The machine must possess enough weight to apply sufficient effort for the abrasive to be effective at removing the timber and previous finish, but it also must have enough power to do this. Due to the size of the motor and the task at hand, it is important to consider the electrical load.
A machine with a powerful motor, perhaps 3 or 4 KW, can present problems on some sites where the supply is less than perfect, leading to blown fuses and frustration.
Fortunately some manufacturers have addressed this issue with ‘easystart’ motors which wind up to speed more gradually thereby reducing the current (Amps) drawn from the supply. Others have a ‘soft start,’ either manual or automatic, for this purpose.
If the floors are in better condition and the surface is flat, a less aggressive machine performs adequately. In fact, many tasks, such as sanding off an existing finish before applying a new one can be achieved using a multi-headed rotary buffing machine, providing it has sufficient power and suitable abrasives fitted.
This can be highly beneficial if working in smaller areas, such as corridors, or if there are many obstacles within a room.
With this approach it is easier to avoid common defects produced by heavy belt sanders, such as gouges and visible scratches when sanding at right angle to the timber grain.
This type of system can then be used throughout the sanding process through to the finishing sanding, by implementing different sanding heads with the progressively finer abrasives.
It could be argued however that using a rotary system in this way may be more time consuming, but the superior quality of the sanding is indisputable. This is particularly important when preparing floors prior to treatment with modern stains and coloured penetrating oils, which can be unsympathetic by highlighting scratches and other defects resulting from sanding.
Due to the high performance of belt or drum sanders, they are here to stay. When choosing a model one of the most important considerations should be the level of control the operator has over the sanding drum. Without this the machine will be difficult to use without producing ‘stop-start’ gouge marks. When using the machine it should be possible to move forward whilst gently lowering the sanding surface simultaneously.
Another important consideration is how easy it is to make adjustments, such as ensuring the drum is parallel to the floor and ensuring the abrasives are correctly aligned to avoid damage to the machine. Well-designed machines are simple to maintain and can be dismantled for ease of transportation.
With the use of a belt or drum sander comes the need for an edge sander. The primary concern of most contractors when choosing an edger is to have high power. This ensures that the job is performed efficiently whilst maximising dust extraction.
A robust construction is essential but more important still is the quality of sanding the machine produces. Test a few different edgers to see what suits best with regard to weight and effectiveness.
Although there have been a number of changes to the methods used for sanding floors, such as dust containment systems and powered multi disc sanders, there is no one machine that will perform all tasks.
However with the advent of different abrasives e.g ceramic and diamond, there are certainly more options available than ever before when it comes to working practices. This is resulting in floors that are being sanded more effectively and therefore look more beautiful!

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.