Don't waste hours manually sanding rough wood. Instead, use a belt sander. This heavy-duty tool relies on sanding belts wrapped around its base to clean up even the most gnarly materials. To use a belt sander, you'll need to first install the belt. Then, secure your material to your work surface and get the tool running. After that, it's as simple as moving your sander with the grain of wood.
If you don't own a belt sander, look to a local hardware store. Some stores let you rent power tools for a small fee. This is a great option for DIY novices who may not have the space (or need) for such a large tool in their permanent collection.
Before you begin sanding, you'll need to choose the right sanding belt for the job. Start with a belt that has a coarser grit, such as 40, 80, or 100; this will help remove the majority of scuffs and finishes. Then work up to a belt with a finer grit, such as 180, to finish a project. To insert the belt into the sander, release the lever, usually found on the side of the sander, and slide it onto the wheels. Press the lever closed to secure.
Secure the material you're sanding to your work surface with clamps. This step prevents the board from slipping as you sand it.
Editor's Tip: We also suggest you put on safety goggles and a ventilation mask during this step. These precautions will protect you from the wood dust that accumulates in the air as you sand.
Turn the sander on and let it run for a few seconds to get up to speed. Starting with the rear of the sander, gently ease the belt onto the wood. Make long, even strokes along the wood grain. Apply a steady pressure to the sander, but avoid pressing down too firmly as this could gouge the board. Frequently check your work as you sand.
Once finished, ease the belt sander off of the board. Check the ventilation bag. When it's full, remove the bag from the sander, empty, and reattach. Next, switch out the sanding belt for one with a finer grit, and repeat the sanding process to finish your work.