Orbital or belt sander for enclosures? Which do you use?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jeffrey Noel, Sep 4, 2002.

  1. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    My speakers just came in so it's time to start making their enclosures. But I need some suggestions on how to smooth out the mdf. When I made my sub enclosure, the ends of the panels that show are not level and I want the new speakers I'm making look more professional. I need some type of sander because on my sub enclosure, I spent over 3 hours with a HAND file trying to make the ends even. [​IMG] Not going to happen again!
    Will an orbital sander be enough for the MDF? Or should I buy a belt sander? Any suggestions?
    Just trying to make some speakers that I could really be proud showing off.
    TIA!
     
  2. Pete Mazz

    Pete Mazz Supporting Actor

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    I would use a flush trim bit in a router and then a hand block with 80-120 grit paper. My paper of choice is 3M's silica carbide stik-on rolls. They're 4 1/2" wide and 10 yards long. I cut scrap 3/4 MDF to 4 1/4" x 8-10" long and wrap the paper around it so you wind up with a 2 sided block.

    Belt sanders are great for quick flattening of material, but can be very aggressive. If you're not good with one, you can quickly "dish out" a surface. Orbitals are great for general sanding but usually have a soft platen that tends to roll over non-flat work.

    Pete
     
  3. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    Thanks Pete, that's exactly what I was looking for. I will be using the sander near edges so I'd better not get an orbital sander.
     
  4. Kevin Deacon

    Kevin Deacon Second Unit

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    I use a Bosch orbital. It came with a soft pad and a hard pad. I use the hard pad with 60 grit to even the edges out. This type of sander works great for many projects as the belt sanders have more limited use. Good luck.
     
  5. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    Kevin, so the hard pad won't round over the edges?
     
  6. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Belt sander is dangerous. It can ruin hours of work in seconds.
     
  7. Kevin Deacon

    Kevin Deacon Second Unit

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    Hey Jeffrey, Neither pad will round over the edges as long as you don't tip the sander. I just built a pair of Proac 2.5 clones and one of the long edges (40 inches) had about 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch MDF overhang. I sanded the side dead even in about four minutes with rough paper. With the same sander at slow speed and about 160 grit I was able to create an almost seamless edge with cherry veneer after using a flush trim bit (which leaves a bit of an overhang). Like I said before, this sander has more uses than a belt sander. Be sure to get a quality brand so it will last a long time. I've had my Bosch for over 8 years and it hasn't complained yet[​IMG]
     
  8. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    The orbital sander can save a lot of time but it's hard to beat a good hand sand.

    What I did on my enclosures was use a "planar". It's some tool I found that has a razor and is kinda like an industrial potato peeler.

    I just ran it along the edges and it peeled away MDF like cheese. Then I carefully used an orbital sander and got some pretty good results.

    As for edges that are mitred.. I used the steel/smooth shaft of a screw driver and pressed it along the edge of the box. This squished the wood a little to connect the edges of the laminated surfaces.
     
  9. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    Chris, I've been wondering if a wood planar would work on MDF. I guess it does! [​IMG] I used one in 7th grade, 9 years ago, in wood working class and remember it working pretty good on whatever wood we used. Pretty interesting!
    Thanks for the heads up! [​IMG]
    Kevin, thanks for the info. I am about to place an order for a Dewalt 421K orbit sander which is only $54 and free shipping. It's reconditioned but from toolking.com who is an authorized Dewalt dealer. This allows me to get a 1 year full manufacturer's warranty. Thanks again to you!
     
  10. Michael.Hoffman

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    Just to chime in here, I don't think using a planer on MDF would be a good idea. If you are talking about a lunch-box style planer then, don't do it. If it's a hand held type, it would probably chew up the blades unless they were carbide. And then I would suspect it would be cheaper to buy a new router bit or box of sandpaper than to get new blades.

    As for sanders, I would definitely go for a random orbit sander. You will get more use out of it, from hogging off lots of material with a low grit paper to getting stock prepared for finish with a high grit paper, it can just do more. Plus it's a little bit more forgiving. I've had a few projects ruined by a belt sander when I thought I was using a light touch and it took off more than I intended. Believe me, its hard to camouflage veneer that you've sanded through.
     
  11. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    I use a Porter-Cable random orbit sander with the hook-and-loop pad. I attach a shop vac hose to its dust port and that keeps dust out of the air and keeps the discs clean. I use good ol' 3M discs, grits from 40 to 220.
     
  12. Rob Lloyd

    Rob Lloyd Stunt Coordinator

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    I use both a Porter Cable VS333 and also a DeWalt variable speed orbital. I prefer the feel of the PC personally but both work well on MDF. If it's more than 1/16" I use a router flush trim bit to cut down the overhang. 1/16" or even 1/8" comes off quickly w/ a 120 grit paper. I ALWAYS use a vacuum or my dust collector on the sander. Otherwise you'll be choking on MDF dust and covering everything else up with it.
    I usually sand down to 220 before putting on primer or any veneer.

    Yes a hand plane does work but it will dull your blade VERY fast. And if it digs in a bit to deep you then have more work to do filling and sanding.

    Rob
     
  13. Zac_F

    Zac_F Agent

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    I recently used my PC VS333 random orbit sander to smooth the edges for veneering. It worked great. I had one problem side where the inside was much higher than the edge and it took it off in no time. Use a flush trim router bit if the panel edge is higher, this will save some time. You should still sand everything flat though. On my next project, all edges will be flush and square...
     
  14. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    I also use the flush trim bit method (I cut each side slightly larger and then trim down). This is significantly faster then using a sander. For wood I'll use a hand plane or scraper before I pick up a sander...
     
  15. Jacques C

    Jacques C Stunt Coordinator

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    I have built five speakers so far with MDF enclosures, and this (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=37720) was the best buy I made for them.
    MDF is nice because it has no grain. It planes very easily, so no expensive plane is required. Just about anything will do, and the set above is "just about anythin." [​IMG] Just make sure to take small amounts at a time and check the level on your work. I use only the big plane from the set above, and am careful to make sure the blade is parallel to the edge - that is the only twitchy thing about it.
    Now that I have a table saw this isn't so much of a problem, but that planer saved me a huge amount of work, and the results speak for themselves (can be seen in the Adire Galleries for 281s and Tempests).
    Planing the edges of MDF is a little tougher than the sheet sides (which are really easy), but both are easy enough so that anyone who hasn't used a hand plane before (I had hardly touched one before then) can do it successfully.
    To really solve the problem, but a nice table saw (I just bought a Ryobi BT3000, and it holds to .01" on successive cuts. No more planing for me!)
    I hope it helps.
     
  16. DaveDel

    DaveDel Auditioning

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    Either will work fine, but a palm sander will be easier to control. Belt sanders are better for large surfaces. It's also a lot easier to damage your work with a belt sander if your not careful. If you leave it in one place for even a second or two you can leave a gouge that will either require filling or whole lot more sanding.

    I have both and unless I need to remove a lot of material very quickly or I'm working on something like a table top I'll alway use my palm sander.
     
  17. Zac_F

    Zac_F Agent

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    I didn't think a hand plane would work on MDF, since it didn't have grain, but I never tried it either.

    I took a woodworking class and the instructor hand planed a rough cut cherry board about 2' x 6" down flatter and smoother than a Delta jointer did, in only a few minutes more time. You could have put a finish on it without sanding.
     
  18. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    The only sander I trust myself with is a Dewalt 1/4-sheet "finish" sander, also called a "palm" sander I guess. It takes longer, but I can do less damage.
    If I need to flush up an overhang, I use my router and flush-trim bit.
     

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