Protect Your Investment: Nine Key Focus Areas for Sanding Equipment Maintenance

Sanding equipment is often the biggest investment wood flooring professionals will make. Properly maintaining your equipment will protect that investment, result in better performance, and consequently, provide better results for your customer. Proper maintenance will keep your equipment operating at peak efficiency and keep it operating longer. Perhaps just as important, it will prevent costly down-time when you can least afford it. Keeping sanding machines properly adjusted also will help them perform as they’re intended.

One of the best ways to monitor how your equipment is running is by simply listening to it. It may sound funny, but we all know how our equipment sounds as we run it every day. The moment you begin to hear something a little off (different pitched whining, repetitive tapping, deep rumbling, etc.), it is time to get it checked out. Maintenance requirements vary among the different kinds of equipment, so it is important to read and understand the operator’s manual for each. Keep in mind that many repairs should be done by an authorized service center. Repairs performed by an unauthorized center may void your warranty. Knowing your equipment and the recommended service intervals will help keep your machines running at peak performance and will greatly extend their service life.

To properly maintain sanding equipment, there are nine primary areas to focus on: carbon brushes, machine lubrication, machine bearings, edger pads, sanding drums, sanding chambers, wheels, drive belts, and dust bags.

  1. Carbon brushes are the pathways for electrical current. Once the brushes are worn, the electrical current will cause heat, arcing, and sparking. Also check the brush spring – it keeps the pressure on the brushes, preventing arcing and premature wear of the armature. Inspect the motor brushes once a month and, if replacements are necessary, change all the motor brushes at the same time.
  2. To maintain proper machine lubrication, ask your authorized service center for the correct amount and type of lubricant to use.
  3. To properly maintain the machine bearings, refer to the owner’s manual for service intervals. Periodically check the guide rollers for wear. Always keep an ear tuned to the sound of the machine. Any new or different sound could be a sign of a bad bearing or wear in the bearing. If it remains unrepaired, a bad bearing can cause sanding irregularities.
  4. Be sure to inspect and clean edger pads before each job. An unbalanced or bent edger pad may cause gouging. Worn and improperly adjusted edger pads also result in uneven sanding.
  5. Sanding drums are one of the most important maintenance items. Inspect and clean the sanding drum on split-drum or belt sanders whenever you change the sanding belt. Dust and debris on the drum will cause chatter marks. Gouged, grooved, or badly damaged drum surfaces should be replaced. To prolong the life of a sanding drum, release the tension on the sandpaper or belt after every job, and leave sandpaper on the drum to protect it during transit.
  6. Sanding chambers should be cleaned once a week to prevent accumulation of debris, which can interfere with the performance of the dust-control system, the upper roller, and the contact wheel (drum). Cleaning the dust chamber also keeps the fan balanced, which prevents vibrations that can cause chatter and imperfections in the floor.
  7. Always inspect the wheels before you start any job. Debris on the wheels, such as filler, grit, finish, and stones, can be left on the floor and also cause chatter, wave, and damage to the wood during sanding. When transporting the machine, lift it over wet filler, stones, and rough areas. After each grit or cut, clean the wheels since grit can build up and cause the machine to cut unevenly. Keep the weight of the machine off the wheels during storage and transportation. This prevents flat spots and prolongs the life of the wheels.
  8. The best way to check drive belts is hands-on: if the belt feels rough, cupped, worn, or grooved, it probably needs to be replaced. The most common problem with belts is letting the belts “take a set” or take the shape of the pulleys. During use, the belts become hot. If they are not loosened during a long shutdown (overnight or lunch), they can take a set. This causes vibration and chatter. Tighten the belts before each use and always loosen the belts overnight or any long-term idle period. Always use a manufacturer recommended belt. Most belts from a hardware store are for general use only, not high-speed. Belt tension is important. If it is too tight, the belt life will be short. If it is too loose, the machine can slip and vibrate. Do a visual check with the machine running for belt shake or vibration. Tighten or loosen the belt until it runs true. Check with your service center for correct belt tension. Read the owner’s manual. This is possibly the most important element in preventive maintenance. A poorly maintained machine can be costly.
  9. Dust bags should be turned inside out, shaken vigorously, blown out, or vacuumed frequently, and machine-washed (if recommended by the manufacturer) in cold water, to prevent pore blockage and loss of dust control. Empty a dust bag when it is one-third full; never leave a dust bag unattended with dust in it. Sanding dust can ignite and cause injury or damage. Countersink all nails before sanding the floor – hitting a nail or staple while sanding can cause a spark, igniting a dust fire in the bag. Also, dust bags will eventually wear out and should be replaced periodically.

Properly maintaining your sanding equipment ensures that you are protecting your investments, and that your machines run at peak performance on every job, resulting in increased efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Brett Miller is VP of Education & Certification at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. He can be reached at brett.miller@nwfa.org.

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