Harbor Freight Sander

4x36 sander & stand

Picked up a simple inexpensive "cheap" H/F combo 4"x36" belt /6" disk sander #97181. Handy-using the heck out of it for various shaping needs. Not for any kind of precision work but it works. Couple of nit picks and modifications to make it better for my use.

To set table use a tri square, maybe 'metric' degrees are different but if you square table to sander at 90 then rotate table to 45 mine is about 2 1/2 off? so useless. However better than sticking drill with pad or hand belt sander in a vice.

If you don't use a vacuum while wood working, remove the lower plastic from 4"x36" belt. Dust will collect in it, really bad if you use for wood & metal (think sawdust + sparks =Fire). Actually if you don't have vacuum- removing the rear vacuum plate all together allows for quick change belts.

The 6" disk uses self adhesive disks which I've never appreciated. Grit changes just a pain and as often as not sacrifices disk when removed. Conversion to center screw or velcro would be nice. Check disk set screw OFTEN. I don't use a vacuum -(though on the list) but I look at the disks air plastic guide as a guard so installed it. Grabbing the belt with hand will hurt a lot- hitting edge of disk will slice, a lot.

  • Couple of mods

    4x36 sander & stand

    Mine out of the box one of the motor flange ears was bent. Bolt thru it was only caught by a thread. Obviously dropped BEFORE it was assembled. Bizarre . 60 mile trip I just disassembled and flattened. On reassemble, aligning and tensioning the belt with the 4 way slots and 4 loose bolts nuts was almost impossible. So I added a piece of flat bar to side that aligns motor pulley to sander pulley. I can easily loosen/tighten to adjust belt tension if needed. Simple, used belt rest rod and small nut bolt at other end.

    4x36 sander & stand

    Sander has allowance to use table under belt, which is how I use it, vertically with table, but its almost like an afterthought. Travel across the belt face is limited. I removed some of the body material to allow sanding wider (up to 6 1/2") material flat on table, shown above. Other than that, to use table you must remove the supplied stop, and bottom air plastic. (unless table to belt is at 90?). Not an issue for me as I don't have vacuum or use horizontally.

    If supplied stop were used I cant imagine how it doesn't rotate down and sand the screws. But maybe it works, however...When I get around to it I'm remaking stop to use if needed, which I'm sure occasion will arise, horizontally. Very simply, cut off existing mount leg, make another leg that utilizes both side bolts on opposite side-shown below.

    4x36 sander & stand

    The 2 bolts pictured above I will remove and thread in longer ones from opposite side, use nuts to secure. Weld a new leg to original stop face that will slide over exposed bolt threads and secure with probably wing nuts. Plastic air piece could still be mounted but stop wont be relying on it. Be much more secure and wouldn't need removal for belt change.

    All in all, the 6" disk is nice for quick material removal though small area. Good speed for most stuff. The belt is a bit slow and easy to stall if you hog on it. Its paid for itself in so I've no real complaints. Got exactly what I was expecting, It is junk but functional-especially given the price, its intended use-works. I got a heck of a deal so jumped on it. I paid more for stand.

    Speaking of which...

      The Stand

    H/F  stand

    Picked up grinder pedestal-68321 for the sander. Some very necessary mods to it on its own page, specifically how its assembled, HF Stand.

    Painted it. For not wanting another project spent good part of a day playing with this. But kinda fun & worth the effort. I use this thing way more than I thought I would.

    One other thing I did do is take the switch out and rotate, its mounted side to side but it was flip to left to turn on. Everything I've ever used was or is up or right to turn on. Flicking to left to turn on just seemed wrong-

    When/if I take it apart to make the horizontal stop I'm also going to add handle across the top of belt. I've seen them on better sanders and I always grab top of belt to adjust angle. Just a piece of round bar bolted to one side. Sooner or later I know Ill end up grabbing it when it's on. When those mods are done Ill update this page.
    Update 2018:

    Had to reweld back plate where air attachment tube screws on. Been using shop vac with the sander working with wood. Air restriction though due to rather small holes on tube not very effective for drawing dust and also makes the vacuum work too hard. Several folks reported simply adding more holes in the fitting allowed more vacuum....Makes sense- however FYI.

    When vacuum attached to opened up tube fitting the volume indeed is increased- not only does it suck more dust with additional holes- it also sucks the belt. Causing it to eventually sand thru the sheet metal. I now use fitting on vacuum hose that allows control how much draw thru sander without restricting vacuum motor. Which adjusting where belt doesn't contact returns to almost no dust draw. Only real cure is to bend up a deeper back plate or add spacers somehow. Round to it but if reading this with intent to add holes to port do it incrementally....

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