Review By Dean Bielanowski  Triton Website - http://www.triton.com.au


Triton (TBD1500) Belt and Disc Sander

 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

The Triton company has always been known as a company which produces quality and innovative tools. When the company came under the grasp of emerging tool giant, Global Machinery Company, many woodworkers wondered whether the Triton name and quality would live on. Thankfully, it seems this is indeed the case. A new line of tools have recently emerged with many new features and quality construction, and although most products in the new range have yet to be released (as at Dec 2006) some are now available, including the TBD1500 belt and disc sander, the subject of this review.

The Triton TBD1500 Belt and Disc Sander
Belt and Disc sanding combination machines are a common site in many woodworker's shops. They provide the convenience of both belt and disc sanding operations in one unit, and often with a small footprint to save space. They are a handy and very useful piece of machinery for many sanding tasks, and makes particular sanding tasks easy and quick to accomplish.

The Triton Belt and Disc Sander (model TBD1500) ships in a nicely decorated, bright box (which is almost a shame to throw away), but once you get inside it, the box art will become an afterthought.

The first thing you will notice with this tool when you try to take it out of the box is its weight. At 35kg (77lbs) you have to be careful not to go straining yourself getting it out! It's definitely a good two-person lift, unless you are a regular gym junkie with a good back and leg muscles... But the weight is not a bad thing, in fact, heavy bench and machine tools are often easier to use, built better and run with less vibration. The weight of the tool is due largely in part to the cast iron construction of many components (basically all the grey sections you see in the photos - including the feet!). The orange-colored parts are made from high-strength plastic, but it is good to see that all the important sections that affect accuracy and overall build quality are comprised of cast iron material. The plastic sections actually save the user from an even heavier lift.

Under the hood is a 250W induction motor. Like all these styles of combination sanding machines, the belt and disc actually rotate together when powered up, i.e. you cannot stop one from rotating while the other is in use. This usually presents no problem, although you do need to be wary as to not go near the unused sanding area, and be sure not to wear loose fitting clothing that could catch in the machine or on the sanding surfaces. The motor itself is very quiet and no hearing protection will be necessary during use. At 250W the motor is powerful enough to handle all the tasks this type of machine will handle - face, edge and end grain sanding. It is possible to bog the motor down a little by excessive sanding pressure, but if you are indeed making the motor struggle, it is likely that you are applying too much pressure on the sanding surface to begin with. Use the motor sound to accurately gauge how much pressure should be applied in use. And of course, both the belt and disc sanding surfaces can be quite aggressive with removing material, so you will generally only want to use a light touch. Heavy handedness can result in removing more material than you wanted to, and as we know, it's much harder to replace wooden material than it is to remove it.

The motor not only powers both the disc and belt sanding components, but it also supplies an air flow for the inbuilt dust collection. A bag attached to the rear of the machine inflates when power is applied to the tool. Inflation is caused by airflow being directed into the bag, and both the disc sander and belt sanding sections have dust collection hoods (of sorts) to try and capture as much of the sanding dust and debris as possible and direct it into the internal tool's airflow leading to the collection bag. The collection works quite well, but if you try to remove too much material at once, it sometimes does not have enough pull to handle larger volumes of dust. It could be a bit more powerful in regards to airflow volume, but with proper sanding technique and a light touch, it seems to handle dust collection reasonably well. It is handy not to have to hook up a dedicated extraction unit. However, if you have extraction permanently in place, you can also replace the bag with your own dust collection tube, and this will work better due to the higher airflow and volume a dedicated extraction system can provide. The dust port is 50mm (2") in size, so you will need a reducer attachment if you have a standard 4" (100mm) collection hose.

Power is applied via the simple on/off red power switch located adjacent to the disc sander. Pull the switch upwards to apply power, push it down to stop the sander. A removable yellow switch safety key is attached. Once removed from the switch, power cannot be applied to the sander, even if the switch is pulled up into the ON position. The safety key must be inserted into the switch for power to be applied. A handy device for those with young children around, or equally useful when servicing the machine or changing belts - you don't want any unexpected surprises when maintaining the unit!

Belt Sanding
The belt sander features a working platen area of 127mm x 230mm (5" x 9"). This is the size of the area that can be used to sand, or for sanding support. The actual size of the consumable belts is 100mm x 915mm (4" x 36"). So for all intensive purposes, the belt sander is classed as a 4" belt sander. The belt size is very common, so sourcing replacement belts shouldn't prove difficult at all. Most big box hardware stores will sell them, and if not, a specialty woodworking or trades shop will definitely have them on offer. The belt sander runs at 580m per minute, which is pretty much the same speed an Olympic 100m sprinter runs down the track (a somewhat interesting but useless piece of trivia!).

The belt sander is very handy for many surface and edge sanding tasks. I use it most often to sand smooth box joins when I make finger-joined or dovetail-joined boxes, but it works equally well with butt-joint boxes too. It is handy for face sanding smaller project parts where the whole face is less than 4" wide, allowing you to sand the surface evenly. In the photos you can see me sanding the face and edge of a Silky Oak block that forms the body of a small mantle clock I was building at the time. It works equally well or face sanding or edge sanding. It can even be used to round over sharp edges to prevent chipping in smaller pieces too. And for curve sanding, you can use the rounded end of the sanding belt covering the tracking end roller of the machine.

The orange "fence" you see sitting over the belt sander provides the stop for the workpiece. As the belt rotates and when you make contact with your workpiece on the belt, it will pull the workpiece toward the fence stop. It is important to rest your workpiece against this fence stop before you make contact with the sanding belt, otherwise the piece can be pulled from your grasp and sent flying! The fence stop has a series of holes molded into it. These, I am guessing, help aid in dust flow and help to pull dust down into the unit, and into the integrated dust collection system.

The thing to master with the belt sander is to try and apply even pressure over the face/edge of the workpiece being sanded. Because belt sanders can take a lot of material off quickly, it can be easy to round edges or sand unevenly if too much pressure on one section, or if uneven force is applied. As mentioned above, a light touch and good technique will produce the best results. Practice with some scraps prior to using your good lumber if you haven't used one of these tools before.

The belt sander can be rotated from its horizontal position to the vertical position quite easily. A hex screw clamps the belt sander in your chosen position, and it holds very well. Depending on what type of sanding you wish to do will determine whether you use the belt sander in horizontal or vertical mode. In horizontal mode, the belt sander is best used for face or edge work, as gravity (and your hands) helps keep the piece against the sanding belt. When you want to sanding the end grain of a workpiece however, it is often easier to use the belt sander in vertical mode, and use the supplied cast iron support table to rest the workpiece on. The movement of the sanding belt in a downward direction helps keep the workpiece flat on the support table. It is much easier sanding end grain in vertical mode, because in horizontal mode you have far less support, only being able to use the stop fence as opposed to the larger and heavier cast iron support table in vertical mode (the support table cannot be used in horizontal belt sanding mode).

Changing belts is accomplished through use of the belt tension lever on the side of the belt sanding assembly. Always make sure new belts are inserted in the right way. The sanding belt should have arrows on the inside surface showing intended direction of belt travel. Once a new belt is fitted, you may need to track the belt to ensure it runs true on the platen. A small tracking adjustment wheel at the far end of the belt sander accomplishes this. Start the sander up and adjust the tracking slowly so that the belt runs true in the center and does not start to move to either side. All instructions are found in the full-color manual supplied with the tool, so you shouldn't have any problems with replacing or tracking belts.

Support Table with Miter Gauge
Speaking of the support table, the one included with the TBD1500 is of excellent quality. Cast iron construction, including the adjustment and support arms provide a very solid reference surface for your workpiece. The support table can be angled from 0 degrees to 45 degrees, and any angle in between. The angle scale is etched in 1 degree increments. There is a miter slot milled into the table as well. A basic miter gauge is included too, and to be honest, I was expecting one of those light, flimsy plastic ones you often get with cheaper belt/disc sanders, or sometimes supplied with a smaller bandsaw. Not so with the TBD1500. While the miter gauge is very basic in design and function, the miter section itself is metal construction, being more rigid and holding its accuracy better. It is used in conjunction with either the belt or disc sander, most often to sand end grain where the cut is at an angle. i.e. a 45 degree miter cut. I was quite surprised with the support table and miter gauge. It is an essential part of the whole tool, and it plays a big role in sanding accuracy, so I was delighted to see Triton too had recognized this and built it to be strong, accurate and durable with little or no noticeable flex in use.

Disc Sanding
Of course, the other major feature of this tool is the 8" disc sander. It spins at 3000 rpm and uses adhesive-backed sandpaper disks. One is supplied to get you started, but again, these sanding disks are widely available, and quite inexpensive given how much work they can do before they need to be replaced.

The disc sander must be used in conjunction with the support table. You cannot really hand-hold pieces when sanding on the disc. It's very dangerous, and extremely difficult to do. The disc sander is designed for end-grain work predominantly, so it can be used freehand to, say, round off an edge of a workpiece (as shown in photos to the right) or to smooth end grain on a cut joint using the miter gauge.

Because the disc spins in an anti-clockwise direction, you can only really use the left side of the sanding disc, as this is the side where the sanding pad is spinning in a downward direction. This keeps the workpiece pushing down on the support table. If you try to sand on the right side, the upward moving disc will likely grab your workpiece and cause a safety risk issue.

I prefer to use the disc sander primarily for edge rounding work. It is the ideal tool for this, particularly for smaller projects. You won't be able to round the edges on a large table top with a machine like this. The support table is just too small for a task like that, so go for a handheld belt sander instead. But for small project work and end ground rounding or edging, the disc sander can get the job done fast, and with a little practice, it will produce a clean and well-rounded edge for your project piece. With a user-made jig, it can also be used to perfect perfect circles after being cut on the bandsaw.

It's not all about the wood!
When you look at this tool, or even mention sanding, wood naturally comes to mind. And rightly so. This is a woodworking machine primarily, but it can be used equally effectively with some metal and plastics work. It is not uncommon to see a woodworker sharpening chisels or plane blades using a belt sander, or deburring a cut edge. The sander is quite a handy tool when it comes to tool sharpening. And it can be just as useful for plastics work. I don't do any plastics work myself, but I have seen others use similar sanders for shaping and cleaning up cut plastic edges and it seems to do the job reasonably well.

Overall
Triton have produced a great disc/belt sander with the TBD1500. While the only real "feature" of this tool that stands out from the rest is the powered dust collection, and perhaps the easier to use stop fence (some stop fences on other sanders are flimsy and can bend easily), the overall build quality and strength of the TBD1500 is something that you don't often find on similar sized machines from the competition. It appears that with the TBD1500, Triton has played a subtle trump card that the other manufacturers will again have to follow if they want a slice of the portable belt/disc sander market. I am sure I will be using this tool a lot in my workshop in the future.

The TBD1500 has a recommended retail price of AUD$299, although it is possible you might find it a little cheaper in retail outlets. It can be ordered through Triton Preferred Dealers (see Triton website for dealers list) or in Australia via Bunnings special order desks.

For more information, or to find dealers worldwide of Triton products, visit www.triton.com.au

Sanding Machine Tip!
Investing in an abrasive belt cleaner is a great way to make your sanding consumables last much longer. When the tool is running, simply hold a belt cleaning stick against the sandpaper surface and apply light pressure. The cleaning stick helps remove debris from the sanding surface and in between the grit, cleaning the sandpaper medium and restoring it to a newer condition. They are an inexpensive accessory that will help extend the life of your sanding medium. Commercial belt cleaning sticks are available for a small investment, although I have found that using the contents from a dried out tube of silicon that has solidified is equally useful. Others have even used rubber shoe soles to achieve a similar result!
 

Abrasive Cleaning Stick Abrasive Cleaning Stick
Increases the abrasive life of sanding belts and discs up to 10 times as long. Fast and easy to use. Cleans while your sander is running. Saves time and money. Improves the finish quality. Prevents bu..

Abrasive Cleaning Stick

 

Triton TBD1500 Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited!


Triton TBD1500 Belt/Disc Sander


Large cast iron feet with screw/bolt holes for greater stability.


On/Off switch with yellow safety key.


Support table bevel adjustment
from 0 to 45 degrees in
1 degree increments.


Support table and miter gauge set up with the disc sander


Support table set up for use with the belt sander in vertical mode.


Belt tensioning lever.


Belt tracking adjustment wheel.


Face sanding silky oak for a mantle clock project.


Working the edge, keeping the piece up against the stop fence.


The disc sander makes light work
of edge rounding tasks!

Information contained on this page is copyrighted to onlinetoolreviews.com.
Reproduction in any form prohibited with express prior written permission.
International copyright law protects reproduction of this content. Copyright 2003-2012

Visit Rockler.com - Woodworking Superstore!