Starting today, and continuing each Friday, I'll be posting tips from the American Woodworker archives. This first one, however simple, is one of my all-time favorites, and one of the most-reached-for tools in my shop.
Belt Sanding Block
I do most of my sanding by hand, so I made this convenient wooden sanding block to fit 3" x 21" sanding belts. The block is split for two-thirds of its length, and the belt is tensioned with a removable dowel. A softer wood, such as poplar or white pine, gives the best results. If the belt stretches and becomes loose, insert a slightly larger dowel.
I've found that while the dowel tensioner is nice for applying and removing belts, it's not completely necessary. Generally, I just use a piece of 3/4"-thick mdf or plywood that's 10" long for a 21" belt, or 11-1/2" long for a 24" belt. Round the corners until the belt slides on, and you're set.