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I've had a secret desire to get involved in belt sander drag racing ever since reading a back cover article in Fine Woodworking Magazine many years ago on Belt Sander Racing, so when one of my coworker's encouraged me to get into a race at the AWFS woodworking show in Las Vegas in 2007, it didn't take much prodding.
In these events the sanders speed down a 75 foot-long track side-by-side and stop (theoretically) when they impact a bumper at the end of the track. At the race in 2007 this sander left the end of the track TWICE, including one INCREDIBLE flight where it launched over the head of several track officials, and was snatched out of the air by my pit crew; Mr. Daniel Tripp!
Fortunately this moment was documented on video, which can be viewed in Step 14!
Anyway, I'm a bit surprised at how little information there is about this is on the web. There are a few videos on Youtube, but other than that I've been unable to locate any "build sites" or blogs besides mine. So in the interest of posterity and the advancement of the craft I will share with you almost everything that we learn along the way. I say ALMOST everything, because the competitor in me still wants to have a little advantage on race day! I make one promise: I will not provide inaccurate information. This can't be said for a few competitors who I've spoken with, who have tried to send me down the garden path with downright deception. I'll share all that I can and will remain silent on the rest. Fair enough?
The ladies in the photo worked very hard during the event by returning the extension cords to the center of the track between each race. Upon seeing this photo my wife’s first comment was “Nice sleeves”. Followed immediately by “No play for Mr. Grey”.
Thank you for your support, Hon.
If you are going to be at the AWFS show in Las Vegas this Summer be sure to bring your fastest sander and I'll give ya a run for your money!
One last note before we get started. I've entered this Instructable in the "Epilog Challenge" contest here on Instructables and am supposed to say a few words about what I would do with the top prize if I were to win. The prize is a Epilog Zing laser cutter, which is something I've dreamed about for years! I'm an active woodworker and Horologist (Clockmaker) who loves to make jigs, fixtures and tools, as well as anything else that sounds interesting. Heck, just take a look at my eclectic Instructables! I would love to have a laser for several projects that I've had in my head and on paper for years, including a neat little kitchen slide-rule that can be used to quickly modify recipe quantities.
Here's a video of the race at AWFS 2007. The first one ends with a shot of my sander as it took flight.
Check the last step for more great videos!
Step 1: First Things First, We Need a Sander
Here's a photo of the foundation of our racer: A Makita 9403, which I snagged on Amazon for a great price. My research uncovered that this sander is the fastest stock sander, with 1650fpm (feet per minute). That fact alone makes this a great choice if you are racing in the Stock Class. Seeing that the track is 75' long, and for simplicity let's just figure that it reaches full speed instantaneously, (I wish) that means that this sander theoretically could cover that distance in 2.2 seconds. Now, obviously it will have to build-up to full speed, and there will be some time loss due to slippage between the belt and the track and even between the belt and the drive roller, but this is still a good start.
There are some major modifications ahead, but first let's lighten this sucker of any unnecessary parts...