One of the challenges I encountered when working on the Boston Whaler restoration was getting into nooks and crannies with a sander. I finally broke down and bought the Wen 1/2 x 18 inch belt sander. These are also known as power files and oddly enough, finger sanders. My first impression when taking it out of the box was that it was solidly built. It didn’t come across as a cheap piece of crap that would fall apart after a few uses. Actually, it is pretty solid.
Features of the Wen Mini Belt Sander
The mini belt sander has a number of feature that make it easy to use. It weighs in at 2.4 pounds, making it easy to handle and light enough not to wear you out. The handle and motor are fairly small, making it easy to get into tight spaces. Power draw is 2.amps on this unit. The sanding belt will pivot 55 degrees. This makes it flexible enough to get you into tight or hard to reach spaces. It comes with a dust collection attachment so you can easily attach it to a vac or a dust collection system.
The mini belt sander also has an auto track feature. This takes the worry out of having to adjust tracking for the belt. It will automatically align the belt without any manual intervention. An added plus is it comes with three belts of various coarseness (80, 120 and 320 grit). This allows you to put it to use as soon as it’s out of the box! I went ahead and purchased a kit with a number of different grits belts when I bought it. Enough to probably last me the lifetime of the tool.
One feature I liked about this mini belt sander is the variable speed. The belt will run anywhere from 1080 to 1800 feet per minute. The speed control is conveniently placed where you can easily adjust it with your thumb. And you do want to adjust it! These mini belt sanders can grind away a lot of material in short order. I found myself running it the lowest speeds for most of the work I did with it. The last feature I’ll talk about is the warranty. It comes with a two year warranty, which in my opinion, is pretty impressive.
Testing the Mini Belt Sander out on my Boston Whaler
So now for the test. There are several nook and crannies on my Boston Whaler restoration project. These areas are impossible to get to with standard power tools. The first are are the right angles. One example of this is between the rear bulkhead and inside of the port or starboard side as well as the floor (See picture). There is a radius here that can really only be sanded by hand. I loaded the belt sander with a 180 grit loop.
The next area I tested was the inside of the boat between the transom and the bulkhead. This is a fairly narrow area. It’s probably around 4-5 inches wide at the bottom narrowing up to about two inches at the top. I was able to add fairing compound to areas that really needed it. Getting a sander in there to smooth the compound out was a challenge. This sander was able to get into those spots without any difficulty at all.
I used 180 because when testing this on spare wood with the 80, the thing became a ravenous beast and would carve right through the board if I let it. The tip of the sander was pretty close to the same radius as the joint I was sanding. I was able to get a smooth surface if I carefully ran the tip side to side along the radius of the joint.
Paid Links to the Wen Belt Sander and Belts
All in all, I have to give this a thumbs up and I’ll rate it 5 stars. It’s a complete value for the price and extremely functional. I think that you’ll find it hard to beat with other tools in it’s class. I’ve had other Wen tools and have to admit that I’m not surprised. All of their tools I’ve used have been extremely reliable and fairly priced!
You can see the YouTube version of this article here: Wen 1/2 x 18 Belt Sander – Mini Belt Sander – Power File Review