It all began at AWFS 2007 at the first BSRA National Championships

This was originally posted in 2007 prior to the 2007 AWFS show, and this event is now held every-other year at the AWFS show in Las Vegas.  We took second place in 2007 by 9/100 of a second, so we our efforts described here did pay off.
We have to some improvements in our minds that we'll share, so check back and get in the race!

(Revised July 2013: We won in 2013!  Click HERE for details.) 

Accuride Inc, a famous drawer slide manufacturer, announced that they would be sponsoring a Belt Sander Race at the AWFS show, which is held every-other July in Las Vegas. In fact, they've formed the the Belt Sander Racing Association, or BRSA to support and promote this exciting sport. I've had a secret desire to get involved in this ever since reading a back cover article in Fine Woodworking many years ago on Belt Sander Racing, so when our drawer slide Product Manager encouraged me to get into the race it didn't take much prodding. Along with another Product Manager, Daniel, we plan to enter the race in the only scoring class at this event, which is the Modified Class. Here's a link to a pdf file on the rules and regulations.

I'm a bit surprised at how little information about this is on the web. There are a few videos on Youtube, including one from an Accuride rep whose sander got whooped, (Sorry Chris, but you got "Eclipsed".) and a few local groups who hold regular races have simple sites with a few photos, but other than that I've been unable to locate any "build sites". 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?

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.

Was this their last hurrah?

Word came down last week at IWF that the BSRA Belt Sander Races would be "taking a break" and would not be held at the 2015 AWFS show.
On the one hand I am quite sad that I don't get to defend my title at the AWFS race.  On the other hand I suppose it's nice to go out on top.

What do you think about this?  

We Swept The 2013 BSRA National Championships!

I have to admit that this was more than I could have dreamed, but we won in both the Stock and the Modified class at the 2013 BSRA National Championship race at the AWFS show in Las Vegas! 

The top photo at right show the very last heat where we won against the incredibly fast sander from Western Dovetail.   It's a perfect example of where these races are won and lost; which is at the starting line.  Somehow I was able to get the jump on my buddy Max Hunter, and he assures me that it won't happen again! 

The next photo is of my buddy Daniel "Cuz" Tripp with the Stock Sander Trophy and me with the Modified Sander Trophy.

Next we have an awkward photo of be with a couple of the "Umbrella Girls".  The one picture that I don't have yet is the grand prize that is shown on the large sign to our left.  It's a neat auto-measuring stop for chopsaws and radial arm saws called a Tiger Stop.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to win it.

Next is a shot of our trophy in our booth at the show, as well as the perpetual Champion's Trophy that will feature our names along with past and future champions. 
 Finally is a shot of Cuz and our buddy "Brisco", who was Daniel's wing man and who is claiming to be our team coach.  He said "I''m not saying that they won because of me, but this is the first year that they've won".  Brisco, you are a special man.

I don't have any video from the race itself, but will add some if they surface on Youtube. 

Well, ALRIGHT! It looks like the race is ON at the 2013 AWFS show!

According to the 2013 AWFS official BSRA (Belt Sander Racing Association) Nationals are taking place at the show!  I've got a lot of work to do because my last entries got spanked!  This is great news though, 'cuz now I have something new to annoy my wife with this year.

This year they have announced that they are adding some addition action to the normal Stock and Modified racing categories in the form of a Demolition Derby, where sanders will crash head-on!  There will also be solo crashes into a post of some sort!  Should be very interesting.

Join in the fun July 25  at 4:00 p.m. in the convention center’s Central Hall, booth #9746

Scroll To The Bottom For New "Belt Sander Racer Confessions"

While I did tell you lots of valuable info in this blog, because I am still actively racing there are still a few things I am keeping to myself. That said there are a few more tidbits that I'm planning on letting out in the days leading up to the next BSRA Nationals at AWFS in Las Vegas. Scroll to the bottom of this blog to see the new "Belt Sander Racer Confessions". Scott

Accuride Announces Guy Bucasas to Serve as Emcee for BSRA National Championship Belt Sander Races

Accuride reveals the return of crowd favorite Guy Bucasas, who will act as announcer for the BSRA National Championship Belt Sander Races and Crash & Smash Demolition Derby on July 25th in Las Vegas, Nevada at AWFS®Fair.

...these races are so much more awesome in person—it’s like a circus—how could you not have fun?

Santa Fe Springs, CA (PRWEB) May 23, 2013
Accuride and the Belt Sander Racing Associationannounce they have secured Guy Bucasas as the event announcer for the upcoming National Championship Belt Sander Races set for Thursday, July 25th, 2013, 4 p.m. at AWFS®Fair in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The 2013 event marks the third time Bucasas will act as the announcer for the BSRA National Championships, where he has become a crowd favorite known for his running commentary and lively banter. In addition to the National Championships, Bucasas has emceed several BSRA regional races held at Accuride distributor locations along the west coast.
“I have a lot of fun at these events,” says Bucasas. “And these races are so much more awesome in person—it’s like a circus—how could you not have fun?” I even race my own sander! I like to tell people, if you want to see speed, action, and the epitome of belt sander racing—do not look at my sander. Look at the one next to mine.”
BSRA President Jamie Goodwin originally recruited Bucasas for the 2009 championships because of his effervescent personality. Goodwin said, “Guy is such a unique and eccentric person, I didn’t have to think twice—I knew he would be perfect!”
Bucasas wasn’t as sure as Goodwin about the venture, but once he arrived at that first race, saw the crowd-packed grandstands, spectators crammed up against the rails, pretty girls tossing Frisbees and T-shirts to the crowd, and the array of wildly festooned sanders, he knew he was in his element.
“Here I am—someone who’s public speaking experience consisted of an oral report in a high school English class—now tasked with announcing the BSRA National Championship Belt Sander Races—and I love it. I love the excitement, the pageantry, and the clever and well-built sanders,” said Bucasas. One of his personal favorites was a sander designed to look like Seattle’s historic Kalakala Ferry.
The BSRA National Championship Races feature speed-obsessed competitors who race stock and modified belt sanders down a 75-foot wooden track. The fastest and best-dressed sanders take home trophies and special awards presented by Accuride.
This year, the event will include a new competition, the Crash & Smash Demolition Derby. Participants with sacrificial sanders can register for the head-on “Crash” segment or the “Smash” segment, where sanders will careen into a post specially designed to cause sanders to break apart. Contestants will earn prizes, with the most spectacular crash taking home a trophy.
For more information or to register for the event, visit
About Accuride International:
For more than 50 years, Accuride International has been a leader in the design and manufacture of ball bearing slides and movement solutions for a broad range of applications across a variety of industries. Offering engineering and product design, application solutions, manufacturing expertise, and more, Accuride is a worldwide presence that can collaborate with companies in any industry, anywhere. For more information, visit

We're entering at least TWO sanders in the 2013 BSRA race in Vegas!

I'm stoked because it looks like there will be both a Stock and a Modified class at AWFS in Vegas, so we've registered a sander in each class! We're getting a new sander for the stock category and now I need to get cracking on a new body for each of them. Our 2007 sander got smacked-up pretty badly, so we're going to start from scratch. The trick is the track Accuride made has side walls made from plastic lumber; and in the Vegas heat they swell-up a bit. That means that though they say the track is 12" wide, it actually varies a 1/4" or more, so the body of the sander has to be able to accommodate the variation.

For those of you who are put-off by the cost of a sander you might take a look at Harbor Freight. No, I'm serious! They have a 4" X 24" sander (ITEM 96435-1VGA) that is only $79, and it looks just like the Makita 9403 (I wonder why...). The 9403 has become hard to find and rather expensive in recent years, so I'm tempted to give this one a shot. There was one person in 2007 who ran the orange Harbor Freight sander as a stock racer, but it made an embarrassing run, so make sure you modify it if this is your sander of choice.

Here's a late entry! Harbor Freight just introduced a new sander that has some impressive stats, and with a light weight chassis, this might just be the ticket.

Here are the facts from Harbor Freight's site:

ITEM 97593-0VGA

"The magnesium gear housing of this belt sander is 75% lighter than steel and 34% lighter than aluminum, but superior in strength, giving this rugged tool a higher resistance to impact."

  • Industrial ball-bearing mount 10 amp motor aggressively removes material in a variety of applications
  • Efficient dust collection system with dust bag
  • Large front handle with nonslip grip for increased comfort and control
  • Quick release lever for fast belt changes
  • External brush cap for easy servicing

120 volts AC, 60 Hz; Amps: 10; Speed: 2750 RPM; Belt speed: 1640 feet/minute; Dust port opening: 1"; Belt size: 4" W x 24" L; Power cord: 6 ft; Overall dimensions: 14-3/8" L x 6-3/4" W x 7-1/2" H Weight: 13.6 lbs.

Posters using Comment Kahuna, Fast Blog Finder and other SEO tools are driving me nuts!

For those of you civilians (non-web-geeks) who are here just for the woodworking and tool advice; God bless you!  Unfortunately we have been besieged in recent weeks with outrageous amounts of spam comments on our blogs.  One of the things that I’ll admit up front is that Blogger makes is a little tough to comment as it is.  You need to first click on the title (which is a link) to get to the individual post, and then you are able to post a comment.  Apparently webmasters and bloggers who are looking to boost traffic to their sites are using software such as “Comment Kahuna” and “Fast Blog Finder” to locate blogs that are somewhat related to the keywords they use on their own site, and which accept comments.  From there they post a comment and a backlink to their site. 

This does two things:
1.     It may attract readers directly from the blog, or
2.     By having a non-reciprocal link from another, well respected site, it lends credibility to their own site in the eyes of search engines like Google.  This is what is known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

What is sad is that this activity doesn’t have to be entirely one-sided; it’s just that the spammers are posting nonsensical and off topic comments all in the effort to serve their own desires.  Look, to be honest with you I’ve posted comments on other sites with this very goal in mind, but when I do so I only reply to a post or thread that I am truly interested in, or where I feel my comment will add some value to the conversation.

So, let it be known from this day forward that while I will continue to accept and even encourage comments, I will moderate them carefully.  Feel free to backlink to your related sites and blogs, but if your comment is entirely self-serving it will be deleted.

Now, back to the shop.  What are you building these days?      

Here's a video of our finished sander in action at the AWFS Show 2007

I can not believe the irony in the description on the masthead of this blog, which I typed months before the actual race took place. That’s right, our sander launched out of the track in what was described by the MC as “The most spectacular thing I’ve seen in my 20 years of witnessing belt sander races!” In the end our efforts were rewarded by a second place finish, just .09 seconds behind first place! Not too shabby for a couple first-timers!

We also became the first racers to have a video camera mounted on the sander during an actual race. The footage is part of the montage in the video below

See additional videos of the race through the links in the thumbnail photos above.

See, there's nothin' wrong with second place!

Scott Jordan, President of Accuride, presents Hafele America Co's Scott Markwood with the plaque for second place at the BSRA race at AWFS 2007.
The ladies in the photo worked hard during the event by returning the extension cords to the center of the track between each race.

My wife’s first comments upon seeing this photo was “Nice sleeves”. Followed by “No play for Mr. Grey”. Scott and I both thank you for your support Hon.

Click the pic to Biggie-Size it

There She is!

Daniel Tripp (left) is the world-famous "Sander Catcher" as seen in the videos above. The sander shown was the first "Häfele Functionality Racer" flown by Häfele America Co. at the AWFS show in Las Vegas July 2007. The building of this sander is covered in depth in the build-blog of the builder, Häfele America Co's Training Coordinator, Scott Markwood (right).

Click the pic to Biggie-Size it

The moment of impact; The “Häfele Functionality” Belt Sander Racer heading off the launch pad!

This amazing photo was captured by a Charles McMurray rep from CA and was passed on to me by Jamie Goodwin of Accuride. If you look closely you can even see the ghost of the sander as it surged forward and over the shock absorber at the finish line.
Looks like Chris Huff (On the right with the camera) had a nice front row view!

(See the video at the link at the top of this page)

Click the pic to Biggie-Size it

Here's a view of the crowd at BRSA race at the 2007 AWFS show

I just read on AWFS’s site that thousands were in attendance for this race. Now, I'm told that there were seats for 500-600 people, and there was by my estimates at another 200 or so standing at any one time, but they cycled in and out. So, if I use my 1970’s public school “New Math” skills it looks like there were at least 7000 in attendance! 700 or 7000, either way it was a great first-time attendance and I’m sure it’s only going to grow from here.
Man, that's one long track!

"Valkyrie" Belt Sander Wows Crowd at Second National BSRA Race in Las Vegas July 16th 2009

I'll post a few more pics and videos shortly, but I just have to share this one. The chrome sander in these pictures is called Valkyrie, and it’s the offspring of Scott Rhodes or Rhodes and Rhodes Millwork in New Jersey.

The skeletal sander featured a Porter-Cable 690 router motor as its power plant, and despite its visual impact it didn’t quite have the stuff on the raceway.

Scott’s design did net him the Judge's Choice trophy for its engineering, and he tipped his hand a bit when he said that he has a back-up design that features a 3hp router under the hood!
We look forward to seeing him rip-up tracks in the future. Nice work Scott!

Click the pics to Biggie-Size them.

Here's the view from the finish line. Looks much more decisive from there than from the starting line.

Ellie Bird Wins the 2009 BSRA Nationals Stock Sander, and rubs it in my face!

On Friday morning July 17th 2009 I drag myself into the Häfele America Co. booth only to find my competitor, Ellie Bird from Fastcap standing in front of her trophy on MY workbench! Next to Ellie is Häfele’s own Skye Russell, who was Ellie’s wingman during the race.

In Ellie’s heat against my stock sander we both had our best run of the day and she still beat me; so props to her and to her pit crew back at Fastcap.

The bottom picture is Ellie talkin' smack at the starting line. It's important to note that it's not bragging if you can actually do it!

FYI, the little fellow on top of Ellie’s sander is none other than Paul Akers, owner chief cheerleader of Fastcap.

Click Pics to Biggie-Size 'em

Stupid Harbor Freight Belt Sanders!

I don't know what I was thinking, but a few weeks ago I wrote a post where I suggested that you could do worse than racing a Harbor Freight belt sander. Little did I know that 4 of the top performers at the 2009 AWFS BSRA belt sander race would be just that! I'm not saying that these folks from Texas took my advice (because they're sanders predate my post), but I was dismayed that a Chinese clone of my Makita sander could kick my sander's butt so handily! I suspect that it is a faithful copy, but it is much lighter, which gave it an advantage on the track. The fastest sander on the track, the Silver Bullet, set two track records but a hard tumble at the end of the track took it out of the running. Check

In the end my stock sander was knocked-out of the running by the eventual winner; A Ridgid sander raced by Fastcap's Ellie Bird.

My modified sander, which took second place in 2007, suffered from over-engineering! I watched videos of the 2007 races over and over to try to learn what went wrong, and I came to the conclusion that what I needed to do was to keep the sander from listing. With that I made a body that was easily 3-4 times heavier than my original. I also had a neat flame-shaped flame coming from the back of the sander.

The race was Thursday night, but late Wednesday I got the word that the local NBC affiliate would be at the track at 5:45am and that the promoter wanted some of the racers to be there to simulate some action. EXCELLENT! Even though I do not do mornings, I was able to be there and we got the chance to make a few runs down the track. It became immediately apparent that I had a big problem. We took our sanders back to our booth (we were also exhibiting at the show) and between demos of Metabo drills and saws, Sioux sanders and Leica lasers we slashed about half or the weight off the body of our sanders and disconnected the light bulb just in case it is draining more power than I expect. You'll notice in the video when I lift the sander to prove that there's a belt on it that the rollers on the front have been removed; along with much of the side pieces. This may have helped, but not enough.

To make matters worse, Ellie Bird (the eventual Stock winner) was also working within our booth and was ten feet away. While trash talk is fun, it turns out that it's mostly fun when you are doing it to someone else! In 2007 our modified sander ran the track in under 3 seconds, while this year it's fastest time was 3.8. Clearly we messed-up with all the extra weight.

More pics and info to come.

Moovit Belt Sander Gets a Last Minute Modification

As I mentioned in a prior post, following a trial run on the morning of the race we took our two sanders back to our booth in an effort to lighten them up a bit. If you compare the photo at right with toe one in the prior post you can see where the side of the sander body has been modified. The body was shortened by 2", and the side was shortened to eliminate the front bottom roller.

The bottom photo shows the results mid-race, as our sander jumps the stop at the end of the track moments before our opponent reaches the stop.

While not as dramatic as the "flight of the sander in 2007, this happened to many of the sanders and clearly indicates that Accuride needs to improve this portion of their track. As I mentioned before, the sander with two track records was knocked-out of the running after crashing to the floor after the stop failed to contain the sander. Perhaps a simple polycarbonate box over the stop?

Click pics to Biggie-Size them.

The posts below cover the step-by-step (sort of) build of our Award-Winning Belt Sander Racer

The most logical first step was to remove the belt cover.

With only a single screw to hold it in place this was simple enough. If you take a look you"ll notice that this photo was obviously staged because the small pulley is shown slightly loose on it's shaft. It looked like the quick fix to speeding this bad boy up would be a quick swap of the two pulleys, but when is anything worth doing ever simple?

Removing the drive belt is an easy task.

The belt is a toothed or cogged belt, which means it's going to have to go. Why? Well, at the speeds that we're shooting for a cogged belt will be ripped to shreds, and believe it or not we need to accommodate a "little" slip between the belt and the pulley upon start-up, so as I said, the toothed belt was bad news. Notice that the shaft at the center of the small pulley is now sticking out from the pulley just a bit. This is because I twisted it back on the shaft after noticing that in the previous staged photo that I failed to spin it all the way down for the previous pic. Anyway, grabbing the belt and pulling it away from the sander while rotating the large pulley slowly was all it took to remove the belt.

Well looky here! The pulleys have taught me a lesson. Just call me the Tool Whisperer.

This pulley taught me several things:
1.) It pays to take your time thinking about how tools are made and the forces that are at play. This shaft turns counter-clockwise and therefore must have left-hand threads.
2.) If this one has left-hand threads then the large shaft must have a right-hand thread. Crud! So much for my first thought about simply swapping the two. Oh yeah, I'm going to use a poly-v belt so I have to replace the pulleys anyway. (I've got to get more sleep!)

You'll notice from the photo that the pulley has a recess that is needed to allow the pulley to seat in the shoulder of the shaft while leaving room for the plastic housing that restrains the bearing. My plan to replace this pulley will require either a similar recess on the replacement pulley, or perhaps a washer that can slip on the shaft and space the new pulley proud of the plastic case. Hummm. I think I'm going to sleep on that one.

I'm torn over whether to disclose this idea or not...

I guess in the interest of promoting the art of racing I'll go ahead and share this idea. I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this, but I've never seen it discussed. We're about to remove the exhaust fan. Why? Well, let me ask you this; Why do we need it? We aren't really sanding anything, and as I see it, it's just offering resistance. Seeing how these races last all of 2.5-3 seconds every fraction of a second counts, and this part just isn't needed. The cover came off with four screws.

Hey look, more parts to toss!

The white plastic part looks like a diverter or seal that retains and funnels the dust into the dust bag. I've never looked into this part of a sander before so it's kind of cool to see the path that the dust follows from the rear roller through the fan and into the bag. Simple and clever. I like it and now it must go!

See ya!

This part just lifted right off. It was held in place by pressure from the cast metal side of the sander.

The fan is fixed with a single screw and washer

The screw was easy to remove. You'll need to hold the fan stationary with one hand while loosening the screw.

Oh, come on! How many posts can one silly part take?

I guess one more! The fan lifted right off. I don't know much this amputation is going to help, but I figure it's not going to hurt. Sort of wish I'd kept this to myself until after the race though! If this tip was new to you don't you think this was worth a click on one of the sponsor links to the left? Thanks.

Time for a bagectomy

Now I'm beginning to wonder to myself; "Self, why didn't I didn't pull the dust bag off before now?" You can see that the bag is pressed into an elbow which is retained by a groove in the casting. This entire assembly lifted right off.

I wonder if there will still be some air movement through this or if this will whistle like blowing over a pop bottle? (That's right, I said "Pop". I'm from Ohio.)

The front knob is held with two screws

Not only is the knob extra weight, but the two threaded holes should be a great place to anchor parts of the body. What body? Well, perhaps I'm being to generous with that term. The sander will need "something" to keep it centered in the 12" wide track, and until I decide what method to use I choose to think of this as the body of the racer. Trust me, if I'm going to the trouble of removing something as light as this knob I'm not about to replace it with a heavy body. I believe that style or theme is a portion of the competition, so whatever we do it needs to add something to the sander's character.

Hmmmm. Oh look, more screws to remove!

Not too sure what to do with what I find under here, but I have to take a look.

Careful son, there's scary stuff in there!

This is odd. The wire that leads from the switch to the motor is a lighter gauge than the wire in the cord. That can probably be improved. I also don't like the way the cord is above the handle so perhaps I'll relocate it below the switch.
As I review the videos on Youtube I noticed several sanders pop a bit of a wheelie at the start of the race, and having the cord lower may lower the center of gravity a tad. Additionally if the cord hits a snag during the race having it lower might keep it from tipping up. Can't hurt. (I think)

Let's take a look at the front roller

Before we dig into the front roller I've got to tell you that I'm surprised by how poorly this roller idles. What I mean is when you have the belt off and you spin the roller it grinds to a stop after about two rotations. I suspect that I know why this is, but we'll know for sure in just a few seconds.

I stopped by Harbor Freight and picked-up a set of snap ring pliers. They have a belt sander on sale for $20! Why am I going through this learning curve with a $200+ sander? Because that's the way I roll, that's why.

One squeeze of the pliers and "plop" the axle dropped out of sight.

Oh, and it looks like I'll be replacing the snap ring too. I'll have to learn not to squeeze those pliers so hard I guess.

Yeah, it's just as a feared. No bearings.

Beneath the steel washer in the background was this bronze bushing. That explains why the roller idled so poorly. What to do? I suppose I could polish the axle and do some investigative work to find the best lubricant, or perhaps I should press in a ball bearing. Press it in where? Oh yeah, there's nowhere to press a bearing into.

OK, so do I turn a new roller all together with accommodations for bearings? (Sigh) Maybe.

Not much holdin' that roller, is there?

In this picture you can see the axle has a polished end. This is because the bushing doesn't run the entire length of the roller and the axle is turned a bit thinner in the center to reduce the area making contact with the bushing. In fact, there are two bushings, one at each end of the roller. I suppose if you must use bushings that this is the way to do it, but if I was going to use this sander for actual sanding I can see how this would become a maintenance nightmare. The axle was quite oily and I'm sure it would be a dust magnet.

For some reason I just had to go deeper

It just took two screws and a tug on the casting and I was staring into the belly of the beast. The bad news was as I was gutting this pig I heard a loud "CLICK" and my heart sank. I forgot about the brushes!

Stupid brushes!

There they are. I now need to remove the brushes because the commutator won't slip past the brushes now that they have been driven inward by their springs.

What's a commutator, you ask?

The commutator is the part that the brushes rub against in order to energize the motor. It's all very interesting and if this is new to you check out HowStuffWorks for an explanation. Make sure you click the "Next" button to see the animation.
Anyway, you can see that the carbon portion of the brush is long and intact, so these will work fine for hundreds of hours.

Here's a look at the cooling fan. Hmmmmm.

No, I'll fight the urge to remove the fan, even though a 2 second race isn't going to cause the sander to overheat. I can't see this little fan slowing the sander down by a measurable amount, so for now, it stays.

While were here, let's keep going

This cover slipped right off exposing the field magnet, which is actually two strong electromagnets. The black plastic cover appears to be a dust cover. I guess I'll leave this on too. Man, I'm really getting lenient in my old age.

Belt Sander Racer Takes Flight at BSRA Race at '07 AWFS