Pros: Well built, compact versatile bench belt/disk sander that is nicely priced
Cons: None that I can think of at this time
The Ryobi BD4600 Bench Sander is, in my opinion, designed for the home craftsman who has a need for precise sanding of medium- and small-size work pieces. It is a welcome addition to the small woodworking shop that I have been planning for some time.
Just before Christmas (2003) Home Depot had a sale that just could not be passed up. So, I bought this tool along with several other bench power tools. I want my shop equipped so that I can make games, toys, boxes, and other craft items as well as the occasional furniture piece. I figure it will keep me out of the pool halls at night and provide me with some contentment as I launch myself into semi-retirement. I've done a bit of carpentry here and there and have always enjoyed working with wood. I have two grandsons and as soon as they are old enough, this is a craft that I would like to share with them.
Sandpaper smoothing is an essential part of most wood projects and for large objects. a sanding block, portable detail or random orbit sander is the perfect tool. However, small pieces for crafts, toys, and other objects take a different approach, as these parts are usually too small for hand-held sanders. Rather than applying the sander to the work piece, as is the case for larger objects like boards and flat furniture surfaces, small work pieces are better served if they are applied to the sander. In this case, the work piece can be supported in a manner that would provide more precision for properly fitted pieces, perfectly angled edges, etc. Picture frames, jewelry boxes, toys, and many craft projects fall into this category. For these items, a combination belt / disc bench sander would be the ideal tool. The Ryobi BD4600 fits this purpose well, offering compact size, convenience, and a nice fit for even the smallest of shops.
This bench sander is similar in form to several brands that are on the market in this price range. While each brand executes this somewhat common design with variations, Ryobi seems to have done an excellent job in both the level of quality materials and assembly. The design employs a motor-driven 4 x 36 inch sanding belt and a 6-inch sanding disc, which operate at the same time through a common drive system. Some brands seem to be crudely built and some employ lightweight sheet metal and castings. In my humble opinion, the Ryobi BD4600 represents the upper end of construction and design with its heavy steel-plate work support, die-cast aluminum worktable, and sturdy cast iron base.
Upon opening the box, you will find everything well packaged with molded Styrofoam packing. All components are compartmentalized to keep them from marring or damaging each other during shipment. The main assembly is bagged, as are the few components that will need to be attached by the user. The instruction manual is clear and precise, with excellent illustrations; and is written in three languages as is typical of Ryobi's product literature.
Assembly is minor, requiring only the attachment of the steel work support to the belt sander assembly and then the aluminum worktable to the disc sander position. Both tasks are accomplished with the supplied Allen wrench. The only additional assembly will be the application of the adhesive-backed sanding disc to its rotating plate and then attachment of the disc's lower safety guard. Two Phillips head screws are supplied for the safety guard and you will need your own medium-sized Phillips screwdriver for this minor task. All told, you are probably looking at 15 minutes to assemble and align these components. Not enough time to even warrant a coffee break.
SPECIFICATIONS AND DETAILS
Weight: 53 lbs
Dimensions: 18w x 14d x 12.5h with table and work support in position (dimensions are in inches)
Power requirements: standard 120 VAC at 4.3 amps
Power Cord: 6 ft. rubber-coated w/ conventional 3-prong grounding plug
Power Switch: Paddle-type toggle switch w/ removable plastic safety lock tab
Motor Drive: 1/2 hp, induction motor enclosed in tools cast iron base.
Sanding Media: 4 x 36 inch, 80 grit belt and 6-inch, 80 grit, adhesive-backed disc - These are standard sizes which are sold in various grits weights. They are relatively inexpensive and widely available.
Sanding Area: With the worksupport in place, the belt offers a 4 x 11.5 inch flat surface and a 2.75 inch diameter end for inside curve sanding. The disc provides the top half of a 6-inch rotating disk. Surface speed is 1900 surface feet per minute for the belt and 3600 rpm for the disc; both are counter-clockwise rotation, which is clearly marked.
Sanding profile: Belt can be adjusted for horizontal or vertical operation and is located on top of the machine. Disc is in fixed vertical position and is located on left front of machine.
Worktable: 8.5 x 5.75 inch die-cast aluminum w/machine-ground surface and miter slot. A miter gauge is included. The table can be adjusted for proper level and spacing relative to the sanding surface. Tilt adjustment is lockable from 0 to 45 degrees, sloping front to back (back edge always parallel to disc or belt). Table assembly can be easily relocated for use with the sanding belt.
Base: Cast iron, four rubber foot pads, and two mounting holes for bench or board mounting
Warranty: 30-day money back guarantee; two years parts and labor; Toll-free service number
Supplier: In the U.S., Ryobi tools are exclusively sold at Home Depot stores.
The Ryobi BD4600 appears to be well made. It has a substantial cast iron base that is free of casting pocks, flashes, and rough edges. The paint and overall finish is well done and demonstrative of a quality built machine. Both disc and belt areas are well built with sturdy, solid backing surfaces. This is important, because even though the moving belt or disc is doing the sanding, the surface under the sandpaper needs to be solidly strong and stable to ensure even sanding. In the case of the belt drive assembly, the supporting structure is 1/8-inch thick sheet steel and the two belt spindles are thick wall aluminum with what appear to be internal ball bearings. The disk plate is approximately 1/4-inch machined aluminum. The belt tracks well and the disc spins fairly true and without wobble. (Please understand, that without taking the machine apart, things like bearings and internal drive mechanisms are opinions made on technical experience and observations of performance.) The induction motor appears to be double-ended with the disc plate being directly connected on the front end and a gear being used on the other end to drive the cogged drive belt for the belt sander assembly.
The belt sander assembly is equipped with a heavy gauge (1/8-inch) steel work support that will keep the object being sanded from running off the end of the belt. The work support is solidly mounted to the belt assembly with two heavy-duty socket head capscrews. The normally horizontal belt sander assembly can be tilted to vertical. The worktable used at the sanding disc is pre-assembled and consists of a machined surface, die-cast aluminum table with two integral cast trunions which pivot on a 9/16-inch L-bent steel supporting bar. This in turn is mounted via a cast iron adjustment block to a 5/8-inch steel. mounting bar which has machined flats to ensure mounting integrity. The entire assembly is adjustable for proper alignment with the sanding disc. The tables adjustable miter gauge can be used as a guide for holding or moving the work piece precisely against the face of the spinning disc. The table can be tilted for bevel sanding and its miter gauge adjusted for sanding at angles. Used together, compound edges can be done with some measure of precision. The table can also be easily moved to the left end of the bench tool where it will serve the same purpose against the sanding belt. The belt must be moved into its vertical position for that purpose.
Looking at the front of the BD4600 (wish I could put a picture here) you will find the tool layout to be pretty straightforward. The 4 x 36 inch belt is positioned horizontally on top of the unit and on the front surface of the belt mechanism is a metal release lever that, when pulled forward, releases the belt tension and allows for quick removal and changing of the sanding belt. To the right of the belt release, you will find a yellow knob that provides for tracking adjustments. Both are easy operations, which anyone can do. A work support is mounted on the top left end of the belt where it acts as a support or stop for whatever is being sanded on the belt. The belt provides for flat sanding of any object that can be positioned or moved across its surface. The belt area is also designed with adequate overhang to allow its right-end radius (the idler spindle) to be used as an inside curve sander. The belt sander's idler spindle is approximately 2-3/4 inch diameter.
Continuing our front view of the BD4600, the red power switch is located on the right front and is fitted with a removable, yellow lock tab. With this lock tab removed, the switch cannot be turned on. (A wise safety feature.) To the left, and just below the belt release lever, the sanding disc is located. It is mounted flat against the front of the unit with the back edge of the worktable positioned horizontally across its face. The worktable is equipped with a tilt gauge mount allowing it to be sloped back from the sanding disc, up to 45 degrees. The worktable can also be adjusted to keep it properly aligned with the sanding face and its surface is machine ground and slotted to hold the supplied miter gauge. The adjustable miter gauge is the usual protractor-like assembly with easy to read markings. It is made of heavy black plastic with an aluminum arm and is adjustable up to 60 degrees, left or right and is equipped with a yellow locking knob. In addition, the face of the miter gauge is provided with two screw slots so that a wood or phenolic faceplate can be added. By loosening a single socket-head setscrew (using the supplied Allen wrench), the entire table assembly can be easily relocated to the left end of the unit for use with the sanding belt in its vertical position. Also at the left end of the unit, a dust collection port is provided. The dust collection port seems to do a pretty decent job when connected to a shop vacuum, but I would still suggest a dust mask and safety goggles. As a matter of fact, while safety goggles seems to be a common sense safety measure, a dust mask should be habitual practice whenever and wherever you produce sawdust!
Looking at the back of the unit, you will find the belt guard, a slot for storage of the miter gauge, and a clip to hold the Allen wrench. The latter is handy, as once assembled, all you need is this single wrench to do any of the required attachments or adjustments. As noted in the instruction manual, there are four access holes on the upper belt guard. These are used to access the two socket head capscrews, which hold the belt assembly in either its horizontal or vertical position. To move the belt assembly to vertical, use the Allen wrench to loosen the two screws (through the holes marked with a horizontal symbol) and then swing the outer end of the belt assembly up to its vertical position. One can now access the two screws through the holes marked with the vertical symbol, tightening them to secure the belt assembly. The advertising seems to indicate that the belt can be positioned anywhere between 0 and 90 degrees (horizontal to vertical) and while this is technically true, one would have to remove the belt guard to do so (not recommended). In working practice, the access holes provided on the belt guard only allow for positioning at either the horizontal or vertical positions.
Little maintenance is required as the motor is mounted inside the casting and both the motor and belt sander spindle ball bearings are pre-lubricated for the life of the machine. Basically all you should have to do is keep the unit clean and occasionally add a drop of oil to the table adjustment points. At the same time, I would also add a drop of oil to the table and support mounting screws to ensure that the tapped holes in the casting thread easily. The sanding belt can be changed easily by releasing the belt tension (single lever on front of machine) and sliding the belt off of its two spindles. The sanding disc is adhesive backed, so to change that you simply have to loosen a single set screw and pull the work table from its mounting hole. Then remove the lower guard plate (two Phillips screws) and then peel the sticky back sanding disk from its mounting surface. The only other wear part may be the cogged drive belt between the motor and the sanding belt assembly. Should it ever be required, there are illustrated instructions and the task appears to be simple enough. Beyond that, occasionally apply a little paste wax to the aluminum work table to keep it smooth.
Ryobi built this tool with good solid materials. Cast iron base, heavy steel hardware, and a nicely machined die-cast aluminum table. The half horsepower induction motor is smooth running and relatively quiet and seems to be more than ample power. The whole assembly seems solid and vibration free. Adjustments are easy and quickly accomplished, as are belt and disc changes. The whole tool is nicely painted with the trademark Ryobi blue, silver and black trim, and yellow adjustment knobs for miter, bevel, and tracking. For the "big shop" woodworker or cabinet maker, a larger capacity sanding machine might be in order. But for folks like me with a small woodworking area and more modest needs, I think this is a very fine addition and will prove to be a handy tool to have.