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Artists drag race belt sanders at the Front Street Galleries

David Zawisa gets his belt sander ready to race at the Front Street Galleries on September 18, 2002.
J. Reynolds
David Zawisa gets his belt sander ready to race at the Front Street Studios and Galleries on September 18, 2022.

People are racing power tools in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

People love to race things: bicycles, cars, drones…. and yesterday, there was belt sander racing at the Front Street Galleries in Dayton.

Participants go head-to-head, racing their belt sanders on side-by-side tracks. Each track is a long, straight strip of wood with rails on both sides to keep the sander from falling off—at least until it reaches the end of the track, where some plastic netting is set up to catch it when it flies off.

And they’re not battery powered sanders. They have long extension cords that unfurl as they fly down the wooden raceway.

Greg Seitz says, “It’s exactly like a drag race—you know, with power tools.”

The key, Seitz says, is buying used sanders and tricking them out.

“You know we’re just gonna wreck ‘em. So, you don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. And we have a pretty good variety now. I think people are taking it seriously, how to dress them up and make them more than just a belt sander,” he says.

One of those racers is Dave Crowell, who has gotten a little obsessed with sanders.

“It’s kind of intriguing because, like original drag racing, you start out with a stock belt sander, then you start thinking about ampridge and then you start thinking about RPMs and you start thinking about gear ratios,” he says. “The next thing you know, you have a hot-rodded belt sander.”

There are eleven sanders in today’s race, and Crowell says they’re all owned by creatives—woodworkers, business owners, and artists.

They make some fancy belt sanders, too.

David Zawisa has a sander that has an exhaust pipe with a small plastic jack-o-lantern on top.

“I have injected a magnesium rod into the fan, and it will shoot sparks out of the exhaust pipe,” he says. “Out of the pumpkin head.”

There are no losers in belt sander racing on Front Street. Greg Seitz says there are lots of trophies to hand out. They have trophies for “first and second place, best crash, most dressed up, and last place.”

Seitz is also quick to note that they’re not professional belt sanders.

“Believe it or not, there is a sanctioning body for this,” he says. “We’re not there yet.”

But they are having a lot of fun.