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Whidbey woodworker glides through belt-sander races

Ken Green, owner of Green’s Custom Woodworks of Oak Harbor, won the day’s competition. - Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Ken Green, owner of Green’s Custom Woodworks of Oak Harbor, won the day’s competition.
— image credit: Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Ken Green doesn’t look at belt sanders the way most contractors do.

Where most see a sanding machine, Green sees a dragster.

Green, owner of Green’s Custom Woodworks, modified his belt sander by cutting off a pound and a half of metal and replacing the handle with a duck decoy.

He then entered his peculiar-looking machine in Frontier Building Supply’s belt-sander races at the Oak Harbor store Friday and took first place.

The victory earned Green a $300 store gift certificate and a spot in the finals at the Anacortes store.

“The sanders all have a fixed speed,” said Green, who was second at last year’s event in Oak Harbor. “All the Porter Cables are running at 1,500 sanding feet per minute.”

Green worked for any advantage but said he believes a smooth belt surface and smooth track are the decisive factors.

“It only takes an inch. It doesn’t take much,” he said.

Frontier Supply Store puts on the annual event as a way to thank its customers, said John Vanderwal, manager of the Oak Harbor store.

“We give them a day to have a break, feed them and have some fun,” Vanderwal said.

Last year, Gary Wray of Coupeville won the Freeland store’s race then captured the grand prize at Anacortes.

Green, from Oak Harbor, defeated Lee Eklund of Nautilus Construction in the finals in Oak Harbor.

Eklund brought a standard belt sander with no modifications.

“It’s a fun thing,” said Eklund, who earned a $200 gift certificate for second place. “I just got a belt sander out of the back of the trailer. When I started it up, sawdust was blowing out of it.”

Competitors were paired against each other, placed their belt sanders on the end of a long track and watched them go. The sanders were plugged into long extension cords.

The races also drew Oak Harbor’s Mike Smith, a drag racer who competes in various Nostalgia Drag racing stops. He just came to watch.

“You know, I had to come to the drag races,” Smith said.

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