|Review by EEngineer||posted 03-18-2017 06:59 PM||2442 views||1 time favorited||11 comments|
I have wanted a spindle sander in my shop for some time now. For the last year or two, I had my eye on the Ridgid EB4424 belt/spindle sander but reviews just haven’t been kind to this product. Yes, there are many magazine reviews praising this product and positive reviews by satisfied users but there are also lots and lots of sad tales (including right here on LJ here and here ) that seemed to point to severe quality control issues.
In addition, like many other companies, it seems that Ridgid took what was originally a fine tool and cost-reduced it to the point where it no longer performs as well as it once did. In particular, substitution of plastic drums (and other parts) for the original metal ones in the belt attachment left me with concerns about the long-term reliability of this product – at least on the belt sanding attachment which I consider a major selling point.
Enter the Grizzly T27417. Introduced in the 2016 Grizzly catalog, it looks a lot like the Ridgid unit. But there are major differences. The table is smaller and the whole package has a much smaller footprint (16 1/2” X 18 1/2” as opposed to the Ridgid’s 19 1/4” X 23 1/2”) – this is actually an advantage for me with a small shop. Drive rotation is opposite – that gets rid of the screwy left-hand thread on the Ridgid unit for the knob that secures sanding sleeves or the belt drive. Under the table things are really different! More about that later.
(Note: I am going to split this review into two parts – this, the first part, will just cover my overall impression of the Grizzly unit and its use. The second part will cover the technical details of the design and build of this unit as compared to the Ridgid EB4424. The two units are very similar in function and use but very different in the design and execution.)
Grizzly had a Black Friday sale last year. With the sale price on the T27417, even with shipping, I got the sander for less than the Ridgid EB4424 was selling for at Home Depot. It arrived in a sturdy cardboard box protected by molded styrofoam pieces. Nothing was damaged, nothing was missing and I had it running less than an hour after I cut the tape on the box.
The first piece out of the box was the belt sander attachment. As soon as I picked it up, I knew this thing was substantial – no plastic pieces here! Both the drive drum and the idler drum are aluminum, not plastic, with sealed ball-bearings at the top and bottom of each drum. The belt-sander attachment is assembled on a heavy-duty cast metal frame. The only plastic in the Grizzly belt sander attachment is on the knob to adjust belt tracking.
The main housing of the sander – meh, plastic – sturdy but plastic. The table is cast aluminum, painted, and a little flimsy compared to the old cast-iron machines I prefer in my shop. Still, it was flat and set perpendicular to the belt right out of the box. The adjustable portion of the table was flat but maybe not exactly coplanar with the fixed portion of the table. One side stands less than 1/32” proud of the fixed table. This is acceptable to me – I am more concerned that the belt or drum is perpendicular to the table. Fit and finish is good all around. This is one of the few new machines I have purchased that I didn’t spend a lot of time trimming and fitting to make it right before I used it.
So, how does it work? First off, the motor is strong. The manufacturer claims a 1/2 HP motor and, for a change from most tool specs nowadays, this might not be an exaggeration (see technical details in the second part of this review). For a quick test I took a 2X4, on the wide side (that’s about the limit for this unit with a 4 1/2” belt and 5/8” stroke), and really bore down on it. I managed to slow the motor a little but I couldn’t stall it and a few minutes sanding like this didn’t seem to stress it at all. With the 80 grit belt provided it removes material very aggressively. For real projects, my first purchase for this tool was 120 grit drums and belts to be less aggressive with a smoother finish.
This test did reveal a problem, however. I had to adjust the tracking constantly as the belt warmed up while I was being rough with it. With milder project work, this wasn’t such a problem. It seems that the aluminum drums were not crowned as is done on most larger belt sanders to help belt tracking. Following a tip I found on the web, I wound a couple of layers of electrical tape in the center of the idler drum to fix this (you can see that in the picture of the belt attachment above). It provided a slight crown on the idler drum and made the tracking adjustment a lot less finicky.
The drums have a nut and wrench to fix them in place. When I tried a drum it became obvious why – there is simply no way to tighten the little star wheel enough with your fingers to spread the rubber cylinder and keep the drum from slipping. The plastic insert for use with the drums is flat and true. It does sit a little lower than the table but they provided holes for leveling screws around the perimeter so, if this becomes a problem with smaller pieces, I will insert screws and level it to the table. For a test I took a piece of 3/4” cherry and bore down on the sanding cylinder very hard. Once again, I could slow the motor a little but could not stall it and several minutes of this did not stress it at all. I could smell the cherry burning so I was exerting far more pressure than I would normally use on a project but the drum didn’t slip and I could not stall the motor.
Dust collection with the belt attchment was good. I have a 5 gallon Bucket-head vacuum that I use for dust collection and it picks up 80-90% of the saw dust. What is left is just a dusting on the table top. I keep a bench brush next to the tool to clean that up after sanding. Dust collection with the drums was even better – there was no dust on the table.
In the last few months, I had a chance to work on several small projects with this sander and it performed admirably. So far, all I have used is the belt sander. Like many others with this kind of combination sander, I suspect that it will usually have the belt sander mounted. I will only need the drums to sand inside curves.
Like the Ridgid EB4424, the Grizzly unit provides built-in storage for the accessories. Unlike the EB4424, however, the smaller Grizzly unit ended up with a lot of the accessories scattered around the sides of the unit where they are just not so convenient. And both units have storage for the belt sander in the back where it is not convenient at all with the sander backed up against a wall as I have it in my shop. I mounted the sander to a night stand that was handy and the top drawer ended up with most of the accessories (i.e. the belt sander, sanding drum adapter plates and extra sanding belts and drums). The only built-in storage I use is for the sanding drums with the most commonly used grit paper on them at the front of the unit. I don’t intend to carry this unit to jobsites so this works for me.
All in all, I am very pleased with this sander and it is a keeper! The only reason I am giving this unit 4 stars instead of 5 is because I haven’t had it long enough to judge the durability yet. There aren’t that many reviews on it and it just doesn’t have the same amount of history that the Ridgid unit does. Only time will tell.
-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"