Seeking Shop-Built Thickness Sander Advice

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Forum topic by Blake posted 03-04-2008 11:28 PM 9102 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3870 days

03-04-2008 11:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have a few questions regarding the thickness sander I am planning on building. Mostly about the Drum. I plan on making the drum either 10” or 12” long (and maybe about 4” in diameter???)

The tutorials and plans on the internet are pretty good. But I was just wondering:

1. How do you determine the size of the drum?
2. What sandpaper do I use?
3. Is the size of the drum based on what sandpaper is available?
4. How are the dimensions (length vs. diameter) calculated in relation to the sandpaper used?
5. How do you figure out the angle of the paper that is wrapped around the drum?

I guess what I am mostly trying to figure out is: Do I start by making the drum any size I want and easily find sandpaper that will work for it or should I base the drum size on commonly available sandpaper?

Also wondering…

6. Is a 1hp good for the motor?
7. I have a 1hp, 1750rmp motor already. Will this work?
8. What speed should the drum run at?
9. What size gears do I need to increase or decrease the speed?


-- Happy woodworking!

24 replies so far

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3987 days

#1 posted 03-04-2008 11:32 PM

The sandpaper comes in rolls so drum size doesn’t really factor into it.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3987 days

#2 posted 03-04-2008 11:33 PM

This is a pretty good tutorial on building one

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3984 days

#3 posted 03-04-2008 11:59 PM

Have you seen the article in Shopnotes on building one. If not PM me.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10096 posts in 4048 days

#4 posted 03-05-2008 04:34 AM

I have an 18” drum sander that I got as a kit from

You can see mine at:

The key to using it is to have uniform feed speed, which is by hand.

It works…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4396 days

#5 posted 03-05-2008 07:33 AM

Blake the angle of the sandpaper is determined by how wide the paper is and how wide the drum is.

If the paper is 3” wide and the drum is 18” wide you would have 6 loops on the drum with a taper at the beginning and a taper at the end. So in reality you could use 9 loops of 2” paper or 3 of 6” paper. (probably not practical)

The drum size is kind of your call and what is available. You might have to figure out the HP that might be required to sand a wide surface on a 32” drum though.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3984 days

#6 posted 03-05-2008 08:08 AM

Would you like me to measure my Performax?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4026 days

#7 posted 03-05-2008 09:45 AM


Try this site for calculating the pulley size Vs drive speed

As already stated the sand paper grain is determined by the project – just make sure it is easy to change – or alternatevly make several drums with different grades of paper which can also be easily interchanged.

The larger the sanding (contact with wood) area and the depth of cut (ammount of material to be removed) will determin how much power you need, also do not forget that the grit size also affects this. using 40 grit creates more resistance than using 400 grit – I would use you existing motor for a trial, if it is not up to the job, then buy a bigger one. you will not have wasted any money.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3877 days

#8 posted 03-05-2008 03:41 PM

Blake, as Joe pointed out, I would seriously consider some kind of feed mechanisim. Maybe not have it right now, but consider it in your design. I can tell you from experiance that it makes a world of difference. Even a hand cranked belt would be better than trying to push it through. It doesn’t have to go fast, just smooth. Any noticiable pause will cause a snipe.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3781 days

#9 posted 03-05-2008 04:14 PM

I am also thinking about making one of these sanders, but have thoughts of using a roller from a old ringer washer with a heavy grit of sand paper attached to it for grip. My thoughts were to mount it underneath with the crank to the side of the adjustable table…..... Now my concern is with the down pressure to turn the crank then the up pressure to turn it will it leave an uneven surface? I guess trial and error will answer that.
If that doesnt work I have an alternate solution (maybe), add a low rpm motor with the correct pulley config. as to not drag down the feed motor. I have many more hours of contemplating to do before I begin.
Maybe this will help in the construction of yours….Take care and good luck!

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3953 days

#10 posted 03-05-2008 06:00 PM

I am thinking of building one of these as well. I was thinking of using an additional smaller motor to turn the large belt for the lumber to ride on. This way I wouldn’t effect the main sanding motor and could also set it up with a step pulley to give me a couple different speeds.

Looking for to your design and pictures.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3757 days

#11 posted 03-09-2008 09:28 PM

I made a 2 1/2” diameter x 15” sanding drum out of red oak on my lathe. It works very well on 1 HP, although you need to have some method to vary, or step down the speed from 1750 rpm, otherwise, results will be poor, and you will waste a lot of sandpaper. It is important to consider dust collection as well, as this thing can really throw out the dust!

The plan for this sanding drum is in “Power Tool Woodworking for Everyone” by R. J. DeCristoforo. The late DeChristoforo was a very prolific woodworking author and authority. This book has gone through several editions through 30 years or so, but I believe that the plan for the sanding drum is in all of them. It would be easy to find one of these books on one of the several internet book seller’s sites, and not very expensive as well.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3897 days

#12 posted 03-09-2008 10:10 PM

It looks like you’re going to give it a go! I just got back to the PC after a week away & it looks as though you might now have all the answers you seek Blake. I know you’re already aware of this, but others may not have seen my effort blogged here Good luck with it.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View aaronmolloy's profile


123 posts in 3776 days

#13 posted 03-09-2008 10:22 PM

I in my opinion I would rather by a planer thickneser and a really good sander. I think the sanding drums can run out of grit really quickly and you’ll end up spending a lot of money

-- A. Molloy

View EaglewoodsPres's profile


53 posts in 3726 days

#14 posted 03-10-2008 05:07 AM

I have thought about building one for awhile but we opted to purchase a multiuse unit. We bought a woodmaster. Planer, moulder, and sander in one. I am going to buy a dedicated sander though. I have been pricing them out lately and grizzly has a 12 inch benchtop model for under 500.00. In the time it is going to take you to build the “u-push-it-through” model? More importantly, what could you be making in that time by buying a self fed unit? My money is on the purchased model.

-- Chris ( )

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3870 days

#15 posted 03-10-2008 05:18 AM

Aaronmolloy, I already have a planer. A thickness sander is a much different tool, and not really for dimensioning lumber but evening up small stock (think small box sides and veneers.)

Eagle, I tend to agree with you on that point for most applications. But $500 bucks for the “cheapest” benchtop model? Its just outrageous. Planers don’t even cost that much. It’s just a spinning drum. Sheesh. I finally decided to build my own when I realized how easy and cheaply I could make a small sander. I will keep my eyes open for a good used sander over the next several years when I need to upgrade.

Everyone else, thanks for the info.

-- Happy woodworking!

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