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Question About a Drum Sander

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Forum topic by Chuck77 posted 02-12-2018 04:39 AM 1755 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


02-12-2018 04:39 AM

Hi there fellow woodworkers,

I am looking for some advice on the right method/tool to use for my sanding. For about 6-7 months now, I have been building solid hardwood beds for sale in my wood shop. Walnut, Cherry, Maple, White Oak to name a few suspects. Things are going pretty well. I am at the point where I’d like to increase my volume. But first, I need to become more efficient in a few areas. Sanding has always been my slowest process. I have been building two beds at a time. It typically takes me an entire 6-7 hour day to sand all the parts for both beds to a smoothness suitable for finishing. I am using a Dewalt palm sander with a shop vac attached. I start with 120 grit to remove all the machining marks from my planer. Once this is complete I move up the 220 grit which goes much faster. The time spent with the 220 grit is acceptable but the massive amount of time spent using 120 grit is killing me. I’ve got to find a faster and easier method. I am looking into buying a drum sander. I’ve done a lot of research and have come away with this question: Why would I bother investing in a drum sander if I’m still going to be forced to use my palm sander? I keep reading that after using 220 grit on the drum sander, I’ll need to switch back to a palm sander and use a lower grit (like 150 or 180) to remove the marks left by the 220 on the drum. That sounds crazy to me. I’m buying a drum sander to get away from spending hours with a palm sander. If I still have to use the palm sander to clean up the mess left by the drum, why bother buying the drum? Can somebody please shed some light on this confusion for me? I’d really appreciate any input here.
Thank you,
Chuck


20 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 3733 days


#1 posted 02-12-2018 04:59 AM

Consider a stroke sander.

View Chuck77's profile

Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#2 posted 02-12-2018 05:32 AM



Consider a stroke sander.

- Loren


Assuming I did go with a stroke sander. Wouldn’t that also require going back with an orbital sander?

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 3733 days


#3 posted 02-12-2018 05:40 AM

View Rich's profile

Rich

3350 posts in 675 days


#4 posted 02-12-2018 06:25 AM

If you are using a 5 inch ROS, consider upgrading to 6 inch. Also, sheet sanders shouldn’t be overlooked. Look into a 1/2 sheet model like Makita and Festool sell. They can be attached to your dust collection system too. The 1/2 sheet sander is over twice the square inches of a 5” ROS, cuts more aggressively and the paper is cheaper. I use the Makita and it’s my starting point for all of my panel and large frame work.

Also, why start at 120 grit? Why not 80 or 100 for the initial heavy clean up, then your work with the 120 would go as fast as the 220.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Trout121180's profile

Trout121180

44 posts in 193 days


#5 posted 02-12-2018 08:09 AM

Hello Chuck, I myself have never owned a drum sander but like you have gone back and forth on whether I should get one or not. I will try and share some of the advice that I received. The number one thing almost everyone said right off the bat is that do not think for one minute a drum sander will act like a wide belt sander. A good friend of mine is lucky enough to have a 36” wide belt sander which he uses as both a thickness planer as well as his second to last step in his sanding process. Even with the wide belt sander he still does a quick touch up with his ROS with 220 grit. This sounds like the piece of equipment you are looking for. That being said it cost him $8,000 used, usually requires 3 phase power and on top of that takes up a lot of real estate. Lucky for him his shop is over 2,000sf. For most small one man shops a wide belt sander is just not an option. So the people I spoke to said that if you buy a drum sander thinking it will do the same thing as a wide belt sander then you are not going to be pleased. You need to understand that while it will save you some time sanding unfortunately probably not as much as you want. Also some other complaints I have heard is that sandspaper can be expensive for those machines and that both clogging of the sandpaper and burning of the lumber being sanded can be an issues especially at the beginning when you are still trying to figure out how to properly run the machine. So I guess to sum it up a drum sander will save you some time. In some shops it is as important and gets used as often as their thickness planer. Time is important to them which makes a drum sander an investment they are happy with. For me I just couldn’t justify spending over $1000 on a machine that is going to take up more valuable space in my shop and really doesn’t do anything that I couldn’t do with the tools that I have already.
But that doesn’t mean there are not other options out there. Like mentioned above there is the “old fashioned” stroke sander. Although I have never even seen one in person to me it looks like you must be skilled to operate one and that it takes up a lot of real estate. Also I’m not even sure you can still go to the store and buy one. You would probably have to search for a used one and hope that if anything goes wrong you ha e the know how and the parts to fix it.
Another option would be to upgrade your ROS. Which is the route I ended up taking. If money is not an option you could get the Festool 125 or even 150 FEQ rotex. I can guarantee you that with that machine along with the upgraded Festool sand paper you will be pleasantly surprised on how much quicker the sanding process goes. Also there is the Bosch 1250devs which would also be a nice upgrade to your dewalt ros.
Not sure if anything I said help at all. But like I said it was the process i went through and eventually I ended up buying the better Ros. Although I still ha e to spend substantial time sanding it’s a lot less than it used to be with my 5” dewalt. And who knows maybe one day we will ha e a big enough shop to buy the wide belt sander all us little guys dream about. Good luck and which ever direction you decide to go on I hope it works out.

Regards,
Trout

-- Luke “I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.” “If you wait till the last minute it only takes a minute.”

View unclearthur's profile

unclearthur

182 posts in 1873 days


#6 posted 02-12-2018 08:53 AM

Drum sander:
- decrease the “massive amount of time” you say you spend at the lowest grit
- make sanding some things like end grains much much easier
- improve quality by keeping things perfectly flat compared to ROS
- better dust collection than ROS
- less tiring than ROS

Some people think its worth the tradeoff vs. floorspace and $$, some don’t.

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

2210 posts in 1308 days


#7 posted 02-12-2018 10:33 PM

The drum sander produces linear scratches in the wood. Your eye is very sensitive to seeing patterns and linear marks really stand out.

It’s true that you will need to “clean up” after a drum sander with a ROS, beginning at the same grit or one step coarser. There is a time savings, but nothing like I think you were wishing for 8^)

The drum sanders purpose is to perfectly flatten wide wood objects without tear out or other issues with some fancy woods. sanding to 220 grit in my experience means I’ll probably start the ROS with 180, though 220 grit on a drum sander requires careful attention to a lot of factors to prevent burning and extend the belt life.
A stroke sander goes another step forward in removing the linear scratches, but still leaves ROS work to do.

You should/could get to a nice surface with a good planer, possibly a spiral cutter head, after which a 120 grit ROS pass would be quick work.

What woods are you using and what surface issues are taking so much time with 120 grit (i.e. planer ripples, scratches, etc.)? Chances are a 6” ROS or something that really cuts fast like the Rotex may help a lot, also try using 100 grit as a starting point for the more stubborn parts.

View Rayne's profile (online now)

Rayne

975 posts in 1625 days


#8 posted 02-13-2018 12:03 AM

Why can’t you use the drum sander to take the load off the 120 grit sanding and then use 220 with a ROS from there?

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

1366 posts in 1309 days


#9 posted 02-13-2018 12:13 AM

I have had a few drum sanders and if you do get it, running 2 or 3 passes at the final setting helps a lot as well.
Then, start 1 grit lower and work your way up.

Another thing to consider is do you really need to sand to 220? I usually only need to sand to 120 or 150 and the finish will still be smooth.

View Sunstealer73's profile

Sunstealer73

167 posts in 2178 days


#10 posted 02-13-2018 12:57 AM

I just upgraded from a DeWalt 5” to the Festool 150/3. It’s amazing how much faster and easier on my hands and wrists. Sanding was my most hated step, but I don’t mind it so much now. I usually go 120-150-180 for the finishes I use.

View Chuck77's profile

Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#11 posted 02-22-2018 03:02 AM



If you are using a 5 inch ROS, consider upgrading to 6 inch. Also, sheet sanders shouldn t be overlooked. Look into a 1/2 sheet model like Makita and Festool sell. They can be attached to your dust collection system too. The 1/2 sheet sander is over twice the square inches of a 5” ROS, cuts more aggressively and the paper is cheaper. I use the Makita and it s my starting point for all of my panel and large frame work.

Also, why start at 120 grit? Why not 80 or 100 for the initial heavy clean up, then your work with the 120 would go as fast as the 220.

Thanks for thee tip. Have never considered a sheet sander. In fact, I’ve never heard of that. I guess I need to do more research on the options out there.

I suppose I could start with a lower grit. I just don’t want to scratch up the wood too much (or remove too much of it) and then be forced to go back and clean it up with 120. But it’s probably worth a try.

Thanks for the info..
Chuck

- Rich


View Chuck77's profile

Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#12 posted 02-22-2018 03:14 AM



Hello Chuck, I myself have never owned a drum sander but like you have gone back and forth on whether I should get one or not. I will try and share some of the advice that I received. The number one thing almost everyone said right off the bat is that do not think for one minute a drum sander will act like a wide belt sander. A good friend of mine is lucky enough to have a 36” wide belt sander which he uses as both a thickness planer as well as his second to last step in his sanding process. Even with the wide belt sander he still does a quick touch up with his ROS with 220 grit. This sounds like the piece of equipment you are looking for. That being said it cost him $8,000 used, usually requires 3 phase power and on top of that takes up a lot of real estate. Lucky for him his shop is over 2,000sf. For most small one man shops a wide belt sander is just not an option. So the people I spoke to said that if you buy a drum sander thinking it will do the same thing as a wide belt sander then you are not going to be pleased. You need to understand that while it will save you some time sanding unfortunately probably not as much as you want. Also some other complaints I have heard is that sandspaper can be expensive for those machines and that both clogging of the sandpaper and burning of the lumber being sanded can be an issues especially at the beginning when you are still trying to figure out how to properly run the machine. So I guess to sum it up a drum sander will save you some time. In some shops it is as important and gets used as often as their thickness planer. Time is important to them which makes a drum sander an investment they are happy with. For me I just couldn’t justify spending over $1000 on a machine that is going to take up more valuable space in my shop and really doesn’t do anything that I couldn’t do with the tools that I have already.
But that doesn’t mean there are not other options out there. Like mentioned above there is the “old fashioned” stroke sander. Although I have never even seen one in person to me it looks like you must be skilled to operate one and that it takes up a lot of real estate. Also I’m not even sure you can still go to the store and buy one. You would probably have to search for a used one and hope that if anything goes wrong you ha e the know how and the parts to fix it.
Another option would be to upgrade your ROS. Which is the route I ended up taking. If money is not an option you could get the Festool 125 or even 150 FEQ rotex. I can guarantee you that with that machine along with the upgraded Festool sand paper you will be pleasantly surprised on how much quicker the sanding process goes. Also there is the Bosch 1250devs which would also be a nice upgrade to your dewalt ros.
Not sure if anything I said help at all. But like I said it was the process i went through and eventually I ended up buying the better Ros. Although I still ha e to spend substantial time sanding it’s a lot less than it used to be with my 5” dewalt. And who knows maybe one day we will ha e a big enough shop to buy the wide belt sander all us little guys dream about. Good luck and which ever direction you decide to go on I hope it works out.

Regards,
Trout

- Trout121180

Hey Trout,
Thanks for all the good info. It sounds like I need to look into the larger ROSs out there. Perhaps the Festool. I’ve heard good things about those. I just hope it could substantially cut down on the time I spend sanding. Today was sanding day for me. I’m building two beds right now (as usual for my operation). One in walnut with a large headboard and the other in cherry also with a large headboard. I sanded all of the walnut and cherry pieces today. Started with 120 and finished with a really quick 220 pass. Took me at least 6 hours. So I’m still hot on the trail of a better option.
Thanks
Chuck

View Chuck77's profile

Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#13 posted 02-22-2018 03:29 AM



The drum sander produces linear scratches in the wood. Your eye is very sensitive to seeing patterns and linear marks really stand out.

It s true that you will need to “clean up” after a drum sander with a ROS, beginning at the same grit or one step coarser. There is a time savings, but nothing like I think you were wishing for 8^)

The drum sanders purpose is to perfectly flatten wide wood objects without tear out or other issues with some fancy woods. sanding to 220 grit in my experience means I ll probably start the ROS with 180, though 220 grit on a drum sander requires careful attention to a lot of factors to prevent burning and extend the belt life.
A stroke sander goes another step forward in removing the linear scratches, but still leaves ROS work to do.

You should/could get to a nice surface with a good planer, possibly a spiral cutter head, after which a 120 grit ROS pass would be quick work.

What woods are you using and what surface issues are taking so much time with 120 grit (i.e. planer ripples, scratches, etc.)? Chances are a 6” ROS or something that really cuts fast like the Rotex may help a lot, also try using 100 grit as a starting point for the more stubborn parts.

- splintergroup

I use a lot of walnut. Some cherry. Occasionally white oak or maple. Actually I’m pretty well supplied as far as my jointer and planer combo. I’ve got a Powermatic 8” jointer with helical head and a Jet 15” planer also with helical head. I slow the planer down to the slower speed setting on my final pass and it leaves a damn smooth finish, but there is still some sanding needed to remove the small machine marks. There’s a little snipe occasionally but nothing that requires a ton of work. I think the problem is just the large volume I’m working with. Beds are big pieces with big parts. I turn out two beds at a time and I’m trying to expand to more. This amounts to a whole lotta sanding. I guess I just dream of a machine that I can feed my pieces into and have them pop out the other side smoothly sanded and ready for finish. If a drum sander is going to leave a bunch of linear scratches on my pieces its going to wind up on Craigslist pretty quick. Sounds like I can save my money and stay away from that tool. thanks for the good info.
Chuck

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Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#14 posted 02-22-2018 03:36 AM



Why can t you use the drum sander to take the load off the 120 grit sanding and then use 220 with a ROS from there?

- Rayne

Hi Rayne,

That was sort of my plan. And if that actually worked it would be great. But it sounds like using 120 grit on a drum sander is going to leave the piece scratched up with the linear marks that would require cleaning up with a lower grit on the ROS. That sounds like even more work than I’m already doing. Hard to tell how things will go without actually trying it for myself. Too bad I can’t rent one of these things.
Thanks
Chuck

View Chuck77's profile

Chuck77

15 posts in 280 days


#15 posted 02-22-2018 04:47 AM

Looking at the festool sanders. They look great but the sanding pads are pretty expensive compared to what I’m using. Not sure if I’m looking at the right product but they’re around $15-20 for a 10 pack. Yikes. As it is now, I’m paying about 20 cents per sheet by cutting the larger sheets into fourths.

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