Drum sander or planer?

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Forum topic by Slacker posted 07-18-2008 12:36 PM 3874 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Slacker's profile


178 posts in 3870 days

07-18-2008 12:36 PM

I am somewhat undecided about my next purchase. I have been buying S4S hardwoods because I dont have all the equipment I need to properly prepare rough cut wood.

To resaw, I would ideally need a band saw, but I can make do with the table saw I have. To join edges, I would need a joiner, but can make do with the router. But I have no alternatives for planing surfaces. Well, I could use my belt sander, but that means I would literally spend most of my time sanding, with no guarantees of uniform thickness.

So I am undecided whether I should buy a planer or a drum sander. Stockroom supply has an interesting looking drum sander. Does anyone have opinions whether it is more practical to get a drum sander or a planer?

-- Adapt, improvise, overcome

22 replies so far

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4175 days

#1 posted 07-18-2008 01:52 PM

A planer is a must. A drum sander is a luxury.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4108 days

#2 posted 07-18-2008 02:56 PM

I’d also say a planer before a sander. Though I love my sander, my planer gets me a workable surface faster.

-- Working at Woodworking

View lew's profile


12376 posts in 3925 days

#3 posted 07-18-2008 03:26 PM

After spending 4 hours planing rough cut lumber- about 60bdft- my opinion is to get the planer first. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken with a drum sander.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4158 days

#4 posted 07-18-2008 03:32 PM

I have both and I would say that the planer would have to be first.

Second would be the sander even before a jointer.
You can joint on the tablesaw with a good blade.

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

View steveosshop's profile


230 posts in 3795 days

#5 posted 07-18-2008 03:49 PM

Planner. I dont have a drum sander, and I use mainly rough lumber on my projects. The surfaces left from a good planner require very little sanding time when the project is complete. Oneday I would love to get a drum sander, but a planner will always be in my shop.

-- Steve-o

View Timber4fun's profile


218 posts in 3770 days

#6 posted 07-18-2008 04:12 PM

I have both, but a planer is a necessity in my opinion. Like Miles125, a drum sander is a luxury.

-- Tim from Iowa City, IA

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3938 days

#7 posted 07-18-2008 05:10 PM

a planer. that way you can surface all the lumber at about 1/16” passes at a time. a drum sander even with a rough 36 grit you can’t take off a lot at all. it would take hours. a drum sander is a luxury and is best for figured woods or burls. most people would still start at a planer and thickness it to within 1/16” to 1/8” and finish it up on a drum sander so there is no tear out. and the drum sander that you mentioned is for surfacing lumber such as removing finish or sanding it. not for thicknessing and will not get you a parallel surface. if you are looking to thickness on a drum sander a jet or performax model is what you should take a look at.

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 3975 days

#8 posted 07-18-2008 06:59 PM

As ever, it depends what you plan to make. I make mainly boxes.
Since I got my sander about a year ago, I’ve only used my planer once!
I resaw on a small tabletop bandsaw, then feed through the sander.
It may take a little longer, but there is much less noise, and I don’t lose timber due to snipe. The sander can handle small pieces of good looking timber that I would lose if I didn’t have the sander.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3991 days

#9 posted 07-18-2008 07:01 PM

The planer is a must if you want to go with rough lumber. The drum sander would take far longer to thickness rough stock as compared to a planer.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 3975 days

#10 posted 07-18-2008 09:27 PM

I should also have mentioned, you can make a fixture to hold your router over timber, thus allowing you to thickness it – its OK for small quantities – pretty loud and dusty, but effective.

View Karson's profile


35136 posts in 4570 days

#11 posted 07-18-2008 09:34 PM

I have both and the planer is used 90% of the time.

All my wood is from a sawmill and is all rough sawn and all different thicknesses. It would take so long to get useable wook with a sander.

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

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 4269 days

#12 posted 07-18-2008 09:46 PM

I say it depends on what kind of work you are doing, it seems that the planer should be spoken by its full name: “thickness planer.”
So maybe you should ask – should I plane or should I sand? I think lew’s comment about planing for 4 hours and wondering how long he might have been sanding says a lot.

-- John

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4160 days

#13 posted 07-18-2008 10:06 PM


I’m tempted to agree with davidtheboxmaker and say that it depends on what you intend to make most of the time. But, I see you’re an Aggie. Therefore, you should probably go with the sander since they are much less dangerous. Do not wear any ties while sanding. If you plan to build a surf board, I recommend something like ironwood and don’t forget to drill plenty of holes to let the air out.


(It really does depend.)

-- Jim

View Slacker's profile


178 posts in 3870 days

#14 posted 07-18-2008 10:35 PM

Well, I am not so sure about the Aggie thing… I got there as an adult and always found the thing kind of strange.

To all, thanks for your fine advice. I am using some of the hardwood to make boxes, and I do have a sander that does round and flat surfaces. Sometimes asking good folks like you brings the mind back to center. A planer it is. Any brands/models I should stay away from?

-- Adapt, improvise, overcome

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4158 days

#15 posted 07-18-2008 10:49 PM

Try looking through the reviews section on this site. There are a lot of planer reviews there.

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

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