Function of a drum sander

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Forum topic by Rob posted 08-04-2013 02:06 PM 3749 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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316 posts in 3010 days

08-04-2013 02:06 PM

I am considering purchasing a drum sander but the purpose I have for one may not make it the right machine to purchase. I have a small hobbyist workshop and after glue ups of panels or cutting boards etc. there is usually a small amount of cupping or twisting. Sometimes both depending on many factors. I would like to know if a drum sander will remove twist or cupping from a glued up panel or cutting board that rocks or does it act pretty much the same as a planer where flattening a board isn’t it’s function and the cupping, twisting or rocking would remain? I’ve read entries on various woodworking sites where some people say they do, while others say they don’t so I’m confused about what their capabilities are. I have no interest in hand planes or using a belt sander as my skills aren’t such that I get very good results and I end up making things worse. I’ve also tried the router sled approach and although it flattens the work piece, there’s a lot of hand sanding left to do. Thanks in advance for any explanations you have.

8 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2062 days

#1 posted 08-04-2013 02:47 PM

I used my sander last month to flatten a warped end-grain cutting board. I had to tape shims to a couple of corners on on one side, and run it through until the other side was flattened. then I untaped the shims and flattened that side. If it hadn’t been end-grain then I don’t see why the same process wouldn’t have worked with my planer (and would have been a bit faster).

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Gene Howe

10526 posts in 3452 days

#2 posted 08-04-2013 02:50 PM

I use the router sled approach, THEN the drum sander.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3332 days

#3 posted 08-04-2013 03:06 PM

I have used my drum sander many times to flatten a cupped board. As JustJoe said, just tape some shims to eliminate the wobble until it is flat. I always mark the boards with white chalk to determine flatness…when the chalk marks are all sanded out the cupping is eliminated.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#4 posted 08-04-2013 03:59 PM

You’re going to be disappointed if you think a drum sander
is going to solve your problems. They do not eliminate
finish sanding because they leave drum and grit marks. They
can be set up to flatten boards but it is a tedious process
of standing around as the board crawls through. If you turn
away the paper may tear off or the sander may hang up
on the work and make a deep gouge.

When you tear the paper, it is not cheap to replace it with
precut strips. If you buy paper in 50 yd rolls it’s a lot

Don’t believe me if you don’t want to. I recommend getting
into hand planes for flattening. It is not hard and it is
a lot faster than fussing with drum sanders.

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 2137 days

#5 posted 08-04-2013 04:13 PM

The drum sander by design is pretty much the same as a planer. So the results are about the same. However with most sanders I think you can take a much lighter cut then with a planer, with less down pressure on the board so you can remove small cups, if you run the board through like I describe below.

I use this all the time with my larger dedicated woodmaster sander. This might not work with a little 16-32 or smaller sander because of the feed bed being much smaller – I’m not sure.

1. Face cupped side (highest) up – you have to make sure the board has the 4 corners touching on the bottom side so it dosen’t rock or it wont work because the piece will move around – just like the jointer.
2. Use chalk all over the surface of the work so you can see your progress
3. Run the board trough (cupped side up) the sander taking several light passes at each height setting. The best results from my sander comes from making 3-6 passes at each height setting. Turning the board 90° each pass.
4. Chalk the other side of the board – then run till you are flat.
5. Double check on a good known flat surface or straight edge.

The drum sander is not at all a fast machine, best results would be to use the router to flatten then just a couple light passes with sander and your done. Most people that have problems with the drum sander treat it like a planer making only 1 pass at each height setting, this leads to very, very bad results and makes it unsafe, because it can grab it and launch it out the machine in a hurry.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3712 days

#6 posted 08-04-2013 06:01 PM

The rollers in both a planer and a drum sander temporarily “flatten” the boards, but the cup will spring right back once clear of the rollers. Long story short, learn to use a hand plane to knock off the high spots so the board will sit flat and then feed it into the planer / sander. It will save you a whole lot of time and material in the end. There’s nothing more boring than waiting for your boards to feed through a drum sander. They serve their purpose, but aren’t made to flatten cupped boards efficiently. Also, you still will need to finish sand or scrape the sanding marks left behind by the drum paper grit.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Rob's profile


316 posts in 3010 days

#7 posted 08-04-2013 07:53 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone…..and saving me a lot of money!

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3712 days

#8 posted 08-04-2013 08:13 PM

Best wishes : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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