I'm thinking of buying a drum sander. Is it really as useful as many say?

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Forum topic by stefang posted 08-09-2014 12:35 PM 5408 views 3 times favorited 107 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15881 posts in 3331 days

08-09-2014 12:35 PM

Do I need one?
I was thinking about building a drum sander, but my wife said I should buy one instead as she is tired of me building tools and not doing many projects. Well, this is music to my ears!

My local tool guy has a Jet 16-32 drum sander on sale right now and I’ve read good reviews about them here on LJ and other sites. My main concern is whether having a drum sander will be advantageous enough to warrant the price.

Can I get good mileage out of the paper?
I’m also wondering what the life expectancy is on the sandpaper as I understand it’s pretty expensive. I realize that it depends on how much I use it, but there must be some rule of thumb measures that would give me a hint.

What are the best grits to have on hand?
Another issue is what grits to purchase and keep on hand. Again this will probably depend on the work I do with it, but I intend to use it for all kinds of woodworking including marquetry if that is appropriate.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

107 replies so far

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2950 days

#1 posted 08-09-2014 12:43 PM

Hi Mike,
I’m a strong advocate of the drum sander. I use mine all the time for thicknessing box parts, tray sides, and plan to use it for cleaning up my re-sawn veneer for marquetry. I have the Jet/Perfoamax 10/20, but if I had to do over would probably buy the 16/32 if for no other reason than it would permit the paper to last longer. I keep 80 grit on it nearly all the time and hardly ever use my planer any more. It’s possible to sand down to very thin (1/64th I’ve heard) though I’ve not tried to go that far myself. My recommendation: Definitely get one!

BTW: The paper lasts a long time in my experience. Buy high grade paper.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View English's profile


655 posts in 1474 days

#2 posted 08-09-2014 12:52 PM


I have the Grizzly 1066R. It’s a double drum 24” and I can tell you nothing flattens glued up panels better. I use 100 grit on the front roll and 180 on the rear roll. All I have to do after a pass through the drum sander is a few minutes with the pad sander with 220 and I’m done.

-- John, Suffolk Virgina

View harveysoriginals's profile


107 posts in 1484 days

#3 posted 08-09-2014 12:56 PM

Definitely great to have if you do end grain cutting boards!!!!!!

-- The most dangerous tool in my shop is the one I am currently using! Harvey

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3331 days

#4 posted 08-09-2014 12:59 PM

Thanks John and Harvey I can’t get Grizzly here in Norway, so the Jet will have to do.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Bill7255's profile


427 posts in 2282 days

#5 posted 08-09-2014 01:34 PM

I have the SuperMax 19-38. Like others have said it is great to get flat stock dimensioned to the size you want. For me I use mainly the 120 grit and somewhat the 80 grit. I don’t us anything over 150 grit mainly because you will still need to ROS after the drum sander. If available the Supermax is also a very good sander.

-- Bill R

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3331 days

#6 posted 08-09-2014 01:41 PM

Roger and Bill Thanks much. Your comments pretty much have me sold on buying. Now I just need to find a mathematical genius to show me how I can fit it into my shop my smallish shop.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4985 posts in 2490 days

#7 posted 08-09-2014 01:55 PM

Sounds like your set, but I’ll add my 2ยข anyway, I can echo the usefulness. I bought one not knowing what to do with it (helping out an acquaintance) and it wound up being the 4th most used tool in my shop for quite a while. I’ll also second the lower grits suggestion, I stopped going over 150 after having no end of burned belts. The life you get from them will depend on how you use them….properly used they last quite a while. If you can get bulk rolls and cut your own strips it will be quite a bit less expensive than the ready cut belts.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View WhoMe's profile


1564 posts in 3240 days

#8 posted 08-09-2014 02:07 PM

Another recommendation to get it. We have the jet 16/32 and it has been very useful at my work for glued panels, working on rough stock and thicknessing stock with wild grain.
The jet is really nice and I would have one if I could afford it NOW….
2 recommendations though. Mandatory good dust collection… As you can imagine, it creates lots of dust. And 2, get one of those rubber sanding eraser sticks and clean the belt often, it will make the belts last longer.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2795 days

#9 posted 08-09-2014 02:33 PM

OK Mike, I’m all for drum sanders too. I have a dual drum 25” in Canada and I use it all the time. It takes up about 5 sq feet physically but more to get around it, feed it and tail it of course.

Devil’s advocate: I also have a shop built one in Az which works just as well, cost me about $100, took a few days to build, and gets put away in about 3 square feet of space on top of a cabinet. You already have a lathe.
........ Just sayin’. :-)
BTW, hook and loop conversions are a very good idea and not expensive.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3305 days

#10 posted 08-09-2014 02:47 PM

Hey Mike, I have a jet 22-44 and it has been a tremendously useful tool in my shop. I do find that the 22-44 for me is overkill because I never need to sand anything that wide. Other than that it has been a trouble free workhorse and gets a lot of use. I bought paper ranging from 40 to 220 grit when I bought the machine and 90% of the time I use either the 40 or the 80 grit.
Buy rolls of sandpaper instead of pre-cut sandpaper because it is much cheaper that way

I recently saw a friend’s SuperMax that he bought and I feel that it is better designed than the Jet. The top hood cover is metal instead of plastic and does not flex. The right hand side of the drum also has a little bit more room to accessing the clip that holds the sandpaper. Little features that make a nice difference.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2443 days

#11 posted 08-09-2014 02:58 PM

I Recently bought a Canadian imported version of Jet 16-32,it is a great addition to my shop ,set up is a little finicky at times but overall,I have no regrets.
when I was thinking of buying it I asked the same question(do I need one) here,the answers were a mixture of “yes,it’s a very useful tool” to ” it’s nice to have but a wider planer or a good stroke sander would be more useful”
It does take up a lot of space in my my shop but it has earned that space/it’s keep,if I had a bigger shop I would have seriously considered a stroke sander as Loren suggested .

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Loren's profile


10384 posts in 3645 days

#12 posted 08-09-2014 03:01 PM

Oh, single drum sanders are tedious to use. I know
people love them but I’ve had a couple and using
them was always slow going and you can’t take
your eye off the thing.

There are reasons to use them for sure where
calibration sanding is a criteria. The only
one I can think of for the work I do is making
guitar binding.

Consider that the drum sander demands it calibrate
the work to thickness before any finish sanding will
be done across the full width of the work. This is
important to get your mind around if you think a
drum sander is going to save you a lot of sanding
time. Any minor bump in the work it demands to
remove. It is not like a hand plane or an orbital
sander – it will not adjust its methods to work
problem areas a little more to get an acceptable surface.

I think these sand-flee type things would be useful
as I can generally tolerate thickness variations
and I fit things with hand planes anyway.

You will still have to orbital sand after drum sanding
and ridges in drum sanded work are common.
I did a large furniture piece last year where I drum
sanded a lot of oak. I still spent a lot of time orbital
sanding.. after that I started looking for a stroke
sander or a wide belt.

I use a stroke sander. Way fast. You could build
a little one yourself.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2443 days

#13 posted 08-09-2014 03:12 PM

I use a stroke sander. Way fast. You could build
a little one yourself.

- Loren

Loren,that would be a good winter project.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2950 days

#14 posted 08-09-2014 03:24 PM

I’ve been following this thread with interest. I think one needs to ask: what am I going to use this thing for? If the goal is to make a lot of square footage smooth, then a stroke sander may be just the thing. But, in my case, it’s more about precision and dimensioning, as with boxes and marquetry, most of the final work is, and must be, done by hand. Slowly.

For example: When making decorative banding such as that I used on the Lynnette’s Document box, and the Pepperwood burl box, it consists of a solid wood core and two layers of black/white veneer on each side prior to slicing. To fit in a 3/8” routed cavity it must be extremely accurate. I mic ed the veneer subtracted from 3/8” and came up with a core that must be about .237” . I cut the piece on the table saw (or bandsaw) and ran it through the drum sander to dimension it. It was easy to get within a couple thousandths. Fit perfectly. A stroke sander will not do that.

Again, if the goal is to make a lot of wood smooth, then there may be other alternatives. (Though my little 10-20 Jet will probably work fine for any projects I’m likely to do in boxes, furniture, or marquetry.) So, the real question is:
“what am I going to use this thing for?”

Some folks will come out that Loren’s suggestion is just the thing for them. For me, it would not work at all. It depends on what you’re making. Or, am I missing something big here?

Also: Paul’s comments are on the money.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Loren's profile


10384 posts in 3645 days

#15 posted 08-09-2014 03:35 PM

No, you’re correct that for calibrating fine parts to precise
dimensions a drum sander with a conveyor is a useful machine.

Back in the old days luthiers had devices set up for calibration
scraping. There was also a hand or foot powered drum sander
going back to the 18th century if not before which presumably
required one person to power the device while another fed
the work.

I would recommend, for those who have 12” or wider planers,
to run a wide board through there and check it with a
caliper. Assuming the board stayed flat after planing every
1/1000th inch of thickness deviation in that board would
need to be addressed if you wanted to drum sand it
to a finished state. Planers vary of course but as a broad
rule of thumb the more they weigh the more precise
the thicknessing.

showing 1 through 15 of 107 replies

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