Shop built Drum Sander

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Project by Elyasaf Shweka posted 04-01-2014 07:54 PM 34800 views 71 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My thickness drum sander is based on a machine built by Pat Hawley. free plans were drawn by Matthias Wandell and can be found here.

I also referenced (and consulted) Ron Walters sander, which can be found here

and made some use of these old plans

i found additional information on luthiers (guitar builders) forums, since they use this machine regularly for thickening the guitar top.
the machine is not a hard one to make, and building it is not that complicated, and the parts are not expensive, but it took me a long time to build, since it was hard to find the right parts here in israel, and ive orderd the velcro sandpaper from the states. also i had to built it all over again (twice!) since it wasnt accurate enough. now, when i am much smarter, i assume that it can take 1 day to built, if you have all the right parts with you. not such a big deal.
since i make 3d end grain cutting boards, i figured that this is the only right way to sand those boards. planer cant be used due to the end grain or the changing directions of the grain (with none end grain projects). matter of fact is that instead of approx. 4 hrs of unhealthy and annoying sanding for a board, which gives a non-satisfying finish, i now get a superior finish in less than 12 min.!

motor – 1 hp 3 phs 1200 rpm, pulley
drum – 14 cm diam. birch plywood
table – tilting granite (!), 50 cm width
thickness – from 3mm to 45mm
final rpm – 500
acrylic sheet cover, with high accuracy box joints, made with laser cutting machine. very efficient dust collection. it is very useful to see the wood while its sanded, and im very proud of this cover…
construction made mainly from beech
drum is covered with Velcro (male) and sandpaper comes with female Velcro. for quick replacement

video of the sander at work:

some detailed information about the built:
1. Frame: my first attempt to build the table was with 2”X4” standard pine. i used screws without glue, and after a while of moving it around the workshop, I noticed that the frame got unstable and not aligned. I decided to knock it down and to build it all over again, properly this time. I switched some parts from pine to beech, used glue and screws, added half lap joints (made with the tenon jig), and paid high attention for the overall accuracy.

2. Granite table: on my first attempt i used a double layered 17 cm beech plywood, and i laminated the top. after a few days, I noticed that the table got curved, about 1 mm height on 50 cm width. i assume this happened because only one side was laminated. i was looking for a sturdy material to make the table from. a friend suggested using granite stone as a flat surface. my first thought was that its too heavy, too weird and all over ridiculous, but after giving it a second thought, i decided to try it out. apparently, granite stone is very hard and stable, hard to scratch and can get a fine finish when polished. i was surprised to learn that in applications that require fine flatness, granite stone is used. surprisingly, most professional and expensive pool tables have granite stone as a base for the green cover. i got a nice scrap of high grade granite stone from a kitchen countertops guy. a piece of 50X60 cm weights around 7 kg, and adds robustness to the machine. I am quite happy with the smooth finish and the nice look of it. and it works well with wood, too :)

3. Alignment
I had a very annoying problem with the alignment. while sanding the drum to get it leveled with the table, i found out that i am getting a cone shape instead of a cylinder. it took me some time to realize that my surface (table) is not parallel to the drum shaft. it was solved simply by adding some shimes under the lower bearing, but it seems to me that this should be solved easily with a better design. I am not sure how, but i believe that the shaft bearing should lay on the same beams that holds the table hinges. this way the leveling of the surface and of the shaft would be the same.

4. Drum – i used a simple circle jig on my band saw to make the round plates. it seems that the results were not as accurate (me and the band saw don’t get along very well), and ive spent many hours of irritating sanding to get the drum to a perfect round. one of the smart features of this sander is that you true the drum on the machine itself. before gluing the velcro, you true the drum by putting a sandpaper on a board and putting it on the table under the drum. this tures the drum to the table.
after a while of sanding, the round drum started to slip on the shaft. the friction wasn’t enough to hold the drum on the shaft (it wasn’t clear from the plans how to attach the drum to the shaft and i thought that the friction would be enough – big mistake!) i contacted Ron Walters to find a solution for that, and he gave me his opinion, initially, i drilled 6 mm hole from one side to the middle of the shaft, inserted a metal rod and covered it with a wooden plug. now the drum is firmly attached to the shaft – forever… i also canceled the 1 mm gap between the groups of the layers. i glued them all together to one firm piece. with no doubt i should have order the round plates from a CNC machine guy, that would save me so much trouble, sanding and dust. or at least i would do the circle jig on the table saw, this way getting better results.

5. Lift mechanism: im not sure how, but i need to find a way to lock the lift mechanism. while operating the machine, the vibrations tends to move the handle a bit, and thus changing the height of the surface. ive switched the threaded rod to a thicker one, but it is still wobbling a bit.

6. Dust cover
the first that i have noticed while working with the sander, is that its not practical to have a wooden cover on the sander. it is really important to see what is going on, and i wasn’t pleased with the fact that I can see the wood while its being sanded. I designed a box made from 6 mm perspex (acrylic sheet), and carefully designed the box joints to be cut in high accuracy laser cutting machine, so the pressure of the material would be enough to hold it tight in place with no gaps. i love the cool look of the result.

7. Lockable wheels
since I am working in a very tight space, I store this machine in a room next to my work shop. to help moving it around, I added 2 lockable silicon wheels. they look cool too :)

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

22 comments so far

View drbyte's profile


848 posts in 5222 days

#1 posted 04-01-2014 08:02 PM

Absolutely beautiful job! Very nice cover! I like to use the acrylic around the shop for jigs, fixtures, and covers. But why granite for the table? Should certainly be stout enough and stable enough, that’s for sure! Great job!! What size is your table height-adjusting threaded rod?

-- Dennis, WV

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5041 days

#2 posted 04-01-2014 08:23 PM

I love it. A thicknessing sander is so useful. You can use it for all kinds of stuff.

And what a nice build. Good and stout. I can relate to building it over and over again until it is right. It seems so simple when you are done :)


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View steve_in_ohio's profile


1195 posts in 2770 days

#3 posted 04-01-2014 09:12 PM

wow, that is awesome, great job. The granite top is a great idea

-- steve, simple and effective

View MasterSergeant's profile


1441 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 04-01-2014 10:01 PM

Pretty darn neat! Great project should last a good many years for you!

-- Kelly, woodworker under construction

View comboprof's profile


277 posts in 2894 days

#5 posted 04-01-2014 10:16 PM

Thanks so much for sharing this. My plan is to build one as soon as the snow melts (i.e. June I think). I was just about to scrounge the internet for plans. I think I may try a torsion box for the table or corian if I can’t get cheap enough granite. Maybe polished steel. I wonder what is the best/price option.

-- -- Cheers, Don K. (Michgan's Kewenaw peninsula)

View jfk4032's profile


384 posts in 3686 days

#6 posted 04-01-2014 10:58 PM

I can really appreciate the foresight, engineering and creativity it takes to make a working machine of this caliber. Great job.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View kdc68's profile


3013 posts in 3436 days

#7 posted 04-01-2014 11:48 PM

Awesome work here !....Thanks for sharing and for such a detailed description !

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Bob Areddy's profile

Bob Areddy

193 posts in 4562 days

#8 posted 04-02-2014 01:24 AM

I built one of these a while back. Initial alignment of the drum to the table doesn’t have to be perfect. After everything is build, you have to true up the drum.

Take some 60 grit paper and glue it to a board, say 3” wide and 12” long. I used an old belt sander belt. Then, with a bare drum, put the board with the sandpaper face up, flat on the table, and move it into the drum so it’s barely touching, and go back and forth, making sure the board stays flat on the table. I like to draw some lines on the drum beforehand so I know when material is being taken off.

Then just raise the table until you finally get a perfect cylinder, and it will be perfectly aligned with the table.

I just noticed you did this, so I’m not sure how a misalignment would occur? I guess if it was REALLY out of parallel that you’d have a narrower diameter of drum at one end which would result in lower FPM of paper turning, but I think you’d have to be WAY off for that to happen.

-- --Bob

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3773 days

#9 posted 04-02-2014 01:42 AM

Shalom , welcome to LJs , great build on the sander it will make sanding a bit easier ,3D board is looking good too ,thanks for sharing ,gota ask what those are you are running thur the sander looks like lizzard s

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4624 days

#10 posted 04-02-2014 02:56 AM

Excellent build and my compliments.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 4094 days

#11 posted 04-02-2014 03:01 AM

Great build on the drum sander.
It’s a very useful tool. I tend to reach for my drum sander much more than the planer.

Very bright idea with the Perspex cover. That’s one of the thing I wish mine had.

Thanks a lot for all the resources. Although I bought a commercial one when I started woodworking, those links are a great read. There are lots of ideas I can harvest.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View HerbC's profile


1820 posts in 4019 days

#12 posted 04-02-2014 03:21 AM

Great build.

I think you’ll find that most professional quality pool/billiards tables use SLATE rather than granite.

Keep up the good work.

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Coils's profile


30 posts in 2969 days

#13 posted 04-02-2014 07:30 AM

Great post – lucky I have a piece of granite lying around, now I know what to do with it!

-- Forest Grump

View Emidio Falini's profile

Emidio Falini

53 posts in 3851 days

#14 posted 04-02-2014 01:05 PM

great job, thanks for the detailed description.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4026 days

#15 posted 04-02-2014 01:32 PM

This will be a great addition to your shop and you did a fine job on it.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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