30" Flatmaster Sander In Reverse and Using a 3400 RPM Motor

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Review by Kelly posted 04-02-2018 02:47 AM 4360 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
30" Flatmaster Sander In Reverse and Using a 3400 RPM Motor No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I was experimenting with a cold when my Flatmaster arrived, so I was slow getting to the game.

The unit arrived well packaged and in excellent condition. When I removed the top, I noted a place which had been miss-drilled, but it doesn’t hurt anything or affect the cosmetics. If anything, it serves as a reminder I helped another little guy.

I did get the motor mounted and wired with a temporary switch (a household switch) and was able to get the unit going and test drive it a little.

Since motors are expensive options for these, I used my own. However, my motor was a 3,400 RPM, 1 horse unit, so I had to slow it down to use it, because the unit calls for a 1750 RPM motor. That meant swapping out the two 3” pulleys that came with the unit for a 2” pulley (on the motor) and a 4” pulley (on the drum). I’m 50 RPM short of the target speed, but I doubt that will result in a notable performance result.

Because I went to a four inch pulley, I had to enlarge the opening for the belt. Since you cannot run work over the end of the paper, this shouldn’t be an issue. Any fence I add can be modified to slide over the protruding belt too.

My motor had arbors on both ends, so I could have flipped it around, but I went with having the motor mounted on the back of the unit, rather than out front, which just seemed strange to me. Because “I set my unit up backwards,” the dust port exhausted out the front, which, to me, was as bad as having the motor hanging out the front. As such, I grabbed one of my hole saws and drilled a new port on the opposite side, then covered the factory one with a piece of scrap Plexi I had laying around.

I was unimpressed with the drum height adjustments. Perhaps the spring needs to be stronger, but when the four bolts are loosened, backing the knob off (turning it counter clockwise) doesn’t always result in movement of the drum upwards, though turning it clockwise works fine, since it forces the drum down.

In a pinch, the company could add another bolt opposite of the adjustment knob, which, when turned, would push down on the lower bracket. This would require backing it off to move the drum down, but would insure it moved up when that was intended.

Once I had the unit set up using the supplied 220 grit paper, I swapped it out for 80 grit, then experimented with a board covered in latex paint. As many know, latex is a quick way to gum up a sanding belt. That wasn’t a problem with the FlatMaster.

While I had the provided paper off, I made a Plexi template of it for future layout of the ends (gotta love that scrap Plexi).

It’s obvious others were right – there is going to be a learning curve using this, but I didn’t find moving the material at a steady rate any more difficult than pushing wood through a table saw, past a router, or over a jointer.

I suspect learning techniques for wrapping the paper will move the ease of using this unit far ahead. As it stands, I note a little less material removal at the center area than at the two ends. A few more tests will show whether that issue is due to a less than straight top or a tighter wind of the paper at the center area.

I did note the end had two flat spots where it looked like the unit top might have been dropped. Those two [flattened] areas had to be lightly sanded to remove sharp edges. Since the shipping package was in excellent condition, if it was dropped, it happened prior to packaging.

My next test run was on a block of glued 2x’s. The Flat master did fine, but won’t be replacing my planer or jointer any time soon. Getting the block down took many passes, but it did get there. That said, it didn’t care which way the grain was pointing.

While cleaning up the two experiment pieces, I was using my large collector pulling off the tiny dust port and it is up there with a Festool for dust free sanding, but the collector would probably appreciate it if I opened another port to give it some breathing room.

I built a simple mobile cabinet for FlatMaster. Mounted on the cabinet, the FlatMaster top is at about the same height as my jointer. I didn’t get around to pictures yet, but will post some in the next few days.

[To be continued]

View Kelly's profile


3010 posts in 3719 days

7 comments so far

View Kelly's profile


3010 posts in 3719 days

#1 posted 04-05-2018 05:36 PM

I ran a piece of wood over the left end of the sandpaper and now know why the suggestion of using a magnet to mark the area, for avoidance, is sound.

In short, running a piece of wood into the end of the sander is a quick way to end up with a lot of mangled sandpaper.

View Andybb's profile


2762 posts in 1379 days

#2 posted 04-05-2018 07:24 PM

Cool. Interested in learning what your overall impression is. I have had my eye on them. Seems like a good concept so let us know.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Kelly's profile


3010 posts in 3719 days

#3 posted 04-10-2018 06:31 AM

Just ran a piece of 1/8” 6” x 24” long mahogany through. The 100 grit was taking forever, so went to the 80. The 80 took bandsaw blade marks out quickly and I was happy with the results. It went fairly quick and left a good finish.

View Kelly's profile


3010 posts in 3719 days

#4 posted 01-05-2019 07:28 AM

Months in, it’s becoming obvious the longer I have this sander, the more I like it.

I find I use the coarse grades of sandpaper most.

This unit does a nice job of smoothing pieces of walnut, koa and so on I use for my turned ornaments (they have to be smoothed to allow me to sandwich plastics). This is true even with pieces with chain marks from cuts made with my chain saw.

View copythat's profile


169 posts in 1381 days

#5 posted 01-16-2019 03:28 AM

Where did you buy your sander and do you recommend it?

-- Rob

View Kelly's profile


3010 posts in 3719 days

#6 posted 01-16-2019 06:51 AM

I bought my sander from Stockroom Supply (addy below).

It’s hard to know how to respond to a request for a recommendation for various reasons:

As to quality, I have zero complaints.

I am glad I went with the metal table top they offer. Among other things, it lets me attach rare earth magnets to serve as slow cones, to remind me to stay away from the ends of the sandpaper. Too, I know the top is flat.

I have never ran a belt unit. That aside, I wanted one. I went this route because I saved a bundle this way. Now that I have it, I am happy with the choice I made.

I note sanding things is not always a quick operation. Cleaning up a six inch wide board may take ten to twenty passes, even using coarse grit. Of course that isn’t so bad when you’re talking ancient paint and a slightly cupped board.

That said, I cleaned up some short pieces of walnut, sycamore and maple the other day and they went quickly. In the end, I doubt a self feed unit would be any faster. Where this shines, up against my friend’s Jet, is, the paper doesn’t load. I’ve been running the same paper for a while and I don’t anticipate having to swap it anytime soon.

The SandMaster actually works a bit like a jointer, but it would take thirty, forty or fifty passes to get the results of one pass on the jointer, and you are the belt drive. This means you have to maintain a steady run across the drum. Of course, a driven unit cannot “joint.”

Keep in mind, once set up, there is no real adjustment, other than how tight or lose you wrap the paper, the table is the control and it’s up to you to hold the wood to it and keep it moving (to avoid cupping (not that hard)).

Choosing a version can complicate the recommendation, but that applies to choices in belt driven versions too. I opted for the biggest, so I could put two or even three grits on, if I wanted to. So far, I’ve only run two, because that’s all I’ve found need for.

For some, the thirty inch model might be overkill. On the other hand, if someone got the smallest, they might long for the bigger version.

The dust collection on this trumps every drum I’ve watched running. I do get the occasional wisp on the table, but I don’t seen anything airborne. Though I have it connected to one of my four baggers, it remains the collection port is only a few inches, so it I opened the port up it’d probably suck the wood being sanded into the collector (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration).

The directions for assembling the unit, making your own top and so on are pretty good. As I noted, I modified the unit to allow me to run a 3,400 RPM motor and stepped it down to 1,700 by swapping out the pulley. Doing that, including opening up the top where the pulley would have rubbed, wasn’t hard to figure out.

Can’t think of anything else that might help. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

Oh, and in more succinct terms, I’d recommend this.

View Al Breit's profile

Al Breit

88 posts in 2668 days

#7 posted 02-02-2020 04:22 PM

I have the larger flat master also. Very happy with it, not quite sure why they don’t add a motor and switch from the factory and they never told me that at the woodworking show where I bought it in Milwaukee. Only complaints I have I bought the upright angles to be able to do edges of boards. They are about 8” high and out of square by at least 3/16- 1/4”. They are stamped angles and virtually impossible to correct. They also need it be raised so the paper doesn’t grind on the base.
Very poorly engineered and obviously never gone through any quality control. I need to contact them sometime and tell them about it.

-- Al Breit "A day without sawdust is like a day without sunshine"

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