Drum Sanders are magic...

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Review by Wiley posted 07-01-2010 04:25 AM 10097 views 1 time favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Drum Sanders are magic... No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

This has been my dream tool since about two weeks after I started woodworking. I had a 9” tabletop bandsaw, a $25 Craigslist router, and a bunch of oak flooring that was in the garage when we bought the house. I managed to resaw that wood flooring into closish-to1/4” stock, and then I sat there with a Black & Decker Mouse trying to get rid of the saw marks. It generally took about an hour per 2”x12” piece of wood.

Then I was at Rockler one day for my weekly class, and we had a slightly cupped board. The teacher showed us how to remove the cup by putting it through the drum sander. I was completely hooked. The next week I brought in all of my little washboarded planks of oak. One after the other, I put them through the drum sander, and they came out smooth, just like that. And I swore to myself that someday, I would have one of these of my very own.

About a week ago, that finally came true, and I came home with a Performax 16-32 Plus that I got on craigslist for $500. It’s completely brilliant. There are already plenty of reviews out there for the Jet/Performax line of sanders, so let me just add my own idiosyncratic observations.
1. This is an absolutely wonderful tool for reclaiming scrap. When you do as much resawing as I do, you end up with a fair amount of weird little thin sheets lying about, not to mention wedge-shaped ones where the drift went weird, and with the drum sander you can turn all of them into usable wood of a uniform thickness. You’d be surprised how often you can find a use for an 1/8” piece of wood as long as it’s truly 1/8” and will fit well into a dado. And when you have a 30” board that’s 3/16” at one end and 9/16” at the other, you can save most of it by sand it down to 3/8”, cutting off the smooth bit, sanding it down to 1/4”, cutting off the smooth bit, and so on. Can you tell I’m a real miser when it comes to wasting wood?
2. It’s worth getting a set of really good calipers to use with it. The built in gauge isn’t very accurate at all, but with a good set of calipers and some patience all my resawn boards are now within about a hundredth of an inch of the thickness I’m going for by the time they’re done in the sander.
3. Even using fairly fine sandpaper, it’s likely to leave lines on your wood. If you really don’t want lines, you can try really fine sandpaper (I haven’t, but it might work) or go for one of the fancier oscillating versions. But they aren’t bad and you’re going to be sanding the finished project anyway, so I wouldn’t let it bother you.
4. The dust collection is fantastic. With my 2HP Harbor Freight dust collector, I ended up with about two cubic feet of sawdust in the dust collector and about a teaspoon of sawdust on the floor. And that mostly came from opening the dust collection cover and having some that had hidden in a corner fall out.
5. I always make sure to sand along the grain. Because the saw marks are generally perpendicular to the grain, this makes it much easier to tell when all the saw marks are gone. Not only does that indicate a smooth board, it also indicates a uniform thickness.
6. It’s really not as hard to change the sandpaper as you might think. As long as you’re using Jet’s pre-cut sandpaper or sandpaper you’ve cut using the Jet paper as a template, it’s fairly intuitive. I managed to get it all lined up first go, and I’m hardly an expert.
7. It is much, much quieter than a planer. I’ve only heard one planer in operation, but even with ear plugs I could barely get within ten feet of the damn thing. I wouldn’t run the sander while trying to make a phone call, but as power tools go it’s pretty quiet. And the noise it makes is much more of a low-frequency shushing noise than a grating, high-pitched planer noise. Plus, there’s no problem with tearout on figured woods. If you routinely take stock from 3/4 to 1/2” on your planer, the sander’s probably going to be too slow for you, but if you just use a planer for smoothing and fine tuning the thickness of wood, this is a lovely and relatively quiet alternative.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, I’ll update this post as I use it more.

-- "When you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think straight" - Inherit the Wind

View Wiley's profile


71 posts in 3810 days

28 comments so far

View schloemoe's profile


709 posts in 3717 days

#1 posted 07-01-2010 05:34 AM

I’ve always wanted one of those too Lucky Guy….............Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 07-01-2010 05:39 AM

Great story and great sander, congrats on the buy.

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3713 days

#3 posted 07-01-2010 07:56 AM

Congratulation on your new tool.
You will definitely enjoy it. It is now jet 16/32 plus drum sander.
I have one and I used it often.

I only use 80 grit on it. Orbital sander and hand sanding for the rest.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3853 days

#4 posted 07-01-2010 01:25 PM

Thank you for the review.

I’m very curious about this product. I do not own one and I have never used one. From the review, it sounds like everything you do with the sander, I can do with my planer.

Can you or anyone else comment on the advantages a drum sander has over a planer?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4601 days

#5 posted 07-01-2010 01:26 PM

Thanks for the review, Wiley. I have one of these on my wish list as well and would enjoy putting one in my shop if only my wife would give me an advance on my allowance.

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

View Wiley's profile


71 posts in 3810 days

#6 posted 07-01-2010 02:32 PM

Rich – from what I’ve heard, they’re much better at correcting cupped or twisted boards. Planers tend to press down so much on boards that they can squish the cup right out of them as they’re going through the knives, but the cup springs right back once it comes out of the planer. Drum sanders exert far less downward pressure, so it actually takes wood off until the board is even.

-- "When you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think straight" - Inherit the Wind

View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4661 days

#7 posted 07-01-2010 02:46 PM

Thanks for the review. I just love mine.

I have a nice planer, jointer, V-drum sander, and this drum sander. They all have their place, but this device is by far the most favorite. I use it for every project. I don’t know anyone with a drum sander who doesn’t love it.

They are expensive, but oh so cool. Repeatable, reliable, and accurate. Pretty quiet too. The do need good dust collection.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 4736 days

#8 posted 07-01-2010 03:04 PM lucky devil…500 bucks for that sander is an absolute steal! Nice!


View Wiley's profile


71 posts in 3810 days

#9 posted 07-01-2010 03:11 PM

Brad- Yeah, I won some money in a sweepstakes, and after looking around at the interest rates on savings accounts, I decided it made just as much sense to buy used power tools on craigslist. If you’re patient you can find some great deals, and if I ever need the money or the space in my garage, I can probably sell them for a better return than I would have gotten from the bank.

-- "When you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think straight" - Inherit the Wind

View Severiano's profile


88 posts in 3820 days

#10 posted 07-01-2010 03:14 PM

Thanks for this review. I’ve held myself to jump on one of these toys for quite awile.

-- I don’t believe in God, I believe in woodworking...take my wife, my truck or money, but I dear you to take my woodworking tools!!!

View 747DRVR's profile


199 posts in 4136 days

#11 posted 07-01-2010 05:30 PM

Rich,two more reasons for a drum sander 1)no tearout in figured wood 2)you can use it on much thinner pieces of wood than you would a planer.Perfect for resawing veneer

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3705 days

#12 posted 07-01-2010 05:37 PM

Congratulations! Excellent deal!

I have the Performax 22-44 and it has been a real solid workhorse for years for me.

When planing real thin pieces, you may want to make a sled for it to ride on, for if the sandpaper on the drum is loose at all on one end, it can make contact and wear into your drive belt long before you can reach to shut it down… not that I would know from experience…

If someone has a source for the wide sanpaper drive belts (not from the motor to the pulley) for the 22-44, I would be interested to know. Thanks.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3713 days

#13 posted 07-01-2010 06:40 PM

Like other people mentioned above it does a good job at:
-cupped and twisted board
-Open end bed for larger piece. I have fed through an entire cabinet door to correct stile and rail alignment.
-Sand inlays flush with no tear out that you will most likely get on the planer
-Does not really care about change of direction of the grain
-Sanded very tiny pieces that I taped on a piece of ply serving as a sled
-Can builld a jig to encase the drum and it becomes an open drum sander on which you can ride very big pieces. I have seen that design in many magazines and posts.

It will never replace your planer in my opinion. They both have a place in your shop. Belts are in $30-40 range.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4671 days

#14 posted 07-01-2010 08:23 PM

You’ll find a lot of uses for that tool. I couldn’t function without mine. I sand my 1/16” bookmarks with it also. But like jusfine mentioned, make yourself a sled for the thin stuff.

Jusfine, Woodcraft carries the conveyor belt that you are asking about.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Ken90712's profile


17877 posts in 3968 days

#15 posted 07-02-2010 12:12 AM

Congrats it the simple things we love like drum sanders!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

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