SuperMax 19-38 exceeds expectations - a quick review

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Review by EMC posted 09-16-2013 12:54 AM 12323 views 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
SuperMax 19-38 exceeds expectations - a quick review No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

After much research and debate I decided to go with this sander as the best solution to my need to keep the physical size reasonable (due to limited shop space) and the budget fairly reasonable (I am comfortable paying more for better quality, but as a hobbyist can’t really justify spending several thousand dollars on a single tool).

A $1399, this is not an inexpensive tool, but it is reasonable. And from everything I read it has some real advantages over Preformax/Jet for only a small increase in cost so I decided to just go for it.

I called SuperMax direct and spoke with Dave who was very helpful, answered all my questions and assisted me in putting together a package to fit my needs.

I actually ended up getting my sander pretty well kitted out with options. I added the casters (very heavy duty, very nice, but perhaps a bit overpriced at $89 a set); the feed tables (which have turned out to be a very good thing, and seem reasonably priced at $99); a bunch of sandpaper rolls (which are proving to be high quality and very long lasting); and at the last minute added the DRO (which works fine, but seems a bit of an indulgence to me as in retrospect it’s nice, but certainly not essential at $199). Best of all, Dave worked with me on a package deal, so the whole thing was still affordable.

Shipping was fast – they had it on the truck within 2 days, and the freight company took about 5 days to get it cross country to me. Freight company called ahead to schedule delivery, and although I didn’t request a lift gate they had one on the truck and the friendly driver took the pallet down and put it right in my driveway for me.

I unwrapped the pallet (it was very well packed and arrived damage free) and moved the three differ boxes one at a time through my yard and down into my basement shop. Only one of the boxes is very heavy (220#) and all were actually easy to transport using a two wheel dolly to roll them in individually.

Everything I had ordered was on the pallet except for my extra sandpaper rolls which somehow didn’t make it. Kudos to SuperMax though, it took one call and they immediately shipped them to me. And, no real harm done since the sander ships with an 80 grit roll installed – so I was able to go ahead and use it immediately without waiting for the extra paper..

Assembly took about 3 hours for the stand and the sander. Calibration and adjustments maybe another 1/2 hour or so. Instructions were the only bad note – they are beyond terrible! I think if there had been good instructions the assembly time would have been more like 1 hour, as much of the time was spent redoing parts of the assembly to get them right. However, kudos again to SuperMax for having very helpful and responsive customer service. I actually ended up calling about 4 different times to check on details and clarify instructions and every time got quick, helpful answers from friendly people who obviously knew the machine inside and out.

All the parts fit precisely together with no problems. Holes lined up (although you do have to figure out EXACTLY how the stand parts go together and get them in the right order or it just won’t work – guess how I know that!). The quality of the castings was good and the machining and assembly seemed quite good to me. Cosmetically, the paint finish is not totally perfect, but it is very good – way beyond what I have seen from Grizzly, and perhaps a bit better than Jet. All the bare metal parts were nicely finished. Hardware was good quality. Best of all, NO clean up, NO cosmoline at all.

I understand that the sander is built in Taiwan, not China. Based on this tool purchase, plus a few of my other tool purchases, it seems to me that as a generalization Taiwan is really building higher quality tools vs China. Overall, on a scale of 1-10 for build quality and “as shipped” condition I would say this tool rates a 9. In comparison, most of the China built tools I have purchased are anywhere from a 2 to a 7. The big difference here from my point of view is that the tool arrived very well packed, very well finished, requiring no clean up, and free of any need to make major adjustments or rework things to achieve quality results. In comparison, a lot of the Chinese tools are capable of good functionality, but generally seem to require quite a bit of clean-up and reworking to get to that point. Kind of makes sense to me – I think its the classic “you get what you pay for” as the Taiwan tools are generally a bit more expensive vs the Chinese ones.

Calibration wise, everything was very close to right but not dead on. I found it easy to make the adjustments following the manual (which was also very weak in this area) supplemented by a couple more phone calls for clarification. Once you “get it” it is super easy to adjust. With everything adjusted I have zero tracking problems and pretty much dead flat surfaces (within a few hundredths, which is way good enough for my purposes).

Once I got her ready to run I grabbed an end grain cutting board from my stack of finished but not planed or sanded ones ( although I anticipate using the sander for many things, my initial goal was to speed up and simplify the production of the many different end grain cutting boards my wife has decided we are giving to everyone for Christmas) and decided to see how the 19-38 did at evening out the glued up surface instead of using my planer. In a word, it did great. I ran the 80 grit and it pretty quickly took down the out of flush areas and got me to a smooth even surface. Although I imagine 36 or 60 grit would be even faster, I was actually pretty I pressed with how well the 80 grit did. With a lot less stress then trying to ease end grain through the planer, I got the board looking good.

Noise level is actually quite low, and dust extraction (using a Jet Vortex 1100) was 100% – I could not see any evidence of escaping dust, and the board was basically clean when it exited.

The speed setting with the intelligent override built in works great. You can pretty much set the conveyer at full speed and the intelligence slows it down auto-magically whenever it starts to bog down.

I did find that you need to be reasonable about how much material you try to remove in each pass. Compared to my Dewalt planer the hand wheel needs to be turned in smaller increments as you move the drum down with each pass. I found that about 1/6 to 1/4 turn was about right.

The more I use this sander, the more impressed with it I am. I really feel like it is a good value with performance equal toor better than what I expected for the price. In fact, its good enough that I expect it will serve my needs long term, and not just be a “good enough” tool which I had to settle for because I couldn’t afford better.

Bottom line, I’d give it 4.75 stars (deducted a 1/2 star for the awful manual, and then gave a 1/4 star back for the great customer service which helped make up for it). With a new, complete, properly illustrated manual (which I am told is in process) I’d consider this a 5 star tool.

View EMC's profile


37 posts in 2730 days

7 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3536 days

#1 posted 09-16-2013 01:23 AM

You are really going to enjoy that drum sander. My 2 drum sanders are the most time/labor saving tools in my shop.

I never tried to use mine upside down like yours!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4029 days

#2 posted 09-16-2013 02:11 AM

Thanks for the review. I have tbis on my wish list. I got a coupon for this or a SawStop 2 years ago and opted for the saw. Next time I have $1400 I’m not sure what to do with, this is getting the nod. Like the Excalibur scroll saw in the back of your upside down picture. :)

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View bobasaurus's profile


3646 posts in 4030 days

#3 posted 09-16-2013 06:00 AM

I wish I had a drum sander for cutting boards and small thicknessing operations. Thanks for the review, I’ll keep it in mind.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 3020 days

#4 posted 09-16-2013 09:15 PM

Nice review. I really want to a drum sander in my shop.

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View Ottacat's profile


517 posts in 2698 days

#5 posted 09-18-2013 02:55 PM

Thanks for the review. I expect I’ll be picking one of these up in the next year. In the world of drum sanders these seem to be the top of the heap as they seem to have the belt tracking issue down pretty well.

That being said there is no excuse for a bad manual when it is for a product that a company has engineered and designed themselves. This machine has been out for quite some time and the company spends a fortune advertising it in FWW and other magazines. This is money that should have been put into a proper manual from day one. They charge a premium price for this unit and buyers deserve better than having to call for help multiiple times. Yes it is good that the calls were well answered but just think of the wasted money on the tech support staff when a better manual would probably reduce call volume by 80%. Strange company.

View PatrickB's profile


53 posts in 3794 days

#6 posted 11-28-2013 01:21 AM

Thanks for the review. I have done a lot of reading on this sander since my debacle with Craftsman sander. I am saving money now for the 25” version. The only thing I may have to ask is to have it disassembled some what before shipping because I am only one guy and getting it into my basement will be a pain. Getting the Craftsman into the basement was a nightmare!!

-- Really? Really? How important is it?

View Woodcut1's profile


34 posts in 1670 days

#7 posted 03-04-2016 12:25 AM

Great review, Thanks! I was just considering this tool.

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