Quick, Cheap Thickness Sander for ShopSmith or Lathe #1: How little can I get away with building?

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 11-28-2011 02:48 AM 59398 reads 59 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Quick, Cheap Thickness Sander for ShopSmith or Lathe series Part 2: Structurally Complete - down to details »

I’ve just returned to my winter home / shop in Arizona. At home I have all the tools and lots of space but here I have 1/2 a garage and a much smaller budget. That’s no reason not to have all the toys, you just have to be a bit more creative.

What I need to go with the chevalet I built here last winter, to pursue marquetry, is a veneer press and a thickness sander. The press can wait until next week but the sander gets built now.

1) Gotta be cheap
2) Gotta be precision
3) Gotta be small

How hard can that be?

I need to build as little as I can get away with and use as much of the ShopSmith’s versatile platform as possible. So…......... the basic plan is to use the SS’s structure as a framework, its lathe capacity as the drum drive bearings and all, and the way tubes as a base for a simple adjustable table.

This morning I took a run into Tucson and bought about all I need at HD. It’s not much, just some 4” ABS pipe and a little hardware. I decided to make the drum today and fire it up to test the concept so here’s how it went.

Here’s my SS, a 1990 Mark V 510, in tablesaw mode with the jointer coupled on the left. You can run with both of these set up together. I’ve just cleaned one side of a piece of 2” Osage Orange (thanks Gene Howe) on the jointer and cut a couple of 4” square blocks.

Jointer off, bandsaw on and I’ve cut rough circles out of the blocks.

The SS bandsaw is a very good machine. It may be a little small but it is a precision tool.

A quick flip to vertical position to prepare the very hard wood for the lathe.

Locked in between centers with a spur and a live center. I’ve cut a 2” spigot for my chuck.

Now in the chuck, I have turned a recess to fit the live center perfectly.

There is room now to use the upgrade lathe rest system. Here I’m set up to finish cut the right end plug to the ID of my ABS “drum”.

The plug is all finished. I just couldn’t resist a trim groove.

The fit is tight enough to bind but not tight enough (driven fit) to deform the ABS.

This is the finished look of the right end of the drum.

The drive end (left) is mounted on a dedicated face-plate and turned to the same friction fit.

A look at the fit at the drive end.

Spinning her up. I can run the drum up to lots of speed with virtually no vibration. I’ll true it up a bit with sandpaper on a flat board when the table is built.

This all took about two hours including all the pictures and what I have is a variable speed drum, ready for the velcro kit, mounted perfectly parallel and above a pair of way tubes that will support the table.

I think I’ll go golfing tomorrow and finish this up on Tuesday. I have to wait a few days for the Grizzly velcro kit anyway.

Thanks for dropping in.

As always, questions, comments, and critiques are welcome.


-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

24 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5095 days

#1 posted 11-28-2011 03:23 AM

Hey Paul, good to see you made it OK. How did the pets do?

What a nice machine that SS is. Seems perfect for the situation you are in while in the south.
I built a drum sander on my lathe many years ago. It worked but I did not have the skills I have now to make it into a viable machine. It made too much dust and the platform flexed a lot. Seems like a perfect fit though; lathe->sander.

It will be fun to watch how you complete this,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View sras's profile


6319 posts in 4342 days

#2 posted 11-28-2011 03:28 AM

I am going to watch this with interest. A ShopSmith thickness sander is on my wish list, but I keep coming up with a complex project that has to be put off ‘til later.

And I could use one in the next couple weeks! Either that or take the wood to a shop with a large planer…

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4373 days

#3 posted 11-28-2011 03:45 AM

Nicely done Paul. I have no doubt it will fit all your parameters. Me? I would have over engineered it, not have enough time to finish it, oh and I would also have squandered the funds for it on some other trivial project. :D Thanks for inspiring us.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View shipwright's profile


8747 posts in 4011 days

#4 posted 11-28-2011 03:46 AM

Steve #1 The pets did fantastically. They were stars. I have the dust collection planned and you’ll like it.

Steve #2 You should be able to make this one in a day or two. You probably remember that I posted a concept plan for one of those time consuming ones. I still like the idea but I want to make projects in my limited time, not tools. Stay tuned.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4516 days

#5 posted 11-28-2011 04:40 AM

yea i hear ya paul, hitting the green…the stress of being in your winter home i know has taken a toll…lol…or was it making the pet carrier…..i just love your drum outfit, making a few simple items into a functioning tool is a whole lot of fun, enjoy your game tomorrow, both of my boys enjoy golf….me…dont think it will ever catch, so i will say…forrrrrrrrrrrr…lol…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View peteg's profile


4438 posts in 4036 days

#6 posted 11-28-2011 04:51 AM

Hey Paul, think “the grizz” might be gettin into you there LOL
You just have to get your head around it & there will be a simple answer
Just found out the other day Paul that a mate up at my Club has had a S/mate sitting in his shed for 30 odd years, says he has never used it.
Love the way you attack even the simple taskes Mate, good one : ))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5192 days

#7 posted 11-28-2011 03:15 PM

Nice job, Paul.

I still have my SS in the shop. It doesn’t see too much duty anymore, but I figure it earned it’s space. I’m anxious to see your sander project completed.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View sras's profile


6319 posts in 4342 days

#8 posted 11-28-2011 05:36 PM

It looks to me like you can take the elements from this simple (and therefore actually built) design and graduate to the more complex version at a later time.

I hear you about choosing where you spend your time!

My ShopSmith gets used on nearly every project I do. Might as well put it to work for thickness sanding as well.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View shipwright's profile


8747 posts in 4011 days

#9 posted 11-30-2011 02:14 AM

Well its Tuesday and I didn’t finish it up.
Life happened and I only got a few hours at it.
Most of the grunt work is done so tomorrow I will post some results.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View BigTiny's profile


1718 posts in 4101 days

#10 posted 12-13-2011 03:24 PM

Hi Paul.

When this is done, you should send the pics as a suggestion to the SS folks. Might result in another option for them to sell and some coin for you.

Paul (the Winnipeg one)

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4974 days

#11 posted 12-13-2011 04:16 PM


Shortly after I purchased my Shopsmith in ‘83 I made a 15” long x 2 1/2” diameter drum sander out of oak. The “plans” to make this drum sander are still included in the latest 4th edition of “Power Tool Woodworking for Everyone”.

It works very well as long as you don’t try to remove too much material. The downside is the vast amount of sanding dust literally thrown into your face and all over the shop.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4210 days

#12 posted 01-08-2012 05:47 PM

Great sanding unit. I like to see people make there machine do another job. I have seen the shopsmith, NOW I am interested in finding a good used one to play with.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View shipwright's profile


8747 posts in 4011 days

#13 posted 01-08-2012 07:01 PM

Have you seen my small shop blog? It gets into the ShopSmith thing in depth. They are a little harder to find in Canada than in the US but that said I do have my old 1950 10ER at home on Vancouver Island.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View truenorth's profile


17 posts in 2860 days

#14 posted 11-21-2013 07:55 PM

Very Very cool! Thanks for your patience and taking the time to snap some shots along the way! I live in Canada too! South Surrey. There is a shopsmith mark 5 here locally I am seriously considering buying!

What is the maximum thickness of stock you could fit through (height) I’m looking to run 4 1/2 inch thick post style table legs. Do you think It could accommodate them. Sorry if you covered this I wasn’t able to find that info

If/ when I do I will definitely me making one of these sanders and will rely heavily on your design. Again Brilliant my friend!

Your neighborgh, Stephen

-- Canada - True North Strong and Free

View shipwright's profile


8747 posts in 4011 days

#15 posted 11-22-2013 12:07 AM

Sorry Stephen. Configured as mine is it’s only good for about 2” max. Even without the adjustable table I don’t think there is clearance for what you want to do. These type of sanders aren’t really meant to be thicknessers of heavy stock, even the commercial ones, but rather finish sanders.
This design on a normal lathe may get more capacity . The determining measurement is the spindle centreline to the bed on a lathe or way tubes in a SS.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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