JET - 16-32 Drum Sander (Rating: 5)

Overview

When I run across a list of must-have tools in the woodworking magazines, a drum sander is never mentioned. I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I needed one for my growing hobby. I finally bought the Jet 16-32 last December and I am more satisfied with my purchase every day.

A few things that were a little bothersome

This machine can be slow. I am accustomed to my planer hogging off large chunks of wood in a couple of minutes. This tool is not meant to replace a planer. It takes significantly longer to get wood to your desired thickness.

Sandpaper can be expensive. I did not want to dread purchasing sandpaper every other time I used my drum sander. I went ahead, bit the bullet, and purchased large rolls of almost every grit fom 36 to 220. Kind of like pulling a band aid off really fast… It hurts like hell but the pain subsides quickly.

Dust Don't even attempt to use this thing without a dust collector. When hooked up to a dust collector everything is great. When not hooked up, get ready for the next dust bowl!

I believe that these observations are inherent to drum sanders as a group and therefore do not merit reducing the rating from 5 to 4 stars.

Setup

I ordered from CPO Jet during a 15% off sale and the delivery was easy. I had it in my shop in less than four days. Assembly was very smooth. I did have to adjust the drum as it was slightly uneven from the inboard to outboard side. This required loosening four bolts and turning the height adjustment knob. The stand is extremely thick metal and will probably be around long after I am gone. Very solid construction. It has a shelf on bottom. I purchased 4 casters from Rockler. They were about 1/3 the price of the Jet brand casters and are very good quality.

Will I use my sander?

After purchasing this machine I continue to find new uses for it.

One thing that never occurred to me before my purchase is that a drum sander can also double as a giant face jointer. With a planer, if your wood is not fllat, the rollers will flatten a cupped board and plane the wood. When the board comes out of the other side the wood will bounce back to it's original cupped shape (albeit slightly thinner). On the other hand, a drum sander gradually sands away at the cupped portion of the board until you have a flat surface. You can then flip the board, run it through your planer, and get an opposing surface equally flat and paralell. Sure, a 12 inch jointer is faster. However, for occasional use, the drum sander loaded with 36 grit paper will do the job just as well. It can handle the boards too wide for your 6 or 8 inch jointer.

The next thing I really like about this machine is the ability to handle almost any stock you can throw at it. Wild grain, short boards, extremely thin stock, end grain cutting boards, this tool does not care. My planer is not suited for any of these chores.

Finally, running your boards through this machine and going through the progressive grits prior to assembly of your project can save you loads of time with a handheld sander. You will still need to do some touch up with your ROS but it will be minimal.

Technology

This sander comes with something called Sandsmart. If you set the speed of the conveyor belt faster than the sander can handle, Sandsmart overrides and slows the conveyor to a workable pace.

Using the sander

After purchasing this tool and six boxes of pricy sandpaper last December I started to wonder whether I really needed it.

Then, my next project called for 3/8 inch lumber. I was using wild-grained sycamore. I discovered that my planer could not handle the task without destroying the wood. Two ruined boards later, I rolled out the drum sander. Problem solved.

Last week, a coworker had some 12 inch wide rough cut cedar her husband needed planed. The cedar had a serious cup in it. My 6 inch jointer was too narrow and I smiled as I plugged in the drum sander and proceeded to remove the cup before planing it.

Conclusion

You can survive without a drum sander but, if quality work is your goal, and your time is valuable, I believe you will find numerous occasions where it is indispensable. I really like mine and I would say that the Jet 16-32 is hard to beat.