Expert Answers: Why buy a stationary drum sander?

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This article is from Issue 80 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Why buy a stationary drum sander?

Q Can you give me the short story on stationary drum sanders? They’re kind of pricy, but sure offer a lot more capacity than my portable planer. What are their pros and cons, and can one replace my planer?

—Mark Sandberg, via email

A stationary drum sander is a great tool for a smoothing everything from narrow strips to wide panels, while producing parts of consistent thickness. Drum-sanding is also an efficient way to smooth and level assembled frame-and-panel cabinet doors. Prices on machines vary widely, depending on capacity and type of build. Better units, like the SuperMax 16-32 shown here (with its 16"-wide drum, and open-end design), may cost more than a sander with a drum housed on both ends. However, you can surface panels up to 32" wide by feeding half the workpiece at a time. 

Will a drum sander replace a thickness planer? Not really. It certainly will thickness stock, but way too slowly for general work, as it typically removes only about 1/64" per pass. That said, it is a worthy addition to the shop if you regularly dress stock too wide or troublesome for your planer. I routinely use my sander as an “abrasive planer” for smoothing and thicknessing figured stock that would suffer tearout from planer knives. It’s also a great option for smoothing end-grain cutting boards and processing very thin material that planer knives would shatter.  n

—Paul Anthony, senior editor


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