I am looking for a way to speed up sanding my lumber after it comes out of the planer and am thinking that adding a small drum sander would be helpful. Currently, we use random orbit sanders for final sanding before finishing and I would like to eliminate this altogether if possible. Will a drum give me a good consistent surface for finishing or do you still get fine chatter marks? I know a wide belt would probably be best due to the flat platen but they are also beyond my price range at this point. What do you guys do?
When I left my last job, I had been using a nice 42" two head wide belt.
I was on my own, and bought a two head drum sander and struggled mightily for two years as I babied that machine- slow feed, pass after pass, burned paper, re-wraps, blown breakers and poor to terrible quality. It made its own chatter mark that gas to hand sanded out, so there was almost no gain.
I added up the time I was spending and losing and realized I was well on my way to spending the money it would take to get a real wide belt. A month later, I had a wide belt machine and the gworld became a far better place.
2nd trying to get a small widebelt sander instead if you can swing it. I've had two different drum snaders, and when they were running well, the finish was adequate. It was often fiddly to get it into that zone though. A widebelt is easier to set up and keep consistent, faster, and more versatile.
Thanks for the advice! It looks like a wide belt is definitely the better way. What kind of configuration do you use/recommend? It looks like some run a drum before the platen - I assume that is to accomplish two grits in one pass (?). I generally sand to 180 to eliminate scratch pattern, so I would presume 150 and 180 on a two head sander? Also, do you guys use your wide belts for lightly sanding your plywood before finish or only for solid wood. How would you do a plywood surface? Again, just trying to speed this up and eliminate hand sanding as much as possible without sacrificing my finish quality. If you can't tell, I hate hand sanding but it seems to be a necessary evil until I learn differently.
A two head machine is nice to have, especially if it is configured to remotely raise and lower the drums and platen. There are times when this comes in handy (like taking a couple of passes with just the coarser belt before hitting it with the final grit, or taking a very small pass with just the fine belt to clean up a part) and being able to do it on the fly while maintaining calibration is worth extra money.
I like to run 120 / 180 (or even 220 depending on the customer). On a fully featured two-head sander, you can run 3 contact points: Single drum, combi-head drum, and platen. By taking smaller amounts of material off with the two parts of the combi-head, your fine grit can last longer.
Having said that, I typically don't use the platen at all, because the short scratches from the soft rubber finish drum are easier to random orbit out than the long, wavy scratches from the platen. Different machines probably leave different patterns though.
Material coming off a drum or wide belt sander will still need further sanding prior to finishing. A wide belt will get you closer but not quite there. Most plywood is not consistent enough in thickness to make it through a wide belt without occasional sand-through.
If you have the space and are willing to develop a bit of skill a stroke sander is far faster than hand-held sanders for getting to a finish-ready surface. I lack the power supply for a decent wide belt so I rely on a well-tuned planer, a stroke sander and the occasional trip to the wide belt a few miles down the road.
The only thing I remember it being particularly useful for was sanding saw marks off the edges of face frame stock. From what I recall it wasn't particular good sanding panels, and anything more than a single light pass was asking for trouble.
I can sand a panel faster, and better with my rotex, and DA.
I always feel like the odd ball, and I will definitely be putting in a widebelt, but I have had very little trouble with a 26" dual drum. Its in no way, shape, or form, a wide belt, but it has given me very very few of the problems commonly brought up. I rarely fight with burning/streaking even on hard maple. I dont often have the need to take heavy passes. Most generally a single pass cleans up anything we need. I agree completely that I have a few good hours in tweaking and setup mainly getting the second roll exactly where I want it in relation to the first. But with 120 and 180 it does relatively well.
Oddly the worst trouble I had with it was running some wormy chestnut panels for a dining table and the machine didnt want anything to do with the chestnut.
Completely agree that a widebelt is the best if you have the budget, power, and DC (all fall back to budget). I dont and the $1400 I spent on the drum has served me well for six or so years. But a wide belt is definitely on the list.
Thanks for all the help! I think I will just keep to my system until I can place a wide belt. Space and power are not the problems - just the budget. I know of a shop that bought a quarter million dollar sander and then ruined some of the functions because the dryer unit on their compressor quit working and it dumped a lot of water into the machine. I'm thinking a basic machine would do just fine - are there any functions that any of you would consider "must haves"? I generally sand no higher than 180 grit, so, coming off the planer and assuming a two head machine, would I just use 150 and 180 so as to not skip grits? Or is there a different line of thinking with wide belts?
My experience is with an 18 hp single head machine following an SCMI planer which left a minimal snipe. 150 was not quite aggressive enough to reliably eliminate the snipe in one pass, so I would typically use 100/150 or 120/180. Users of more powerful two head machines will have a different perspective. I never had a problem skipping one grit. There is considerable helpful information on the Surfprep website regarding widebelt setup and stock removal capabilities at different grits.
My woodmaster drum sander does very well for what it is.Definitely not a 20,000 widebelt. The velcro sandpaper works pretty well. Just dont cheap out and use the klingspor sandpaprer. The Mirka paper that comes with the machine is far superior and leaves a noticeably better finish. A belt change takes 8 min which includes cleaning the velcro on the drum. I havent seen a belt sander that removes cross scratches so orbital sanding is always necessary
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