Buying and Using a Stroke Sander

      Advice on buying a used stroke sander, and tips on making and using sanding blocks for it. July 24, 2006

Does anyone here still use a stroke sander in your shop? Im looking into using one and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor C:
I use mine every day, and I'm not sure what I would do without it. I flush sand all my frame and panel doors, and also the wooden nosings glued to veneer panels. Nothing else has worked as well for me. The surface this machine leaves is in my opinion, the best quality sanding job I can produce in my shop. For veneer table tops they are the only way to go. As you can tell, I highly recommend this machine.

From contributor T:
Mine is used every day too. I wish I had space for a second one with coarse grit belts only (40 grit) for flattening glued-up panels, etc. Belt changes are only 5 minutes though. I mostly use 100 grit, and less on veneers. A very cost effective machine and the only way I can quickly flatten 5' round glued-up tabletops.(tip; go cross grain first). It's a machine that requires a medium level of skill, like a jointer.

From contributor R:
The first shop I worked in had a widebelt and three different types of stroke sanders from a hand block type, Pnematic platen and double belted through feed. It was a great tool and when I worked for a metalsmith we put a stroke sander in there as well.

From contributor C:
So are any of you doing profile sanding such as the cove on a raised panel? If so, what kind of belt works well?

From contributor R:
For handblock sanding use lead shot to weight the handblock for less fatigue. I've rarely seen one made to its best and full potential. One of the reasons stroke sanders have gotten a bad rap in the past I suspect. I've seen veneered panels get botched several times in finishing and get stroke sanded again up to 4 times and managed to make it through finishing.

From contributor F:
Any particular stroke sander brands recommended?

From contributor R:
Stroke sanders are pretty basic machines. Anything used on the open market is typically a good buy. Beach, Mattison and etc. are often available for pretty good prices. You can get new ones from Grizzly, Woodworkers Supply, Minimax etc. These are fulcrum type pads but can be used with handblocks and flexible belts. The fulcrum type take a bit more practice but are less fatiguing to use all day. The Mattison can have the pedestals set at any distance apart so longer panels can be sanded. Its no longer manufactured but it's basically a motor and some drums so it's no big deal to rebuild.

From contributor C:
On a lark I made an ultra light weight block out of sandwiched EPS foam with a graphite pad for veneer work hopefully Im on to something

From contributor T:
Hey, I like it. That's thinking outside of the box! My block is a 1" steel plate with a wood handle on top and a piece of cork glued on the bottom then a strip of graphite cloth wrapped over the whole thing. Nice and heavy but hard to feel the wood. Great for flattening laminated solid table tops though.

From contributor R:
Try a piece of 1/4" hard felt between the graphite and block. This is typical of the platen on a widebelt sander and pretty much all the better stroke sander pads I've used. I learned the finer points of handblock making from a guy who used stroke sanders for 35 years plus I've used them off and on for 30 years. In metal working I used a solid piece of graphite to do what we call "blocking" to flatten out the metal. The same technique gives undesirable marks on wood. I still prefer the lead weighted one for wood. After using a light weight one for many hours your arm will become very sore and I've spent days at a time on the stroke sander in my early factory days.

From contributor C:
I figured on using the feather block more for skimming veneer, and that sort of thing. I'll defiantly be making a few more like the ones you've described in the past.

From contributor R:
A shaped block with graphite will do nicely for the raised panels. We had a through feed profile sander for doing production work but the stroke sander was great for the one offs.

From contributor C:
To contributor R: I bought mittins to sand the veneers on my own custom surfboards. I'm wondering if the addition of some cantilevered idler pullies might aid in the flexibility of the belt in regards to the odd shapes. I'm also working on a system where I may not need to sand at all or at least very little.

From contributor R:
What brand of machine are you using? Is it a simple 2 drum or a 4 drum? The flexible belts should be all you need.

From contributor C:
Its an Oliver 183d polisher with a Wysong and Miles table - two pedestals.

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