Sanding Door Edges

The group agrees that a spindle sander is a bad idea for sanding door edges; instead, here are tips on edge sanders. February 16, 2012

We want to set up a bench top 1/4 HP oscillating spindle sander on a table with a fence to sand off saw marks from our cabinet doors. Will 1/4 HP be enough to sand saw marks off of hard maple?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Froum)
From contributor L:
I think you will be disappointed in the results. Feed speed would have to be absolutely uniform. It is going to be slow! There are better solutions. Don't you shape the edges with a shaper? A small edge sander with a graphite block behind the belt and fences to control depth would work far better. Basically an abrasive jointer. There are commercial ones, but a bit pricey.

From the original questioner:
Yeah, we shape the edges on a shaper, but saw marks are not eliminated. The thing with edge sanders (we had one) is that, in my experience, they are not long enough to accommodate different size doors, and you have to be very precise in keeping the door straight when bumping the door against the sander. This is why I thought of a spindle sander with a fence flush with the sand drum. Now about the feed speed you mentioned, would a power feeder help?

From contributor M:
I think you will be disappointed also. It will be slow and in my thinking if you do have a fence, there will be some cross sanding scratches due to the up and down motion of the spindle. Sort of like a wave going down the edge of the door. I use an edge sander, and it's the only way to go in my opinion.

From contributor L:
Can't you just set the shaper for a slightly deeper cut? If you are not using a feed on the shaper, it helps a lot! Use a single piece fence. Very carefully advance it into the running profile knife using the screws on the fence - don't try to free hand hold it. That will give you the best support all the way through the shaper. Make a locating jig that consists of a stick, snuggly fit to the miter gauge slot and a panel that you locate the fence with the next time. Fasten the panel to the stick. Label it! The next time you need to run this setup it's a snap. Use a height gage to measure the vertical position of the cutter and mark the fence and the setup jig with that information. 5 minute setup right on every time.

From contributor A:
The paper would get tired very quickly. You are going to be using 100-150 grit paper. It would not last long in that application. We've always used an edge sander. No complaints. Which edge sander have you been using?

From contributor O:
As a pattern maker I used spindle sanders - big industrial units, not bench tops - a lot, every day, for years. I am absolutely certain it won't do the job you hope it will do. Don't waste your time and money on this idea.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I don't see how I can set the edge profile cutter for a deeper cut when it's got a rub collar, and won't it take off of the size of the door as well?

From contributor R:
Edge sander is the way to go in my 40 years of factory and custom shop experience. Easy to sand an 8' edge on a 4' platen of an edge sander. Don't say it can't be done, because it can!

From contributor J:
I'm also going to vote no on the spindle sander. I think even with a feeder you're going to get waves, similar to the scallops a planer leaves, from using a round drum.

There is an edge sander out there that has a setup on the back which allows you to sand in a similar manner to using a jointer. This may be a better solution to what you're looking for. I don't have experience with them - I just bumped into a couple threads over time where guys were talking about them. I think they were made by LASM?

From contributor K:
I have used one of the sanders contributor J refers to and liked it much better than a straight edge sander. It was a Powermatic brand, but I believe made in Italy back in the 80's. It had a 6" oscillating belt and a split adjustable fence like a shaper with a graphite pad maybe 2" wide backing the belt between the fence halves. The fence needed to be adjusted as the abrasive wore and was nowhere near as accurate as a jointer, but much less chance of over sanding or developing a curved edge than a standard edge sander, and could sand any length without interference with a dust hood. It had a regular long platen on the back side, and you could use the tensioning spindle for sanding inside curves. I think it cost $3-4k at the time.

From contributor L:
I've never used an edge profile set with a rub collar. My set always profiled the entire edge, no place for a rub collar. No wonder you're leaving saw marks. I guess you have several options. No matter which you choose you will change the size by removing the saw marks. So simple solution if you are going to use that cutter set is to have the edge clean before making a door out of it. Put it through a shaper with straight knives. Problem here is it makes another handling over the standard approach but you seem to be sold on that anyhow. I don't know what length your edge sander will accommodate. Mine has a 48" platen, big enough to make controlling the cut easy even on edges longer than 48". Back when I used to make doors for other shops I had a profile sander for the edges and for the panels. Saves a huge amount of time. If you can't justify the cost of the tools you probably should have Conestoga or the like make your doors. Spend your time on making what you can efficiently.

From the original questioner:
Contributor L, which cutter did you use to profile the whole edge without using a rub collar? Where can I get a roundover door edge profile cutter that will cut the entire edge?

From contributor P:
Freeborn has bottom cutters that ride with the edge profile cutter. Five bottom cutter profiles are available including a straight. I just wish Freeborn would offer more stock profiles for the 32mm hinge system.

The spindle sander is a bad idea. On my edge sander I clamp a stop square to the platen. I clamp it tight in three places so it won't accidentally move. Bump your door edge twice (or whatever) and move to the next edge.