Shopping for a Planer-Sander

Advice on the characteristics that make a combination planer/sander most useful in the shop. March 28, 2015

We are looking into purchasing a wide belt to do our surfacing and sanding on one machine. We are looking for a planing head and two sanding heads. Is anyone using a wide belt able to share some advice? Should we use two different machines?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
We have a planer/sander with one sanding head which we run 150 grit on. I would not want to run the shop without it. We use it for S4S and plan/sanding of glued up panels. It does not replace our three head widebelt sander but the two used together makes short work of planning and sanding. The way our shop runs I do not see an advantage to having two heads behind the planer head. Maybe if you only had the planer sander and no widebelt it may be useful. We have to raise the sanding head if we want to plane only. Not a big deal but the readout for thickness it based off of the sander so it is not exact when planning.

From contributor P:
My understanding was that the cut capacity was limited with planer/sander machines. Based on this our company opted for separate machines.

From contributor G:
Ours is capable of removing as much material as we want it to. Maybe it varies for other brands.

From Contributor W:
If you go for a planer sander there are a few huge things you want to get right. After the planer you need at least a 120 grit belt to remove the normal marks from a planer head. I would rather see 100 or even 80 grit. A drum and then a combi-head is the best option. If you are going straight from planer to finished parts you want at least two sanding heads.

Second, shoes hold parts down. Rollers hold parts tight to the conveyor so they drive through. You have to know the difference. The longer the distance between hold down rollers the less positive the drive on parts shorter than the distance between them. Many of these machines were designed by idiots. They leave huge distances between rollers. You want a roller as close in front and behind the planer heads and sanding heads as possible.

Third, the more uneven your parts are going in, the harder it is to get them perfectly level coming out. If the parts are 1/8" off level on one side going in, the parts will not sit flat on the conveyor as the run through. This can cause issues with seemingly warped parts.

If you can afford it buy quality dead shaft heads are the best. When you have dead shaft sanding heads you can get the machine with air exclusion so you can pop heads up or down with the flip of a switch. It makes the machine much more versatile. The heads are more rigid so there is less vibration and better quality finish.