Drum sanders are powerful, high-performance machines that can be used for most woodworking projects. The key to a successful outcome, however, is choosing the right one for what you’re working on. Like a lot of other woodworking tools, there is no single unit for every possible application, so in this blog, the team at Red Label Abrasives will review the information you need to make the decision on which drum sander may be best for your needs.
Drum sanders generally consist of a single or dual drum mounted horizontally over a belt. This design makes it ideal for sanding surfaces, but not cutting away large amounts of wood. Common uses for drum sanders include:
If you’ve never used one before, it’s tempting to see it as a type of thickness planer. Unlike a planer, though, drum sanders have a drum on the head instead of a cutter head or blades. This drum is wrapped with abrasive strips that sand away surface roughness or imperfections. You should only use the machine as a finishing tool: trying to remove stock will lead to heat buildup, burned abrasives, and a damaged workpiece.
There are two types of drum sanders: open and closed. Each one is designed for a certain project size and type.
With open drum sanders, the drum is suspended over the moving belt, allowing you to pass it easily over broad objects like doors, cabinet walls, and flooring. Some open drum sanders include conveyor belts for easier operation and digital displays that show board thickness when extra precision is required.
Closed drum sanders are mounted on four pillars and, because they are closed at both ends, can only process stock that fits through its opening. Although they have a limited width capacity, this may not be a problem if you only work with smaller pieces.
Many closed drum sanders have dual drums, which speeds up your sanding jobs. A drum with a lower-grit abrasive works with a higher-grit drum to complete two different steps simultaneously. Some of these machines allow extra control through independently-tuned rear drums.
Below are some key considerations when you’re on the market for a drum sander to sand wood with.
As we mentioned earlier, drum sanders and planers can smooth the surface of whatever you’re working on, but they’re designed for different uses.
Planers are great when you want to clear away stock, level glued wood, and in general remove a lot of material. Drum sanders, on the other hand, are best for finish sanding and smoothing. They typically remove between 0.005 and 0.007 inch of materials for a single pass while planers take away 0.125 and 0.250 inch. This is one of the reasons why you’ll want a drum sander if you’re working with thin stock like veneer.
When you’re buying abrasives for a drum sander, look for high-quality aluminum oxide, which provides an excellent cutting surface for all types of wood. Ideally, you should buy the open coat variety, which has grit coverage of around 50 to 70%. The open space discourages sanding residue build-up and supports the air flow necessary to keep the abrasive from becoming too hot.
Red Label Abrasives sells open coat aluminum oxide drum sanding rolls, which you can use to cut your own drum sanding strips from. You can save a lot of money cutting your own drum sanding strips.
Drum sanders are powerful, efficient tools that sand your workpieces more quickly than a handheld sander. By buying the right type (open vs. closed) and choosing features that support your project goals, you’ll have an asset that delivers consistently superior results.