Who has a drum (thickness) sander? Is it worth buying?

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by Stefanovich, Jun 18, 2019.

  1. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

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    So... after reading many warnings about how guitar building leads to ridiculous tool purchases, I am beginning to experience the reality.

    For some context, I have yet to build a guitar from scratch. I assembled a partscaster (body and neck were unfinished) and ukulele kit from Stewmac. I have done several refrets, have rebraced a couple of old Gibson acoustics, and replaced a broken truss rod in a strat copy. In short, I am a beginner, but not a rank beginner. My current project is building a neck from scratch to put on a body I found in the garbage. I have also purchased the wood to build an acoustic guitar. The quality of my work is OK, but not great. When I see truly skilled luthiery I know that is way above what I can currently do, likewise when I see a hack job, I know I can do better.

    The drum sander in question is a used Performax (now Jet) 16-32 drum sander. It is in the local classifieds for $650 CAD. I think a drum sander would be super handy for milling my back and sides for the acoustic. I tried hand planing, but am scared of tearout. I have used a friend's Rigid planer and it works ok, but there is some snipe and tearout on birdseye maple.

    What is holding me back from the purchase is cost. I am not a wealthy (or even middle-class) person. I have scored some stellar deals on used tools such that my total investment in tools is very low. My most expensive tool is a Rigid 14" bandsaw that I got for $125. Thus, $650 is a significant step up in cost. However, used drum sanders don't come up for sale often, and I cannot find anyone who owns one.

    So... who owns one and is it worth the investment?
     
  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I made one and bought 3. They are worth it if you have curly wood or need thin wood for acoustics. A lot of times I'll finish off my bodies by sending them through the sander. My lastest is a Delta. I'd avoid ones with a rubber conveyor. My Ross and Ryobi ones had rubber conveyor belts. They harden under UV. The Ross within a year. When the rubber hardens it doesn't hold the wood securely.

    Many have an abrasive belt for the conveyor and that can be replaced easily enough. I wouldn't get a 10" one, but at least the size of a body blank. Another thing is parts replacement. Many of the old sander companies are out of business. My Delta broke a spring that holds the paper on. I was lucky to get one on Ebay but that is a consideration for any machine.

    Thin stock goes on a carrier board so you can get under 1/8" thick.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
  3. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Holic

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    I have that model, used price seems high. I payed under $400 for mine, I am not sure how much you would need to pay to get it across the border. They are not foolproof, still requires some practice and you can still get snipe if not careful.
     
  4. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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  5. Davecam48

    Davecam48 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    If you are a bit handy with the tools you can build one for a few bucks and it will perform extremely well if you build it well enough.

    Here's a link to where I built mine. It is a delight to use with very accurate results!

    Since building it I've replaced the top with kitchen "granite" and now it is just about perfect!

    DC

    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/diy-drum-sander.355171/
     
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  6. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have a 16/32 peformax, defiantly a game changer for building guitars (and much more) I very seldom use my planer anymore no worries about tearout can’t beat for figured wood. I do buy rolls of sand paper on amazon and cut them to length to fit. Also, it takes a while to learn how to use them it’s a balancing act of dept and feed speed. I found the less you cut the better, it takes longer but you’re not burning the wood or ruining the sanding belt they will get burn spots on them. One problem with them the 16” belt on the table breaks you will need to buy a new one not cheap, I bought a poly construction one cost $100 but it’s been on there for years.
     
  7. G.Rotten

    G.Rotten Tele-Holic

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    Saddly, with the exchange rate as its been for a while $400 U.S. is currently $540 C.A.D. & being that it would be hard to sneak such an item in I bet it turns into $650 C.A.D. (or not far from it) with duty/travel or shipping.

    I've wondered the same thing & they don't come up very often. Might not be a terrible idea to check it out.
     
  8. G.Rotten

    G.Rotten Tele-Holic

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    I do not have first hand experience with either a planner or a drum sander. I've been getting my wood thickness sanded at the specialty wood store a couple towns over. If these things were available used in Ontario more often (at an attainable price) I would likely own one by now.

    I think you should really consider checking it out. I'm sure you can find make work projects other than guitars that will help you justify the expense.
     
  9. LeftFinger

    LeftFinger Tele-Afflicted

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    As Dave said build one . There are lots of free plans and designs on the net. If you do a search in this forum alone you will find 1/2 a dozen builds or more
     
  10. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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  11. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I use my thickness sander more than I use my planer.
     
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  12. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Meister

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    I don't own one but have access to a really fine one just a few blocks away. You've received excellent advice here from guys who really know the machine. For acoustic guitars it's going to be highly useful. You can thickness a back, then flex and tap it and see if it needs to be thinner. Sides a little too stiff for bending that curve? Another pass ought to do it. If you're using non-figured grain (not ribbon grained mahogany) then you can get by with a muscle-powered jointer plane and a card scraper. For figured woods, the drum sander is pretty much indispensable.

    A couple of considerations if you decide to build your own. My buddy's machine that I use has a motorized feed belt with a speed control, I think it's an important feature to maintain a flat finished surface. The other thing I think you need to consider is dust control. These things generate a huge amount of fine sanding dust and come fitted with a 4-6" dust port. A shop vac ain't gonna cut it. You need about 10x the CFM airflow you get out of a vacuum. Happy building
     
  13. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    All good points dust control is a must I'm pretty sure the sanding drum will load up without it. As for building your own just my opinion it's hard to build a home made machine as good as something enginered and built for a specific job.
     
  14. EddieLocrian

    EddieLocrian Tele-Afflicted

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    My son has one.
    Yes, its a necessary tool for him.
     
  15. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

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    I appreciate all the responses! I did consider building one, but I don't have a ton of spare parts lying around so by the time I bought the materials (especially if I had to buy a new motor) I don't think the cost savings would justify it.

    I followed Davecame48's drum sander build when it was first put online and am totally impressed, but at this point, I think it is better for me to just buy one. I am still thinking about it, but leaning towards pulling the trigger. There are other, more industrial, machines for sale for not much more, but they take either 220V or 550V and given this is a hobby for me, I would rather have the convenience of a 110V machine that is relatively small and easy to move around or store.
     
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  16. bullfrogblues

    bullfrogblues Friend of Leo's

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    I have had a Performax 16-32 model for a long, long time. It works great for what it does, as long as you don't have to use it as a planer. Mine also trips the breaker on the drum motor if I don't keep a fan on it.
    It can be used, if careful, to take cupping out of a piece, but to do that it can't exceed the 16" width.
    I used it more for raised panel cabinet doors, but works great for guitar tops. But you have to take very small increments at a time
     
  17. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    I had a Performax 22-44 for a long time but never seemed to use it. Since it was taking up so much space, I sold it to another woodworker who actually had a need. Now that I've taken an interest in guitar building, I may regret not having that sander around, particularly for leveling thin panels for two-piece (semi-hollowed) bodies. So from the perspective of guitar building and working with thinner materials, yes, they are worth having.
     
  18. Jdelys

    Jdelys Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    I own a Woodmaster 26" drum sander. Very rugged, good dust collection, but generally more expensive than others. Panel thickness variance edge to edge has always been negligible no matter how big or small the panel is. I commonly straighten twisted boards by double side taping contact areas to a flat carrier board and shimming the high spots. Run it through the sanding machine and pretty quickly have a flat side I can then run through the planer.
     
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  19. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

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    So, that particular sander got sold, but now I now they do come up for sale now and then. It seems to be a great tool for making guitars!
     
  20. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Quick answer, I don't own one but I know people who do. My local lumber yard has a wide belt sander and they will thickness anything I buy from them. A friend with a cabinet shop has a belt sander and he will thickness plates for a little barter. If I buy wood from LMII they will thickness it for me - in fact they will thickness wood I buy elsewhere but I have to sign a release.

    I probably have more use for one than most people on this forum since I build mostly acoustics and the plates need to be fairly precisely thicknessed - I like to bend sides at about 70 thousands and I like to start with my tops around 105. In theory I could do that with a good sharp plane but I'm not good enough.

    I build maybe three guitars a year - that is three trips to my friends shop (and three six packs). Since I build in my garage, if I had a drum or belt sander I would have to get it out, set it up, connect to my dust collection system (a shop vac), thickness my plates and then put it all away. I can't imagine tripping over it all year just so I can build three guitars.

    However, if you are going to build or buy one let me caution you about a couple of things. Some models do not go thinner than an 1/8 of an inch - as I said earlier much of what I do starts there and goes thinner. Also be careful of the tolerance across the board - I will frequently run a joined top or back thru the sander and I want the same thickness all the way across and from end to end.

    There are other ways to thickness pieces of wood - you could make a sled for a router or I have heard of people using a Safe-T-Planer (I have one and use it a lot, but have never tried to plane a large hunk of wood). Building your own was kind of a rite of passage for budding luthiers back in the day.
     
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