First, What is a drum sander?
A drum sander is a particularly awesome woodworking machine designed to sand and finish large wood surfaces on a mechanism similar to a thickness planer. Drum sanders are available in a variety of sizes from 10"x20" to 26"x52 inches. This means that although the sanding belt is only 10 or 26 inches itself, the machine has one open side which allows you to pass your panel through once, flip it, and pass it through a second time. You can beautifully sand or finish an entire piece (up to 52") in just two passes. Within the drum sander the sandpaper moves on a continuous loop (like a planer) through a sanding drum. The abrasive sleeve is cylindrical and turns with motorized power on a cylindrical slotted drum. Drum sanders have a height adjustment to allow for around four inches, give or take, of thickness to be passed through. Operators adjust the machine's feed rollers, and height to accommodate their materials, then simply pass the wood through. The looped abrasive sleeve sands or finishes the material as it gently moves or pushes it out the other side. Most drum sanders offer pretty simple sand paper changes and deliver great results with much less bulk and much less price than a wide-belt sander.
Dual Drum Sander:
A dual drum sander has two sanding drums. This allows operators to use two different sanding belts with different grits. This means you can sand your panel with a rough grit and it finish with a fine grit in the same pass; a wonderful concept - sanding and finishing simultaneously. The dual drum is a bit more expensive, but it does save a great deal of time and energy.
Oscillating and Non-Oscillating:
Most standard drum sanders are non-oscillating, but don't let that get you down, they still perform with surprising smoothness. Oscillation technology is relatively new in drum sanders. The oscillation provides more movement in more directions for a smoother, finer finish to your products. The drum pushes the material forward and the oscillator moves the abrasive belt from side to side. This additional motion delivers a seriously smooth finish in much less time.
Pricing and Brands:
Drums sanders range in price from anywhere between $400 and $2,200. The more expensive models tend to have better dust collection and anti-vibration technologies, but most specifically, they are just bigger to accommodate bigger panels and larger projects.
Jet/Performax makes an awesome single drum sander, Steel City only manufactures a dual drum while Delta only makes a single; Powermatic makes a great dual drum sander. All of these are great brands to search for when looking into which drum sander best suits you and your professional needs.
Some drum sanders can be compact enough for a bench-top, while others are closer to the size of a washing machine. Because of this variety, craftsmen of all calibers and with all shop sizes can be satisfied and accommodated with a drum sander. This machine makes sanding and finishing a much easier, much cleaner, and much quicker process. With a drum sander craftsmen, carpenters, and woodworkers can be confident in their projects and products. Happy crafting!
A student at the Univ. of Utah, Mallory Kramer is earning her degree in English. Three years ago she joined M&M Tool adding to their over 150 years combined experience; she specializes in tool parts & web communications. For over 60 years M&M Tool has provided the best service to the tool industry with parts, sales, & service to expert level woodworking products, tools, & machinery. Visit M&M Tool's Forum for woodworking articles, advice, & info.