Do you really like to sand your own floor? Perhaps, no! This task is something that we all wish to get it done as effortlessly and quickly as possible. This is exactly what a drum sander does for you. It is a large sanding tool primarily used in sanding tasks related to plastic and wood. Specifically, this power tool is used for wood floor projects due to its capability of operating at a higher speed than a majority of other sanders. The best drum sander not only cuts rapidly and maintains perfect square edges, but also smoothes out all uneven floor spots more efficiently than the orbital sanders, according to drum sander reviews.
You can easily work on big surface areas with more precision as well as more swiftly, as the toll facilitates using both the hands for having the desired increased control. Moreover, a majority of units have a suction mechanism for pulling all leftover dust as well as debris from the adjacent workspace, making cleaning after working, quite easier.
Featuring over 175 pounds of weight with almost 25 inches of length and 30 inches of width, drum sanders require a clearance area of at least two feet on each side for ensuring sufficient working space. They can tackle big jobs or large or small boards with ease and can work with a wide variety of grits.
- 1 Working of a Drum Sander
- 2 Dos and Don’ts of Drum Sanders
- 3 Drum Sanders versus Other Sanders
- 4 Choosing the Best Drum Sander
- 5 What to Look for ?
- 6 5 Best Drum Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
- 7 Conclusion
Working of a Drum Sander
As a power tool, a sander smoothes wood with the help of sandpaper, which is affixed to a mechanism for moving the paper quickly against a surface. A drum sander is one of the sander types, which has a different function and design from most other types. It works much as a chainsaw; it gets a cover reel of sanding paper gliding onto a drum that has a handle for lowering it to the floor.
The drum spins at 1,800 Revolutions per Minute (RPM). The cutting is quite aggressive, as only a small portion of the paper or drum comes in contact with the floor directly.
These simple tools feature a motorized conveyor continuous belt working on the wood below an open box. The belt is usually designed using a non-slip material and is powered by a slow-speed, small motor. Within the box, there is rotating drum that is powered by a bigger motor and is wrapped with a roll of sandpaper.
Well, single sandpaper grit will not fulfill all sanding requirements due to which it is essential to ensure an easy access to the drum. At the same time, you should also have a quick-change system to instill paper rolls, which can be fine, medium, or coarse.
On a drum’s side, a pair of pressure rollers exists but is not powered as in a planer. These rollers press the wood against the belt. In its absence, the wood can go out of the tool! Two common mechanisms exist for sanding wood floors by using a drum sander namely, sanding the boards horizontally and sanding along the boards vertically. Choosing one of the two significantly depends on the desired finish and type of wood.
The conventional models employ easy sandpaper replacement mechanism that is required for wood floor sanding tasks, as they usually need grit and grade changes almost frequently during the process. Moreover, they have built-in stand wherein they are firmly mounted as well as contain a light for clearer visibility.
Dos and Don’ts of Drum Sanders
Apart from a robust appeal, a drum sander is unexpectedly versatile due to which it is solely alone to resolve several shop problems. Despite this fact, it is unwise to expect miracles. This is why it is essential to know what to expect and what not to expect from these power tools.
A drum sander has a bigger range of capacity than several planers and jointers. You can easily work on materials with additional width (24 to 32 inches wide). The extra width capacity may prove to be a boon for super-wide boards. A few models can easily warp across the width, while some perform well in warping down the length. Therefore, for these tasks, a long-bed jointer is a better option.
Similarly, you can safely handle small materials (2.25 inches long). Likewise, working with very thin pieces is breeze. For instance, you can eradicate those bandsaw marks from a wood having only 1/16 inches of thickness.
A drum sander can easily eradicate saw marks even from the edges of face-frame pieces. Tear-out is also a breeze with drum sanders. Regardless of whether you are dusking up a board top with grain and going in contrasting directions or surfacing highly figured wood, you are ensured of a smooth surface.
However, this assurance does not include a uniformly flat surface. It is common for a drum sander to generate shallow and difficult-to-see dips randomly, across the stock’s width. However, you can spot these dips under a finish. You can easily sand them out manually by hand. Surfacing a rough board has got mixed opinions in different drum sander reviews.
When it is the matter of pace, planers and jointers tend to win the race. They are relatively faster in removing wood. On the other hand, drum sanders hardly remove over 1/64 inches at a time. Nevertheless, drum sanders are capable of saving much time in finish sanding, although you need to finish sanding by hand most of the time.
A drum sander leaves behind tangible scratches having a straight line, which might not be objectionable on a wood of coarse grain like red oak. However, they are objectionable on fine-grained wood due to clearer visibility.
Drum Sanders versus Other Sanders
- Belt Sander: Both the sanders work by employing different mechanisms for coming into contact with wood. In case of a drum sander, it is somewhat abrasive and removes less material than a belt sander that has significant abrasive contact. Although in some ways the belt sanders outperform drum sanders, there are situations wherein you need to use only a drum sander, specifically when the material is not quite wide.
- Thickness Planer: Both the drum sander and thickness planer perform the same thing but they do so in a variety of scales. Using a drum sander is too time consuming for thickening a 4/4 stock to 4/3. To point out a minute difference, a thickness planer is designed for thickening, while a drum sander is especially for smoothening. Nevertheless, the latter can tackle a variety of thinner wood pieces than what a planer can handle. One more benefit of a drum sander is that there are no tear out problems in more featured wood material, unlike in case of a thickness planner.
- Orbital Sander: The primary difference is that an orbital sander grinds, while a drum sander cuts. A drum sander is ideal for a roughly shaped wood piece that has heavy finish or is cupped or damaged. On the other hand, an orbital sander works best for refinishing, light smoothing, and for leaving a fresh varnish wrap. In terms of speed, drum sanders are faster due to the assertive cutting action.
- Square Sander: Recognized as one of the most preferred tools for professional wood refinishing and wood floor smoothening enhancement, a drum sander performs speedier than a square sander. However, a square sander is less assertive and is ideal for gaining brilliant refinishing outcome, as it you can self-assuredly use it without any risk of ruining the floor. Well, if you wish to smooth a large piece, using a square sander is a time consuming option although it is suggested using it in case you are naïve to use a drum sander.
- Disk Sander: A disk sander and a drum sander are smoothening tools employing sanding papers. However, they do so with different methods. A disk sander is preferable for discarding little quantities of waste material, due to which you can only utilize a disk material once the surface to be smoothened is not that rough. On the other hand, a drum sander removes much waste while smoothening, which is applicable even to highly rough surfaces. One more point of distinction is that a disk sander allows sanding at an angle, which is something that a drum sander does not allow.
- Stroke Sander: Selecting one of these two power tools totally depends on the type of project or work undertaken. A stroke sander generates the finest refinishing outcome, specifically while tackling veneered panels. However, acquiring this outcome needs some experience although mastering it once helps deliver a better finish. Moreover, it is easy to change the stroke sander’s belt. Further, you do not run a risk of overheating or consequent wood burning. On the other hand, a drum sander is capable of sanding up to the final thickness, which a stroke sander cannot do due to its less aggressive as well as less power cutting.
Choosing the Best Drum Sander
A drum sander is one of those big sanders seen commonly at rental shops, which you use usually on very large decks. Designed primarily for refinishing hardwood floors, drum sanders are actually not preferred for amateurs. This is perhaps because the lack of mastery for using the tool while removing much wood rapidly can lead to severe deck damage. Drum sanders are always recommended for experienced professionals who are looking for extremely robust tools adaptable to a variety of uses.
Several manufacturers are promoting different models for professional or commercial use and for keen do-it-yourself hobbyist. These models vary in terms of features, price, and specifications due to which it can be confusing for you to select the best drum sander. However, analyzing the major buying factors can help in keeping this confusion away. Let’s check them out now!
What to Look for ?
Factor 1: Types
Drum sanders come in two main styles namely, open-end and double-drum.
- Single-Drum, Open-End: Designed for use in small shops, open-end drum sanders need little space to operate, carry a large capacity, and yet need only a 115v circuit. They are capable of dealing with a door or glued-up top that is not more than twice the drum’s width. Just start by sanding half first followed by a turnaround of the piece and operating again. This works well if the tool is rightly tuned by slightly tilting the drum. A little crown makes up the center but without overlap marks. It is possible to readjust the drum for sanding parallel with the table, once you are done. However, these units are slow, which means you neither can have a huge nibble with coarser grits nor those bigger drum sanders with large motors can make things go faster. Flipping of drum for the second pass is required in case the piece is wider than the drum. In just a single pass, it is possible to sand up to 25 inches wide, which is wide enough for cabinet doors but not for large tabletops wherein you need to consider half at a time and then attach or glue the two parts. Because the drum’s both ends are supported, these tools have longer drum than the ones in the open-end options. They also need less adjustment than the open-end models, as you only need to keep the drum parallel to the bed.
- Double-Drum: As the name indicates, these sanders have two drums for accelerating the work by twice the speed of the aforementioned models. As per the need, you can have the same grit on the two drums or a medium grit and fine grit on the front and back drum, respectively. Due to such a dual setup, it is possible to grasp a coarse-grained material like red oak after being used with a planer and consider it for hand sanding after not more than two passes. Because such tasks need a lot of power, these sanders usually have a 2 HP or even bigger motor demanding a 230v circuit. On the con side, setting up the drums is quite fussier. It is essential to ensure a fair difference in height of the front and rear drum, which varies from one grit to another, in terms of thousandths of an inch. Drums with coarse grits should be higher than those with fine grits, for gaining optimum performance. However, this setup is only done once if there are same two grits to be used all the time. In case of a variety of grits, it is recommended selecting a tool with an easily adjustable rear drum.
There are also closed-ended tools that can sand only up to 12-inch of width. You can even find portable options for lighter jobs and models with optional tables. It is recommended to opt for support with outfeed as well as infeed tables to hold up long pieces.
Apart from the aforementioned varieties in terms of style, you can even find several varieties in terms of application mechanism for the drum paper. This classifies the drum sanders into three types.
- Clamp Bar: Most common style featuring a tightly screwed clamp bar to the drum for keeping the paper in place
- Expandable: Quite popular due to its simple use wherein the belt glides to keep the costlier paper in place with the help of centrifugal force (paper is double the rate of what is used in clamp bar models.)
- Cam-lock: New style that locks the paper with the help of a wrench
Factor 2: Brands
Believe it or not, it is vital to consider buying from a leading brand so that you are assured of quality and performance. According to drum sander reviews, the leading brands are Grizzly, Powermatic, Delta, Jet, Shop Fox, and Flatmaster, in no particular order.
Grizzly and Shop Fox are famous for their closed-ended sanders with fixed bearing mounts on the drum’s ends, making it hard to deflect the drum. Similarly, the drum sanders from Delta and Jet are usually cantilevered, which means one of the ends is open so that you can sand pieces twice wider than the drum. This is done by turning the piece end-after-end after each pass. The Jet sanders come with fixed tables and adjustable drums, unlike other models that feature movable tables and fixed drums. As a result, it is almost impossible to fasten shop-made supports.
Factor 3: Quality
You simply cannot overlook quality when it comes to buying the best drum sander, as it directly affects durability as well as function. Consider buying a model that is made using a durable alloy, so that you are assured of efficiency as well as better value for money.
Factor 4: Size and Weight
You need to consider both these aspects before buying a drum sander. You can put any drum sander on mobile. However, you need to know that adding the two feed tables can end up taking much space that is more than a portable planer. Additionally, a few units are really very heavy due to which it is a challenge to get it up or down the stairs.
Factor 5: Performance Features
Performance features are responsible for giving you the outcome, not the style. No matter which model you take, you are ensured of ripple-free surface and barely visible sanding marks, provided you perform with care. For the best outcome, you need to select the right sandpaper grit, cut depth, and right conveyor belt speed. Here are the features that affect the performance.
- Pressure Rollers: It is true that any drum sander generate snipe under a few situations. However, you can reduce it by fine tuning the settings related to pressure rollers namely, foot-pounds of pressure and height with respect to the drum. The latter is more critical than the former. Well, not all models have these settings.
- Types of Drums: Soft drums give you a surface with a bit less visible sanding scratches, while hard drums are ideal for gaining boards of uniform and accurate thickness. Hard drums usually give flatter edges on face-frame pieces, which matters if you need to sand surfaces, such as laminations in a bowl that will be attached or glued together.
- Types of Conveyor Belts: A drum sander with abrasive-coated, hard conveyor belt work better to remove the cup out of panels or boards than the one with PVC or rubber-coated belt, specifically on thin material. While all belts perform well, rubber and PVC belts demand more descending force from a pressure roller.
- Variable-speed: The wider the speed range of a conveyor belt is; the better is the performance as well as control. The setting for variable speed allows optimizing the feed rate as per the desired or set cutting depth. You can keep burning of heat-sensitive wood at bay by raising the feed rate.
Factor 6: Convenience Features
Convenience features determine how user friendly a drum sander is. While a few woodworking drum sanders are simple and effortless to run, some can be dreadful, although the outcome can be the same. Listed below are the major convenience features to consider.
- Power and Speed: This is essential factor for making profits in commercial shops. In case of home tasks, speed is not a necessity but a convenience. The best drum sander is the one that comes with variable speeds for enjoying a variety of uses. While a few tasks need a slow, more deliberate speed, a higher speed facilitates more polishing. With speed, you also need to ensure more power. Larger motors usually indicate more power for getting faster outcome. You can gain a deeper cut with medium and coarse grits with a fast running conveyor belt.
- Platen: Set at the tool’s lowest part, well constructed platens are a part of better quality tools. They withstand the vibration as well as imposed friction from daily, usual operation. You should avoid buying a sander that vibrates too much, as it can result in blabber marks. For zealous workers, it can finally lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Consider a model that has the platen width of an inch more that the drum and is lighter or has an anti-vibration mechanism so that the vibrations are also the least.
- Sandpaper Attachment Mechanism: All drum sanders feature a bit different mechanism of affixing the sandpaper to the drum. In most models, this mechanism is quite easy to use but a few models may call for more skillfulness.
- Adjustments: Making small adjustments to the cutting depth can bring significant difference in the outcome. Usually, the worker moves a crank handle only by 1/4 or 1/8th of a turn. Once taken out of the box, the open-ended drum sander needs to be adjusted further in terms of drum angle. You need to adjust the drum’s tilt so that is becomes fully parallel to the bed. Doing so may not be effortless on some models. For sanding a supply wider than the drum, consider tilting by a few thousandths of an inch such that there are no lap marks. Finally, you need to check out the double drum height. The rear drum should be simple to adjust.
- Extension Tables: It is essential to have the two feed extension tables for preventing snipes on heavy and long materials. Well, a few models do not come with such tables. In such a situation, do not choose a roller stand, as it is the bed that is adjusted down and up, not the drum.
- Independent Switches: It is recommended to have independent switches for the drum and conveyor belt. Such a set up is essential for evaluating the depth of cut in the first pass. This is ideally done with the drum switch off and conveyor belt switch on.
- Dust Collector: Many models generate so much fine dust such that it is indispensable to have durable and effective dust collector. It is obvious that 4-inch ports perform better than 2.5-inch ports. This means you need to go with a bigger dust collector with a hook up facility or a shop vacuum. Models with better quality come with a dust collection system that minimizes, if not eradicate, dust from the working process. Such a system not only helps in keeping the tool cleaner but also ensures safe operation and limits the chance of dust entering into your hair and robes. You can choose a model with a detachable vacuum system for a more convenience.
- Noise Reduction: It is common to find drum sanders running at a noise level that is distracting. However, you can easily find a model that comes with the improved technology for noise reduction. It is recommended choosing a drum sander whose noise level is up to 95 decibels, as this is an acceptable, non-harmful limit.
Apart from the aforementioned factors, it is also suggested to consider some more stuff such as type of sanding work, wood type, and work load prior to choosing the best one as per your needs.
5 Best Drum Sanders of 2016 Reviewed
This drum sander is going to last for a long time even if you use its 1HP motor and variable speed setting for finishing hardwood frequently. Its heavy duty cast iron body can sand a 3-inch wood piece without problems. Its drum is fairly larger but you can easily mount it on a table. For easy and quick changes, this operator-friendly tool features abrasive take-up fasteners. The unit comes with fully sealed ball bearings, which means no dust or other leftovers can enter inside. This is perhaps the secret behind the tool’s longevity. Due to the belt’s trackers pulling the piece, you need not put much pressure or energy for sanding. Moreover, the hand wheel isergonomic, which limits the risk of carpal tunnel.
This one seems to be a comprehensive floor drum sander with a suitable stand to store the sander away from the floor. At the heart is the sanding drum for smooth performance and heat dissipation. There is a handy dust port for collecting dust, a 100 grit belt, and an 80 grit strip to get started! The unit is also capable of dealing with a variety of material sizes efficiently, ranging from 1/32 to three inches of thickness. The open frame construction allows sanding materials of up to 32 inches wide in just two passes. The unit also features dual motors, trackers, steel conveyor bed, and spring clip for holding the paper roll.
This one is rolling-pin style tool ideal for smoothing and hand contouring tasks that are too big to allow for an efficient use of a stationary sander. You only have to chuck the spindle into a cordless, portable electric, or air powered drill for having the desired control with both hands. The unit also comes with an air valve for easy pump inflation.
This one comes with an extra deep capacity, simple tensioning and tracking adjustments, dual ports, and a heavy duty, variable speed motor. It also has adjustable rear drum that can sand in a single pass by using two grits, rear roller adjustment dials, heavy-duty steel frame and finer finish for lasting durability, less wrap tensioning clamps for easy installation of strips, and magnetic on / off motor.
Consider this tool if you need a drum sander that is visually appealing and comes with a long service life. Constructed out of heavy duty metal painted with powder coat, this tool can quickly sand 1/8-inch thick and 9-inch long board without any slag or vibration. It can even do finish and rough sanding in one pass. The unit also features a hinged hood dust collector, a multi control panel including the amplifier meter to indicate load, and a powerful motor. Distinctively, this unit has an urethane drive belt driven by a chain motor and a sprocket for optimal power transfer.
So, have you found your best drum sander? Well, if not, you can go through some more drum sander reviews on our site and let us know your preference.