Drum sanders are a cheaper, smaller alternative to the wide belt sander. There are folks who’ve used wide belt sanders and find drum sanders hard to get tuned up… and then there are folks who are very happy with their drum sanders.
You should base your choice in size and type on the size and quality of material you’re sanding. The other main consideration is whether or not you’re running a production shop… We’re going to focus mainly on non-production shop drum sanders here and it’s my understanding that a production shop might just be better off with a wide belt sander.
Open-Ended Drum Sanders
Open ended drum sanders give you more room to maneuver your boards, thus making it more versatile with a smaller footprint. The drawback is that you lose out on stiffness of the machine AND you will more than likely have to run your material through twice to sand both sides.
Closed-End Drum Sanders
Closed end drum sanders are typically wider. They’re designed for quicker sanding of large pieces of material. Since it is wider you will be more efficient at sanding and work at roughly twice the rate of open-ended drum sanders.
The double drum sander has twice as much sand paper as a standard drum sander and therefore doesn’t need to have the paper changed as often. Plus you can have two different grades of paper for two-stage sanding.
Widths Range from 10″-37″+
In my research I found drum sanders ranging from 10″ all the way up to 37″+. I came across one woodworker who suggested that at 16″ the extreme hobbyist woodworker should be fine, and at 24″ you’ll never run out of machine.
Because of the amount of dust you kick up dust collection should be a major consideration. Consider buying or making a cyclone dust collector, because your sander’s going to do a number on your lungs if you’re not protecting yourself.
Variable Feed Rate
Deep scratches, snipe and burning – a drum sander can really ruin a great piece of wood if you’re not careful. A variable speed rate gives you more control and allows you to better adjust to various grits of sand paper.
Sandpaper Attachment Methods
There are two modes of attaching sandpaper to the drums – peel and stick and hook and loop. Hook and loop is preferable, especially for the hobbyist woodworker – you can remove the sandpaper before its used up. Peel and stick sandpaper has adhesive on the back. When you remove it from the drum the sandpaper is ruined.
Top Drum Sanders by Size
Now that we’ve gone over some of the more crucial things to look for in drum sanders, here are a few top models, organized by size. I selected these based on their prominence in forums as well as the reviews they’ve gotten from experts.
25″ and UNDER Drum Sander
Grizzly G1066R 24″ Drum Sander
25″ and OVER Drum Sander
Powermatic 1791290 Model DDS-225 25-Inch Drum Sander
More Drum Sander Resources:
What drum sander to buy LumberJocks
Drum Sander SawmillCreek
Drum sander – advise LumberJocks
Seeking Advice on Thickness Sanders LumberJocks
drum sander buying guide
Tool Buying – My Mistakes and Otherwise