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Wide drum sanders

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  • Wide drum sanders

    Has anyone used a wide drum sander, like the new Delta 31-252 18-36 inch sander or the Performax 16-32? Or has anyone converted a RAS to support the old Performax drum sander kit (If you use the RAS, can you can switch back and forth between saw and sander?). It appears that Ryobi also has a 16-32 or has rebranded the Performax.

    Any suggestions on value, alternatives, etc. appreciated.

  • #2
    I have a 1632Plus, Charlie. Whatcha got in mind for the machine?

    The most common cause of disappointment I've found is speed of stock removal. These are small, light duty machines that remove stock in hundredths, not sixteenths. This applies even to the pretty large drum sanders with motors in the 5+ horsepower range.

    The Ryobi is, please forgive the phrase, a rip-off machine of the Performax.



    • #3
      The furniture I have been making for friends and family has become popular, so I am now booked months out on commissioned work (as in real money, not just pay for materials). With retirement nearing, and my high-tech consulting pretty dry, this is promising.

      I joint and surface plane panels before glue-up, but hand sanding (ROS) the large panels to smooth imperfections in the joints and planer rip-out is very time consuming and the results are not as flat as I would like. These machines seem to be a way to take the last fraction off, especially with hard or figured wood, or with thin resawn pieces.

      But I don't want to get another machine that takes up space in my garage if it is a nuisance to use, doesn't give good results, has too many restrictions, etc. The older units that hang on a RAS are interesting since they might save space and money, but scare me from the nuisance factor. The relatively new $750 units are also interesting, but I don't know anyone who has one (until now) and don't see a lot of them in the stores. The giant commercial units are too large and draw too much power to consider in a home workshop.

      At the Houston woodworking show last weekend the Performax was displayed, with a very defensive list of features obviously aimed at the Delta unit, but nobody could discuss the unit.


      • #4
        The restriction is, pretty much, speed. Maximum speed is 10 fpm, and proper results generally dictate a speed much slower than that. Then, a reasonable depth of cut is 1/128" or less.

        Setting the machine up is a little persnickety, getting the drum set properly in reference to the platen. It wants to be just the barest hair out of parallel, for being able to use in sanding wider than 16" work.

        It will produce a good, flat surface. It generally will not produce a final sanded surface, the along-the-grain scratches can be quite prominent. I've gotten away with it as a final on very open-grained wood like White Oak, but that's about all. This is even at 220 grit, which is the finest Performax recommends (and a lot of people have trouble at 220, it tends to burn).

        All that said, I really like mine and wouldn't be without it. I use it primarly for figured woods that the planer isn't friendly to, and odd jobs. I don't particularly recommend the optional in/out feed tables, they are flimsy and hard to adjust. May as well make a good set, or use Ridgid flip-tops. Unlike the Delta, Performax's table is at a fixed height.

        Just my opinion, but I wouldn't have the RAS conversion machine. That's asking too much from a RAS framework that wasn't designed for the task.

        Come up some time and I'll give you a demo of mine.



        • #5
          With Dave's always sage counsel, I bought the Performax sander recommended. I love it already, and have the feeling that the Performax is the right brand of the few available.

          I glued up the top of a walnut coffee table, and sanded it flat, better than anything I had done before, and far easier and faster. As Dave pointed out, it seems slow, but is FAR faster than trying to keep something even with hand sanding. I also used it for the aprons and legs, which didn't go out of square as they tend to with hand sanding. My wife, who is also a woodworker, has used it for numerous smaller items and loves it too. It now seems like it should be in the middle of the list of essential tools, not off the end of the list with "tools to get when I am rich".

          Two notes... First, Dust collection is required. And it brings new meaning to dust collection. I have a good Ridgid shop vac, and have had to empty it just from the sander. Unbelieveable!

          Second, the feeder speed is adjustable - faster for a light cut with fine paper (so it doesn't burn) and slower for a heavy cut, to avoid overloading the drum motor. I put an ammeter on the sander circuit - 10 amps when it is idling, and then I cut the speed of the feeder back to keep the total load under 15 amps when it is sanding, and it seems happy. If you get the sander, and have an ammeter, I recommend using the ammeter to help set the speed.

          I recommend the sander. And as everyone knows, Dave Arbuckle gives outstanding advice.