Drum Sander Vs. Wide Belt Sander


From original questioner:

Hey guys, just wanted to get some of your feedback on drum sanders vs. wide belt sanders.

We currently have a single head 37" scmi wide belt and we are considering getting a second sander to speed up sanding for our door production which would be mainly for sanding raised panels. We dont have the funds for the nice 2 head wide belts so we are looking at a brand new 10 HP Oliver double drum sander for about $4300.
Never used a drum sander. Any feedback?

From contributor Bi

Don't do it. Get a second used wide belt.
A drum sander will not remove enough material and not generate the same finish.

From contributor Ru

I agree with Bill. If you are accustomed to a wide belt, the drum sander will under perform.

One of the disadvantages of a drum sander vs. a wide belt is the useful life of the sandpaper. Not only do you have more frequent changes of sandpaper, it is also more difficult and time consuming to do so. Cutting the 6" x 120" sanding belt to the correct length with a taper on both ends is fine with a template, but it is an extra step. Then winding that belt around the drum while keeping it tight is another fun little step.

Another drawback on the machine I ran is that the drums rotated in the same direction that the material was fed through. This left a considerable amount of dust on the sanded surface. There was also a startling tendency to occasionally eject a 10' length of trim at about 100 km/h. We had it pointed at a wall with a table between, so no one could actually stand in that path.

Then the double v-belts ran over the pulleys for both drums and this seemed to make opportunity for a lot of belt slipping.

These disadvantages are all in addition to the well documented (in other posts on this site) difficulties in achieving a good finish while sanding on the drum only. A wide belt with a platen simply makes a better finish.

Hopefully someone will weigh in here and tell us that there are better drum sanders out there. However, if you need this sander primarily for raised panels, you might get by with a 25" wide belt. With a little checking around, you could probably get a relatively decent used machine for very little more cost than the drum sander you are looking at. Then you would have a machine that could meet your expectations rather than one that, at best, would fall a little short.

From contributor JR

Having gone through the progression from single drum to double drum to double widebelt, I agree wholeheartedly with the advice so far. The widebelt sands 2x faster than the double drum, and is MUCH less fussy. Having a drum start burning in the middle of a run, whether due to the abrasive overlapping as it stretches or from resin in a knot or glue or whatever is a huge hassle.

From contributor Ad

I can help you better understand your widebelt machine so you can put material through it faster with better results.

Here's a link to an article I wrote about single head wide belt machines.

From contributor Mi

I've used a drum sander for years and it has made me money, and before long I will probably upgrade to a bigger one. But, if you have been using a widebelt and have 4,300 to spend then I'd go for a used widebelt. I don't think after using a widebelt you would be satisfied with a drum.

From contributor Kr

You WILL replace the drum sander with a widebelt eventually... might as well do it now.

From contributor St

Well there's always lots to be said about the drum vs wide belt debate, and so I won't enter that arena. But I can speak about what I know from my experience. I am a small custom shop and really wanted a widebelt but don't have the power to run one, so I bought General's Heavy Duty dual drum at the advise of my local Canadian Woodworker (my trusted tool and machinery retailer up here). The 15-245X cost me about $6,000 all shipped and taxes paid. It has a 5hp motor and is very precise. I was nervous about pulling the trigger on it as many told me I was crazy for spending more on a drum sander than I could to get a used wide belt. In the end, I'm happier with my decision than I would have expected, its a phenomenal machine in terms of construction and accuracy. It has 6" rubber coated drums and everything is well thought out, from the auto sandpaper tensioners, to the adjustable sandpaper belt lockdowns, to the tooless cam operated 2nd drum height adjustment. I can even make pieces of veneer with it, the thinnest I have gone is 0.025" (25 thousandths) and the accuracy over 3 feet is around +/- 2 thou. Thinner might be possible, but I'm too chicken to find out!

I'm not saying that its better than a wide belt, but wanted to chime in and say that it serves my 1-2 man shop very well and that there are indeed manufacturers producing high quality drum sanders if you are willing to pay for them and not get lured in by one of the cheap machines.

From contributor Da

I have had one double drum sander and three wide belts. Beg borrow or steal the $$ to get a wide belt. It more or less has to have an adjustable platen. 50 amps @ 220 should run a smaller WB even with a phase converter. Of course you will also need a compressor and a DC. Money spent on good belts is worth it. Good luck.

From contributor mo

You might want to take a look at the attached URL for a better knowledge on the buying of different belt sander.