Is a Drum Sander Worth $400?

Even if the drum sander is cheap, some people would say to stick with random orbit sanding. May 15, 2012

I know this has been kicked around a few times but I need an opinion. I am a small one man shop. As a full time firefighter I only do small jobs and am not necessarily steady at the moment. I currently hand sand all my face frames with a RO as that is all I have. I have an opportunity to buy a Jet 16-32 drum sander. It is not my first choice but I don't know that I can pass up the deal. A friend of mine's father-in-law bought it and subsequently passed away before it was even un-boxed. It is now taking up space in my friendís garage and he offered it to me. Again it is brand new in the box. It retails for $1099.99. He wants $400.00 for it.

I know it is not a wide-belt and it is an open end. However, I am currently hand sanding. I am sure it could increase my production and consistency over my current operation but I am not sure if I should take up the space if it is not going to help me out or cause me other finish type work. What do you all think? Again, I know a widebelt is what I need and want but that is a ways off. Should I look for a better, wider drum, or take the deal?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor U:
It wouldn't be my first choice either but for that price I don't think you could go wrong. If you set it up and used it once and didn't like it, you could sell it locally and recover your money. As far as drum vs. belt goes, most of the guys on here are going to tell you to get a belt. I think the decision should be made based upon what you are going to do with it. If you are going to build your own doors and plenty of them then definitely go with the belt.

We are a two-three man shop and we outsource our doors. Our drum sander works well for us as we mainly only run face frames, drawer fronts, etc. through it. We used a random orbit for years because we didn't have the drum. The drum definitely takes a lot of time off of sanding.

From the original questioner:
I outsource my doors as well and would use it as you do. What grits and grit progression do you use?

From contributor U:

Mine is a double drum and I use 80 on the front and 120 on the back. We then use 80 random orbit mainly to take out the cross grain scratches and then 120.

From contributor S:
Used drum sanders seem to go for about $300 in need of repair, to about $500-$600 in better condition in my area at least. Heck I had to sell my 26" Woodmaster for $500, including over $100 worth of abrasives to get it out of my shop. $400 is probably a good deal. Drum sanders are a bit out of style in my opinion but if you feel you could use one you don't have much to lose at that price.

From contributor B:
Itís fine at the price. Rather than running completed face frames through it, I'd use it to sand my stock before assembly, take the time to build the frames precisely, and then use a hand sander for touch-up. With calibrated stock, it shouldn't take much work, certainly less than removing the cross-scratches that'd be left by the drum sander.

From contributor R:
I agree. If I have to run my faceframes through a drum sander I would be checking my assembly process.

From the original questioner:
Thanks all for the responses. I think I will do as Contributor B suggests and try prepping stock before assembly with 120 then finishing with RO with 150.