Supersurfacer or Wide-Belt Sander for Window Parts?

A discussion of the capabilities and limitations of "supersurfacer" machines. April 24, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I just discovered "Supersurfacers" through Solidwood Machinery but I can't find any independent web-sites about the machines. Not that I don't trust my original source but I'd like some feedback on others knowledge or experience. I make windows for historic properties and want to prep the surfaces for paint or stain prior to assembly. If this is indeed an alternative to WB drum/platten or orbital sanding why isn't it more well-known or utilized?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor L:
It's not an alternative to the widebelt/platen, my favorite is still the stroke sander for the budget minded and those looking for more versatility. Maranuka is the leader in super surfacers. Hitachi and Makita were trying to bring the machines to the small shop and hobbyists in the late 70's and it never went anywhere. The widebelt will do finished frames and panels. The super surfacer is geared toward individual pieces and you will still have issues of flattening your joints unless you go to a slot mortise (it will still need some touch up work). You are totally off base if you think the super surfacer will do what you are expecting and eliminate the extra work.

From the original questioner:
That's not necessarily what I wanted to hear but it was the information I was seeking. I was intending to run single pieces prior to assembly. I also can live with a .005-.01 offset for the joints and wouldn't worry about sanding that small difference. If you think the SS is crazy for my app then I'll dually note that. I can pick up a WBS for a song compared to a SS anyway. When my ship comes in I may pick one up, fall in love with it and prove you wrong but meanwhile I'll probably save that extra 10K difference and go WBS.

From contributor O:
I respectively disagree with Contributor L. A lot of window shops in Europe use these in place of a wide belt. The advantage is power savings and those shop owners claimed the paint adhered better to this type of surface. You still need to straighten and S4S your scantlings before sending them through the super-surfacer - just like you would with a wide belt. Typically the super-surfacing is done before machining scantlings and assembly. If your production is precise this is no problem.

The Marunaka dealer at Fensterbau this year was running pine scantlings through one then dropping the parts in a bucket of water for a few minutes. There was no grain raising on the faces that were super-surfaced but a lot on the two edges that were conventional planed. This would be a big plus if using water base finishes. Insert window tooling manufacturers are engineering window tooling to prevent grain raising for the water base finishes as well.

True, you can probably buy a used wide belt for less than a Marunaka. I think sharpening the knives on these could be a little involved. If you do a lot of doors or other millwork the wide belt would be the better choice if you can only have one. We used a stroke sander for 15 years and it would be difficult to keep individual scantling precise thickness with one.

From the original questioner:
This is the kind of dialog I was hoping for. I must reiterate that I do not intend to run the assemble product through a surfacer/sander. Parts only - to avoid cross grain sanding. Someone told me about the raising of the grain and that is a consideration since I do use a waterbased paint on the interior, the only surface with which I'm concerned. I clad the exterior.

From contributor S:
SS have insert tooling as well. I think Kanefusa sold some. The disposable knives last substantially longer and are extremely shiny with crisp surfaces. Itís the next best thing to hand planning - fast feed rates. Contributor O pretty much summed it up.