May 3, 2022

How to use a drum sander woodworking

A drum sander lets you control the amount and type of wood you use for your project. A drum sander can also be used for sanding large surfaces. But, like every tool, a drum sander has potential perils that you should be aware of if it is used as it should. A drum sander has a disc with 3, 4, or 5 holes around 6 inches in diameter. The holes are spaced out evenly and 3 to 5 inches apart. This sander is used to create flat surfaces on wood. It can be used to smooth the wood, remove large amounts of wood, and shape it.

How does a drum sander work

A drum sander works in two ways. One method is going along the length of the floorboards from side to side. The sander machine has to tilt before turning it on and off. Do not stop in one place because the sanding belt can easily damage the floor. Choose sanding belts that match the condition of your flooring. Sandpaper comes in different levels of abrasiveness.

Serious mature carpenter putting wooden plank in drum sander for woodworking

Another method is sanding the floor diagonally, from one corner to the opposite. Make sure to tilt the sander as you turn. Start over again from the adjacent corner to be sure you have sanded the entire surface. 

If you use coarse sandpaper, work in stages, changing the grit.  Go over the floor again with medium and then fine sandpaper. There are some places that a drum sander can not reach. For those areas, you need an edge sander to complete the job. Refinishing brings out the original beauty of the wood because each sanding takes off a layer of wood.

Gather your equipment and materials before you start working. Do not have to pause looking for a tool, as that will take much of your time. Gather a drum sander, dust mask, hearing protection, and safety goggles. Safety comes first before anything else. The material to be used is sandpaper. It should be kept clean for consistently good performance.

Sandpaper grit refers to the roughness of the sandpaper. When using a drum sander, you will buy long strips of sandpaper unsuitable for any other use. Rental yards will buy back unused and clean sandpaper, knowing that users need to buy more than needed. 

Buy more sandpaper to avoid being short of sandpaper while your drum floor sander is on the rental period. Running to the rental yard for more sandpaper cuts means more rental time and costs.

Let the drum sander sand In the opposite direction of its motion. Pull your drum floor sander, not push, meaning you move the sander opposite the drum motion. Do not attempt to get close to trim, baseboards, doors, walls, and other elements that will not be sanded, as that can damage these items with a drum sander, either from the moving drum or by hitting these areas with the machine’s housing.

Sand lightly with the grain. Use only the weight of the sander when running the sander. No extra pressure is needed. Follow the grain of the wood, pulling the drum sander in straight lines, overlapping each line the way you would when mowing a lawn. Make regular stops to rest your arms and empty the dust bag.

How hard is it to use a drum sander?

A drum sander is difficult to use. Expect a complete ruin or perfect work. It is a different tool in that a loop of sandpaper continually moves around the drum, ripping down the wood as far as you want to go. 

When using an orbital floor sander, chances are very slim that you will go wrong, since it is difficult to take off too much wood. A drum floor sander is strong enough that goes in two different directions: either ruining your floor by creating grooves that can never be repaired or sanding out imperfections to make your floor look spectacular again.

Pay attention to your sanding tool and follow instructions to avoid mishaps. Do not get overexcited or carried away, otherwise, you might have to throw away everything and start afresh. It can take 1-5 days for a professional and 2-15 days for a DIY enthusiast to finish sanding. 

However, that depends on the size and condition of the floor. Planning takes 1-day per room for a professional and 2 days per room for a homeowner doing DIY. That is how complicated using a drum sander is. It is not a walk in the park.

Sanding your floors is hard work and physically tiring. When you first start sanding, you will see a difference in your floor, but once you have removed most of the varnish and dirt, progress becomes slower.

Using a drum sander may damage your wood instead of polishing it. Some drum sanders eat wood at an astonishing speed, more than 10 feet per minute. If you are a beginner, you may not be able to control the machine, so make sure you know what you are doing.

Drum sanders range in size from easily portable handheld tools to larger models that can be operated like a bench machine using a variety of drums and sandpaper grits ( Fintechsbrasives.com). Choose one that you can easily handle.

Step By Step Guide

  1. Remove clamp from drum
  2. Position drum on table
  3. Place sandpaper on drum
  4. Position paper with print on drum
  5. Apply pressure to drum
  6. Turn sander on
  7. Use drum sander on flat surface
  8. Use drum sander on curved surfaces
  9. Work in stages, starting with a coarser grit, medium, and less coarse for finishing or polishing. 
  10. Sand lightly with the grain till satisfied.

Drum sander safety

Drum floor sanders weigh over 100 pounds. Seek help from a friend or rental yard employee to lift the sander onto your truck bed. You also need help with the sander when you get home. When using the sander, avoid using extension cords. 

If you must use one, use only the attached electrical cord or extension cords allowed for that drum sander, per the manufacturer’s instructions. A drum floor sander draws so much power that it melts an improperly sized extension cord, resulting in an electrical fire.

Can you use a drum sander against the grain?

You cannot. It will leave marks on your floor, and you will hate the results. The scratches can be removed, but it takes extra grit and another sanding tool. One stroke across the grain takes 20 strokes with the grain to make it right (Woodworkersjournal). 

How to use a drum sander on a deck

Perhaps you have rented a deck sander and want to know how to use it.

  1. Put on your work clothes and shoes. Wear protective construction shoes so you do not accidentally nip your toes while working on your floor.
  2. Put the tip drum sander in the middle of the deck.
  3. Put on the machine and pull up the handles to lower the drum to the floor.
  4. Once you reach the edge of the deck, push the handles of the sander to lift the drum, then turn the machine around. Repeat this process until you finish sanding your deck.
  5. Ensure your wood deck is evenly polished before putting away your drum sander.

In conclusion, sanding drums are economical and suitable for various woodworking projects. This makes them far more popular than similar sanders, like the orbital sander and the random orbital sander.

David D. Hughes
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