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Drum Sander
I really did not want to have to build this myself, but I could not find a commercial product that was what I wanted or
anyone to build to my specs. The main design inspirations for this come from the Byrnes Model Machines Thickness
Sander and another modeler's homebrew machine, Art Herrick.

My original specifications were as follows:

11"x2.75" diameter drum

use regular sheet sandpaper
1/2-3/4 hp motor
portable, under 50 lbs

The drum was originally sized to fit a standard sheet of paper with enough overlap for clamping. However that went out
the window when I decided to make use of some 3" diameter MDF half-round that I had available. This meant the sheet
had to wrap in the other direction, so the 11" length was up for discussion as well. The pre-keyed shafting came in
multiples of 6" length, and 12" would be too short when you factor in the width of the bearings and pulley. So I got the 18"
length shaft, laid out the pulley and bearings and ended up with a 14" length.

I contacted Grizzly to find out the weights of their 1/2 and 3/4 hp motors, they gave me shipping weights of 28 and 31 lbs,
respectively. Given the small price difference between the two and that I had lengthened the drum I decided it was worth
the extra 3 lbs.

3/4 hp motor $100

3/4" pillow block bearings $40
A Size Pulleys $30
link belt $20
18" keyed shaft $25
Switch $25
misc hardware $50
Total: $290


The Drum
The drum began as 3" diameter MDF half-round from Rockler. I ran a core box bit
down the center of each side for the shaft on the router table, dialing in the fence
setting with each pass. It ended up pretty darn close, limited as much by the
straightness and tolerances of the blank itself as the fence setup. Because I only
had a 3/4" core box bit I ended up with a larger shaft than really necessary which
will add to the weight, but I didn't think it was worth buying another bit just for
To create the wedge shaped groove to hold the sandpaper I whipped up a quick
upside-down U-shaped sled and hot glued the blank to it. I set the table saw blade
to 10 degrees, which seemed to look right. Hopefully it'll work. You can't see from
the pictures but I ran this groove on both sides for balance. I installed threaded
inserts for #6 screws (from McMaster-Carr) on 2" centers for attaching the wedge.
I started out with 1/4-20 hardware because I had the inserts already, but the heads
of the machine screws were just too large, the wedge would have had to be much
larger than I thought was proper.

Adding in the keyway is pretty straightforward. The two halves are held together
with 6 countersunk screws and epoxy. Sure hope I didn't forget anything, because
that sucker is never coming apart.

The Frame
Front View

The frame is pretty simple, made from oak

pallet wood that was about 1/2 inch thick.
Since I felt I had a good handle on the height
and length the side frames needed to be I
began there. I just doubled and tripled up the
wood, and used lap joints. What I didn't have
a good handle on was the positioning of the
front and rear cross pieces. Not that I wanted
to do any fancy jointery anyway, I used
pocket screws which gave a lot of strength as
well as allowing disassembly and

Also note that I put the drive pulley on the

inside of the bearing and frame. This is due to
the keystock being a press fit on the shaft and
the bearing not having a keyway. If the pulley
was on the end of the shaft it would be
difficult to remove the shaft from the bearing.

The red scribbles on the drum are so I can tell

when the drum has been properly trued round
and even with the table later on.
Side View

Note that the top of the upper rear cross piece

is beveled to allow the table to tilt up. I began
with this cross piece higher such that the
table was level when it touched the drum and
only tilted down. I found that the angle was
too severe with the table all the way down,
and it seemed to make more sense to have the
table tilting down from the operator for most
operations so that pieces don't slide back into
the drum and exit at high velocity. It's now
set to be level at about 1" thickness.

The motor mounts to the lower rear rail with

the leftover piano hinge as I saw in other
designs. This probably works just find for 1/4
hp motors, but the 3/4 hp motor I used is just
too heavy. The belt is under more tension
than needed, and the end opposite the pulley
sags moving the pulleys out of alignment and
the motor bounces during operation. I stuck a
shim under the motor to take up the weight
and now it purrs.

Rear View

The switch I got from Rockler is rated for 15

amps and has a 2 ft cord with a female plug.
You could cut the plug off and wire it directly
to the motor, but as I had a cord available that
I'd been saving for just such a use (and
amazingly was able to find it when I needed
it) I preserved the plug in case I ever
repurpose that switch.

Note that I had to reverse the motor to run

counter-clockwise. If your motor is not
reversible be sure to pay attention to which
side the pulley needs to be facing so that the
bottom of the sanding drum is moving
towards the operator, unless your intention is
to build a missile launcher not a drum sander.

Height Adjuster

I happened to have a scrap circle of ply with radial lines. I put finger
holds around the edge with a 1/2 inch drum on the spindle sander. It's
attached to the threaded rod with a t-nut and another nut tightened
against it. I added the directional arrows as my brain just can't grasp
that upside-down means turn it the other way.

Most of the designs I saw had some sort of locking mechanism on the
threaded rod, presumably to keep it from moving due to vibration of
the machine. When I ran the machine without a table the rod did start
spinning, but with the table on it doesn't seem to move, I'll keep my
eye on it as I begin using the machine. So, for the time being there is
just a t-nut in the front crosspiece and a slightly oversize through-hole.

From the beginning I had misgivings about

the design of the height adjuster in regards to
keeping the table parallel to the drum under
load. Once I got the table attached with the
piano hinge at the rear (not a fun task) I was
finally able to test this and my suspicions
were confirmed. Very little pressure with one
finger at the edge of the table just in front of
the drum produced a noticeable deflection of
the table. My first step to try to correct this
was to add two jointed strips of maple 3/4 by
1 inch to the edges of the 3/4 inch plywood as
a stiffener, and a point of attachment for the
next step if that wasn't enough, which it

Note that I shellaced the plywood table top

and bottom before installing it. I may never
get around to finishing the frame, but that
needed to get done.
My fix for keeping the table from rocking is this knob on the right
side. I added a piece of ply to the frame and held a pencil the table to
trace the arc of its swing. I then cut out the arc on the scroll saw.
Normally I'd do something like that with a router jig, but given the
circumstances and not needing it to be pretty I just cut it out. There is a
t-bolt that runs through a hole in the maple board under the table, and
a couple of washers to take up the space between the table and frame
extension. If I knew this was going to be necessary from the beginning
I would have made the front post on this side wider to accomodate

With the knob locked down that side is rock solid, and it takes a lot of
force to get any deflection on the opposite side. It does pull the table
toward the side, torquing the piano hinge which then creaks when
moved again as it tries to align itself again.

The end of the threaded rod is capped with a cap nut (McMaster-Carr
calls this an acorn nut) and there is a fender washer on the underside of
the table to keep the nut from digging into the plywood. Thanks to Art
Herrick's page referenced above for this idea. For the time being I am
leaving this washer loose, just captured by the weight of the table. This
is because as the table pivots the washer would move in relation to the
threaded rod. This way it will self-center. If it makes a habit of falling
off I'll have to glue it on.

The threaded rod is 5/16-18, which I used because that was the largest
I could get at my normal woodworking sources. At the time I was
operating under the delusion I wouldn't need to order anything from
anywhere like McMaster-Carr. It doesn't seem to be a problem, but I'd
go with at least 3/8ths if I had it to do over.
The safety shield / dust shroud is not going to win any beauty contests, it was pretty much slapped together, but it should
do the job. Not really visible in the photo is a separator on the inside that guards the pulley, assuring that any board that
might end up at angle doesn't find its way into the belt. There's a seam in the lexan because I was originally planning on an
11" long drum, and 12" lexan was readily available. The whole assembly just drops right over the pillow blocks and seems
to have enough mass to stay put.
Truing the Drum

Once you have everything ready the drum needs to be made perfectly
round and parallel to the table. Shim the pillow blocks until you get
the drum as parallel as you can manage. Then afix a piece of
sandpaper to a flat surface, bring the table up close and sand the drum
until all the marks on the drum are gone. What you see in the picture is
what happens when you forget to unlock the table lock knob and take
so much off one side you have to shim it up again. I did that just for
illustrative purposes, of course.

Once the drum is trued be sure to ease the edges of the grooves to
allow the sandpaper to slide over them easily and not have a high spot.

Making Sawdust

The attachment of the sandpaper seems to work pretty well. When the
wedge is tightened you can see and feel the paper getting pulled tight.
It ends up so tight in fact when I went to remove the paper the wedge
had to be pried out with a screwdriver. It seems to be a one shot deal
with the paper though, once you take it off the crease prevents it from
tightening up properly if you try to reuse it.