What’s the Best Drum Sander?
Many DIY woodworkers have ignored drum sanders as a viable machine to have in their workshops. This is mostly because of the cost of the item vs how much they will actually be using it. This has made drum sanders a luxury item for many woodworking hobbyists. These days, it’s possible to get very reasonably priced drum sanders as manufacturers have learned that the home and small commercial shop market is a lucrative sector.
This means that just about anyone can own a drum sander – good news for many. Many of you might not know too much about these machines and selecting the best drum sander might be a complete mystery to you. That’s what this review is all about – selecting the best drum sander for any size shop. We’ll be reviewing drum sanders that are small and cheap enough for the woodworking hobbyist and the best options for large professional shops – also at a great price for their category.
VIDEO | How to Use A Drum Sander
One can look at a drum sander as a more refined thickness planer and many will refer to them as thickness sanders. They work in a very similar way. Where a thickness planer uses blades to cut away thin layers from both sides of the wood simultaneously, a drum sander uses sandpaper to do the same job. This means that you will be removing less with each pass than you would with a thickness planer, but you’ll get a much smoother result. Just like any wood sanding, you’ll select the correct grit for your desired finish. A drum sander won’t cause grain tear-out like you get so easily with a planer and they’re the best tool for finishing figured wood.
Later in the article, we’ll look at what to consider when looking for the best drum sander. Before we get there, let’s take a look at our selection of what we feel to be the best drum sanders. We’ll be reviewing two drum sanders that are best suited to the home user or small commercial shop – the JET JWDS-1632 and the JET 628900. We’ll also be reviewing two of the best drum sanders for heavy-duty work – the SHOP FOX W1773 (a 3-phase machine) and the Powermatic PM2244 (a single-phase machine).
JET JWDS-1632 | Best Drum Sander
Best drum sander for professionals who expect (and need) a well-engineered machine.
- Sandsmart control continuously monitors the load on the drum motor and automatically regulates the speed of the conveyor motor to maintain the highest feed rate without overload
- Conveyor bed parallelism is easily adjusted by turning the dial on the outside of the bed – no tools required
- Parallelism adjust dial features a stop to quickly return the conveyor bed to a flat position
- Dust hood includes an integrated channel that mirrors the shape of the drum and directs chips and dust to the 4″ collection port
- Dust hood includes an integrated channel that mirrors the shape of the drum and directs chips and dust to the 4″ collection port
✓ View or download the MANUAL for the JET JWD-1632.
The JET JWD-1632 is the ideal drum sander for a shop that doesn’t have much room for large machines. It comes complete with a stand that takes up a floor area of 20” X 37”. This stand has a storage shelf and has holes already drilled for mounting casters. So if you prefer to have a drum sander that can be moved about, it’s really simple to achieve this. Though you need to choose your casters wisely, some users have mentioned that the legs collapsed when they fitted castors. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s most likely that they used swivel casters on all four corners, causing the base to drift apart.
I would suggest only using swivel castors on the back or front and fixed castors on the opposite end. If you’re going to fit swivel casters on all four corners, you’ll probably have to reinforce the legs by welding plate steel onto each leg. This is quite a job and many might not want to do this, so my first suggestion is probably the best way to go.
Major Components of the JET JWD-1632
Powered by a 1.5HP, 14A, 115V electric direct drive motor with 43 in-lbs of torque, the JET JWDS-1632 has all the power it needs to drive the 16” drum. The JET JWDS-1632 uses separate motors to drive the drum and conveyor. By using a system they call Sandsmart, the load on the drum is constantly monitored and the speed of the conveyor motor is adjusted to maintain a constant speed without overloading the motor. The conveyor speed can be adjusted from 0-10 Feet per Minute (FPM) and the conveyor belt also has Trackers that reduce the need for belt tensioning.
This is an open-ended drum sander which means that you’ll have a maximum board width of 32” by turning the board around and sanding it with two passes through the machine. That’s a nice working width for a drum sander that takes up so little space in the shop. It has a dynamically balanced aluminum 5” diameter drum. Fitting the sandpaper is made easy by using take-up clips and no tools are required.
When using the JET JWDS-1632, your life is made incredibly easy. Adjusting the bed parallelism is simply a matter of turning a dial clockwise to increase and is marked with an arrow together with a “+” sign. For decreasing, you turn the knob counter-clockwise and this is marked with an arrow and a “-“, it couldn’t be simpler. The parallelism adjustment knob also has a stop to return the bed to a flat position. A hand wheel at the top of the machine gives you accurate depth selection by adjusting the drum height by ⅟16” with each turn.
VIDEO | Assembly and Testing the JET JWDS-1632
This hand wheel has a relative depth scale, allowing you to reset and measure your depth as you work. Your board thickness can range between ⅟32” and 3”. Snipe is also isn’t a problem as it has adjustable tension rollers, applying downward pressure on the piece that you’re feeding through. Feeding the wood through the machine is improved by using a conveyor that pulls the wood through the drum instead of pushing it.
The dust collection system works brilliantly by using a dust extraction channel that follows the curve of the drum. This directs the dust to a 4” port, to which you can connect an extractor. You’ll need a dust extraction system with a minimum of 400 CFM to for this system to be effective.
The JET JWDS-1632 is built for great accuracy and maximum durability. The conveyor bed is made from reinforced steel and is precision flattened. The drum has also been precision machined and has permanently lubricated bearings for long-term durability. The fact that the drum is made from aluminum makes it excellent at dissipating the heat caused by the abrasive action. This means that the work surface is protected from heat damage.
This is a superb drum sander in one neat and convenient package, weighing 156 LBS. The only thing that one might find disappointing about the JET JWDS-1632 is the absence of infeed and outfeed tables. Other than this, it can easily be considered the best drum sander in its class. The guys at Jet Tools are obviously very confident about the quality of this machine as it comes with an excellent 5-year warranty.
- Infinitely variable-speed control produces the ultimate finish at a rate of up to 12 feet per minute and prevents machine overload
- Conveyor belt TRACKERS dramatically reduce the need for manual belt adjustments
- Precision-machined and balanced extruded aluminum drum is self-cooling to protect the surface being sanded from heat-damage
- Continuous duty, 1 HP motor specially designed for heavier use for longer periods of time.
- Sealed and permanently lubricated drum ball bearings for longer life
- Precision-flattened reinforced steel conveyor bed and no-give power feed belt provide a constant smooth sanding action for better results
- COLLECTS 97% of all the dust
- Tool-less Table Parallelism Adjustment reduces the risk of crowning by simplifying the parallelism process with an intuitive tool-less design
- Reinforced steel conveyor bed
- Measures 20 x 20 x 27 inches (WxHxD), weighs 104 pounds, and is backed by a five-year warranty.
✓ View or download the MANUAL for the JET 10-20 (628900).
The Jet 10-20 Plus is a good deal cheaper than the JWDS-1632. The first and most noticeable difference to this model is that it doesn’t have a stand. You can get a stand from Jet Tools as one of the accessories for this drum sander. The second thing that you’ll notice about this machine is that it’s slightly smaller. The Jet 10-20 Plus has a 10” drum length (6” smaller than the JWDS-1632). This is also an open-ended drum sander, so you’re able to sand boards up to 20” wide with two passes.
VIDEO | Assembly and Testing
Many of the specs are the same for both models, the Jet 10-20 Plus is just a scaled down version with a 1 HP, 7A motor. Apart from being 6” shorter, the drum is also 1” less in diameter, at 5”. It also uses an aluminum drum with the same heat protection advantage. This drum is made with the same precision and is also perfectly balanced with sealed bearing for durability. It also has two motors – one for the drum and one for the conveyor.
The conveyor can be set for the speed that you prefer, up to 12 Feet per Minute, though it doesn’t seem to have the same Sandsmart system as the more expensive model. This and its narrower width seem to be the only real differences between the two and the Jet 10-20 Plus doesn’t have the convenience a parallelism adjustment knob, like its more expensive brother. So it’s going to take more time and effort to adjust. Depth adjustment is just easy and accurate with a large hand wheel at the top of the machine and relative depth scale. You’ll have the same board width capabilities – minimum width: ⅟32” and maximum width: 3”.
Being a more compact and lighter (104 LBS) drum sander, the Jet 10-20 Plus is ideal for the small home workshop. It’s every bit as tough as any of the best drum sanders and its price makes it more attractive for people who aren’t up to spending a lot on a tool of this quality. It also has the same fantastic 5-year warranty and the promise of outstanding service from Jet Tools.
Best heavy-duty drum sander machine.
- Integrated LED Control Panel shows power, belt speed, and DRO
- Equipped with Feed Logic to produce exceptional finish while preventing machine overload
- Table parallelism is adjusted with a dial on the outside of the conveyor bed, eliminating adjustments to the entire drum carriage
- Secondary, absolute depth scale provides an additional height reading
- Drum carriage is designed to provide strength and consistent performance over time
- Steel hood with a 4″ dust port provide excellent dust collection
- Emergency stop for quick shutoff
- Large, chrome handwheel makes adjusting the drum height smooth and simple
- Belt tracking is designed to reduce the need for manual adjustment
- Integrated casters make it easy to move unit around the shop
- Included infeed/outfeed tables proved 37-1/2 inches of support for the workpiece
- Independent feed and drive motors provide exceptional sanding control
- Precision-machined cast iron conveyor bed and no-give power feed belt provide a flat sanding surface for better results
- Sealed and permanently lubricated drum ball bearings for longer life
- Closed stand with storage for keeping abrasives organized
- Drum is removable
✓ View or download the SPEC SHEET for the Powermatic PM2244.
Just one look at the Powermatic PM2244 tells you that this is a more industrial machine than the previous two. The price is also a good indication that this machine is in an altogether different league, as does its weight – 418 LBS. While it’s not too different to the JET JWD-1632 in its capabilities, this machine is designed and built with the professional in mind and has a slightly wider drum.
VIDEO | Watch this review and learn more
This is a single-phase 115V machine which is great news for people who don’t have 3-phase wiring. It uses a 14A, 1.75 HP motor, driving a single drum that’s 5” diameter and 22” wide. As this is also an open-ended drum sander, you’ll have a maximum width of 44” with two passes.
One of the professional aspects to this drum sander is the inclusion of an LED control panel featuring a Digital Readout (DRO), this gives you the information that you need to work with detailed accuracy and also shows the power and belt speed. The Powermatic PM2244 has easy adjustments that include a large depth adjustment wheel with secondary as well as absolute depth readings and an additional height reading. It has a parallelism adjustment knob, so you don’t need to open the machine to make these adjustments.
The Powermatic PM2244 uses separate motors of the drum and infeed conveyor system. It has a power to speed management system (Feed Logic), similar to the Sandsmart system on the Jet Tools drum sander. This adjusts the conveyor speed to match the drum rotation to ensure a constant feed rate and prevents overload on the motor. The conveyor speed is adjustable between 0 and 10 Feet per Minute. The belt tracking system also monitors the belt tension and there’s no need for manual adjustments. The minimum board thickness that this drum sander can handle is ⅟32” up to a maximum thickness of 4”.
VIDEO | Another Informative Video
This is one solid machine with a distinctly industrial design. It stands on a heavy cabinet with closed storage for all the accessories and consumable materials. The unit has built in (locking) casters for easy mobility. The precision machined cast iron conveyor bed is heavy-duty and provides a perfectly flat working surface. The Powermatic PM2244 has infeed and outfeed tables that provide 37½” of extra support. These tables are machined to perfection and give you smooth and easy feeding. All the bearings are sealed and permanently lubricated, so it’s highly durable with low maintenance and it has a removable drum.
It’s clear from every aspect of this machine’s design and build quality that it’s made for perfect accuracy and longevity. If you’re going to pay this kind of money for a drum sander, you want to know that you’re getting the best machine that’s going to make your life easier, allow you to work faster with greater accuracy, and last a long time. The Powermatic PM2244 offers you all of this and comes with a 5-year warranty.
15 hp 37-Inch Three Phase Drum Sander : Best professional drum sander machine.
- Dual drums
- Hinged hood
- Control panel with Amplifier load meter
- Variable speed conveyor control box
- State of the art computer balanced drums
The Shop Fox W1773 is most definitely a powerful monster of a machine and if looking for a small cheap drum sander for the home workshop, I suggest you move along. This belt sander is made for the serious professional and has a price tag to prove it. So if you’re looking for, arguably, the best drum sander for a professional shop – this one’s for you. If not, take look at this beautiful machine and see how the other half live.
The Shop Fox W1773 is one heavy brute, weighing 1351 LBS. It has a massive 15A 3-phase (220V/440V) motor driving two sanding drums and a 0.25A motor driving the conveyor. It’s not a small machine either, measuring 61.2” X 56.4” X 44.1”. I think this already gives you an idea of what type of machine we’re talking about here. This is a high-end professional drum sander and has everything that comes with a machine of this caliber.
It has two steel/rubber drums with a 6” diameter. Your maximum board width is 36.5” and, as this is a closed-end drum sander, you’ll achieve this in a single pass. This means that you can clean-up and finish pretty wide boards in half the time that it would take if you’re using an 18” open-ended drum sander. You also have durability and accuracy benefits that come with the closed-end design. The drums are meticulously balanced using advanced computer technology.
The conveyor speed has variable settings of between 6 and 18 FPM, giving you a really fast working time if you want it. The Shop Fox W1773 can accommodate boards ranging from a width of ⅟16” up to 4” with a minimum board length of 9”. There are four 4.4” dust ports fitted to the top of the hinged hood that gives you easy and quick access. The control panel is amazing and is positioned right where you want it, this gives you accurate control over all your settings – speed; depth; height and anything else you may think of. It also has a digital display load meter.
Built with solid steel components and with complete accuracy in mind, the Fox W1773 is the ultimate drum sander for any professional workshop. In a world where time is money, the speed, accuracy, and ease of use that the mighty Shop Fox offers will revolutionize your productivity. It’s a remarkable machine with a 2-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
- Sanding drum motor: 15 HP, 240V/440V*, 3-phase, TEFC, 1725 RPM
*440V operation requires the purchase of additional components
- Conveyor motor: 1/3 HP
- Max. board width: 36-1/2″
- Max. board thickness: 4″
- Min. board length: 9″
- Min. board thickness: 1/16″
- Drum surface speed: 2800 FPM
- Conveyor feed rate: Variable, 6 – 18 FPM
- Sanding drums: (2) steel/rubber
- Drum diameter: 6″
- Dust ports: (4) 4″
- Sandpaper dimensions: 6″ x 138″
- Overall size: 62″W x 49″H x 53″D
- Industrial rubber conveyor belt (similar to wide-belt sander belts)
- State-of-the-art computer-balanced drums
- Hinged hood
- Control panel with amp draw meter
- Variable-speed conveyor control box
- Approximate shipping weight: 1374 lbs.
Choosing the Best Drum Sander
If you’re looking at buying a drum sander for the first time, you might not be too sure of what to look for. So here’s a brief buyers guide to selecting the best drum sander for your shop.
Dust is a killer
All woodworkers know what a hassle sawdust is in the workshop, it’s also a health hazard which makes dust extraction an important consideration. When it comes to a drum sander, dust extraction is even more important. This is because a drum sander belches out large volumes of very fine dust into the air. This collects in every nook and cranny of your shop and crawls into your lungs too. So I’d say that dust extraction should be one of your first priorities.
Most drum sanders have dust extraction ports because this is a vital part of working comfortably with the machine and protecting your health. What you really need to consider is the type of dust extraction system that it requires. Will you be able to connect the pipe easily and does your current dust extraction system provide the suction power that the Drum sander requires? A larger machine obviously has to extract a larger volume of dust from a bigger area and will, therefore, need a more powerful dust extraction system.
Deciding on what size drum sander you need can be an open-ended question. Yes, that pun was most certainly intended. Choosing between an open-ended drum sander and a closed-ended machine is something that you need to look at. If you have a small workshop, you don’t want a big machine. Even though you might not have the space for a wide drum sander, you might want to work with wide boards. For a home workshop (or any shop where space is an issue), an open-ended drum sander is going to meet your challenging situation.
They’re called open-ended drum sanders because one side of the sanding table is open and this means that you can place a board that is wider than the table onto it. You can then sand one side of the board and, after rotating it 180°, sand the other side. So this gives you double the width of the actual drum. This obviously means that it’s going take you longer. You have to pass the board through twice and you have the hassle of flipping the board around. You also have to take care to make sure that you line the board up carefully. If there’s a gap in the middle, meaning that the drum hasn’t covered both passes all the way to the center, it will leave a ridge in the middle. So, while an open-ended drum sander gives you versatility, it takes time and effort to do the job properly.
A closed-ended drum sander has support on both sides – holding the top of the machine more securely. Using the closed-ended design means that the drum has bearings on both sides which prevents any vertical movement. This makes for a more robust design and the machine should remain completely sturdy and accurate as time goes by. Because of this design, the board has to be able to fit the width of the machine, so you’re limited to the maximum width of the drum. You’ll find that closed-ended drum sander will be wider, because of this and they’re generally used in large shops where they have the space to accommodate a wider machine and may also require a greater level of accuracy.
Having the Support that you need
Like so many woodworking tools, having infeed and outfeed tables makes it much easier to work with long boards. Having the piece enter the drum sander in a completely flat position is important to prevent snipe. So well designed infeed and outfeed tables are pretty important. Most of the smaller drum sanders don’t come standard with infeed and outfeed tables but many tool manufacturers offer this as an optional extra.
Shipping Large Items with Amazon
It’s quite likely that you’ll want to buy one of these drum sanders through the Amazon website. Why not? It costs the same as any retailer and you get free delivery to your home. This is really great with the larger machines, especially the Shop Fox W1773 that weighs over half a ton! If you look at this item on the Amazon site, there’s a disclaimer stating that their carriers may not be able to bring this item to your front door. So you may be wondering where they do they deliver it. I took a look at how Amazon deals with delivering large items like the big Shop Fox drum sander and other big products like tractor mowers.
Amazon uses specialized carriers for large items – generally over 300 LBS. This means that these deliveries don’t qualify for Amazon Prime Free 2-day delivery. But your delivery is still free and you can also arrange for a scheduled delivery. These items are too big for P.O. Box or Amazon Locker deliveries and need to be delivered to a physical address. This means that they deliver the item directly to your home or business.
The size of the item can make it impossible to deliver it directly to your door and this why Amazon places a disclaimer for large items. If it’s possible to fit through your door, they will deliver it like any other product. If not, the carrier will take the most suitable action, like deliver it your garage. In the case of apartment buildings (or similar situations like an office building), the carrier will deliver it to the entrance of the building. If access to the property makes it impossible to deliver the item onto the premises, it will be delivered to the curb.
With scheduled deliveries, an adult signature is required for large items. If there is no adult at home when the delivery is scheduled, the carrier will return with the item and you’ll need to schedule another delivery. The carrier will call you at least 30-minutes before the scheduled delivery time to make sure that there is an adult at the delivery address to sign for it.
You also have the option of enhanced delivery. This means that the carrier will send a two-man delivery team who will take the item to the room where you want it. They’ll unpack and check the item with you and inspect it for any damage. They will also remove all the packaging for you.