Updated September 13, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

The 10 Best Drum Sanders

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There's an old saying that goes, "When the lumber gets rough, the rough get sanding," or something like that. Ideal for leveling natural grain and finishing hardwood floors, these drum sanders come in a variety of sizes and weights to suit the needs of just about anyone, from home hobbyists to professional furniture makers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best drum sander on Amazon.

10. Shop Fox W1740

9. Clarke EZ-8

8. Jet 22-44 Plus

7. Delta Woodworking 31-481

6. Pneumatic Hand-Held

5. Jet Mini

4. Porter Cable Restorer

3. Powermatic 2244

2. Line-Mate III

1. 16-32 Plus

Why You Really Need A Drum Sander

This is why drum sanders are often only used by professional carpenters, but that doesn't mean that the home woodworker won't often find a need for one.

We know, we know — you look around your garage and think that the last thing you need is another power tool, especially one as big and bulky as a drum sander. However, if you don't have one, you're going to end up working way harder than you need to when it comes time to gussy up that wood floor or table.

You may also be thinking that you don't need one if you already have a planer. That's an easy mistake to make, as the two machines seem to do the same thing, but they're very different in practice.

A drum sander is designed for putting on the finishing touches, not stripping away several layers of stock in one go. Trying to be over-aggressive with a drum sander will likely only give you a bunch of burned sandpaper and blown fuses for your efforts.

That said, a drum sander can still accomplish quite a bit in a relatively short amount of time. It's a heavy-duty machine that's able to make wide passes over large surfaces, which is why it's mainly used to resurface floors.

That's not all it's good for, however. There are also bench-style drum sanders, which are great for feeding doors, cabinets, and other large pieces through. These are more versatile than floor models, but again, you'll be limited to bigger jobs.

This is why drum sanders are often only used by professional carpenters, but that doesn't mean that the home woodworker won't often find a need for one. When you do need it, it can save you hours of backbreaking sanding, making it more than worth its price (and the space it takes up).

Ultimately, it's up to you whether you do enough large-scale work to justify pulling the trigger on a purchase. However, just know that it's the type of machine that's a real lifesaver on those times you find a use for it.

Also, when have you ever talked yourself out of buying a power tool?

Choosing The Right Drum Sander For You

If you've decided to bite the bullet and purchase a drum sander, there are a few questions you need to answer first.

The first consideration is what you'll be using it for. If you're doing a lot of floor resurfacing, then you'll definitely need a floor model (funny how that works). If, on the other hand, you're working on furniture, then pick a bench model instead.

Speaking of vacuums, figure out how many dust ports you want as well.

Unfortunately, there aren't really any good options if you're looking to do both, as it turns out it's extremely difficult to pick up a floor and shove it through a bench sander. They do make handheld options that might be able to work, but that would likely be more trouble than it's worth.

From there, decide on how much space you're willing to sacrifice to this thing. Bench sanders can be truly massive, weighing hundreds of pounds and taking up a huge amount of room. Floor sanders aren't much smaller, but at least they're only as big as your average vacuum cleaner instead of a small cow.

Speaking of vacuums, figure out how many dust ports you want as well. The more you have, the cleaner your work area will be when you're done — but you'll likely pay more up front.

Some of your decisions will be purely based on personal preference, and you may want to test a few machines before making a purchase. Things like how easy it is to swap out paper, how much horsepower you really need, and the smoothness of the feed should all be taken into consideration.

Whichever model you choose, though, you'll likely be glad you have it when a big job comes along.

Tips For Using Your New Machine

Now that you've got a fancy new toy to play with, it's time to learn some dos-and-don'ts for getting the most out of your machine.

You should invest in an extension cord that's the same gauge as your sander's cord. Many other cables aren't sturdy enough to handle the amount of juice the machine sucks down, and if you're not careful, you could have a melted cord on your hands (and floor).

Try to avoid your trim, baseboards, doors — everything that isn't floor, basically.

While you're shopping, it's smart to buy a wide assortment of sand paper grits. Finding the right grit will go a long way towards ensuring the job is done correctly, and as quickly as possible. You'll likely want to start with a heavier grit and work your way down to finer options as you go.

Also, this is where we insert the standard reminder to wear a dust mask and safety glasses.

When using the sander, remember that you have a powerful machine in your hands — let it do all the work. You don't need to push down on it to improve its performance, so save your back.

While sanding, go in the opposite direction of the drum motion. This means that, if you have a floor sander, you'll be pulling it rather than pushing it. This can seem counter-intuitive to many people, so it's better to know it ahead of time.

However, you'll want to go with the grain of the wood. Try to keep it in a straight line, just as you would if you were mowing your lawn. Try to avoid your trim, baseboards, doors — everything that isn't floor, basically. It's easy to damage these items with a drum sander.

From there, it's just a matter of watching your progress. The great thing about drum sanders is it's easy to see the difference they're making, which should encourage you to keep working once you notice your progress.

Of course, it's also easy to see when you mess up — but you're not going to let that happen, are you?

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Christopher Thomas
Last updated on September 13, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.


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