Lead Photo by Rob Brown; Photos by Manufacturers
The power sanders that we covered in the previous article in this series (‘Power Sanders’, Jun/Jul 2017) are best suited for flat stock. When it comes to curved stock we often revert to hand sanding, or using rasps and spokeshaves. Another option available to woodworkers is one of the specialized benchtop sanders. These compact, mini versions of the larger stationary machines don’t take up a lot of shop space, are easy to store under a workbench or on a shelf, are efficient, affordable, and can considerably speed up sanding, especially when there is a lot of stock to process. You’ll also find them more convenient when sanding smaller stock, as you hold the material rather than the tool.
While benchtop sanders do speed up sanding, you will still need to hand finish the surfaces. They can also produce a lot of fine dust, so connecting them to a dust extractor or dust collector and wearing a respirator is important.
In this article we’ll look at five general types of benchtop sanders.
An OSS consists of a tabletop with a spindle, attached to a motor, protruding through a hole in the tabletop. Various sizes of drums are inserted over the spindle, and then an abrasive sleeve is inserted over the drum. In addition to rotating, the spindle moves up and down (oscillates); this ensures that a larger surface area of the sleeve is used, and less heat is generated. As a result, the abrasive will not become clogged as quickly and will produce a more even scratch pattern. They work exceptionally well for sanding concave surfaces. Most models have a 1/2″ shaft that accept drums from 3/4″ to 2″ in diameter, and that accept abrasive sleeves from 4-1/2″ to 6″ long. The 1/2″ sleeve doesn’t use its own drum – it simply slips over the shaft. Because they turn such a small spindle they don’t require large motors – 1/2 HP is adequate. In general, look for a longer stroke length (they range from about 5/8″ to 1″), a large size table that tilts up to 45° and a dust port.
The CX502 features a 1/2 HP motor that rotates the spindle at 1,720 RPM. It has an oscillating stroke of 1″ and a rate of 29 strokes per minute. Rubber feet provide vibration-free sanding. The 14-1/2″ square table provides a large work surface that can be tilted up to 45° for bevel sanding. The spindles and sleeves can be quickly and easily changed. There is a 2″ dust port for easy connection to a dust extractor. The sander comes with 1/4″, 1/2″, 5/8″, 1-1/2″, and 2″ spindles that take 5-1/2″ sanding sleeves. The spindles are stored on board. Has a three-year warranty.
A disc sander consists of a 6″ to 12″ metal disc connected to a motor shaft, positioned 90° to a work surface. PSA abrasive discs, from about 40- to 400-grit, are attached to the metal disc. Because of the orientation of the disc to the table, disc sanders cut in both directions – downwards on the left side of the table, upwards on the right side. This can make them more difficult to use, particularly when sanding small stock. Because they rotate at fairly high speeds of about 1,750 RPM, they remove wood at a very rapid rate. They’re ideally suited for sanding end grain and convex edges. Choose a sander with a larger diameter disc only if you regularly work with thick stock. You’ll also want a large tilting worktable. The 1.2 HP motor rotates the 12″ disc at a speed of 1,750 RPM, while a manual brake enables you to stop disc rotation very quickly. The KC-12S features a large 6-7/8″ × 16-3/8″ table with a standard 3/4″ miter slot, a 2″ dust port, and all cast iron construction for increased stability and vibration control. The table can be tilted up to 45°. Includes miter gauge. Has a one-year warranty.
Combination sanders provide two sanding options in one machine, and they come in several styles. They run on a single 3/4- to 1 HP motor. The most useful for woodworkers are belt/disc sanders, and belt/spindle sanders. While there are a number of brands of belt/disc sanders on the market, there are only two models of belt/spindle sanders. Both styles are convenient for sanding concave and convex shapes as well as fairly short flat surfaces. Machines are classified by the size of sanding belt they use, which is either a 4″ × 24″, 4″ × 36″, or 6″ × 48″ belt, and by the size of disc, which is most often 6″ but can be up to 12″. Heavier machines made primarily of cast iron and steel will have less vibration than lighter-weight models that incorporate plastic components. Look for models that have quick-release levers for easy belt changing, easy tension adjustment systems, large tilting tables and dust ports for connection to a dust extractor.
The 50-120 uses a 6″ × 48″ belt and a 10″ aluminum disc. The base is constructed of cast iron to help reduce vibration. It features a 3/4 HP motor that delivers a belt speed of 2,030 SFPM (surface feet per minute) and a disc speed of 1,720 RPM. The belt tilts a full 90°, and there is a large 8″ × 14″ disc table with a standard 3/4″ miter slot that tilts up to 45°. It includes a miter gauge, and there is a 2″ dust port. Has a five-year warranty.
The EB4424 uses a 4″ × 24″ belt and has a 1/2″ spindle that accepts five 4-1/2″-long sanding drums: 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″, 1-1/2″, and 2″. It features a 3/8 HP, 5-amp induction motor that spins the belt at 1,350 FPM and the spindle at 1,725 RPM, with 60 oscillations per minute. Spindle stroke is 3/4″. The 16-5/8″ × 18-7/8″ can be tilted up to 48°. Rubber feet help reduce vibration. Has a three-year warranty.
Similar product: Grizzly.com
Drum sanders consist of a cylindrical aluminum or steel drum that is wrapped with abrasive paper, and a conveyer table, along which the stock moves. The drum and conveyer table are usually driven by separate motors. Unlike a thickness planer that can remove about 1/32″ of material, a drum sander removes material down to 1/96″ or less, and you don’t get any snipe or tear-out. You can also sand stock as thin as 1/32″ – something difficult to do with a planer even using a sled. This makes drum sanders ideally suited for dimensioning thin stock, sanding veneered panels, and sanding highly figured wood. Most benchtop sanders are cantilevered (one side is open), enabling you to sand stock twice the width of the drum.
This benchtop drum sander uses centrifugal force to create an air gap between the drum and the sandpaper. The air gap prevents the drum from creating heat, which in turn helps the sandpaper to last longer. It requires less motor power, as the drum is not forcing the paper into the wood. The result is exceptionally clean, smooth sanding. Available as a kit or a fully assembled unit, in 18″-, 24″- or 30″-wide sizes. The 18″ kit features a 2″ drum; the other kits have a 4″ drum. Uses 3″ hook and loop rolls of sandpaper in 80- to 400-grit. A motor is not included – a minimum 1/2 HP motor is recommended. The kits include a 3″ × 5/8″ or 1/2″ pulley. Has a lifetime warranty.
The model 71938-D is a conventional-style drum sander with a number of features that you’ll find on commercial sanders. It comes with a stand but can be bench mounted. The 5″ aluminum drum is driven by a 1-3/4 HP motor at a speed of 1,740 RPM, and the conveyer table is driven by a direct drive motor at a variable speed of 0 to 10 FPM. The table has a guaranteed flatness of .010″ across its width, and it’s reinforced to eliminate flex. It uses a single alignment point to adjust the conveyor parallel to the drum, and it automatically adjusts the conveyor speed to prevent gouging or burning stock, while the self-cooling drum prevents overheating and extends abrasive life. The tension rollers are adjustable in height and hold down pressure, eliminating snipe. It takes 3″-wide, plain-backed abrasive wrap and has a 38″ maximum sanding width (with two passes), and can sand stock from 1/32″ to 4″ thick. Has a two-year warranty.