Thickness sanders - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-14-2008, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thickness sanders

HI Folks
I'm new to this forum, but hope that there are some users here that might have some experience with thickness sanders. I've had a "performax" for 10 or more years, and have been modestly satisfied with it. I have learned to tune it and make it work decently, and I readily admit that sanding stock to a consistent thickness is not something I love doing, but it sure saves a lot of hand work later. I am considering getting a better machine and am considering one of the open ended 15" wide belt machines on the market. I know that the non open ended machines are better, but I don't have the space or the power to run them. Besides, I mostly want to use the machine to prepare stock, not to finish sand doors or large panels. I am wondering specifically if anyone has used the Sunhill or the Grizzly machines, or the less powerful Steel City machine. Any experience would be appreciated.
best
paul
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post #2 of 5 Old 01-16-2008, 05:58 PM
 
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Why don't you try a thickness planer? IMHO the surface is left much better (thickness wise) and when used properly it the knives last a long time between sharpening.
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-16-2008, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for that thought Dusty. I have 2 planers now, both good machines. But if you have never used a thickness sander, you are missing an amazing timesaver. When working with solid stock, (not plywood) it has been suggested that up to 60% of the time spent on building a piece is spent sanding. I for one don't love sanding. Even if you have nice sharpe knives on your planer, you still see planer marks if you don't sand. You really need to sand all your stock prior to assembly, I would say prior to cutting and certainly prior to cutting mortises, rabbits etc. Since sanding changes the thickness of the stock, you need to be sure ALL the stock of any one dimension is the same thickness. I've used thickness drum sanders for years, and they do a good job, but they are pretty slow. A LOT easier and faster than hand sanding, but still pretty slow. If you have used a wide belt thickness sander they are a lot faster. Most of the commercial ones are 10 or more hp. (up to 40 or more hp i believe) I am looking for one that is smaller, and the green Bear, or Sunhill, etc, do now make them for the small shop. I am debating between one of these. They are called thickness sanders because indeed, just like a "thickness planer" they turn out a uniform thickness, and it is sanded. You buy different belts (some of the sanders i have used had dual heads, i hear there are some with 3 heads) so that you have rough med and fine all in one pass. Thanks again. Hopefully someone here has had some experience with one of these two brands.
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paul
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post #4 of 5 Old 01-16-2008, 09:38 PM
 
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Thickness Sanders

I've used timesaver sanders in the past and though they do a great job, I found them to be very expensive. ($65.00 each for 36" wide belts)and when you take into consideration that you needed 4 or 5 different grit belts the cost gets crazy. I worked in a shop that had a 54" 3-36" and a 24" sander. We used them because they were faster and more acurate than the planer we had. At the time we were making things like raised panel entry way doors where the grain changed direction within the piece. Not something you'd ever run through a planer. The planer was a 36" BEAST. Great for sizing large 12/4 and 16/4 stock but short on finesse. I have no experience with the drum type open sided models like PowerMax and at first glance they looked kind of "mousey" to me.
Do they work well? Are they worth the couple grand they charge for them? It just seems like one of those tools where you have to spend allot of money or it isn't worth trying.
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post #5 of 5 Old 01-17-2008, 01:26 AM Thread Starter
 
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thanks Dusty.
Yes, it is true that the nice timesavers, (I would like to find a small 24" one used) are great. But having used the smaller drum sanders for years, a "poor or small shop" sander, they do the job, just slower. I agree that you can get rid of most or all snipe on a well set planer, (i have a great old PM that cuts beautifully) but... you still need to sand. And even the open ended drum sanders, like Performax, do the job, just have to baby them. The Sunhill and the copy, (Grizzly) open ended sanders are certainly compromises, but for small shops, the footprint and the amount of power and the price are certainly attractive. (wish they made a closed end 16" that was the same price. I don't need the open end, as for wide panels i can take it to a friend) The cheapest and smallest Grizzly non open end is something like $8K. The open end 16" is "only" $3200. I agree the belts are expensive, but if time is worth anything, then i don't mind using up a belt or two on a big piece. And remember, when sanding hard maple, how many hours of sanding does one do? Too many! Anyway, thanks for the comments. I guess that no one else has used one of these machines. I have pretty much decided to buy one of them. Just need to decide which.
Paul
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