advise on sanding alder panels.

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I run a small one man operation and I am looking to cut my sanding time/displeasure. I fear that I could purchase a contraption that does not save much time, compared to my current method.
I work alone, and have no real woodworking community in my life, so may I describe what I do now? and perhaps someone could offer there advise.
I build chests and coffee tables out of solid red alder, I have been making these designs for over eight years. I make batches of 10 to 15 units at a time. I currently plane the alder to dimension and sand the planer marks off with a 6x48" belt sander at 150 grit then touch that up with a random orbit sander at 220. Most of my stock is sanded while it is a flat part no wider than 3.5 inches and an inch thick. One exception is the alder edge glued panels that I purchase (15" x 36") - they come sort of sanded to 150 grit - I touch them up with random orbit 150, then 220.
My 6x48 belt sander is near death and in need of replacing. I currently spend about 15% of the job sanding. It goes along ok but holding pieces of wood up to the vertical belt sander is exhasting. So is sanding if there is some way to sand a little bit faster.
I frequently stain the alder and really desire an even sanding, as it gets quite blotchy if the sanding is uneven. I have also noticed that 150 grit is really not fine enough for alder. Some people claim it is, but it has a terrible look if finished with a darker stain. (a whole other topic I am sure)
Perhaps my planer leaves too crappy of a finish. I have found that alders knots are very hard and have proven to repeatedly nick my blades. I now just live with a few lines on the surface. Are my blades too soft? Maybe I run the blades too hot? (old crappy delta 12 inch steel blades) Maybe if that was fixed, I could get by with only the random orbit 220 clean-up.
I am looking at machines like the woodmaster 18" planer/sander , or the grizzly 16" dual drum sander. My shop is somewhat small, and only has 220.
I spend a few weeks of my life sanding. Is there a way I can lessen it?
Thanks for the time
Tor
http://www.musicalfurnishings.com
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tor wrote:

Have you looked at a Performax 22-44? I almost bought one last month, until I realized the TCO was higher than I'd anticipated. (Don't tell my wife, but I might get one in the future <g> )
Dave
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The 16/32 won't run on 240v. Don't know, but presume the 22-44 won't either.
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Wood Worker's Supply has a belt sander item # 876-789 it's a big green Woodtec with a yellow table. The belt runs horizontal.
Tom in KY. No affiliation with WWS, except for the occasional purchase for my collection.
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That looks like a hell of a machine. I wonder if I could get one of my 36x15 panels sanded on that with it turned flat. I also wonder what its dust collection looks like. It could be a nightmare.
t
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I would assume dust collection for this machine would consist of a room partitioned off specifically for this macine and a giant sucking device that would pull air through the room much faster than you could heat your shop. I would probably not wear a hat in this room or any other loose clothing. Nor would I allow small children or pets to enter. So, therefore you could not use child labor with such a sucking device.
Seriously, I don't know how dust collection would work in your shop. My Uncle Don actually has a sanding room with high powered cross ventillation. He has had a machine like this for years. It works great for cabinet stiles and rails. Easily retains the square edge on the material, wich is hard to do with a free hand sander. I love it when he comes out. His comb-over is always nearly touching his shoulder when he comes out of there.Heh-heh-heh. Nuttin' funnier.
Tom in KY, remembering the days spent with uncle Don in the cabinet shop.
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It has some sort of 4 inch dust port, no?
t
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"tor"

snip
snip
BYW your chests (and other furniture) is very clever! I would, as others have said, get a Performax drum sander. I have the 16x32 and it would work out very well in your application.
As for the planer, most any blade will chip/nick when going through knots. Just get a small diamond stick sharpener and touch them up once and a while.
Dave
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Brilliant!!!
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Do you think its possible to get a smooth sanding job from planer to performax with only 220 on the drum? Will I have to touch up with a 220 random orbit pass? Or will I need to go from planer to 150 to 220 to random orbit? This is on an alder board say, 2.5 inches wide.
I hear all these online folks warning that a drum sander is just so weak and slow compared to a wide belt sander. I fear its more of a toy, and my manual sanding may be just as fast. Am I wrong? I cannot afford a wide belt right now, so it seems my choices are a drum sander, a belt sander like the woodtec described above, or nothing. I would love to automate a bit more, but only if it will actually help me.
t
ps thanks for the praise
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Tor:
I have sold tools and equipment for years. The Performax line and any drum sander for that matter is a light duty finicky machine. The 1632 is strickly for a hobbyist. I know you say that a wide belt is out of your reach $$, but I sold a lot of wide belts on a lease to purchase program. A wide belt would cut your sanding time by ten. A wide belt would make you money. It is cheaper that any employee and works hard every day. I would look into a Powermatic 37" model and phase convertor. A 37" is really not that much more than a 25". A normal 1900cfm dust collector would take care of a wide belt.
good luck, Mike from American Sycamore
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Tor:
I have sold tools and equipment for years. The Performax line and any drum sander for that matter is a light duty finicky machine. The 1632 is strickly for a hobbyist. I know you say that a wide belt is out of your reach $$, but I sold a lot of wide belts on a lease to purchase program. A wide belt would cut your sanding time by ten. A wide belt would make you money. It is cheaper that any employee and works hard every day. I would look into a Powermatic 37" model and phase convertor. A 37" is really not that much more than a 25". A normal 1900cfm dust collector would take care of a wide belt.
good luck, Mike from American Sycamore
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sorry for the double post>>>>>I suffer from Fat Finger Syndrome..... Mike
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tor wrote:

Drum sanders - at any grit - leave straight line scratch marks. As would belt sanders. Personally, I always sand after with random orbit at the same grit.
I *love* my Performax 16-32 ; however, I almost never use anything finer than 120. I have, on occasion, used 180 but it requires a very light touch.
__________________________

I have never used a wide belt sander so can't compare but - despite what the tool sales guy says - I don't consider it either weak or slow. Nor finicky. I use mine mostly for getting rough lumber down to a uniform and flat thickness as opposed to finish sanding and it does that very well. I have run 1000s of board feet through it without a problem.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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I just purchased a General 24" Dual Drum sander, looked at all the options. Right now I have 80 and 120 on the drums, does a decent job but does leave ridges, it is not a finish sander. I still have to use a hand sander, starting with 120, tried 150 but the ridges are to large. Think someone else said the same. You could probably go to a 120/150 or 100/150, although I haven't been able to purchase any 150 to try it...only had the thing for a month. Would need a very light touch and good DC though.
HOWEVER....I find most of the time sanding I was doing was done to get the planer marks out and any uneveness at the joints, after that came the finer grits, so even though my sander only goes part way to final surface, I think it takes away a LOT of the work, you can throw multiple pieces through it at the same time, with a 3 HP motor it walks through anything I've done so far (including a bunch of resawn 5" alder, and oak).
So if you want a machine to get you to the point at which you'd normally abandon the 80 grit, this is it, don't think the single drum cantilevered type is that great myself, didn't see one I liked the construction of. Since I only have a thicknessing head for my 8" jointer, the fact I can now sand a larger panel flat is also a plus for me.
-------------------- Steve Jensen Abbotsford B.C. snipped-for-privacy@canada.mortise.com chopping out the mortise. BBS'ing since 1982 at 300 bps. Surfing along at 19200 bps since 95. WW'ing since 1985 LV Cust #4114
Nothing catchy to say, well maybe..... WAKE UP - There are no GODs you fools!
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I am seriously looking at the discontinued Woodtek 13" wide belt sander. While it is not like other wide belt sanders, it is a powerful sander and 90% of my stock is under 4 ". I would love to run 180 grit through it. When you folks say that a fine grit would take a very light touch.... what do you mean? Why?
I am bouncing between the performax 16-32 (cheap, weak, small), the woodtek (rebuilt at $950, strong, still small) and the woodmaster (not cheap, very strong, not so small)
All I do is clean up planer marks. Aren't most people wanting the power for stock removal with coarse grit? I wonder if that performax would work for hours on end with 150 grit cleaning planer marks. But if power is useful for me, that woodtek looks like a far better machine for a hundred bucks more (woodworker supply is willing to part with a few rebuilt ones for $940 with a full warrantee).
I think I will get one of these before the end of the year.
t
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tor,
I think you need to read your own post. "Performax (cheap, weak, small)" and then you say you want to pay $940 for a rebuilt Woodtek. Do you know why they're being rebuilt - something probably broke. Have you found any Performax rebuilt units? I think you're dismissing an excellent quality tool out of hand probably because the Woodtek states a 3hp motor - but is it really?
If you're looking for a sander to act as an aggressive planer then you'll need to look at bigger and better models but for what you want to do, these units will be still be overkill.
The Performax has a continuous duty 1.5hp TEFC motor and I have run mine for hours on end with grits from 36 to 220 and have not had a single problem. Try to get your hands on a couple of different models before you dismiss them - you just may be pleasantly surprised. Read any good reviews on the Woodtek or comparisons?
Bob S.

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Thanks Bob,
Well I haven't read any good reviews on the woodtek, but there is barely anything out there on it. It has been on the market since the early 90's - I read some about it in an "American Woodworker" article that can be found online, they say very little, but score it below the performax. The Woodtek is a 220 18 amp unit and that is a fair bit more motor that the 16-32 performax. They take up about the same amount of space.
Last night I sat with a tape measure and imagined a 10 feet a minute feed rate. I could see sending a few pieces at a time through a machine, but I wouldn't want that rate to go a whole hell of a lot slower that 10 fpm, as I think I would fall asleep. It would seem that I would be less likely to slow the rate down on the woodtek.
The performax cannot accept my 3.5" thick legs either, (though thats only 2% of my sanding needs). While I am not extremely excited about a rebuilt machine, it doesn't scare me a whole lot. I have had a very good working relationship with woodworker supply, their warrantee calms my concerns some.
In regards to a rebuilt performax, no I haven't found one, but that doesn't speak volumes of their quality to me. In fact, I am finding it difficult to locate any one of my three sanding machines options on the used market (in the seattle/portland area) Even the enormous craigslist falls short. Looks like its new/rebuilt for me. I have been looking for weeks.
I have only read good things regarding the performax, I like them, but that woodtek still appears to be more machine. There is a five year old fine woodworking artile that is very uncritical, and says all the machines tested sand very well. They did not test the woodtek. What I would love to know is which machine (between the woodtek and performax) can make the smoothest surface with the least amount of final cleanup on an alder board. Most people speak of stopping at 150, I would love to go up to 180, or hell 220, and just lightly hit everything with a sanding block. But I fear one or both of these machine have a bit of chatter that makes for a fair bit of post sander cleanup. If I need to use both 150, and 220 to clean up my drum sander, I ain't buying one. (some have mentioned this)
Does anyone have a recent one of those fine woodworking tool guides sitting around? What does it say?
Tor
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Tor,
You make some good points and maybe someone in the group has some hands-on experience with the Woodtek you're considering. I've used both the Delta and the Performax (which I have) but never had any time on a Woodtek.
One thing you need to know about sanders in this class. You still need to do the finish sanding either by hand or with a ROS. These drum sanders use a rotating drum, meaning they leave straight line striations on your stock and are noticeable no matter what grit you use. Be extremely careful going above 150 grit as it's easy to burn and burnish the wood faster than you can blink. That's what others meant about light passes. About the most I take off in one pass is 1/8th of a turn (1 turn = 1/16") for fine grit rolls.
From what you have stated so far - you're not using it to plane rough stock (i.e. use 36 to 80 grit) where you can crank it down and remove more stock. I don't care if the Woodtek has a 10hp motor, when you're using fine grit you'll just be touching the surface and that 3hp motor isn't doing you any better than a smaller motor. So from what I see, if you need more than 3" height adjustment, then get the Woodtek or even have a look at the Delta. I beleive there drum sander has been modified so as to overcome the table problem (belt slips on raising/lowering table) on the earlier models. I'm not positive but I think that does more than 3" and the table moves up and down versus the drum.
Whichever you end up with be sure to buy extra rolls of paper to get thru the first weeks learning curve. Cheap paper will not save you any money so get the best and do not be impatient with the feed rate and your paper will last. Also get a big gummy eraser for cleaning the paper and do it often. After you waste the first $50 worth of paper - you'll beleive me. And don't forget to get a good ROS and plan on using 180, 220 and 320 (if needed) on that to do the finish sanding.
Bob S.

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Bob,
Thanks for the time. You are painting a good picture of what I can expect. A shop here in town sells the performax 16 and it's got a few rebates going on right now. I like it the most, I just don't want to kill it. I appreciate the description of how you sand. That clarity was what I was needing.
I am still very open to anyone with experience with the woodtek 13 wide belt sander. In particular, how well it handles that sensitive place where one uses finer grit papers.
thanks again Bob,
tor
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