Observations: Performax 22-44 Plus

Just purchased a Performax 22-44 Plus from www.amazon.com approx. three weeks ago. Figured I'd post my experiences with the 22-44 and Amazon since I know I found these types of threads very helpful when it came time to make my own decisions on what and where to buy.
Woodmaster, Delta, Grizzly, and Performax, seem to be the manufacturers most discussed when the topic of drum sanders came up. The specific pros and cons have been discussed extensively. Suggest a few searches using the appropriate key words to form your own opinion. In any case, I decided on the Performax 22-44 Plus based on the following general categorial ratings (obviously, ymmv):
Woodmaster: (+) best quality, (+) excellent performance, (-) very expensive Delta: (+) good quality, (~) debatable performance, (+) affordable Grizzly: (+) good quality, (~) debatable performance, (+) affordable Performax: (+) good quality, (+) good performance, (+) affordable
I wasn't able to try out any of these machines prior to purchase, so the above observations were based on my review of the various on-line threads and magazine reviews.
Now that I've had a chance to use this thing for a few weeks here's some of my personal observations.
First off, there were quite a few comments about tripping/popping breakers if you weren't careful feeding material (the 22-44 draws up to 20 amps under load). I'm scratching my head on that one. I run my unit on a dedicated 15 amp breaker; sometimes on the same circuit as my 1 1/2 hp dust collector by accident. I've found the sandpaper begins burning/gouging the wood long before it'll pop a breaker. This end result is the same regardless of the grit (i.e., 36 to 220). I usually sand pieces 5 to 8 inches wide (mostly oak); however, I've fed a few glued boards 16 to 20 inches wide with the same results. I only tripped a breaker once when I inadvertently tried to feed some 3/4 inch material through the 22-44 with it set to 5/8. It tried to take off an 1/8 inch in one pass (1/32 is about max in one pass)--the drum came to a screeching halt when the breaker popped.
Patience is the only game in town with the 22-44. From my experience (i.e., my feeding style), it takes 3 or 4 (sometimes more) passes at a given height before you can safely crank the height down a quarter-turn (1/64 inch) for subsequent passes. Rush and you'll burn/gouge the material and drastically reduce the life of the sandpaper (if not ruin it altogether). With belts running about $5 to $10 a pop (Klingspor is the best value IMHO; also OEM for Performax), it's an expensive mistake.
Angling the material just slightly for each pass with an occasional straight feed greatly increases the effectiveness of the sanding. It reduces burning and increases the efficiency of the sanding process.
Sanding depths less than 1/8" will cause the conveyor belt to rub the drum's sanding belt occasionally. The primary culprit are the distortions (deformities) to the conveyor belt resulting from sitting in one position for several weeks/months before its arrival at your doorstep. I've sanded down to 1/16" without a backer board. The only consequence (to my knowledge) has been the occasional "smoothing" of the conveyor belt surface and slightly increased wear to my sanding belt.
A pleasant surprise with the 22-44 has been the consistency of the sanding depth (this is assuming you've properly set the left/right side drum height). I've found after sanding with 120 grit or higher, no detectable differance in height *anywhere* on the material (middle, corners, etc.). If you need precise thickness for several pieces, don't touch the depth handle (it may not be easily repeatable without a bit of trial & error sanding using your thickness guage). I assure you anything you final sand at that static setting will be same, exact thickness as the other pieces you sand at that same setting.
Some users noted conveyor belt tracking problems. One minor adjustment during the first hour of use was all my 22-44 needed to track correctly.
Quality of construction and material ranges from excellent to outstanding. The machine itself is very quiet. However, the sanding process can get very noisy. As noted in previous threads, do *not* use the 22-44 without a dust collector--it's hard on the machine, sandpaper, and most importantly, your health.
I decided against the purchase of Performax in/out feeder supports. Since they don't appear to be adjustable, it seemed moot. I've been very successful (zero snipe) using the same support devices one would use to safely, accurately cut a large item on your table saw.
I had some issues with shipping damage which amazon.com and WMH Group (distributor for Jet, Performax, Powermatic, etc.) rectified satisfactorily. Fixes didn't happen overnight and required followup and patience. I got the feeling both companies genuinely care about their customers. However, they're just too big and cumbersome to give that hold-your-hand, it'll be ok in the morning response. If that's important to you consider buying locally.
My two cents :)
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Thanks for the review.
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On 25 Sep 2004 19:35:23 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@msn.com wrote:

Thanks, that went into the reference files. I know that pPosting things like your review take a lot of time, but such a detailed review is really appreciated when evaluating a purchase of something like the Performax.
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Thanks to you and Leon (previous post).
I've found rec.woodworking extremely informative and enlightening. Just glad I could give something back.
Ken
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