It’s a good machine but the manual isn’t, so I
wrote down a few points a new buyer should find useful.
With a full inventory of shaper cutters and ample time,
I decided to fabricate historically-accurate trim for our house
renovation project. When faced with the challenge of making the
casings and baseboards, I decided that sanding each piece with a
handheld sander or driving over each with a floor sander would not pay
off in the long run.
The only product which seemed likely to do a
competent job on a thousand board feet of stock for trim in the house
turned out to be a double drum sander, a sort of thickness planer
using long sandpaper belts instead of blades.
I actually found one available used, but the guy
wouldn’t sell it until his larger model came in, and Busy Bee Machine
Tools in Ottawa put their two models on sale for less than the asking
price on the used one, so the task then was to choose between the two
models in the same store. This simplified itself quite soon: the more
expensive model weighs over seven-hundred pounds and its narrowest
dimension is 41″. This precludes installing it anywhere without a wide
door and heavy lifting equipment. Busy Bee had one in stock, however.
The still massive, but smaller model weighs 500 pounds and was selling
so well at its sale price of $1488. that the job was to nab one before
the entire Canadian consignment of machines was sold.
Manger Carl Talbot warned me about a couple of
things with the machine. Most importantly, a drum sander of this sort
requires at least a 2 hp dust collection system or it will instantly
plug itself. This meant an expensive upgrade to my current system. He
also warned me that the clips which hold the sandpaper make the
learning curve on belt installation quite a steep one. Apart from
that, he explained, the machines are great, and he can’t keep them in
I’d had dealings with Carl before and I took him at
his word. We wrote up the order, including an upscale dust collector
The machine ran well right out of the box, without
Reviews on the Internet had warned that a normal
heavy cut with a drum sander is about 1/64″. The power feed runs off
a 12V D.C. motor, with infinite variations on speed between dead slow
and full fast. This system works very well, and Carl told me that it’s
an important selling point for this model.
While the 25″ Double Drum Sander should not be
mistaken for a thickness planer because of its thin cut, it produces
flat, true boards with a consistent texture over their entire surface.
It proved particularly valuable on wide, glued-up pieces, and would
likely do a fine job on cabinet doors and wooden counter tops.
Tactics for use of the sander:
- Cut stock to size first. This thing is slow, and
the less wood you must put through it, the better. Similarly, the
flatter the wood is, the better. A cupped board will keep you busy
planning 1/72″ off until you are sick of the sight of its grain.
- If the machine starts to squeal, that’s the drive
belts slipping on the sander drums. Immediately lower the table,
allowing the drums to spin again. There’s no real need (apart from
operator panic) to shut the sander off. Bring the table back up to
where you had it but slow the feed rate until it works properly.
This will leave a lump on the board, but you can catch it on the
next trip through by slowing the feed down until the obstacle has
been chewed up. Don’t worry, you’ll be making several passes with
- Sand as quickly as the machine will allow.
Dead-slow sanding will leave boards less smooth than if a very light
final cut is taken at medium speed.
- The belts gum up all too easily on pine. With
many door and window casings I found I had to clean the belt after
each board by holding a large crepe block against the rollers. A
resinous knot would plug the belt and burnish the remainder of the
board. Eventually I selected 100 grit for the rear drum, rather than
the 120 which came from the store. The front drum stayed with 80
grit throughout. Plugging was still enough of a problem that I
despaired of sanding 16′ pine baseboards and looked for an alternate
- This led to my last two days of work sanding a
number of 12 to 14″ wide American chestnut boards recovered from an
old granary. Using 80 and 120 grits on the drums, I have found that
the belts do not clog with this wood, and the finish is good. I’ve
also sanded red oak and basswood with good results.
- Some adjustment of the conveyor belt is
necessary, but it’s not nearly as hard as controlling the tracking
on a belt sander. You just twist a pair of Allen screws controlling
tension until the belt behaves. If it’s pushing to the right, add
tension on the right and let a little bit off the left. It will
level out if you don’t over-correct.
- Carl had warned me to make sure I had enough
length on the belts when I cut them. He was right. The length is
critical to within ½” if the belt is to fit.
- Changing belts: What the manual didn’t explain is
that the clip next to the little feed motor (I’ll call it the
right-hand clip) is rotated forward on a large spring within the
drum. Until I had figured that out, things didn’t go well. It wasn’t
until I donned a head-lamp, saw the spring, and then pushed the
whole mechanism against the drum’s rotation with a large screw
driver that it began to make sense. Then and only then did the belt
clip line up under the slot in the drum, and I was able to insert
the second end of the belt. So you start with the left clip. It’s
easy. Wind the belt on until you get to the right side. Pry the
large spring mechanism on the roller so that the right-hand clip is
forced back under the slot for the belt. Feed the end down to the
clip. When you let go it should grip the belt and tighten it as it
- When the belt came loose this morning I
discovered (again with the help of a head lamp) that I could grip
the tag end of the belt down inside the roller with a pair of 90
degree needle-nose pliers and tighten it nicely while I held the
clip open with the other hand. That worked. No more problems with
belt slackness. Add a pair of offset needle-nose pliers to your tool
kit for the machine.
I’m glad I bought the machine, though it’s less versatile and a lot
less productive than my planer. It should pay off in the improved
quality of the interior trim on the house and later, when it becomes a
toy, I will likely build a lot more dressers and armoires because this
machine is in my shop and I won’t have to spend hours with a random
orbital sander on every project. Even lawn chairs and stairs will have
a better surface when they leave my sawdust factory.
Resinous woods will require a lot of crepe block
work, but the machine will sand them.
I hope this helps.
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