Review By Dean Bielanowski  Piric Design Website - http://www.piricdesign.com.au


WASP Sander
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

Is it a drum sander? Is it a flat sander? Is it a curved sander? Is it a floppy belt sander?
Well, believe it or not, it's all four! The WASP Sander from Piric Design provides four different types of sanding actions in one unit, and if you have a drill press, you don't even need to buy a separate machine. Let's take a closer look...

The WASP Sander
Australian-based Piric Design have come up with another unique and innovative tool that not only suits woodworkers, but metalworkers, glassworkers and plasticworkers too. The WASP Sander is an all-in-one solution to many common sanding and finishing tasks. So what is it?

Well, it is similar to a belt sander in that it uses standard sanding belts driven by a drive drum which spin around a secondary guide drum. But unlike a belt sander, it offers several more features. We will look at these shortly. But for now, I'll discuss setup and installation of the WASP Sander. To begin with, you need a drill press. Either a bench-mount or large floor standing model will work. It is the drill press which provides the power to rotate the belt. The basic elements of the WASP Sander are:

  • The Drive Drum - This is mounted in the drill chuck just like any regular drill bit and is a heavy metal drum which drives the sanding belt.
  • The Swing Arm - The swing arm is secured to the drill press column. It features an attached secondary drum for the sandpaper belt to ride around and also allows tracking of the belt. The "swing arm" is spring loaded to provide tension to a fitted belt and allow easy addition and removal of sanding belts.
  • Flat Guide Plate - Allows a flat reference surface for flat sanding, sharpening, de-burring tasks etc.

The swing arm is secured around the drill press column first. There is a clamping plate and a length of chain. The chain wraps around the column while the clamping plate secures to the column firmly with nuts and bolts. It sounds a little primitive with the chain secure method, but it is actually very well thought out, the chain links providing the adjustability to suit a wide range of drill press column diameters. The "V" cutout in the mounting plate also suits all column sizes and provides a four point "grip" on the column. Once secured properly, it doesn't move!

Next you install the Drive Drum in the drill chuck. It is secured just like any other drilling bit in the chuck jaws... easy. While the drum is metal, it does feature several sets of rubber rings on the body. These drive the sanding belt without it slipping on the drum.

Next the secondary guide/tracking drum is installed in the far end of the swing arm. A couple of washers/nuts positioned on the threaded shaft allow this drum to be adjusted up and down so the sanding belt is positioned correctly in relation to the drive drum installed in the drill's chuck. The shaft comes slightly bent which is intentional as it can be adjusted to provide true tracking of the belt once installed, as well as to ensure equal pressure is set on the belt to resist any belt "twist" in use. In general, once the tracking adjustment has been initially set, you don't really need to do it again, which saves time later on. The bearing on this drum allows it to spin freely with the belt while the shaft remains locked in its set tracking position.

If you wish to use the flat guide plate for flat sanding work, this is installed next via a couple nuts and bolts through the guide plate base and through your drill press table's slots. The plate is then positioned to slightly deflect the belt to ensure the belt is running flat against the guide plate surface for accurate reference. All setup is included in the supplied manual sheets and it is all very much straight forward, so setup should be painless for most. What I do like about the WASP is that the swing arm can be left installed on the drill press when not in use and it doesn't get in the way of regular drilling tasks. This alone will promote use of the sander. There is nothing worse than having to mount, remove and remount specialized drill press accessories whenever you need to use them. However, if you wish to use it most for flat sanding, you will need to add and remove the flat guide plate as needed for these particular tasks.

When it comes to finding compatible sanding belts to add to the WASP Sander, there will be no driving around town to specialist hardware stores to find them. The WASP uses standard 610mm x 100mm belt sanding belts, which any good hardware store will have in abundance in common grits. You might already have a stack on hand if you do have a portable power belt sander. The other advantage of the WASP using standard sanding belts is that they are cheaper to buy than specialized lower production count belts, so cost per belt, and cost of consumables used on the WASP is very low.

To apply a sanding belt, all the user needs to do is simply pull the spring-loaded swing arm forward, apply the belt to both drums, and release (carefully) the swing arm, which secures and automatically tensions the belt correctly. To remove a belt, again pull the swing arm forward to release tension and the belt virtually drops off into your hand. It is very fast, efficient, and best of all, easy to do.

Once you have the bet on the WASP, you can set your sanding speed. This is another feature of the WASP that other sanding machines generally do not have - speed control. The WASP utilizes the speed controls built into the host drill press to allow for sanding of different types of materials. Speed adjustment is also essential for working some plastics and glass.

Use and Applications
The most obvious and most basic use of the WASP is as a floppy belt sander for freehand sanding work. In this mode, sanding of any rounded or curved forms is performed easily as the flexible sanding belt molds to the shape or curved surface of the item. This mode is best suited for outside concave shaped items, like wooden spoons, bowls (where they cannot be easily remounted on a lathe), rounded board edges etc. Or it can also be used to shape an edge freehand. There are many applications for the flexible sanding mode on the WASP, and these can be applied to materials other than wood as well. The WASP can remove material quite rapidly, so attention must be paid to the belt's grit size so the correct belt for the task is used. Again, a range of various grit belts can be found at most hardware stores, although for the finer grits, you may need to purchase these from a more specialized tool store.

Without any modification to the WASP, the device can also be used as a hard drum sander, by using the drive drum as the reference point. This is useful if you require a more solid reference surface and is great for sanding internal corners or radii where a surface square to the face is required. For this however, you might need to make a raised semi-circle table that wraps around the drive drum for even more accurate sanding results. You can also shape corners and rounded profiles in this mode, and by angling the drill press table, create chamfers and other angled edge effects.

For flat edge sanding, much like you would get with a regular bench belt sander, the flat guide plate must be installed onto the drill press table. Once done, flat edges can be sanded quite easily. In this mode, various tools can also be sharpened, including chisels, plane blades, carving tools, and with some practice, even rounded gouges and similar tools. The manual supplied does recommend, however, that a more solid metal angle plate be installed (user to supply) if you plan on doing a lot of sharpening using the WASP. Additionally, to speed up securing and removing the flat plate guide, a home-made wooden base can be crafted for this purpose. Instructions are available on the Piric Design website.

Basically, any sanding job that can be done on most other sanding machines can be done on the WASP, and all in one package with no extra machines and/or other machine footprints taking up shop room. I guess one of the only sanding machines it doesn't directly emulate is the disk sander, although many sanding tasks performed on a disk sander can be done on the WASP too. I only tested the WASP in woodworking sanding tasks, and for some basic sharpening and metal edge de-burring, but it can also be used for plastics and glass, but I am no specialist in those areas so I won't comment further on them. The WASP does provide a quick and painless sanding setup for most woodworking tasks however, and I would say that, in most cases, the end results are equal to what can be achieved using the separate single sanding machines the WASP is emulating.

Accessory Kit
To further expand the versatility of the WASP, and accessory kit can be purchased which provides;

  • 1 x 28mm diameter drum
  • 1 x 60mm diameter drum
  • 1 x hourglass drum
  • 1 x camber clip

The accessory drums are turned from hardwood with a shaft fitted to secure in your drill press chuck. The 28mm and 60mm cylindrical drums allow the user to better match curve profiles when edge sanding pieces. If you do a lot of curve cuts on the bandsaw for example, the accessory kit provides the versatility to achieve a better sanded edge that matches the curved profile without "gouging" sections by using a smaller drum on large radius curves, or not being able to fit the standard drum into the curve for smaller radius profiles etc. The hourglass drum provides even more options. It can be used for better "soft sanding" or even for more accurate gouge tool sharpening, if the profile milled on the drum is suitable for the gouge profile. The camber clip is a flexible metal strip which can be attached to the flat plate guide and offset with spacers, and is set up to provide an option for larger radius curve sanding for radii much larger than those that can be sanding using the drums alone. It is very handy for sanding arch profiles for cabinetry, or curves on the underside of long stretchers, as another example.

The accessory kit is a nice addition to the WASP sander, and adds further options to a device that is already quite versatile.

Frequently Asked Question
One of the questions I had regarding the WASP Sander was whether it would cause any damage to the drill press because of the lateral force applied to the chuck/spindle. It seems many others have also asked this question too. The maker's website has a detailed reply to this question, and I will paste it verbatim here for your convenience;

Will the WASP sander damage the bearings in my pedestal drill? Drills aren't designed to take side thrust are they?
 
No - this is a common and intuitive question we get all the time, and its a sensible one to consider.
 
The answer is two-fold:-
 
1. When you think about it, the bearings in the headstock are ball bearings. Ball bearings are designed to take thrust across the rotation axis. It is surprising that drill bearings stand up so well to the axial thrust we subject them to when drilling - so you see the reverse position that you raised is in fact the case.
 
2. More importantly, we have yet to hear a negative complaint in this regard in the 6 years the WASP has been used (many hundreds sold). Also, the inventor has been using drum sanders of all descriptions, sometimes very heavily, for about 30 years and has never damaged drill bearings (not that we know of anyway). Terry's woodwork classes have also been using normal drum sanders, and the WASP, and you had better believe how students are cruel on machinery.

The other issue some users appear to have is with the drill chuck falling off morse taper spindles. Terry from Piric Design also highlights this in the user manual, and offers a solution. Basically, it is not any real fault of the WASP itself, but rather an incorrectly or inadequately seated chuck on the tapered spindle. When I purchased and set up my drill press, this was one thing I made sure was secure, and hence I have not had any such issue using the WASP sander on my drill press.

Conclusion
Well, there we have it. I hope I have explained adequately the features and function of this rather unique "tool". As mentioned, I like its ease of use and versatility, and being able to keep the swing arm setup on the drill press column without impeding regular drill press functions ensures I come back to use the WASP sander option when I need a quick sanding task completed that my other sanding machines either wont achieve, or take too long to set up for the job. And of course, the flexible freehand sanding option is one that none of my other sanding machines can offer. I wouldn't say the WASP sander will totally replace all my sanding machines, but if you didn't or don't have every dedicated sanding tool on the market and are looking for a good sanding option that doesn't need loads of shop space and is cost effective, the WASP sander for your drill press is definitely worth further consideration. The choice is now yours...

The WASP Sander is designed and manufactured by Piric Design in Australia. It retails for AUD$99 for the basic WASP kit, and AUD$49 for the accessory pack. It is available for purchase in Australia from the following companies:

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In Australia

 

Direct from
Piric Design

or selected retailers
throughout Australia

 


WASP Sander

Or Call
08 9356 1653 (within Australia)
+618 9356 1653 (outside Australia)

 

WASP Sander Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited



The swing arm is spring loaded to provide belt tension. Note the chain clamp mechanism, which works extremely well!


The drive drum, swing arm and guide drum now all installed.


Belt added and here is the configuration for sanding in floppy belt mode.


The flat guide plate is secured to the table with a heavy bolt and knurled handle nut.


With the flat guide plate installed, the WASP is setup for regular flat belt sanding.


The Wasp excels at freehand sanding curved shapes in floppy belt sanding mode.


Perhaps the quickest, easiest and neatest way to de-burr a cut metal edge? I think it is.


Here I have an old chisel with plenty of dings and gouges in the tip. The WASP is great for quickly removing these. Later I will switch to a finer belt and use a chisel sharpening guide to set exact angles before sharpening on the WASP to a finer edge.


The small 28mm diameter accessory drum loaded in the chuck... sanding a profiled cut as one of the tests.

 

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