book collections email follower instructable user
Picture of Lathe Drum Sander

A stationary drum sander is a helpful tool for smoothing and producing wood of uniform thickness; it can flatten wood from thin strips to larger panels. When flattening brittle wood or end grain, a planer simply will not work. A drum sander is a less aggressive tool that will yield a better result in these situations. With the price and size of commercial drum sanders being impractical for me, I decided to make my own utilizing power from my lathe.

This instructable doesn't go into depth on measurements because everything will be custom made for your lathe.

If you would like to expand the features of your lathe, create a drum sander too!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials



  • Lathe
  • Nova Chuck
  • Table Saw
  • Drill
  • Hack Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Band Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Hole Saw
  • Spring Clamps
DonV261 month ago
What slows down the pieces being sanded from flying through the sander? At what speed do you set your lathe for sanding?
espdp25 months ago
For a simple"conveyor", make a sled. Cut a very flat piece of sheet metal to the width of the bed, and perhaps 50% longer. Make a short 180 degree fold on the back side and hammer it almost flat, but leave it sticking up as high as the thinnest veneer you expect to sand. On the front edge, cut out an oval for a handle and line it with duct tape for protection. Slide it all the way back, load your stock, and slowly pull it toward you as the sander does its magic! To make it extra fancy, you could use PTFE tape on the bottom, and rabbet your side rails so they overlap the edges and hold it down.
Very well written and great idea.
But before someone builds one they might think about the capabilities somewhat. It will do touch up sanding or finish sanding, but it will not thickness sand, simply because no lathe has enough power. I doubt if it will clean up pallet wood for example.

My lathe has a 2HP motor, it won't have any trouble thickness sanding.

tomatoskins (author)  yrralguthrie1 year ago
I think this would have no trouble with facing pallet wood. It clearly won't have the same performance as a commercial unit, however it had no problem reducing the thickness of the walnut shown in the last step. Using 80 grit sandpaper on the drum made for really quick removal.
What sort of lathe, brand, size and hp of motor are you using? Most hobby lathes don't have a lot of power.
It wouldn't be much of a stretch to make a lathe replacement with a larger motor and then this would be a nice tool. For someone who likes to build things. For the time put in making it a part time job would probably allow a commercial unit to be bought sooner!!!
Mi_Tasol1 year ago

Great idea.

I am currently building one using a cheap flea market lathe and $5 worth of aluminium tubing from the local scrappy but to make the thickness adjustment easy and always parallel I am going to be mounting two small car screw jacks with the shafts joined together.

Like another poster I would hate having to reset the lathe or sander as needed and with the unit on wheels it will take up minimal floor space (or it can go outside when that is appropriate) so felt $10 for a very rusty old lathe with no tooling was a good investment. A quick repaint, electrical checkout and new switch and the lathe works very smoothly. My biggest expense will be the base for the whole setup.

Unlike the person who suggested a single adjustment screw in the centre I realize that the thickness table can/will twist if there is only one central adjustment point which is why I am redesigning to use the two linked identical car jacks as that will allow a single adjustment handle and ensure both sides of the table move exactly the same distance. I may have to fit some sort of locking device - only time will tell.

Photo will follow after I recover from prostate surgery

tomatoskins (author)  Mi_Tasol1 year ago

Sounds like a great build! I can't wait to see pictures once it's finished!

colwa20161 year ago

Re :- PVC pipe. I am in the process of making one.

Using 120mm Gas high pressure pipe ( in Australia it is Light Blue ) which has 12mm wall thickness. It was not a true round but soon came good on the lathe



tomatoskins (author)  colwa20161 year ago

That is great to hear! Please share a picture once your sander is finished!

Denver3951 year ago

Shop Notes:Vol. 15 Issue 86 has an article: "Build Your Own THICKNESS SANDER Get Perfect, Flat Panels-Fast"... I built one using a 3/4 Horse Motor under the unit, on a 30 x 30 inch metal rolling base unit. Below I placed a large Shop Vac. The Drum is made with 5 inch discs mounted on a one inch shaft 24 inches long, with pillow blocks and pulley to drive the drum. One pet peeve that I do not permit is to have a tool that requires set up. If you have 2 lathes, ok, one can be set up as a drum sander, but personally I would never make a set up where I had to assemble the sander, break it down after to use the lathe. I am pleased to see such a great design to use with a lathe. A height adjustment in the center front with one knob would make a nifty improvement to the ease of using this type of tool.

My compliments to the inventor.


This is a picture of the adjustment with one knob in the center. I have found it to be very accurate and I use one to two twists per run of parts. When I crank it two turns the sanding depth is too deep for a wide pass of wood. Thin strips will pass but still, too much wood is removed per pass. Light passes with one twist of the knob is no sweat for a 3/4 horse motor. With the lathe version, it looks like there is not a lot of room to put such a large adjustment device between the lathe bed ways and the sanding base. It was once said, if you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong.

Denver395 made it!1 year ago

The article in ShopNotes, Vol 15 Issue 86, "Build Your Own THICKNESS SANDER" has detailed plans to build a hand crank conveyor belt to drive the wood under the drum of the sander. I did build the conveyor as described, and I bought the motor and hardware to install a variable speed conveyor drive. Have I installed it yet? Nope...but soon. This drum sander is made as a stand alone tool. It is not built around a lathe. A 3/4 horse motor below unit drives the drum with small pulley below and larger above. The dust hood hinges up to service the drum with new or different grit. I have found 80 grit is good for secure glue joints when thickness sanding flat segmented boards prior to glue up of multiple boards to cut rings. I cut the rings on the lathe to make salad bowls. Oops, forgot to post a bowl in route...ok, 4 bowls.

IMG_0423.JPGIMG_0425.JPGIMG_0428.JPGIMG_0430.JPGIMG_0431.JPGIMG_0648 (1).JPGIMG_0307.JPG
glue a sufficiently large piece of sand paper to something flat eg mdf, then raise platten to sand drum flat
gm2801 year ago
Interesting project. I have thought of building such a sander, but a stand alone version. I also thought about using PVC, but you really have to tread slowly truing up PVC. As you stated, PVC is not round, well not perfectly round anyways. So turning it can be tricky and I would think a scraper type tool would work better the a typical lathe cutting tool. I was wondering if a built up wood drum would be a better choice? Especially if you could turn that wood drum on a metal lathe that had a screw feed setup. IDK. Nice project either way.
Someone did a built up drum, I'm trying to remember who, Stumpy Nubs maybe? As I recall he cut a stack of MDF cookies with a 4-1/8" hole saw glued them all together with a threaded rod and then pulled the rod and put it in the lathe between centers and trued it up down to about 4" diameter. Actually, if you're worried about flex but not about weight you could fill the tube with Quickcrete but it isn't really necessary. Others have made these and as was said earlier just do light passes and at the low cost of PVC pipe you can make several and outfit them with with different grits and quickly change them out. Having been in the machine trade the suggestion to use the table with paper attached is really a good one because then the two parts are trued to each other. It also would be best if the adjustment could be made with a single control or the two could be locked together with either a chain drive or segmented belt drive. Single would be better always adhering to the KISS principle. I'm definitely downloading this and building it. Oh, as regarding kickback, not really an issue. You're going to bog down the machine before you get that far. The workpiece would have to have quite a taper to it before it would be able to get that much of a grip. Besides, with too heavy of a feed you're going to burn and ruin your workpiece and load up your belt in a very short time. It's sanding not sawmilling!
cfs05271 year ago
This is a wonderful idea and I am going to make one for very old Atlas lathe. I would turn the PVC with my trim router using this jig
Pa19631 year ago
This could make a really nice addition to my old Shopsmith.
PJL0D91 year ago
You design is awesome, I intend to do one in the future with my shopsmith.

One suggestion is to add some sort of tick marks on top of the elevation knob to ensure that both knobs are being turned the same number of revolutions. You could easily factor it into your 3D design or mark it with a white paint pen.
I hope you do. I have a shop smith and would like to see your version.
Wood Chuck1 year ago
Instead of spray adhesive, wrap the drum in self adhesive velcro (hook & loop) paper. Now you can change the sandpaper when it wears out or you want to change the grip. Just a thought?
rmelchiori1 year ago
Couldn't you use the deck to true the drum. Attach sandpaper to the deck and use your adjustment knobs to raise the deck into the spinning drum. You'd have to go slow, but unless the drum is way out of round, this method should work.
Seakiwi1 year ago
Great concept and well explained. What speed (rpm) do you run the lathe at? In a lot of cabinet shops they use a large belt sander with a sliding table that is pushed under the belt. I think if you could slide the tale ( long drawer runners maybe) and put stops to limit kick back it may work. Like a manual conveyor. Thanks for a cool idea. Going to the drawing board now, I have access to large diameter alloy pipe which is very true and much less flexible than pvc so will look at that for the drum.
tomatoskins (author)  Seakiwi1 year ago
It really depends on what hardness of wood you are sanding, thickness you are removing, your feed rate, and sandpaper grit. I tend to start somewhere around 1000 RPM with a light cut and then adjust from there. Remember not to bog down your motor
JimB3611 year ago
Looks like a cool project. I’d lov one of those Performax 19-38 sanders, but not at the $1,300 price! Question about this home brew unit - how can you be accurate on the adjustment of the bed as far as having both sides the same height?
tomatoskins (author)  JimB3611 year ago
Before I turn anything on I place the board under one side and rotate the head. Raise the table on that side until the wood just contacts the head. Repete on the other side. Verify that the first side still has the same clearance. From there, turn on the lathe and rotate each knob the same amount per pass.
love it, I'd already noticed that a lathe makes a good disc sander and perhaps a drive for something or other, but a drum sander? thinkin' outside the box there!
JoeC251 year ago
Very nice post on how to build one of the best tools on here! I can see that this would also work on my 8 x 14 metal working lathe. This is going to be one of the next projects that I make since I can see so many uses for this. Thanks so much for putting this all together!

Joe C.
chrisLnz1 year ago
A plywood board the length of the PVC pipe with sandpaper on it will allow completely perfect rounding.
LewisK81 year ago
When I built my sander, I used Hook and Loop paper. The cushion created by the H&L helps prevent the burning/loading of the sandpaper. Attaching the ends of the H&L paper was a problem. I made a small square hole on each side of the drum. Tucked the pointed end of the sandpaper in the hole and added a very firm foam plug (cut from a rubber golf ball) secures with a screw. To change the paper, just remove the screws, unwrap, rewrap and reinsert the rubber plugs. One thing about the H&L installation- wrap the adhesive backed hooked material one direction (ie. left to right) and the paper (loop) in the opposite direction (ie. right to left).
CraftAndu1 year ago
Wow! Fantastic idea and really well-made project. Definitely on my to-do list ;)
Great idea! I’ve never been able to justify the price of a drum sander either.
About kickback prevention: how about adding a small-diameter rubber-covered roller on the outboard side, just a hair higher than the table. The ends of the roller would have a ratchet mechanism so it can only rotate in one direction. It should be easy to 3D print a toothed wheel for each end of the roller, and make a metal or wood pawl that rides over the teeth when turning correctly, but stops it dead if the workpiece tries to kick back and roll it the other direction.

Hint: if you have access to a junked printer it will have several small rubber-covered rollers inside that would be perfect for this.