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Drill Press Sanding Drums: Turn Your Drill Press into a Sanding Station

Updated on October 5, 2017
Anthony Altorenna profile image

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, the kitchen, the garden and out fishing. Many of his projects are featured in his yard.

Drill Press Drum Sander
Drill Press Drum Sander | Source

The drill press is a standard fixture in many workshops, and it is a versatile tool that is much more than a one trick pony for drilling holes. Beyond the obvious advantage of drilling holes accurately and repetitively, a variety of optional accessories converts the ubiquitous drill press into a multi-functional tool that shapes, sands and cuts mortises. Drill presses are available in a variety of different sizes from small jeweler models to hefty industrial machines. Bench-top models are affordable and fit into smaller spaces, making this an ideal tool for woodworkers, hobbyists and crafters.

I like to make a variety of craft projects ranging from birdhouses to decoys to wooden toys, and my drill press gets its share of use in the shop. One of my most commonly used attachments is the sanding drum, which excels at sanding curves rounding over corners, removing saw marks left by the band saw and smoothing odd shaped pieces.

Drum Sanders, Keys and Sandpaper
Drum Sanders, Keys and Sandpaper | Source

There are several different types of sanding drums on the market. Many consist of a sandpaper cylinder that fits over the drum like a sleeve. I prefer a specialty drum that uses strips of sandpaper that are cut from a roll, wrapped around the drum and then held securely in place by a clever little key. The sanding rolls come in many variety of grits from very coarse to ultra-fine (the higher the grit number, the less aggressive the sandpaper) that are easy to change when the paper wears out, and the rolls of sandpaper are more economical than the pre-made sleeves. I use two different sizes of sanding drums: one drum is three inches in diameter for smoothing broad curves, and other is only one inch in diameter for sanding tight spots.

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Drum Sanders with Keys
Drum Sanders with Keys | Source

Drill Press Sanding Drums

There are several different brands, sizes and styles of sanding drum attachments available for your drill press, and these are the sanding drums that I use. The two different sizes provide enough flexibility to handle my drum sanding needs, and each has lasted for several years and through many sanding projects.

Buying the read-to-cut rolls of sandpaper is economical, and each roll lasts for quite a while. I keep several different grits on-hand to tackle different sanding jobs. For general purposes, 120 grit sandpaper works well.

Sanding Drum, 3" x 3" x 1/2"
Sanding Drum, 3" x 3" x 1/2"

This is the landing drum that I use with my drill press. The large 3" diameter makes this sanding drum perfect for smoothing curves and rounding over corners.

Sanding Inside Curves
Sanding Inside Curves | Source

Drum Sanding Tips:

Add a sanding platform: Position the sanding drum just above the surface of the drill press table, making sure that the spinning drum does not touch the tabletop.

Raising the drum above the table makes it difficult to properly sand a piece of wood, so I add a simple platform (refer to the photo by the author). Drill a hole through the center of a piece of 3/4 inch thick piece of plywood that is slightly larger than the diameter of the sanding drum, and then clamp the plywood to drill press tabletop. Lower the sanding drum into the opening in the plywood, and the auxiliary table raising the work piece to the proper sanding height.

The typical thickness of a piece of wood is only 3/4" thick, so only the bottom section of the sandpaper drum comes into contact with the wood. As the bottom edge of the sandpaper wears, stop the drill press and reverse the sandpaper to expose a fresh edge, extending the life of the sandpaper.

Safety First: A drum sander is an easy tool to operate, however every power tool can be dangerous and has the potential to cause serous injury. Do not wear loose clothing, tie back long hair and keep fingers away from the spinning bits and drums.

Do not use worn or torn sandpaper. If a crease or rip develops in the sandpaper, stop the drill press and replace the sandpaper.

The sanding process produces lots of sawdust. Always wear protective goggles and a dust mask. A vacuum system helps to capture the sawdust particles before they drift away and cover every surface in the shop with a layer of fine dust.

Performax TYPE Ready-to-cut Read-to-Wrap Abrasive Sandpaper Rolls 3 Inch by 35 Foot each for 16-32 Drum Sanders MADE IN THE USA! (120 Grit Roll)
Performax TYPE Ready-to-cut Read-to-Wrap Abrasive Sandpaper Rolls 3 Inch by 35 Foot each for 16-32 Drum Sanders MADE IN THE USA! (120 Grit Roll)

Buying sandpaper by the roll is more economical than purchasing individual sheets or sleeves. I keep several grits on hand, ranging from 80 grit to 220 grit.


Make Your Own DIY Sanding Drum

Does your project have curves to sand that won't fit with a standard sized sanding drum? No problem, just make your own DIY sanding drum from a piece of scrap wood, a short metal rod and an 8 penny nail. The diameter of the sanding drum is only limited by the size of the hole saw bit; if you have a lathe, the potential diameters of the sanding drum is nearly limitless.

To sand the insides of really tight curves, I've had limited success making a quick sand drum by wrapping sandpaper around a hardwood dowel. This crude method is not recommended for precise woodworking, but it has served me well for sanding out the blade marks left by the band saw in the inside curves of decoy blanks.

DIY Drill Press Sanding Drum

Can't fit a square peg into a round hole?

Add A Mortising Attachment

Want more versatility from your drill press? Try adding a mortising attachment.

Occasionally, I'll make a project that requires a mortise and tenon joinery. Rather than purchasing a specialty bench mortising machine, I decided on mortising attachment for my drill press. Though I purchased a mortising attachment from the manufacturer that is specifically made for my drill press, the resulting mortises are acceptable but marginal.

On the plus side, the mortising attachment is cost effective (about 25% of the cost for a decent mortising machine), and it doesn't require a dedicated work space in my small shop where space is a factor.

On the downside, setting up the mortising attachment is a bit fiddly to get good results. The mortising kit comes with everything you need (read the instructions thoroughly!) but it takes several minutes to install the attachment, and several more minutes to dial in the workpiece / attachment combo for precise results. Even with careful set up procedures, my initial results were marginal.

My mortising results improved significantly after using the tips provided in the following American Woodworker's video. Even so, if you plan to cut a lot of mortises often, consider purchasing a dedicated mortising machine.

Drill Press Mortising

Tune Up Your Drill Press

Get the best possible performance and accuracy from your drill press with a little routine maintenance and a few simple adjustments. This short video shows you how to tune up your drill.

Want More Versatility?

Make A Drill Press Table

© 2013 Anthony Altorenna

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