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Best thickness sander?
Cameron Reddy

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 20
I see several drum sanders in the $900 range (Performax 16-32, Delta X-5, Grizzly G1079, Palmgren 81318), then a slight bump up in size and perhaps quality to the $1200 range (Performax 22-44 and Grizzly 1066), and then a big bump in price ($3000) to a wide-belt sander (Grizzly 9983, Sunhill SDM-15).

It appears that the Performax 16-32 is the most popular with home luthiers.

What can you folks tell me about the merits of what's on the market? I am particularly interested in precision and uniformity. If I want a top at 2.4mm, I want it to be 2.4 everywhere. If I want to try it a bit thinner, I want to be able to dial in, say, 2.2mm.

Can a $900 sander do that? Or do I have to go to $3000, or more?

Have I missed a gem?

Thanks in advance!

Cameron Reddy

Aug 23, 06 | 7:15 am
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 651
A friend of mine has recently set up a shop to build custom electric basses. He looked at lots of thickness sanders and based upon what he saw (and some input I shared from the AG Luthier's forum) he went with the Performax. He has been VERY happy with it. Evidently the X-5 has problems sanding really thin plates unless you run a backing board through with the stock to be sanded. The Performax can easily sand down to acoustic guitar thicknesses with precision.

If I remember correctly, he went with the 16-32 as most electric basses are less than 16" wide.

Aug 23, 06 | 9:45 am

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

I don't have one, but the Performax units are thought of very highly on the Oficial Luthier's Forum. You might post over there also to get some feedback.


Aug 23, 06 | 2:14 pm

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
Jim Olson made his own in a night Machining class about 20+ years ago!

Tenacity I can only DREAM about!

Aug 23, 06 | 7:03 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Wow. Olson's site is as remarkable as his guitars. His wall with routers hanging on it represents more investment than my whole "shop," including the garage!

Aug 24, 06 | 6:16 am
Cameron Reddy

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 20
That Olson machine is beyond belief! WoW!

If the Performax does the job for $900, as it seems it does, why do those big "wide belt" sanders exist that run $3000 an up? What do they do that the Performax doesn't?

Cameron Reddy

Aug 24, 06 | 6:49 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Just about any drum sander will do the job, even a home built! I made several, there are a few plans on the Internet --- The considerations should be paper changes, and variable feed control Grizzly’s changes are a pain. Given the choice I'd go with the Delta (they may own Performax now?) I had a Performax at one time a 24" -- what a piece of C**p --I returned it --- shipping at my expense. The reality is you are going to do your finish sanding by hand or orbital, so as long as the machine has good thickness control you'll be all set. I have a 13" wide belt. Wood Workers Supply sells one almost like it under their brand name. Very powerful, easy to use, I like--- it takes two passes for backs or tops -- no big deal. A true wide belt, the $3000 jobs, have a platen (flat spot) where the paper meets the wood, not like the curve of a drum sander, consequently one could get a perfect machined finish sand. I think I remember seeing some plans for a wide belt and drum sanders from the Guild of American Luthiers.


Aug 24, 06 | 10:38 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I built one almost identical to this (17” sanding area) back in the 1970’s used it for years --- no conveyor, you get the feel for pushing the stock through while holding it down on the out feed side. It was very accurate. I tried to hand plane and sand exactly one guitar set ---- forget that!!! I used an old furnace motor. Believe me it makes just as much dust as a store bought.


Sep 07, 06 | 2:04 pm

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
THANKS for sharing those plans...that is way cool!

Sep 10, 06 | 9:40 am
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
If you have deeep pockets the wide belt sanders are terrific as paper changes take seconds. Again there cost is $3500 on up . In my case it is an investment.
Perfomax and grizzly have been around a while. I think the porformax has it on the replacing paper. Both have thier good points.
allways buy the best you can afford . You will find many jobs for them once you get one.
john hall

Nov 15, 06 | 4:49 am
John Mayes

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 6
The best of the ones you mentioned would have to be the wide belt sander. But that's a big price unless you just have the cash or are building a lot of guitars. I have the Delta Drum sander and it has performed great. Much better than the dual drum frizzly I used to have.

Dec 09, 06 | 8:14 pm

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