Introduction: Drill Press Drum Sander

Picture of Drill Press Drum Sander

Turn your drill press into a drum sander by making your own spindles to hold sandpaper. This easy afternoon workshop project is great for sanding inside a concave curve, a difficult task for belt or random orbital sanders.

I challenged myself to build this using modest tools that most would have in their garage, thinking "if you have a drill press already, then you've probably got the tools on hand to make this".

The best part about this drum sander design is that the sandpaper is interchangeable, held in place by a removable pin so you can change sandpaper grits easily.

I made this spindle in about an hour. Making a few different diameter drums allows all kinds of curves to be easily sanded.

Ready to convert your drill press into a sanding station? Let's make!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Depending on your workshop setup, you might have most of these items already on hand. If not, I've supplied links on where to get them inexpensively.

  • Hole saws
  • Threaded rod (¼" - 20 is a very common thread)
  • 2x nuts matching threaded rod
  • Large washers
  • Steel rod (any small diameter size)
  • Scrap plywood (any thickness)

These drums can be any side based on whatever your need / hole saw you might have on hand. The one I show here is 2 ½"

Step 2: Cut Drum Discs

Picture of Cut Drum Discs

Clamp your scrap plywood to the drill press and insert the hole saw into the chuck. Drill out a few discs from the plywood with the hole saw. The height of the drum will be the total height of the plywood discs when stacked on top of each other.

The height of your drum spindle can be whatever suits your needs. Mine was about 2" tall when all the discs were stacked, which was plenty for my needs.

Step 3: Sand Disc Edges

Picture of Sand Disc Edges

Hole saws can leave ragged edges on the discs from being cut out. I used a 120 grit sandpaper to clean up the faces on each disc to create a smooth surface for gluing them together.

The rough perimeter will be cleaned up a little later. For now, a smooth face is all that's needed to make a good bond between each disc.

Step 4: Glue Discs

Picture of Glue Discs

To help keep the discs aligned when being glued together we'll use the threaded rod through the center opening of each disc. Load the threaded rod into a power drill chuck and hand tighten. With the drill in the clockwise (forward) direction press the trigger and insert a wood disc.

Add a dab of glue to another disc and feed it onto the thread rod until it is snugged up against the first disc.

Repeat this process of gluing and feeding onto the threaded rod until all discs are on the rod and snugly together. This will be the drum of the sander.

Step 5: Remove Drum Glue-Up

Picture of Remove Drum Glue-Up

Clamp the glued discs together. Switch the power drill to counterclockwise (reverse), hold onto the glued discs and pull the trigger to unthread the entire drum from the threaded rod.

Leave the drum glue to dry completely so the center opening stays registered.

Step 6: Cut Rods

Picture of Cut Rods

While the glue is drying, cut the threaded and steel rod to length. The threaded rod will be the shaft the drum rides on when inserted into the drill press. You'll need a length long enough for whatever the drum height is, plus a ½" on the bottom of the drum for a retaining nut and about 2-3" above the drum for the second retaining nut and enough shaft to be inserted into the press chuck.

The steel rod will be the pin that holds the sandpaper inside the drum, and will need to be about ¼" longer than the height of the drum. This additional height will leave a portion of the pin proud of the drum top and allow the pin to be grabbed and easily removed when changing out sandpaper.

Use a cutting wheel on a rotary tool to cut both the threaded and steel rod to the appropriate length.

Since this pin will be removed from time to time, the edges were given a chamfer to allow the pin to be easily inserted back into the opening without getting caught on any edges.

Step 7: Drill Pin Opening

Picture of Drill Pin Opening

When the glue-up of the drum is complete the pin opening can be drilled. Chose a drill bit that is slightly larger in diameter from the steel pin. This will allow for the thickness of the sandpaper inside the opening and still allow the pin to be easily inserted.

I made a mark on the face of the drum about halfway from the center opening to the outer perimeter. An approximate distance is fine here.

Step 8: Drill Pin Opening

Picture of Drill Pin Opening

Clamp the drum securely in the drill press and drill the marked opening through the entire drum.

Test the pin in the drilled opening. The pin should easily slide into the opening and have a fair bit of play when inserted. This play is to accommodate the thickness of two sheets of sandpaper, which will be smushed into this opening later.

To prevent over-sizing the opening stop when the opening is just larger than the pin, you can always come back later and enlarge the opening.

Step 9: Saw Sandpaper Slot

Picture of Saw Sandpaper Slot

Once the pin opening is drilled make a line down the side of the drum that will connect the two ends of the opening. This will be the slot that the sandpaper will be held in once it's wrapped around the drum.

Securely clamp the drum with the drawn line facing upwards. Use a handsaw to cut through the side of the drum until connected to the drilled pin opening.

Step 10: Square Drum

Picture of Square Drum

Load the drum back onto the threaded rod and insert the threaded rod into the chuck of the drill press.

To square up the rough edge of the drum we'll use the drill press to spin the drum while we smooth out the edge surface with a rasp and sandpaper.

Spin the drum on a low speed and gently push the rasp against the drum edge edge to smooth out any high spots and create a uniform surface. Turn off the drill press and place a speed square on the drill press table and move it against the side of the drum to check for squareness, rotating the drill chuck by hand to inspect the entire drum circumference.

Once squared smooth the rough surface with sandpaper, moving from rough to fine grits. Here's a lesson all about sanding, if you want to know more.

Step 11: Assemble Drum

Picture of Assemble Drum

To assemble the drum sander insert the threaded rod into the chuck of a hand drill and hand tighten. Press the drill trigger to thread on a nut to about halfway up the rod. Add a washer then thread on the wood drum. Finish by adding another washer and then a nut to complete the drum assembly. Use a wrench to keep the nuts snug and secure the drum in place. Remove drum assembly from hand drill.

This style of drum sander can accept any grit of sandpaper, you just need to cut the paper to fit. The first time you install sandpaper will take a little trial and error to get the fit just right, but once you have it you can use that fitted piece as a template for all future sandpaper inserts.

Measure the height of the drum and transfer that measurement onto the back of the sandpaper, then cut along the back of the sandpaper at this line to make a sandpaper strip. Insert one end of the sandpaper strip into the slit and then wrap the sandpaper around the drum, rough side outwards.

Insert the other end of the sandpaper strip into the same slot until both ends are fully inside the drilled opening. Smooth out the sandpaper strip against the drum and feed any slack into the drilled opening. The sandpaper strip should be taut.

Insert pin into the drilled opening to trap the sandpaper strip ends and lock them in place. This opening is deliberately drilled oversize to accommodate the addition of the sandpaper strip. If you can't force the pin through the opening you may need to drill the opening slightly larger.

With the pin fully seated in the opening the sandpaper is locked in place.

Step 12: Insert Drum Into Drill Press

Picture of Insert Drum Into Drill Press

Insert the drum into your drill press and use the chuck key to tighten the chuck onto the spindle of the drum. If your spindle is too long the drum can start spinning asymmetrically, which is dangerous. I wouldn't advise any more than 1" in length between the chuck and the top of the drum, less if the drum is longer.

Raise the drill press table up so the bottom of the sanding drum is close (but not touching) the drill press bed.

Step 13: Start Sanding

Picture of Start Sanding

Start sanding! Since there is a small gap between the bottom of the drum and the drill press table, make sure to place a small piece of plywood under the piece you are sanding to raise it up off the drill press table and fully engage with the sanding drum.

Drum sanders are great for getting into tight spaces to sand where a belt or random orbital sander can't. With this method to make your own sanding drums there's all kinds of specific diameters to make, and all can fit whatever sandpaper you need.

Happy making :)

Did you make your own drill press drum sander?I want to see it!

Share a picture of your build in the comments below and get a free Pro Membership to Instructables!


mf70 (author)2017-10-03

WOW! You don't mention the best part of the build: it does NOT demand an expensive and hard to install sandpaper tube.

I would be tempted to try the drum with the slit alone, without the pin. It would probably hold the paper fine. I had a hand sanding block that worked that way.

Finally, it might run more true if the threaded rod was ground smooth in the way of the chuck.

fzbw9br (author)mf702017-11-19

I was thinking about losing the pin also.
My thought was to roll/fold one end of the sandpaper, slide it into the hole/slot and let it freewheel like a flap disk. once it is spinning in place, it wouldn't matter that the end is free, as it would be trapped between the workpiece and drum.
if it wears faster, leave it longer so you wrap a few times, and let it wear away!

tamias47 (author)mf702017-10-03

Rather than grinding the threads off the threaded rod, replace the top nut with a coupling nut. Would stiffen it too.

stroke333 (author)2017-10-08

It ain't laziness, but I bought a set of sanding spindles for 30 buck's, 1X1/4, 1x1/5, 1x1'' and a 2'' incl 4 sleeves with different courses for each spindle.

For easiness I clued two 1/2'' pieces of plywood together 5X with in the top a slightly bigger hole then the spindle and in the bottom hole a bearing where the bottom of the spindle is pressed against, there is no movement at all when sanding. the table is almost the one already presented here with no bearing, I made for all 4 sizes a table in an afternoon, even inside sanding works, just lift the drill place the work and lower the drill.

aebe (author)stroke3332017-10-13

I should have read down to your post , just offered the same thought about a bottom bearing .

AlexR369 (author)2017-10-12

I'm worried that the bearings will wear out quickly since they aren't designed to handle lateral force. Have you had any issues?

aebe (author)AlexR3692017-10-13

Hello . You could extend the center rod a half inch or so from the bottom . Use a bit of plywood for a table , let in a bearing sized to fit the rod . That'll soak up some of the lateral force and save some wear on your drill press .

mikeasaurus (author)AlexR3692017-10-12

Absolutely no issues.

However, If you find yourself using this more than a few times a month for anything other than light usage, then you're better off investing in a drum sander.

I use mine about twice a year, and for very specific tasks. Also, my drill press was $50 used, so I'm not worried about what happens to it.

misterxp (author)2017-10-09

Thanks! Great idea

Datawolf (author)2017-10-03

Trick to cut a threaded rod: screw a nut and cut flush

Excellent tip, simple yet I never thought of doing it before. I always have to dig out the tap & die set to clean up the threads after cutting.

Next time I'll use your suggestion.


Instead of digging out the tap & die set to clean up the threads, screw a nut on prior to cutting the threaded rod. When you unscrew the nut, after cutting, it will automatically realign and clean up the threads.

JohnC430 (author)Datawolf2017-10-04

another good idea. wow so many in one 'dble

shreebala (author)2017-10-04

Very nice... A bearing at the bottom will decrease play.. good way to make different dia sanders

vettebob (author)2017-10-03

It is true that drill chucks don't play well with lateral loads, but if you tighten the chuck well from all three points it should be ok with moderate side loads. When I build mine, I am going to make a base with a bearing in it that will clamp or bolt to the drill press table.


JohnC430 (author)vettebob2017-10-04

great idea in addition to what the guy has done.

vettebob (author)JohnC4302017-10-04

Thanks. I will bore a hole in some 3/4" plywood for a snug, press fit for the bearing, and glue the bearing in. On the through bolt of the sanding drum, at the bottom, I will add a collar, or spacer that will be a slip fit into the i.d. of the bearing. In my case, I will just machine the spacer/collar on the lathe. For those unable to do this, you should be able to scrounge a 3/8" drive socket wrench of the right o.d. to serve as the spacer/collar.


Chuck666 (author)2017-10-03

I use a fly cutter to cut these disks on my drillpress and that way you can have any diameter drum you want.

JohnC430 (author)Chuck6662017-10-04

another great idea

HansV10 (author)2017-10-03

I made several of these about 5 years ago. with one difference. Instead of having a piece of steel as a pin to hold the sandpaper, I used a piece of hollow fiberglass fishing rod. I slit it down the middle, and cut it where it would be large enough diameter that it would pinch back shut when forced into the hole. That way I could pinch the ends of the sandpaper in the hollowed fishing rod section and when I pushed it in it would close tight on the sandpaper. This makes it easy to make the sandpaper to fit tightly. If people insist, I will take pictures and post them for you.

JohnC430 (author)HansV102017-10-04

another great idea. thanks

lallerb (author)HansV102017-10-03

Yes, please. I would love to see pictures of your rig.

aCuriousCreator (author)2017-10-04

this is a great idea. So simple love it :) Will be making a few this weekend

abbasporyazdanpanah (author)2017-10-04

This is great idea

laith mohamed (author)2017-10-04

This is what i am looking for.... good work

Daveinbagram (author)2017-10-04

what is crepe rubber, and what is it used for?

Steinzel (author)2017-10-03


the norm (author)2017-10-03

When sanding, I would put a piece of wood rather than have the metal table exposed. I drill a hole in this wood the size of the drum and have the drum go into the hole a wee bit. This will make it so when I put my project against the drum, all the work is sanded the same, rather than having a bur at the bottom edge.
(I hope this is clear)

RumenB1 (author)2017-10-03

The RPM are quite low, but don't you feel weight imbalance in the drum?

I get nervous without a second hole and a second pin in the drum (to balance the first pin)

TimothyK34 (author)RumenB12017-10-03

Totally agree that was the first i thought how out of balance it would be.

jimdkc (author)2017-10-03

As others have mentioned, a drill press mechanism is not designed for lateral pressure. I'd recommend using this only for very occasional use, and only with very light pressure (let the sand paper do the work, not pressure!) If you see yourself doing a lot of this type of sanding, spindle sanders start at about $100.

vettebob (author)2017-10-03

Genious!! Love it! I am going to make several in different diameters and multiples of the same size to have pre-loaded with different grit sandpaper. Thanks! Great Instructable!

merideth (author)2017-10-03

Great idea and really thorough ‘ible! I am totally doing this.

swaweet (author)2017-10-03

You could design an assembly that incorporated bearings above and below the sanding drum. Clamp this assembly to the drill press table and the drill spindle bearings would see greatly reduced side loading.

Cayotica (author)2017-10-03

carriage bolt

Cayotica (author)2017-10-03

carriage bolt

instead of using a piece of all thread might I suggest using a carriage bolt it will reassess nicely into the drum and hold your spindle well.

HSonger (author)2017-10-03

Very nice idea. Couldn't you save a step or two by attaching the nuts/washers to the glued-up discs to clamp them while they are initially on the threaded rod and then cutting the rod to length? You should still be able to drill the pin hole by putting the spindle through the hole in the center of the drill press table and swinging it a bit to the side, then putting a plywood spacer underneath the bottom disc to prevent tearout.

bruce.desertrat (author)2017-10-03

If you drill a hole in a piece of plywood slightly larger than your sander spindle, you can clamp that to your table and be able to sand the whole edge of whatever you're sanding.

ScottT22 (author)bruce.desertrat2017-10-03

First buy a decent quality sealed bearing with an inner diameter equal to your shaft size. Combine that with your piece of plywood to support the free end of your new drum sander's drive shaft. Do this by recessing the bearing into the *bottom* of your wood base, then adding mounts to attach your wood base to your drill press' table. Recess another hole the size of your drum into the top of the plywood so you can sand the whole edge. This will survive much longer and is *significantly* less likely to break your drill press.

srutkowski (author)2017-10-03

I've been using spindle/drum sanders on my drill press for many years. When using them, I always mount an auxiliary platform on the drill press table with a hole slightly larger than the drum I'm using. This allows me to use the full length of the drum.

I also frequently clean the drum with a piece of crepe rubber. I got mine from a friend who owned a shoe repair shop (he gave me more than enough to last a lifetime), but you can buy cleaning sticks at Home Depot and other sources.

antonioaran (author)2017-10-03

Nella parte inferiore dell'oggetto inserire e bloccare un cuscinetto a sfere.

Il cuscinetto insisterà in una tavoletta bloccata al piano e ciò non permetterà il disassamento dell'oggetto

ajayt7 (author)2017-10-03

Good handy idea

Ctreiser (author)2017-10-03

I made one of these for a project I was working on, this one is much nicer then mine. Just a note on the lateral force concerns, the threaded rod is really the weak point and if you think you are putting enough force on it to break the drill the threaded rod would snap well before that. This was for me, a great project to get some inside curve sanding done quickly without spending hundreds of dollars. Nice write up!

RumBot (author)2017-10-03

With an imbalanced spinning cylinder, I wonder how it holds up to vibration? Does it come loose in the chuck (lateral vibrations against a tapered holding pattern)?

wiegman (author)2017-10-03

looks like a spindle sander not a drum sander but very good idea to give your drill press another job to do

KMoffett (author)2017-10-03

Only use light pressure when sanding with this type of drum sander. The Jacobs mounts for drill press chucks have a steep taper and are not designed for lateral forces, only axial. They can let loose with surprising results. :(

ArturZ9 (author)2017-10-03

Great idea.
Though drill press is not intended to carry radial loads, shaft bearings might say goodbye after some while. So in long term it would be wise to get yourself a drum sander.

MarkintoshDesign (author)2017-10-03


subnet (author)2017-10-02

Great! I will make for sure, thnks for sharing :-)

bakichmg (author)2017-10-02

Very nice!! Did you glue nuts inside the golf balls on your drill press handle??

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