Introduction: Drill Press Sanding Plate
Drill presses are great for drilling holes.
They’re also good for other tasks. One flashy example: A drill press can work as a lathe in a pinch.
Another (slightly more practical) use is as a makeshift spindle sander. First, you need a sanding drum, which can be had for less than $10 from Menards. Then you need a plate to lift your work surface up above the bottom of the drum. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to hold your workpiece even against the sander, so your edge won’t be smooth. (Trust me. See photo number three with this slide.)
Luckily, this sanding plate is easy to make. Here’s how I made one in less than five minutes.
(A more conversational version of this tutorial previously was published on my website.)
Step 1: Parts
You don't need much to make a drill press sanding plate.
Drum-sander bit. As previously mentioned, these can be had for fairly cheap from hardware stores or online. Alternately, you can make your own sanding drums and sleeves using dowels and sandpaper.
Circle cutter or hole saw. Adjustable circle cutters are fairly cheap at $24 a piece from Amazon.
You could go even cheaper by buying a specifically-sized hole saw for less than $10, but that’s not as versatile.
Chunk of plywood. I used a ¾-inch piece, but you could go much thinner.This should be big enough to support your work as you sand around the spindle. Better for it to be too big than too small. I used a leftover plywood-circle experiment for mine.
Roll of adhesive-backed magnet strip. Virtually any magnets will do. But if you don't have any scrap magnets to work with, a roll of magnet strip can be a versatile thing to keep around the shop, and it can be had for about $10 from a craft store.
Glue. You'll need this to secure a magnet to the back of the plate. I used wood glue.
Step 2: Cut a Hole
In this step, you'll use your circle cutter or hole saw to cut a drum-sized hole into the center of the plywood. I recommend using a circle cutter, so I'll proceed assuming you have one.
First, set the depth on your circle cutter to match the thickness of your plywood. Then set the width of the cutter to match the width of your sanding drum. (Popular Woodworking offers a nice article about how to use a circle cutter, if you've never used one before.) You want the hole to be a bit bigger than the drum so the two aren't constantly rubbing together.
Next, make a mark in the center of the plywood. If you are using a rectangular chunk of wood, just draw and X, making lines from corner to corner. The center of your X is the center of the rectangle. If you use a circular piece, like I did, you'll have a tougher time. Do your best to measure across the circle, drawing a line along the widest part in two separate places. The intersection of those two lines is fairly close to your center.
Place a scrap piece of wood under your plywood. And finally, cut your hole. You'll see in my video that I forgot to set the depth of the circle cutter, so my drill press started to bottom out.
In the end, the circle cut out looked like an "Oreo Woodcookie," one friend told me.
Step 3: Add Magnets
I used adhesive strip magnets on the back of the plate to hold it down. Without this, the plate will slide around with your workpiece. While the magnets aren't very strong, ganging them up multiplies their magnetic power and adds more friction via the magnets' surface area.
This type of magnet offers a nice balance between holding power and installation time. But if you are feeling ambitious, you could countersink some holes into the plate for carriage bolts, then bolt it to the table. Or you could glue on some stronger magnets. You could inset them flush with the bottom or leave them sticking out, as long as they provided enough support to keep the piece from rocking back and forth.
Step 4: That's It
Put your drum sander bit into the drill press chuck, raise your table up so the bottom of the sander lies below the top of the sander jig, and sand away.
FYI: Raising the table up to the sander, versus bringing the sander down to the table, is better for the drill press. The spindle will have more support against your horizontal pressure if it’s retracted in the upright position.