Introduction: Lathe Drum Sander

About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics and Aerospace Engineer. I make things out of wood and electronics and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving).

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



  • Lathe
  • Nova Chuck
  • Table Saw
  • Drill
  • Hack Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Band Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Hole Saw
  • Spring Clamps

Step 2: Turn End Caps

To make the drum, mount a piece of plywood or hardwood between centers and secured to the head stock with turners tape. Once mostly round, turn a recess in the center so it can be mounted to the nova chuck. Mount the end cap to the nova chuck and turn round. Reduce the size until it fits inside a piece of 4 in. PVC pipe. Repeat this step for the second end cap but do not cut the recess.

Step 3: Secure End Caps

Cut a length of PVC pipe suitable for your lathe. For my lathe, a 13 in. length of 4 in. PVC pipe was suitable for this project. Drill pilot and clearance holes in the PVC drum and secure with screws.

Step 4: Turn PVC

The PVC pipe is not perfectly round. It needs to be reduced in size until it is completely round with the same diameter from end to end. Be extremely careful when turning this piece of PVC. I found the PVC to be extremely grabby and found the best tool was a skew turned on it's side and used like a scraper. If anyone has tips to help others replicating this step, please leave them here.

Step 5: Attach Sandpaper

Planning out this step is very important. Test wrap the paper around the drum and cut to length. Mark the seam where the edges meet and a registration location. Having these registration marks means the difference between a perfectly aligned paper, and one that looks bad and functions poorly. You will see a bad example in pictures throughout the rest of this instructable.

Apply 3-4 coats of spray adhesive to the drum and back of sandpaper. Carefully align the sandpaper to your previous registration marks and wrap the drum.

You can make as many drums as you like with varying grits of sandpaper. This makes for quick and easy sandpaper changes.

Step 6: Base and Table

The base of this sander was made from an old bed. A old door or similar piece of wood would work just as well, as all you are looking for is stiffness. Cut the base as wide as your lathe will handle, mine is roughly 22 in. wide. Cut inch wide strips off each edge of the base. Attach them to the melamine top for added rigidity to the top. I folded a piece of paper twice to act as a shim when attaching the second rail for minimal clearance.

Drill holes for the mounting carriage bolts through the base. These will be what secures the base and table on the lathe. Pay attention to your lathe. I first drilled a hole in each side, however my lathe has the motor underneath one side which didn't accommodate the location of this hole. I had to re-drill a hole in the center because of this. Make sure that the holes have clearance under the lathe for easy access.

Step 7: Base Hardware

To secure the base to the lathe bed, cut a strip of wood that will act as a guide for the bolts. Cut this strip slightly smaller than the channel in the bed of the lathe. Cut two locking washers out of sheet metal that fit under the channel of the lathe bed. Using some screws, secure the washers to the guide so they do not rotate.

Step 8: Attach Table to Base

Attach the base and table to the lathe. Tighten with a ratchet and socket.

Cut the piano hinge to the width of the base and attach it to each corresponding piece.

Step 9: Table Support Surface

These metal pieces are secured to the base as a bearing surface for the adjustment screws. No specific size is required as long as they protect the base. They will take all the force applied to the table. Attach one in each corner of the base (non-hinged side).

Step 10: Adjustment Screws

The height of the table will be adjusted by two screws coming through the table pressing against the metal plates from the previous step. They are secured to the underside of the table using 3/8 in. t-nuts. Drill clearance holes for each of the prongs and secure the t-nuts with lath screws.

These adjustment screws were rounded on the end using a bench grinder.

Step 11: Return Springs

Attach two springs to the table and base. This will help the table return to the bottom position when lowering with the adjustment knobs. Drill pilot holes and secure with pan head screws. Use 3 in. long screws to attach the springs, this will distribute the spring force deeper into the fragile melamine particle board and end grain.

Step 12: Attach Guides

Attach guides to the table. I did not glue these in place so they could be replaced in the future if needed. I originally secured them with brads but later secured them with removable machine screws. You will need more clearance than shown in the second picture because I forgot to take into account the usage of knobs. Turn the lathe on and raise the table until it sands clearance cut outs under the drums. Do this very slowly because you do not want to sand into the melamine table.

Step 13: Dust Collection/Guard

The dust collector/guard was made from MDF. 22 in. long strips were cut 2 7/8 in. wide with 67.5 degree on each edge. The two vertical pieces have the same 67.5 degree cut but only on 1 side and are 3 1/2 in. wide.

Stretch tape long the back and apply glue. Roll up the guard and secure with brad nails to dry.

Step 14: Tailstock End Cap

Cut both end caps from an extra piece of MDF. Set a 1/2 in. piece of scrap wood on top of the drum and place the dust collector on the drum. This will provide clearance for positioning openings. Drill a hole just larger than your tailstock and open it on the bottom with the band saw. Secure it in place with glue and nails.

Step 15: Tailstock Rest

Because the scrap piece of wood supporting the guard on the drum will need to be removed; create a rest that will support the collector on the tailstock. The design of this will depend on your lathe. Mine has a cutout for the tightening screw on the tailstock. Secure this rest to the dust collector.

Step 16: Headstock End Cap and Rest

Repeat this same process with the headstock side of the dust collector. I only added the top and front for my rest on the headstock; I wanted access to change the belts if needed without removing the dust collector.

Step 17: Cut Dust Collector Port

Using a hole saw, cut a port for the dust collector. Glue tabs inside the dust collector so the vacuum hose doesn't fall into the sanding drum.

Cut clearance notches for the guides if needed.

Step 18: Apply Finnish

Fill all holes and cracks with a wood filler or bondo; once dry sand smooth. I used a Bin primer because it does extremely well and sealing MDF. Paint with your desired color scheme. For the table, I taped off the melamine and painted the edges.

Step 19: Knobs

I ended up being lazy for my knobs and 3D printed them. I've attached the STLs if you'd like to print your own.

Epoxy the head of the bolt into the knob and then epoxy the bottoms in place. Clamp until dry.

These knobs have a great feature that allows you to drive them up and down with a standard 1/2 in. socket in a drill. This makes changing heights very easy.

If you don't want to 3D print your own or don't have access to a printer, you can use the method outlined in step 8 of this instructable.

Step 20: Ready, Set, Sand!

You are now ready to sand using your lathe. This turned out better than I could have imagined. I'm not worried about losing a finger, and the dust collection is great! Doing the math, each full turn of the knob raises the middle of the table toward the sanding drum 0.03509 (a little more than 1/32) of an inch giving great freedom for fine tuning flat boards.

As with any project, there are many ways this could be improved. I originally wanted to design a conveyor belt that would drive the wood under the drum, but I couldn't think of a simple and inexpensive way to do that. A conveyor belt would also prevent the problem of kick back. I haven't experienced this problem yet (unintentionally) but it is a concern especially when sanding larger pieces of wood. If anyone has suggestions on some way to hold the wood down similar to rollers on planer, I'd love to hear them!

What attachments have you made to make your tools more useful? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Epilog Challenge 9

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Epilog Challenge 9