What’s a Spindle Sander?

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A spindle sander is a rotating drum covered in sandpaper used for smoothing round cuts, curved edges, and deep holes. Oscillating spindle sanders reduce burning and band marks. They come in freestanding, benchtop, and portable models. Prices range from $150 to $3,000 USD. Sanding drums come in different diameters and grain sizes. Existing shop tools can be converted into spindle sanders.

A spindle sander is basically a rotating cylindrical drum covered in a sleeve of sandpaper. It is used for smoothing saw marks on round cuts, smoothing rough curved edges, and smoothing the inside surfaces of deep holes. A spindle sander is often used in finishing woodwork and home improvement projects that include rounded wood such as those found in trim, furniture legs, and stair treads.

Sanding drums are traditional woodworking tools that have been used as accessories for a drill press. A drawback of this arrangement is that the sanding always takes place in the same place on the drum, which can cause burn marks on the wood and uneven wear of the sanding sleeve. This problem can be solved by using an oscillating spindle sander.

An oscillating spindle sander moves the drum up and down as it rotates. This reduces the static friction that causes burning and eliminates band marks. It also extends the life of the sanding sleeve by spreading the wear over a larger surface area.

Spindle sanders can be freestanding floor machines, benchtop models, or handheld portable models. Floorstanding models are high-end machines with similarly high price points and are commonly found in larger industrial stores. Desktop and portable models are more convenient and take up less space. This has allowed the spindle sander to become an addition to the home woodworking shop.

Benchtop models have a base that usually includes storage for mandrels, sleeves, drum plates, and table inserts. The sanding drum sits atop a washer-like drum plate in the center of a table that provides support for the wood to be sanded. The sleeves fit over the drum and the table inserts slide down over the drum and sleeve to close the open space between the varying size drums and the table.

The portable spindle sander is a hand sander that looks similar to a regular sander with the spindle protruding underneath it. The flat surface of the tool is held against the flat surface of the wood and the mandrel is slid along the curved profile to smooth it. Portable oscillating sanders are also available.

A bench chuck sander can cost upwards of $150 US Dollars (USD). A typical price for over-the-counter and portable models is between $250 and $400 USD. Floor-standing shop models can cost upwards of $3,000 USD.

Sanding drums come in various diameters, the most common being 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) and 1 1/2 inch (3.8 cm). Sleeves are relatively inexpensive and come in different grain sizes such as 50, 80 and 120. Smaller size drums are used for smaller bends; bigger drums for wider turns.

The home woodworker who doesn’t have a dedicated spindle sander can convert an existing shop tool, such as a router or drill press, into a spindle type sander. On a milling machine, the chuck is placed in the collet and clamped with the mill table positioned just above the bottom of the chuck. On a drill press, the chuck is placed in the chuck and clamped with the table positioned just below the bottom of the chuck.

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