What Is a Drum Sander and Do I need to Buy One

A drum sander is a useful woodworking tool if you must sand large, flat surfaces. The sander works using a circular metal cylinder that has sandpaper attached to it. For example, when sanding solid hardwood floors, the drum sander is a sanding machine that looks like a large walk-behind lawnmower. However, smaller drum sanders can also be fitted to a workbench — ideal for working with misshapen wooden pieces.

Without a doubt, a drum sander can make a tremendous difference to your workflow. And if you must sand a parquet or hardwood flooring, using a high-quality one is essential. However, it’s expensive and may not be cost-effective depending on its use. In these cases, a good-quality belt sander may be a better choice. 

Drum Sander for floors

Do you want to take your woodworking hobby to the next level? If so, knowing the pros and cons of using a drum sander can help you decide if it’s necessary for your woodworking projects. 

What Is a Drum Sander

A drum sander is a powerful tool that uses sandpaper or an abrasive material attached to a sanding drum.

The drum spins around at high speeds to remove thin layers from the surface of the wood. Sometimes, the drum sander is a floor sander for sanding flooring boards. Other types of it sit on a workbench and are used for sanding long pieces of wood.

The difference between a belt sander and a drum sander is how the sandpaper is attached. As the name suggests, a belt sander uses sandpaper that moves continually around two rollers. Both types of sanders allow you to use sandpapers with various levels of abrasiveness. 

The difference between an orbital sander and a drum sander is the sanding method. A rotary sander rotates a disc on its axis and uses a grinding motion to remove a light surface layer from solid wood. Compared to a drum sander, an orbital sander is less aggressive.

How Does a Drum Sander Work

A drum sander works by creating friction between the sandpaper and the wood surface being smoothed. The abrasive surface is either the drum made from zirconia, silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, or abrasive sandpaper. The drum rotates at high speeds to remove layers from the surface of the wood. 

What Is a Drum Sander Used For

A drum sander is a large power tool typically used for finishing wooden flooring. You can also use one in a workshop to thin long wooden planks. However, using a drum sander as a planer is not a great idea, as you could damage the wood surface. 

Typically, there are two types of drum sanders for use on wood — a floor sander and a bench-top drum sander. 

Drum Floor Sander

A drum floor sander is the best way to restore, repair, or revitalize an existing wood floor. For example, you would use this type of sander if the floor has pits, grooves, or discoloration. The upright drum sander with low-grit sandpaper will remove several layers of varnish or lacquer to reveal the bare wood. 

It is important to note that a wood floor can only be sanded aggressively two or three times in its lifetime. Therefore, using a drum floor sander should only be done when necessary. Otherwise, you risk sanding too much from the surface, ruining the tongue-and-groove joints, and impacting the wood floor’s integrity.

If you are a DIYer wanting to restore flooring boards, it is vital to note that a drum sander is a powerful tool. Typically, only professional floor restorers use these walk-behind sanding machines. However, if you have some woodworking experience, you can use the floor sander with care on flooring boards. 

In some cases, it may be easier for DIYers and woodworking novices to use an upright orbital sander. This can also achieve excellent results when sanding a hardwood floor. Additionally, you reduce the risk of the sanding drum damaging the floor. 

Drum Bench-Type Sander

The reason to use a bench-type drum sander in a workshop is to perform many large sanding tasks effortlessly. Typically, it is easy to change the sandpaper based on the required grit. In addition, this type of sanding machine allows you to sand wood using both hands rather than holding a corded sander and the work piece. 

Bench type Drum Sander

Stand-alone drum sanders or bench-top models can be exceedingly large and bulky. Therefore, before deciding on buying this type of sander, you must consider the workshop size, your budget, and your sanding requirements.

Typically, a bench-type sander is useful if at least 25 percent of your time is spent sanding wood. 

Do You Push or Pull a Drum Sander?

You must pull the machine to sand the wood surface. The sanding drum should rotate in the opposite direction as you move the sander. Additionally, you should pull the sander along the grain of the wood. And just like mowing the lawn, each sanding pass should overlap by an inch to ensure an evenly smooth finish.

More Helpful Tips on Using a Drum Sander

You should always take care when using a drum floor sander. The powerful machine can remove more wood than a random orbit sander or belt sander. Therefore, it’s easy to leave groves and deep scratches on the hardwood floor that will be difficult to remove.

Here are some top tips to get the best results on your next sanding project:

·        Have enough sandpaper: Ensure you have plenty of sandpaper to complete the sanding job. Low-grit sandpaper is the roughest and perfect for removing top layers from flat wood surfaces. However, you will also need higher-grit sandpaper when finishing the project with a belt or orbital sander. 

·        Wear safety equipment: It is essential to wear a dust mask, goggles, ear protection, and sturdy footwear when sanding with heavy-duty equipment. Sawdust not only irritates your airways but could contain potentially toxic chemicals. In addition, eye protection will stop shards of wood or splinters from causing damage to your eyesight.

·        Sand along the grain: Always pull the sanding machine in the direction of the wood grain. This prevents you from making unsightly marks on the floor that will be difficult to remove. 

·        Use property sanding techniques: It is vital to avoid getting too close to the baseboards, doors, walls, or any other features you don’t want to sand. Additionally, always keep the machine moving while sanding; otherwise, you may end up with burn or drum marks. Once the drum sanding phase is completed, you can tackle the edges of the wood floor with a belt sander. 

What Kind of Sandpaper Do You Use

The best level of abrasiveness when sanding with a sanding drum is between 80 and 120 grit paper. This type of sandpaper will help you easily achieve the depth of thickness required. However, if you use lower grit, you could end up with burn marks and remove large amounts of material from the surfaces on a single sanding pass.

To prepare the surface using an abrasive planer, you should use coarse 20 to 60-grit sandpaper. It is always important to choose the right type of sandpaper for the job at hand. You should use fine-grit paper when you reach the finishing stage. 

Pros and Cons of a Drum Sander

The questions you may be asking are: does my workshop need a drum sander? Should I invest in a sander with a drum roller to restore a hardwood floor? Examining the pros and cons of a sanding machine can help you make an informed choice. 


·        Get a clean, even finish on wood surfaces with little effort

·        Bench-top models are relatively inexpensive and easy to use

·        A dedicated dust collector helps improve air quality

·        Ideal for working with furniture and smoothing out hardwood flooring


·        A steep learning curve is necessary to get a professional-looking finish

·        The cost of drum sanders for sanding hardwood floors is expensive if only used rarely

·        It’s tricky to replace sandpaper compared to an orbital or handheld belt sander

·        More risk of making deep scratches on large surfaces

Should I Buy a Drum Sander to Sand My Floors or Hire One

A drum floor sander is the best way to restore elegance and life to a wooden floor. The sander will sand the surface to the bare wood like no other power tool can achieve. The sanding drum, abrasive material, and dust bag mean that you will achieve the best results in no time at all. 

But you might be asking the question: should you buy or hire a drum sander for a DIY wood floor restoration project? It is typically more cost-effective to hire a floor sanding machine rather than to buy one. Why is this?

Wood floors only require restoration every seven to ten years. Therefore, the chances are that you will rarely use it. Since floor sanders are expensive and bulky to store, hiring is always the best option for DIYers.


How Accurate Are Drum Sanders?

Large, stand-alone drum sanders are highly accurate for sanding furniture pieces. It is possible to achieve accuracy up to 0.005” — in other words, five-thousandths of an inch. This makes a bench-top drum sander necessary for cabinet makers, furniture restorers, and joiners. They are also the best types of sanders for sanding along or across the grain. 

What Does a Drum Sander Look Like?

There are two types of drum sanders, depending on the woodworking project. For sanding hardwood flooring, the sander looks like a walk-behind lawnmower. This contains a drum sander strip for sanding flooring boards. The other type of drum sander sits on a workbench where you feed the work-pieces through the sanding mechanism.

Can I Use a Drum Sander on My Deck?

Although you can, it is not the best option. The floor sander may be too harsh and damage the soft wood — typically pine — that decks are made from. If you need to restore and refinish a deck, it’s best to use a handheld belt sander. 

Drum Sander Tool For Woodworking Projects — In Conclusion

There are many reasons to use a drum sander if you are a woodworking hobbyist. A drum sander is ideal for restoring wood floors. Still, they’re also great for finishing projects such as cabinets, furniture, and more. You’ll find that a drum sander is a versatile tool that will give you the ability to create beautiful woodwork projects.