Drum Roll, Please
By Brad Holden
Drum sanders for small shops have been
available for quite a few years now, but it’s
been a long time since any of them have been
improved in any significant way. The engineering
team that first brought the Performax
drum sanders to market now work for a
new company, SuperMax, and they have just
released their long-awaited upgrade to the
basic open-end drum sander: the SuperMax
19-38. I’ve been using one for a few months
now, and I can report that it’s one heck of a
If you’re not familiar with what drum
sanders are used for, I’d like to point out that
a drum sander isn’t really a substitute for a
planer—it’s a partner. A planer can remove
a lot of material, fast; a drum sander works
much slower. But there are three important
ways that a drum sander can supplement
• A drum sander will never tear out the
grain—even on highly figured wood—and
can leave an incredibly smooth surface. The
19-38 uses sandpaper strips that range from
24 grit (for surfacing roughsawn boards)
through 80 grit (for removing planer ripples)
and on up to 220 grit (for finish sanding
cabinet doors, for example).
• An open-end drum sander can handle very wide
material. You just run your stock through twice, flipping
the piece around between passes so each side
goes under the sanding drum. The 19-38 can handle
pieces up to 38" wide this way, or up to 19" wide in a
• A drum sander can also process very short material.
The 19-38 can sand pieces as short as 2-1/4" long.
The first thing I noticed about the 19-38 was the
enormous amount of cast iron used in its construction.
(It weighs 286 lbs., without a base!) This large
mass dampens vibration and stiffens the sanding
arm, enabling the machine to perform very precise
work. You’ll get less than .010" variation in thickness
across the sander’s width, according to SuperMax.
The second thing I noticed was the 19-38’s huge
motor. Rated at 1-3/4 hp, this motor pulls just about
as much power as you can get from 120 volt household
service. You’ll need that extra power when using
coarse 25 grit paper on wide stock. It’s best to dedicate
one 20 amp circuit in your shop just for this sander.
The last big thing I noticed was that the 19-38’s
head doesn’t tilt. On older open-end sanders, you’re
supposed to slightly tilt the head when sanding wide
stock to avoid overlap marks. The downside is that
you have to fiddle with bolts to tilt the head, then recalibrate
the machine to level the head when you are
done. The 19-38 is much easier to adjust: The bed
tilts, not the head, and it’s indexed. To tilt the bed
.003", all you do is fl ip a lever. To get back to level,
you flip it again. Simple!
The conveyor belt on the 19-38 is powered by a
separate, direct-drive DC motor, giving you an infinitely adjustable feed rate from 0-10 feet per minute.
For surfacing roughsawn boards, you select a fast feed
rate; for finish sanding, you use a slow to moderate
Available options include a set of casters, a closed
stand with casters, a digital readout and infeed/outfeed
SuperMax Tools, supermax.com, 888-454-3401, 19-38 Drum
Sander with Open Stand, #71938-D; Closed Stand with
Caster Wheels, #71938-CL; Caster Set – box of 4,
#98-0130; Digital Readout, #71938-DRO; Infeed/
Outfeed Tables, #71938-7.
Filed under: Tools, Sanders, Tool Review, Sanding, Tool Reviews, Well-Equipped Shop, woodworking, woodworking tools, woodworkers, wordworking, SuperMax, Grit paper