Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Questions about tools and jigs you want to buy/build/modify.
Matthew Lau
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Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hey MIMF,

Recently, I found that I really want a thickness sander.
While some guys can be fine with handplanes or a safety planer/gilbert disk on a drill press, I'm too much of a clutz.

Would you recommend buying or building a thickness sander?

-Matt

David King
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by David King »

Look for a used Performax 16-32 or the 18" Delta. These can sell for about what the parts for a home built would cost you.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Peter Wilcox »

You're a dentist in the Bay area, so you can certainly afford one. If you build one it will take time away from other endeavors, like building guitars, and will probably never work right anyway. I bought a used one several years ago (Performax 16-32) - what a time saver - one of the best tool purchases I've ever made.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

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Randolph Rhett
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Randolph Rhett »

I'm not sure about a used one costing what the parts cost. A used 16-32 often lists on San Diego Craigslist for near new prices. That said, $1800 is about what dinner out in SF costs, right? At least that is what it seemed like to me on my last trip.

I built one, and have a huge tool that takes up space and is only barely useful. There are some master jig builders that can take two sheets of baltic ply and make a lunar orbiter for you. They can build a sander that outperforms a Perfomax all day long. That aint me. Sheet goods are foreign to me, and my shop isn't set up to cut anything that is much more than 24" long or 12" wide.

I don't actually use them much anymore, but for 99.99% of builders it is an absolutely essential tool. If I were looking into build/buy today I wouldn't hesitate to buy.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Bob Gramann »

I built one and used it for years. Eventually, I got tired of not having an automatic feed. I bought the Delta 18". I am very happy with it. It was worth the money.

Matthew Lau
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Randolph Rhett wrote:I'm not sure about a used one costing what the parts cost. A used 16-32 often lists on San Diego Craigslist for near new prices. That said, $1800 is about what dinner out in SF costs, right? At least that is what it seemed like to me on my last trip.

I built one, and have a huge tool that takes up space and is only barely useful. There are some master jig builders that can take two sheets of baltic ply and make a lunar orbiter for you. They can build a sander that outperforms a Perfomax all day long. That aint me. Sheet goods are foreign to me, and my shop isn't set up to cut anything that is much more than 24" long or 12" wide.

I don't actually use them much anymore, but for 99.99% of builders it is an absolutely essential tool. If I were looking into build/buy today I wouldn't hesitate to buy.

Thanks guys! I guess that I'll be saving up for a used (or new) performax.

As for making tons of money--dentists are pretty second or third tier in terms of income in the SF Bay Area.
The guys that makes lots of money are the techies, people at Google, and startup people.
After that, you get a lot of union workers like police and firefighters.
Of course, maybe I make less money because I don't like drilling health teeth? Or maybe I'm too honest?

Randy, what do you use now? hand planes? Just buying pre-thicknessed wood?

As for meals, I know some good cheap eats. However, most of the good stuff isn't in San Francisco.
Daly City has great Filipino food (greasy, but tasty). San Jose/Silicon valley has better Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian food.

If you want some good reasonably priced food, I recommend (Mission district for latino/mexican food); (Northbeach for Italian); Clement Street and Outer Richmond district for Chinese food. Feel free to PM me for recommendations.

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Randolph Rhett
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Randolph Rhett »

I don’t use the thickness sander because I build archtops almost exclusively. My bodies are mostly carbon fiber and maple composites or carved out of thick wood. I don’t need to have precisely thinned plates anymore.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Another rabbit hole to run down is using veneer to "build up" the thickness. Then you only need a good hand plane to plane down straight grained spruce - much easier than squirrelly grained hardwoods.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Bryan Bear »

Back in the old days here on the MIMF, there was a lot of talk about making thickness sanders. I read all the threads in the library so making one just seemed like the thing to do. I made mine out of mostly junk that was already lying around. I still use it to this day. It is a perfectly serviceable option for me because I am not trying to turn out a ton of production. A purchased sander would certainly be faster and probably less tedious/frustrating. But, I wouldn’t be able to afford a 25” wide drum and be able to run plates through sideways to get them down faster. It sure sounds like I am recommending building one; I’m not. I’m really glad I have mine but wish I had invested the time I spent making it into but losing up my chops thicknessing with hand planes. Now that I am more comfortable with hand planes, I could probably take that next step but I don’t. I can’t bring myself to thickness with them because the sander seems more convenient. In truth, the time would probably be about the same but the planes would be more relaxing and less messy.
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Arnt Rian
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Arnt Rian »

Build one if you can't afford to buy one, you like tinkering with stuff, or you have ideas for improvements on the commercial models. I built a basic one when I was starting out many years ago, because of those things (at least the first two), and its still going strong. I wouldn't mind a powered feed, or best of all, a wide belt sander though. You have to decide if you like building guitars or machines ;-)

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Michael Lazar
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Michael Lazar »

I built mine 25 years ago at a cost of under $250. I've made over 100 guitars with it. I find it incredibly useful. Each 1/2 turn of the screws changes the thickness by .05mm. It doesn't have an automatic feed and I prefer the additional control this provides.
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Eric Knapp
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Eric Knapp »

I will never have the space for a thickness sander. I have wonderful handplanes and can sharpen well. I’m in the process of learning to thickness by hand and it’s coming along. I think whatever approach you choose will take some time to assemble and perfect. It’s possible that the time it takes to get to point where you can do this consistently might be the same for all approaches. There’s an expression in my field that is probably appropriate here, “Pick a horse and ride it.”

-Eric

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Bryan Bear »

That's a good point about the control offered by not having a manual feed. I like that too on mine but it is tedious when you need to do a lot of passes. I remembered one thing I use mine for that I would have a hard time doing by hand (and can't be done with a power feed) is thicknessing the back of the peghead and shaping the curve of my volute with the drum.

I really like my shop made sander, I suppose I just don't like the task of thicknessing itself. . .
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Barry Daniels »

I also didn't appreciate power feed, until I got one. It makes thicknessing much more even. To do volutes I just turn the power feed off.
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Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I bought my Delta 18/36 before I ever read anything about building one.
I use it all the time. It is one of my "go to" tools.

While I don't have the satisfaction of saying I built it, I think the time it would take may be better used in bettering my guitar building chops.
In my case it is money well spent.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Simon Magennis
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Simon Magennis »

Neither.

Find a wood work place in a reasonable distance which is willing either to rent you time on their machine or run the stuff through for you at a reasonable price. I am thinking of the kind of machines they can run doors or bigger stuff through and electronic push button controls for the thickness.

Craig Bumgarner
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Craig Bumgarner »

I built mine a couple years ago, I've been very happy with it. Steady hand feed is just a matter of a little practice.

John Clifford
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by John Clifford »

I bought a Supermax 19-38 drum sander about a year ago, and I'm absolutely delighted with it. This is a really solid, well-made machine:

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/supe ... rum-sander

The Supermax company is owned by the same people who used to be Performax, before JET bought them out. In my opinion, the quality of the Supermax machines far surpasses the current JET/Performax models.

I build mostly archtops too, but I use the thickness sander for all sorts of things: sides, fretboards, bridge blanks, body blanks, neck blanks, braces, veneer, you name it. Best machine I ever bought. The whole point of a thickness sander is to be precise and consistent, so unless you are WAY better at building machines than I am, you should buy one rather than trying to make it.

Bob Hammond
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Bob Hammond »

Hmm, weren't you the guy who was wondering if it would be possible to build without a shop? These machines do take up space. Where would you use it and store it?

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Thickness sander-- build or buy?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I have a Ryobi 16/32 drum sander. One thing I like about it is it's compact design. It sits on top of a Med cart (2'X2' top) someone gave me and I can wheel it out of the shop and use it outside where the dust can blow away in the breeze. It is on the low end of drum sanders so if you can find one used they are usually reasonably priced.

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