Drum sander: Drill powered!

Recently, while holidaying in Australia, I was telling Dad about some of the DIY tools I’ve been studying, and might well make. One of them was a drum sander. Dad had one for years, mounted vertically on a homemade wood stand, which had slowly become rickety with age, and was powered by a rather nice electric motor. I’ve used it myself on several occasions. What I didn’t expect was Dad saying that I could have his. I was surprised at his offer, but gratefully accepted!

The project of making a new stand for the sander happened on two separate days, and about 3 weeks apart. My first attempt at mounting a power drill as a power source for the sander failed miserably, so I set the project aside while I considered other options.


To start with, I pulled apart a small pallet that had been dumped in our area. I chose this not just because it was free, but also because I wanted the finished product to remind me of the simple stand Dad had made, even though mine is somewhat different in design. I wanted it from the start not to be free-standing as Dad had it, but to be something that could be clamped down to a solid table, and therefore be easy and relatively compact for packing away when not in use. I don’t have a workshop, only my carport, where I temporarily set up my workshop tools when I use them, and then pack them away again in a small store room when finished.


First step was to take one of the panels from the pallet, with the three spacer blocks still attached, and screw down the sander.


Next, under the middle block I screwed a piece of wood horizontally to be the baseplate which will be clamped down to the table for use. To this I screwed two of the remaining blocks from the pallet, one on each end of the baseplate, in readiness for the table surface.


The next step was to cut the table. I had a square offcut of hollow shelf left over from making my wife’s desk (New desk for Nok!). I cut into it so that it would fit around the sander, and then filled the hollows with short offcuts of pallet wood, which thankfully happened to be just the right thickness!


 The table surface was then screwed down to the blocks on the baseplate.


I clamped my drill down to my table, and inserted into the chuck a bolt with 3 pieces of plywood fastened onto it. The outer two are thin 3-ply, the inner one is 5-ply. I had pre-cut them roughly to shape, but by spinning the assembly in the drill, and using an ordinary mortising chisel, and some sanding paper, I turned up a fairly decent belt pulley. When the going gets tough you’ve just got to get creative lol.

At this point things started going bad. I had seen some tutorials/videos of DIY woodturning lathes. In some of them the power drill was clamped down by a two-piece clamp made of wood cut to fit the handle shaft on the drill. I’m sure that this works fine in the horizontal position needed for a lathe, but when hung vertically it proved disastrous, the clamp simply couldn’t hold the drill steady. The result was so embarrassing I apparently didn’t bother taking any photos! That finished my attempts that weekend.

So, the following weekend, victory!


After removing the embarrassment from the stand I proceeded to make a new clamp, only this time I had purchased a pipe clamp, this was the other method I had seen on DIY lathes, and I hoped this would be more successful. To start, I made a new bottom plate with a long cut in it so that it would be adjustable, and to one end of it I screwed the last remaining block from the planet. To mount the pipe clamp onto the block I used the small part of a bolt latch, but not the one in the photo, I used a smaller square one for which I had no bolt! I flattened it out and then bent it at 90 degrees. Why? I couldn’t see the point in driving to a shop spending money of fuel to buy a little component I could easily fashion myself out of something I had laying around doing absolutely nothing!


To mount this new component to the stand I needed to countersink the head of my bolt quite deep into the block, again, I didn’t have a longer bolt, I simply used what I had on hand, and it works, so no problems there. So, I now have the drill mounted more securely on the stand, everything is in place, time to power-on and try it out!


After running it for several minutes it is clear that a little more fine adjustment is needed, but overall it is working fine. The last thing I need to do, which really should have been the first thing, is to fix the thick felt that is peeling away from the drum, and a few other age-related repairs to the drum, but all in good time. Lastly, I need to sort out some kind of clamp to hold the trigger on so that I can use both hands for sanding rather than one of my hands holding the trigger the whole time as in the video.

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