How to Use a Drum Sander — A Step-by-Step Guide

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If you’re looking to rejuvenate the appearance of your hardwood, I’d suggest using a tool that ensures a brilliant and uniformly thick finish. In my expert opinion, the drum sander is your best bet.

Handling a drum sander can be quite challenging due to its substantial size and it does necessitate a certain level of technical know-how. But don’t worry, in this guide, I’ll walk you through how to adeptly utilize this potent tool to effortlessly refinish your wood.

What is a Drum Sander and How Does it Work?

A drum sander is a big and powerful tool for sanding a wood floor to achieve a smooth and exquisite finish. It’s a type of floor sander that comes with a replaceable abrasive sheet that rips off the wood. Unlike an orbital sander, a drum sander works in a loop form, where the sandpaper continually rotates around the drum while removing the wood. 

The best drum sander is robust enough to rip wood off in two separate directions. It can create unrepairable grooves or sand out those streaks and imperfections that make your floor look old and worn out. It’s excellent for large floor areas. 

This sander is quite the powerhouse, and trust me, you’ll likely need a hand to load it into your vehicle if you decide to buy one. They don’t come cheap, and unless your budget allows, I’d recommend renting it. After all, from my experience, many only need this machine occasionally.

JET JWDS-2244 in a workshop

Okay! That’s how a drum sander works. I will explain how to use a drum sander to refinish your wood surface. 

How to Use Your Drum Sander

Let’s get started with how you can remove those paint streaks from your lovely hardwood

Step #1: Equip the Sander With Your Preferred Sandpaper

Sandpaper is the part that removes the wood. Its roughness is determined by grit. The rougher the grit, the more wood the sander removes. You can choose between 80, 120, 180, or 220-grit sandpaper. 

Ensure to equip your high-quality wood sander with the correct sandpaper grit to avoid removing more wood than you actually planned for. To add the sandpaper, tilt the machine backward and open the front guard, tuck one end of the grit beneath the metal plate and push it down. 

person holding the hood of JET JWDS-1632

Tighten the screws and wrap the grit around the drum. Loosen the screws again to tuck the other end underneath the metal plate tightly and smoothly. Tighten the screws, and you are one step from sanding.

Read recommended products: 

Reliable orbital sandpaper 

Step #2: Check the Height Adjustments on Your Sander

To ensure a smooth and efficient sanding process, it is important to adjust the height of your sander properly. Avoid bending or struggling by setting the size comfortably, allowing easy maneuverability. Doing so will allow you to complete your sanding job more efficiently and finish within your desired timeframe.

Step #3: Don Proper Eye and Ear Protection

If you typically work with safety gear, avoid that with a drum sander. It can create sparks when it hits a nail, and this act can shoot up particles that can penetrate the eyes. Additionally, the noise it generates can impact hearing if not careful. For these reasons, you should don proper eye and ear protection. 

Step #4: Plug and Start the Sander

Before you even think about plugging in that sander, let me give you a piece of advice: always use the right extension cord. I’ve seen how much power a drum sander can draw, and believe me, using an inferior or short extension can lead to it melting, risking an electrical fire. Typically, these sanders come with their own electrical cords. If yours doesn’t have one, make sure to get the suitable one as per the manufacturer’s guidance.

drum sander switch button

Plug the extension cord to the power outlet, tilt the machine to prevent the sander from touching the floor, and switch on the equipment. 

Step #5: Feed the Board to the Sander

Next is to mount the sander on the board. You should only do this when the drum is rotating. If it’s stationary, and you mount it on your hard floor, it would create streaks. 

Step #6: Sand Both Sides

  • Sand along the grain of the wood. With a sander, you are not pushing but pulling. Pull it in straight lines, and sand uniformly or in a pattern. 

When sanding, you are pulling the sander in the opposite direction of the drum’s motion [1]. Remember to rest your arms after some time and empty the dust bag when full or near full. 

Feed the board back to the machine if it needs further refinement.

See also: 


Is a drum sander hard to use?

A drum sander isn’t hard to use, but it takes longer to give your surface a smooth finish. Drum sanding is an effective way of preparing the surface for finishing while achieving consistent thickness and levelness. 


Using a drum sander can be tough at first, but it takes getting used to it. During subsequent use, you will find it much easier handling it. 

Reviving that old floor of yours and restoring it to its former glory is possible with a drum sander. With this step-by-step guide by me, I’m certain that you now know how to use a drum sander. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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