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JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander
Effectiveness, durability and unique capabilities
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 1-25-2008
Sanding wood flat can be a tedious and frustrating job. The JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander makes this chore simple. It is well built, easy to use and at 35"-wide by 24 3/4"-deep and 48"-tall, doesn't hog precious shop space. Its footprint belies its ability to smooth and flatten wood up to 32"-wide and between 3" and 1/32"-thick!
The JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander actually has two motors. A full 1-1/2HP (110V) motor powers the drum, turning it at 1725 RPM. Keep in mind that JET rates their motors using a continuous duty cycle rather than the spooky "max developed" or "peak" figures so many other manufacturers conjure up. A direct drive 43 in-lbs motor drives the conveyor belt.
Both motors are controlled with switches mounted in a box on the front of the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander. A simple pull on, push off switch (with safety key) controls the drum only. An infinite speed control dial regulates the speed (material feed rate) of the conveyor from 0 to 10 feet per minute.
JET also incorporates their Sandsmart™ technology into the conveyor control. This circuitry monitors the load on the conveyor and drum. When the loads reach a preset point, the Sandsmart™ circuit adjusts the conveyor speed to avoid over feeding the wood into the drum. This not only reduces stress on the entire machine, it helps prevent burning of the wood and abrasive. A light on the switch box illuminates when the Sandsmart™ system engages.
Even the conveyor belt was given special attention. In addition to being remarkably tough and virtually slip-free, the mechanics of the conveyor make using it easier. Simple tension adjusters on the outer edges of the conveyor table have captured wrenches that make them essentially tool free. Adjusting conveyor belt is easy but this will not be a frequent task. Adjusting the belt tensions may be necessary when it stretches but that is about it.
JET designed special belt Trackers™ that keep the belt running straight in most cases. These ceramic pieces are hidden below the table but seem to do a very good job. Once tracking is set initially you can concentrate on sanding, not correcting the belt setup.
The 5"-diameter by 16"-long sanding drum is made from a special aluminum extrusion that is precisely machined and balanced to keep it running smoothly. The drum is supported in large, permanently lubricated ball bearings that maintain that smoothness down the road.
The abrasive strips are secured to the drum with finger operated clips within the drum. The clip on the motor end of the drum also applies tension on the sanding strip to keep it tight on the drum. This clip can be a little hard to reach, especially for those with arthritis so JET developed the TufTool™ (98-0060) that makes installing abrasive strips far less strength intensive.
The housing above the drum has a molded in 4"-diameter dust port. The JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander is capable of generating lots of dust but when connected to a good dust collector, the housing and port do a very good job of evacuating the vast majority of that debris.
Stand and Mobility
The JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander comes with an open leg stand fitted with adjustable, rubber-tipped feet at each corner. The stand has a large shelf that helps stiffen the assembly in addition to providing storage space.
If mobility is an issue in your shop, JET offers a very nice set of casters. These full swivel casters have large polyurethane-covered wheels and effective foot-operated locks on each caster. Locking all four casters makes the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander very stable during use.
JET has a set of all-steel extension tables (#98-1601) for the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander. These tables come with steel mounts that bolt directly to the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander and make aligning their surfaces with the conveyor simple. Even better is that when installed, the extension tables increase the overall support surface to 42". If you do a lot of long work, these tables are a very good idea.
In the Shop
Using the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander for a little while reveals its true versatility. Being able to change grits and feed rates, along with its huge material size capability means you can do lots of jobs more accurately - and easier - than with other machines or by hand.
The really trick part of the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander design is the open end that lets you sand pieces up to 32" wide. With the conveyor moving the stock, you can safely sand pieces down to 2 1/4"-long. Shape doesn't matter to the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander either.
Taking two passes to sand wide pieces can require adjusting the drum slightly but the system for doing that is very easy to understand and use. All you are doing is tilting the drum slightly (very small amount) to prevent leaving a faint line at the end of the drum. In reality, sanding that line out with very fine paper on an ROS is very easy and quick.
Changing the abrasive strips on the drum takes a small amount of practice to be proficient. I think the learning curve here is about the same as installing a new sheet of sandpaper on a palm sander. Do it a few times and it goes quickly.
One of the things I really like about the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander is being able to create a nicely smoothed surface that is truly flat and parallel to the opposing surface. To be ready for finish I have had to lightly work the surface with 320-grit paper on my ROS (random orbital sander) but that is it. Literally minutes after coming out of the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander you can have wood ready for finishing.
The JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander is a very well made, versatile machine with a remarkably small learning curve. The street price of $849.00 (1-24-2008, without the casters and extension tables) makes this an exceptional value because of the wide range of sanding tasks it can handle. The JET durability means it will continue doing those tasks for a long time with little maintenance.
If you are considering adding a sanding machine to your shop, take a hard look at the JET 16-32 Plus Drum Sander. The impact on your projects and attitude in the shop will be favorably influenced today and for a long time to come.
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