The drum doesn’t move up and down like a true spindle sander, but it also doesn’t cost $100.

How to turn your drill press into a sander in five minutes

A drill-press sanding plate will lift your workpiece above the bottom edge of your sanding drum. Without something like this, you’ll get uneven edges when you sand.

Drill presses are great for drilling holes.

They’re also good for other tasks. One flashy example: A drill press can work as a lathe in a pinch.

Another (slightly more practical) use is as a makeshift spindle sander. First, you need a sanding drum, which can be had for less than $10 from Menards. Then you need a plate to lift your work surface up above the bottom of the drum. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to hold your workpiece even against the sander, so your edge won’t be smooth. (Trust me.)

Luckily, this sanding plate is easy to make. Here’s how I made one in less than five minutes.

1. Find a suitable piece of wood. This should be big enough to support your work as you sand around the spindle. Better for it to be too big than too small. I used a leftover plywood-circle experiment for mine.

The plywood disc: Before, left, and after. This circle of wood was the result of a failed table-saw-circle-cutting experiment. The shape made it tricky to find the center of the board. If you pick a quadrilateral piece of wood, you can find the center by drawing lines from corner to corner across the middle of the board.

2. Drill a hole the size of your sanding drum into the wood. Adjustable circle cutters are fairly cheap at $24 a piece from Amazon. You could go even cheaper by buying a specifically-sized hole saw for less than $10, but that’s not as versatile.

The byproduct of the circle cutting. My friend Dave von Falkenstein dubbed it an “Oreo woodcookie.”

3. Attach some adhesive-backed magnet strips to the back. My strips started to peel up fairly quickly, so I used some wood glue to hold them down.

Strip magnets are placed on the bottom of the board. I’m not sure if these will be strong enough for every project, but they are working for everything I have tried so far.

That’s it. Put your drum sander bit into the press, raise your table up so the bottom of the sander lies below the top of the sander jig, and you can sand away. (FYI: Raising the table up to the sander, versus bringing the sander down to the table, is better for the drill press. The spindle will have more support against your horizontal pressure if it’s retracted in the upright position.)

The finished product.

I think the strip magnets provide a nice balance of holding power versus installation time. The large surface area of the strips seems to supply plenty of magnetic hold and friction to keep the plate from slipping around. But if you are feeling ambitious, you could countersink some holes into the plate for carriage bolts, then bolt it to the table, or you could glue on some stronger magnets. You could inset them flush with the bottom or leave them sticking out, as long as they provided enough support to keep the piece from rocking back and forth.

SUMMARY: A QUICK-AND-DIRTY DRILL-PRESS-SANDER PLATE

Difficulty: 1 stars out of 5. Pretty easy.

Skills required: Minor (very minor) woodworking skills.

Tools required: Drum-sander bit. Circle cutter or hole saw.

Supplies: Scrap plywood. (I used a ¾-inch piece, but you could go much thinner.) Roll of adhesive-backed magnet strip. Glue.

Cost: $10-$24 for the circle cutter or hole saw. A 25-foot roll of magnet strip can be had for $9 on Amazon, though shorter rolls are available for cheaper. If you don’t have scrap wood for the plate, you can buy a 4x2ft. sheet of plywood for $20 at Home Depot and have scrap for a year.

Was this worth doing? Oh yeah. This literally took me five minutes. Now I have a drum sander. No, it doesn’t oscillate like modern spindle sanders do, but it also didn’t cost me $170.

Have you done any quick-and-dirty projects lately? Let me know. Send me an email at areuter@madison.com or find me on Twitter at @andrewreuter.


This archive post was originally published at www.gazettextra.com on December 21, 2015.