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Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

Posted by cuda71 (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 26, 07 at 18:44

I am an avid woodworker looking to make my own hardwood flooring. I have a planer, but hate how it snipes boards and don't like potential tearout especially when you are making your last pass or close to it. I am entertaining the idea of a thickness/drum sander to get the lumber to desired thickness.
I will need to process about 2000s.f. of lumber. Is a thickness sander a good way to go? If not, what about planer/moulders any experience with them? I am looking for something in the $1700 range.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

Snipe generally happens from misadjusted infeed/outfeed supports. And at the beginning or end of a single board. One way to almost do away with snipe is to feed boards end to end.

A sander does do away with snipe, however. Grizzly makes several decent drum sanders and the prices are lower than most.

You do realize you will need to do T&G edges---and a router is really not the machine for several thousand feet of stock(figuring a minimum of three passes per piece of stock.). A shaper is the minimum machine for that.

Plus making a relief cut on the underside of each piece---for ventilation.

All in all, DIY flooring is very expensive if you only do a couple of rooms. Plus hundreds of man hours. So, you can do that, but you will spend many more dollars than if you bought it.

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.


I am a professional furniture and custom millwork maker. I have made my own hardwood flooring and millwork throughout my own house. I can tell you that it is MUCH cheaper to make your own flooring and other woodwork provided you have two things: 1. access to the proper equipment. and 2. access to low priced material.

I live near a sawmill and the material i used was pretty low grade stuff. 3 common and in some cases burn grade (which is as bad as it gets-lol) but what many folks dont realize is that you can pick up 1000 board feet of burn lumber for maybe 50 dollars. alot of the material will be garbage but the average 10 ft long board will probably yield a 3 foot piece that is usable. so this is a very viable way to get material for flooring.
now all of the boards are random width- i have found that if i mill the flooring to 2 final widths it maximizes your final square footage. (i generaly make them 3 1/4" and 5").

here is more or less how do it.

1. sort
using a miter or chop saw (mine is a 12" slider) sort the material into three catagories. firewood- narrow- wide
i will not cut any sections shorter than 18" short boards are difficult to plane.

2. plane
run all material thru planer to thickness

3. straighten one edge
run all stock thru jointer (mine is an 8") to straighten one side

4 rip
rip first one width and then the other on a table saw (i would recommend at least a 3 hp 10" saw)

5. toungue, groove, and relief cuts
these are actually three different passes performed on a shaper. If you have access to a molder they can all be done at once. I used a shaper (if you use a shaper- dont even think about doing this by hand- you need a stock feeder)i generally do the tongue first- if the board has a crappy edge you can usually use that edge as the tongue and the crappy part gets removed- next do the groove- lastly do the releif cuts ( i use 1/2" cove bits for these-you can stack them on the spindle and do them all at once- i use 2 on a three inch board and 3 on a 5 inch) the relief cuts are necessary- they are not for air circulation but to strategically weaken the board- if they are not in place the boards in your floor will warp and pull their own nails out.

as far as snipe or tearout is concerned- you do not need to worry about it because it will sanded off during the installation process.

one thing i need to point out- buy a pair of calipers to measure the width of your stock after ripping and molding- if the machines are not setup properly you can get tapered boards- you dont want your boards to taper more than a couple of thousandths per foot.

I will tell you that the cost of equipment isnt cheap. but i have a floor in my house made from black cherry- its probably worth in the area of $6000 i have less than $1000 in materials. so if you do the math- after a couple of rooms the machinery will pay for itself.

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

In my area, oak fence planks (I think that's what gnome means by "barn grade") is not kiln dried. The non KD stuff is also prone to black stain, a fungus or bacteria that turns patches of the wood a silver gray that can't be removed. Unless you do a heck of a cull on the pile, you'll always have some, esp. in the new wood.
If you buy wood that isn't KD, you'll need to air dry it for a year before any milling can commence.
I don't know that making your own air-dried oak flooring this way would pay for most people, but it would really be an excellent way to get a black walnut floor cheap, since air drying yields spectacular results on walnut, whereas KD walnut is said to look "dead".

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

handymac: I am aware of the process required to get the lumber to the final product. The lumber will not at all be a problem for me since I saw my own. I have a well equipped shop with a shaper, just looking to buy yet another tool. The time isn't so much a concern to me, I feel it rewarding to have made my own flooring.

roaming gnome: Sounds like some good advice, especially the calipers. Sounds like a nice floor you have. I am doing mine out of Black Walnut. I am using my Black Cherry for the cabinetry. I agree that the final product will be MUCH cheaper than buying it. Black Walnut flooring is currently running about $5.95/s.f. where I have checked. I won't have even 15% of that in mine.

Casey: My walnut lumber has been drying for over 5 years. I think it will be a great floor.

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

hmmmm- i dont know what "barn grade" is. I spoke about BURN grade. this stuff is not good enough to rate 3 common grade and if they dont sell it - they burn it. And just so that you know- lumber is graded after it is kiln dried in order to grade out things like checking and honeycomb. i only buy kiln dried myself- but i do know people who dry their own and the final product is indistinguishable- (im just impatient-lol)

good luck with your floor

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

I know what Casey is talking about. KD is said to rob walnut of its color. Air drying is favorable for walnut if you have the time. I have a dry kiln, but do not put the walnut in it unless its requested. I use a Mini Ligno DX moisture meter (digital) and regularly bring my air dryed wood down to desired specs.

RE: Thickness/Drum Sander questions.

i have never tried it myself-but i have read that if you steam walnut it will darken the sapwood to the same color as the heartwood. form what i understand it will darken in this manner after being kiln dried also.

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