Pneumatic Sanders: A Cushy Way to Smooth Curves
Pneumatic Sanders: Get pumped up for sanding
For sanding curves and contours, it's hard to beat a pneumatic sander. These inflatable sanding drums conform to curves, so you're a lot less likely to flatten a flowing form when you only want to smooth it. Use these tips to put a pneumatic drum sander to work in your shop.
You'll get pumped up for sanding with this drum You'll probably spend in the neighborhood of $70-$80 on a pneumatic drum sander. When you buy the drum, you need to know whether you'll use it on your lathe or drill press. Most drums come with a mandrel for lathe-mounting; some require an adapter kit for drill-press use.
Before you inflate the sanding drum, slide the sanding sleeve onto it. (Replacement sleeves cost about $15 for five.) Inflate the drum until it feels firm, but not solid-drum hard. Later, you can bleed some air to fine-tune the firmness to the job at hand.
A valve-stem extension (available from an auto-parts store) makes inflation easier on some drums. We sliced about 1/8" off the bottom of the plastic extension so it would screw onto the stem and fit down into the hole around it, as shown at left. After inflation, remove the valve extension, and cap the valve stem to keep sanding dust out.
A bicycle pump, left, works fine for inflating the drum -- it only takes a few strokes. Beware of high-pressure air from your shop's air compressor; you might blow out the drum's air bladder.