Tom Sands from Tom Sands Guitars joins us to tell us more the Powermatic 31A Belt and Disc Sander. From his first impressions to telling us more about the sander’s performance and features, Tom explains what he likes most about the machine and why he’ll be using it to help create his bespoke guitars.
Tom Sands builds some of the most responsive custom acoustic guitars available in the world today. With a background in Industrial Design and award-winning luxury furniture making, Tom studied the art of fine lutherie as an apprentice to Master Ervin Somogyi in Oakland, California.
A review of the Powermatic Belt Disc Sander
I’ve had this sander for a couple of months now and can’t fault it. Feeling like somewhat of a luxury when I first bought it, I’ve come to wonder how I ever managed without it. Having struggled on with a smaller generic benchtop machine for years (you know the sort, nothing is flat, nothing stays put and dust extraction is non-existent…etc.), I finally decided to take the plunge on something more robust and more importantly, accurate.
A familiar name…
Having been familiar with the Powermatic brand from spending time working in the States, I was glad to see its arrival in the UK. I was even more pleased to see it set up at the Harrogate Woodworking show last year; confirming my assumptions about its solid build quality (in spite, perhaps of some initial reservations after the acquisition of Powermatic by Jet – I needn’t have worried).
If you’re in the market for a new belt or disc sander or indeed, a combination machine and you want something towards the professional end of the spectrum you may already have discovered that its slim pickings. Before discovering the Powermatic I had been trawling eBay for secondhand machines but couldn’t quite face the headache of the need for potential refurbishments. Nor did I want to risk taking a punt on a cheaper machine; especially given the less than perfect reviews of the lower priced alternatives.
The sander’s performance
This thing is solid. It runs beautifully, the belt tracked perfectly straight away and everything was true. Most importantly, the beds and platens are dead flat.
Dust extraction is good by means of a single 4” port connected to my Industrial series extractor. Table adjustments are smooth and return to 90° with a handy micro adjust stop. I use a magnetic digital angle finder to set the table angle and it works perfectly. I build acoustic guitars and so it was important that this machine had enough power to tackle 4” end grain Mahogany and accurate enough to delicately shape tiny pieces of bone, I can’t fault it on either account.
To allow me to safely work with tiny components, I have installed my own stop/guard on the belt portion of the machine. I have done this by replacing the cast iron stop with a timber one almost in direct contact with the belt.
The machine is shipped with 60 grit abrasive which is perhaps a touch aggressive for my needs but no problem, switching to 80 grit when these eventually wear out (which doesn’t appear to be any time soon!).
In conclusion, it’s become a mainstay in the workshop. I didn’t realise how useful it was until I got it. I use it daily for tasks big and small – both on the larger stock as well as delicate pieces. It’s accurate, it’s solid and well-made, versatile – and, in short, essential to my work now. Highly recommended.
What to read more?
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about what Tom had to say about this combination sander by Powermatic. To read more reviews of our products why not take a look at what Atelier Cabinet Makers had to say about the AT310SPT Spiral Planer Thicknesser. Or if you’re an avid woodturner, why not discover more about the Woodcut Max3 Bowlsaver, see what Max Bainbridge from Forest and Found thought about this time saving, cost effective way to get the most out of your wood blank!