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  1. #1
    Join Date
    10th October 2017
    Posts
    22

    What are the "best" benchtop sanders for rocket building?

    In another topic I asked you folks what shop tools you found most useful when building rockets. There seemed to be a general agreement that belt/disc sanders, drill presses, bandsaws and miter saws are used most often. I would like to use this topic to find out which benchtop sanders you use and why did you choose that particular brand/model. I plan to be putting together my own rocket building workshop and I want to be sure I outfit it with appropriate tools and equipment. Caveat: I am a firm believer in avoiding "cheap" tools but after doing a bit of research have come to accept that there is a big difference between "cheap" and "inexpensive".

    So, to start things off, I have seen that the Wen 6502 4 x 36-inch Belt and 6-inch Disc sander is top rated by many review sites compared to similar units from other manufacturers. It is certainly not what you would need in a commercial setting but is it a good choice for the kind of light duty use it would see in a rocket hobbyist's shop? At only $83 on Amazon it is certainly inexpensive but is it also "cheap"? Does it lack certain features that come in handy when building MPR and HPR rockets. What other sanders would be a better choice?

    Oh, and just to keep things from getting out of hand (out of wallet?) please make a distinction between tools needed for "typical" rockets (up to level 2?) and tools that might be needed for some of the monster rockets some of y'all are capable of building.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    16th February 2014
    Location
    Gilroy, CA
    Posts
    2,199
    That Wen looks fine to me. The Ryobi that HD sells looks like the exact same unit in a different color.

    Chris Attebery
    TRA 6602 L3
    Personal best: 37,789' 1335mph

    www.ape-rc.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    26th January 2010
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    13,180
    I really, really like my Rikon 6" x 48" sander. I've had one for years. But they're very expensive now, I only paid about half what they go for now. I like the extra surface area on the bigger belt. I'm sure there are less expensive 6" belt sanders out there.

    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/r...10-disc-sander

    I also use a 1" x 30" sander a lot. Much more than I ever thought I would. Everything from sanding around the tabs on fins, to odd shaped fins, to sharpening my lathe chisels.

    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/r...r-model-50-151
    NAR 91107, Level 2

    I really, really hate bugs.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    10th July 2007
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    1,267
    I got a 4" cheapie at Aldi which did me good for a few years. Only 1/2hp so very underpowered, and noisy.

    Splurged about $300, on special, from a machine tool supplier for a 6x48", 1hp. Probably one of the most used tools in my workshop.

    I think this was the one: https://www.machineryhouse.com.au/L107
    Click image for larger version. 

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    TRA 13430, Level 3

    "Everybody's simulation model is guilty until proven innocent" (Thomas H. Lawrence 1994)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    23rd February 2014
    Location
    Eastern Shore, MD
    Posts
    326
    I have the Porter-Cable 5 amp benchtop sander (belt and disc combo) that I bought from Lowes on a 50% off sale, It took a bit of fiddling to get everything square the first time and it is working well for me.
    Dennis Kingsley
    NAR #97251, TRA #17554, MDRA #128
    L1 - Madcow Torrent
    L2 - Madcow Sensor
    L3 - Extended Madcow Stinger

  6. #6
    Join Date
    19th January 2009
    Location
    Stafford VA
    Posts
    7,048
    The most indispensable attachment for the sander, is a good shop vac! Make sure there are standard large size vacuum fittings on the sander to plug your shop vac into.
    Handeman

    TRA #09903 L3 3/29/2015

    "If you don't use your head, you have to use your feet!" my Dad

    Tripoli Central Virginia #25 - BattlePark.org

  7. #7
    Join Date
    22nd January 2013
    Location
    Alexandria, VA
    Posts
    681
    The Craftsman 9"disc and 24" belt sander combo works great for all my builds, big and small

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Rocketry Forum mobile app
    Dave Alewine
    TRA 7299 L3, NAR 83701 L3
    Alexandria, VA
    Maryland Delaware-Rocketry Assoc.
    Lvl 1- AT H220--Lvl 2- AT J350--Lvl 3- AT M1297

  8. #8
    Join Date
    29th October 2017
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    52
    I own the wen you are talking about and I LOVE it! Its built quite well as far as the body and motor and stuff are concerned. The only things lacking are the disk sanding table and angle slide thingy. Despite that, you get more than what you pay for in my opinion. It tracks the belt perfectly well and the disc sander will turn wood to dust in a flash if you aren't careful. I mainly use it for wood working in my shop but have used it on occasion for rocketry tasks like stacking 4 fins together and sanding them to the exact same shape(again, VERY carefully). Bottom line, I would buy it again if needed a second one. LOL

  9. #9
    Join Date
    1st September 2010
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    1,044
    Quote Originally Posted by DeepOvertone View Post
    I own the wen you are talking about and I LOVE it! Its built quite well as far as the body and motor and stuff are concerned. The only things lacking are the disk sanding table and angle slide thingy. Despite that, you get more than what you pay for in my opinion. It tracks the belt perfectly well and the disc sander will turn wood to dust in a flash if you aren't careful. I mainly use it for wood working in my shop but have used it on occasion for rocketry tasks like stacking 4 fins together and sanding them to the exact same shape(again, VERY carefully). Bottom line, I would buy it again if needed a second one. LOL
    I have that WEN too, and it's very capable. I replaced a sander I bought from Harbor Freight figuring, "it can't be THAT bad", but man, I tried for two years to live with that POS and it felt so good when I tossed it. Get the version with the cast iron base- there's a steel model too available places, and while it may work, the extra mass in the iron helps stabilize and steady.
    NAR 96681
    L1 - May 29, 2014 LOC Norad ProMax, H120
    L2 - Feb 21, 2015 Fiberglassed Madcow Frenzy, J280

  10. #10
    Join Date
    10th October 2017
    Posts
    22
    Thanks for all the replies. It sounds like the WEN while not perfect is a good value. One last question: which belt width is more useful, 4" or 1"?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    16th February 2014
    Location
    Gilroy, CA
    Posts
    2,199
    The sander I have has a 6" disk and 4" belt. I wouldn't trade it for a 1" belt model. IMHO they have different uses.
    Chris Attebery
    TRA 6602 L3
    Personal best: 37,789' 1335mph

    www.ape-rc.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    22nd January 2013
    Location
    Alexandria, VA
    Posts
    681
    Quote Originally Posted by DeepOvertone View Post
    I own the wen you are talking about and I LOVE it! Its built quite well as far as the body and motor and stuff are concerned. The only things lacking are the disk sanding table and angle slide thingy. Despite that, you get more than what you pay for in my opinion. It tracks the belt perfectly well and the disc sander will turn wood to dust in a flash if you aren't careful. I mainly use it for wood working in my shop but have used it on occasion for rocketry tasks like stacking 4 fins together and sanding them to the exact same shape(again, VERY carefully). Bottom line, I would buy it again if needed a second one. LOL
    I cut a lot of G10 fins for a dealer. I would clamp a whole set together and dress down the edges to get them exactly the same before I ran them through the beveling machine.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Rocketry Forum mobile app
    Dave Alewine
    TRA 7299 L3, NAR 83701 L3
    Alexandria, VA
    Maryland Delaware-Rocketry Assoc.
    Lvl 1- AT H220--Lvl 2- AT J350--Lvl 3- AT M1297

  13. #13
    Join Date
    13th October 2014
    Location
    SouthEastern, WA
    Posts
    5,709
    I have both a 1" and a 4" belt sander (both also have discs), the 1" has some uses for woodworking but I use it more on metals, the 1" does have its uses in tight areas. The 4" I use for most of my woodworking tasks related to rocketry like match sanding fins and beveling fins. The two discs are used for the majority of my power sanding tasks and when combined with my circle jig I can turn out CRs and bulkheads pretty quickly.
    Rich

    NAR# 99154

    L3-4x upscale Estes Cherokee-D- AT M1297W 5/28/2016 http://www.rocketryforum.com/showthr...r-rharshberger

    TriCities Rocketeers NAR section# 736 http://www.tricitiesrocketeers.org/

  14. #14
    Join Date
    31st October 2016
    Posts
    120
    Quote Originally Posted by OldManRocket View Post
    Oh, and just to keep things from getting out of hand (out of wallet?) please make a distinction between tools needed for "typical" rockets (up to level 2?) and tools that might be needed for some of the monster rockets some of y'all are capable of building.
    I have the WEN sander. I got it free when a neighbor upgraded to something better. It was just about worth the price I paid. As other have noted, it is REALLY noisy. The one I got had some miles on it (I'd guess about a year in a weekend woodworker's shop), and the belt-alignment adjustment needed to be repaired before I could put it to use. WEN tools appear to be a bit of a crap-shoot. They are well-reviewed on Amazon, but they get no love on the woodworking forums. There's a pretty entertaining video here



    of an experienced machinist truing up and upgrading a Valex drill press (IIRC, same manufacturer as WEN just a different marque).

    To answer the question I quoted above, you really don't NEED a sander to make high power rockets. It makes some tasks quicker and easier, saving time and effort for other stuff -- for instance, there is a pretty good article in the NAR Rocketry Source Book on making a jig for sizing the OD of centering rings with a disc sander -- but you could build a perfectly capable rocket with nothing but unpowered hand tools. If you have the arm-strength for it, adhering a piece of sandpaper to a reasonably flat piece of plywood will work just fine for evening-up and beveling plywood fins.

    Some context for my comments. I am a BAR, a little more than a year in and -- like you -- just getting into HPR. I also had a shop full of tools and called myself a maker before reentering the hobby.

    If you are planning to do much scratch building or kit-bashing, the trickiest parts to fabricate/modify without bench tools (IMO) are centering rings, nose cones, and transitions. Again, IMO and from the position of a relative noob (a noob, furthermore, who bought a CNC router at about the same time I started making rockets again) a drill press with circle cutter (AKA "wing cutter" or "adjustable hole saw") and (really optional) a vertical lathe attachment will do more for you than a sander.

    The other considerations, of course, are whether you will want to use the tool for anything besides rocketry and how much you like working in the shop. If you don't know the answer to those questions yet then it is probably too soon to receive the advice you are soliciting here. There are plenty of folks here who only build kits.

    NAR Level 1, Sheridan Oregon, 09/16/17 -- scratch built 7.6cm x 120cm rocket on an AT H182R.

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