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Building a BIG DIY Disk Sander

Here’s a tool we built that’s been on the to-do list for ages. It all started when we found a discarded floor scrubber/polisher in a skip. It was soaking wet and needed a good dry out, but after that I tested it… and it worked great! Since then the motor has sat in the corner for years waiting to be ‘disk sanderified’. During that time every project I have worked on has ‘required’ a disc sander, and we haven’t had one. Oh the woe.

No more! We have made a disk sander, and published a complete build log on Instructables. http://www.instructables.com/id/BIG-Disk-Sander-Build-Use-and-Tips/

Large Home Made Disc Sander

As far as shop built disc sanders go this one is BIG. It has a 20” disk, which was the largest size of abrasive I could easily get hold of for a sensible price. This makes it more versatile, but also means it needs to be quite sturdy construction.

Chisel sharpening jig

Chisel sharpening jig.

Response from the Instructable has been very positive, and it is currently amongst 21 other finalists, in a tool making competition Instructables is running won the top prize (weeeha!) in the tools contest Instructables was running.

instruct win

There has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the epoxy granite vibration damping (pic below), and laminated scrap aluminium work table. And some useful tips regarding the use of abrasive cleaners:

“…a cheap pair of used boater’s shoes, the kind with crepe rubber soles, they make serviceable disk cleaners that will greatly extend abrasive life.” BeachSideHank

Another user recommends gone off silicone sealant (who doesn’t have a half used out of date, gone solid sealant at the back of the cupboard?)

The website Hackaday picked up the disk sander, and their summary of the build was quite amusing, as were some of the comments on their website. One choice bit from their description: “… Once these were cleaned up, a disk was mounted on the hub and trued up in the most unsafe manner possible.”

Now personally I can think of lots of ways that process could have been more dangerous. But still, it was a mildly risky process, not denying that. I used a carbide insert lathe tool clamped to the mitre fence, and while I probably would repeat the procedure, I think I would attempt to clamp it a bit more securely.

Truing the disk

Here I’m truing up the big ply disk.

Quite a few people commented on one of the mitre gauge. It’s made from some scrap angle and an old disk break. I may do whole separate post about that, as it could be used on a number of different tools, not just a disk sander.

One less positive comment, that’s turned up on facebook and hackaday, is the classic: “Why the hell would you make that when you could buy it?” genre. These usually get parried quite well by other commenters.

“You are obviously confusing this site with the “here’s the cheap junk I bought from china on my credit card” website.

The experience and knowledge gained while doing a project like this is absolutely invaluable. Used industrial tools are scarce in some locales. Heavy duty 20″ disc sanders are rare most everywhere and they are typically very expensive. This unit looks pretty stout for use with wood, though perhaps not quite up to regular use with metal (that just happens to be my focus)…” Smorges Borges on Hackaday

I’d probably agree with Smorges, on the point about its heavy use with metal. One improvement to the sander would be the use of an aluminium disk, as opposed to ply. As well as being stronger for the same weight, and deflecting less, aluminium would dissipate the heat generated from metal sanding much better. A possible future improvement…

Anyway, back to the point about buy/vs make. Here’s one questioning the point of making.

“How to build a tool rescued from garbage by using tools that cost more than your first car. With the tools used in this ible, I’m hard pressed to believe they can’t just buy a 20” disk sander.”  Adam VanDuyn, from facebook.

So I like this comment (aside from it being a bit of a snide jibe) because it talks to what we really value… It reminds me of my first car, a little Astra. I carried my trials bike about in it a lot, to get to exciting riding spots. People would often exclaim when I told them the modded mountain bike would be about ten times more costly to replace than the car. Some were even a little outraged. At that point I was a bit obsessed with riding trials… And my car was rusty, old, small and cheap. It had a dodgy central locking system that ‘self-locked’ at the most mischievous opportunities.

The point is not so much that I really couldn’t afford to buy one (whether it be a disc sander or a better car) – though both would have been a struggle, now and back then – the point is that I choose to value things a little different. One big motivation for me is that I love making things.

If I didn’t love making stuff, what use would I have for a disc sander anyway?

I’ll leave you with a little video of it in use (there are a load more vids in the instructable about various aspects).

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