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  #1  
Old 02-02-2020, 10:15 PM
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fazool fazool is offline
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Thumbs up Mini review : Byrnes (mini) thickness sander

I needed to, basically, even out some small boards of precious material (The Tree, Lucky Strike and a couple pieces of Brazilian Rosewood). I tried going "on the cheap" and ruined a board with a safety planer. It was horrible and I learned a painful lesson.

So I did a lot of research and ponied up for a Byrnes 6" thickness sander, which can go much thinner than a full size shop thickness sander or planer.




This machine is made for very serious model makers, but make *NO* mistake it is not a toy. What launched Byrnes Model Machines was his 4" table saw with an accuracy tolerance of 0.001"

His machines are really that good.

But they are very expensive. The sander was $400 but given the value of the wood I had to salvage, I had no choice.

Well, let me tell you this is a seriously ultra high quality machine.

My judgment is pretty solid. I am a mechanical engineer, taught Mechanics in college and was Director of Engineering for a machine tool company, making very large CNC machines. So I do know what makes a good quality machine, from experience, and I can attest that this is superb!

The first thing I noticed was how surprisingly heavy it was. The frame is anodized aluminum but the 1/3rd HP motor is very solid. It doesn't move at all and it is a chore to pick up. Very solid!

The only tricky part was finding a shop vac connection that fit the 1-3/4" port but then everything else was smooth sailing....errr...sanding.

After a couple practice runs (the first time I ever used a thickness sander) I was in business and got through all my pieces. This machine, literally, paid for itself the first day I had it.

I changed to the full 6" sanding width instead of the side-by-side 3" widths (which are great for different grits).

The adjustment control is impeccable, the parallelism is outstanding and the operation is smooth and perfect.

Through my own stupidity and ignorance of thickness sanding, I jammed the machine once. I powered it off, freed my piece, and turned it back on. It was flawless and not even phased by my error.

I imagine this is ideal if you are making headstock overlays, rosettes, truss rod covers, etc.

It is a really serious tool and the real deal precision machine, not a toy like all the other mini machines on the market.

Highest marks for this machine! I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Old 02-03-2020, 12:05 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Thanks for the review and introduction to the sander.

A luthier's video review of the sander is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVCAYqrY3eM

He introduces some modifications that he had made to better suit the luthiery work that he does.


It appears that for the Byrnes thickness sander's intended purpose - small/thin parts - it probably would be very useful: nuts, saddles, head plates, bridges, braces ...

Over the more than three decades that I have used thickness sanders - including one that I made and used for 15 years - there are a few important things that I have learned about them, as described below.

A larger machine, if one has the space for it, is much more versatile for a lot of work done on guitars. Some of the entry-level larger machines can be purchased for under $1k. The larger machines come with much more powerful motors and can handle thicknessing of joined backs and tops, as well as sides, fingerboards and smaller parts, such as nuts, saddles, braces...

Many of the larger machines, even at entry level, have self feeding of the work. A constant feed rate is important for avoiding localized variations in thickness: it is more difficult to hand-feed work through a sander at a constant rate, though easier on small/short pieces.

The small drum diameter on the Byrnes means that sandpaper will wear quickly: less quickly on larger diameter machines.

On most larger machines, there are pressure bars that hold the work flat to the table: thickness sanding to a uniform thickness wood that is twisted or cupped is a challenge without the pressure bars.

A properly setup larger machine is capable of the same level of accuracy and precision as the Byrnes sander. Many of the larger machines have digital height gauges: those that don't can easily have one added for under $100.

I can see if one has limited space, limited budget, already has a full size sander, or is only working on very small pieces, the mini sander might be ideal. For greater versatility, a larger machine might be a better choice.
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Old 02-03-2020, 06:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
....
I can see if one has limited space, limited budget, already has a full size sander, or is only working on very small pieces, the mini sander might be ideal. For greater versatility, a larger machine might be a better choice.
Yes exacty. Full size thickness sanders can only process boards about 1/8" thick, whereas this can finish 1/32" boards - that was the important spec for me. And that (just for my unique application) I don't need anything larger than 5".
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Old 02-03-2020, 08:46 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Not sure where your 1/8 minimum thickness is coming from. The Delta machine I have will sand as thin as one wants. Most any sander will as well, even if one has to use a backing board, a common method for planers and thin stock.
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Old 02-03-2020, 01:56 PM
cobalt60 cobalt60 is offline
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Yes, I have an older wide-belt sander and I'm fairly sure the instructions include a method to ensure a newly-installed drive belt it flat and true... which is to run it while carefully driving the belt into it.

So, a minimum of less-than-zero thickness.


Also, I'm posting since I tend to forget: If you have a big wide-belt sander, you can simply make sled-style jigs to pass anything through. Even simple double-sided tape will help ensure a full board of headstock veneers are thicknessed to the same tolerances (and quick).
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Old 02-03-2020, 02:07 PM
redir redir is offline
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Planers often only go down to 1/8th I think but my little Jet 16 will go down to paper thin. But yes drum thickness sanders are great. I too have destroyed thin wood on a planer. I still like to hand plane a lot but for highly figured stuff and for accuracy and speed a drum sander is the bomb.
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Old 02-03-2020, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
Not sure where your 1/8 minimum thickness is coming from. The Delta machine I have will sand as thin as one wants. Most any sander will as well, even if one has to use a backing board, a common method for planers and thin stock.
I might have been thinking of a planer not a thickness sander.
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Old 02-04-2020, 01:03 PM
bob531 bob531 is offline
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Im in the Uk and ordered one of these from Jim years ago.
I used it for mainly thicknessing violin family ribs and veneers for purfling etc....
I can say that it was great for what it is , well built and i must have thicknessed hundreds of rib stock with it , even cello ribs . The motor was got quality and never gave me any problems. Yes it stalled occasionally if the cut was too deep but immediately restarted when readjusted.
I unfortunately sold it around 3 years ago.
Which i still had it as ive had a few jobs where it would have came in handy.
Yes they are expensive but depends how much use you`ll get out of it.(10 years in my case)
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Old 02-04-2020, 08:26 PM
printer2 printer2 is offline
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I made myself a thickness sander, never thought I would have put as much through it as I had, I was only gong to build four guitars. It is in need of some repair, it also is not wide enough to thickness some joined plates. So I am going to make a big brother and a couple of small ones to do the little bits along with bindings and the like. That is where I can see a little one like this with the two or three different paper sections can be handy. I hate setting up and replacing paper. I have the spiral paper on my current one, the new little one will take a regular sheet of sandpaper. I did take something away from the video, the Fender radius above the fretboard. I need to get my plane chops up some, I can see doing more with them if I do. But for some accurate work without too much care the drum sander works well.
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Old 02-05-2020, 06:57 PM
saltytri saltytri is offline
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I've got the Byrnes 5" disc sander. It deserves the same praise for design and quality. For years, I used a nice but less robust Proxxon 5" disc for small jobs. The Byrnes blows the Proxxon out of the water. Its rigidity promotes precision, has a very effective dust collection arrangement and operates quietly. Adjustments are both secure and easy to adjust. The disc is 5/8" thick, which is unusually heavy for a 5". It is very well balanced and runs with remarkable smoothness. Runout is .0003" measured with a dial test indicator (Swiss, of course).

No regrets here about the price.
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