This is the Flatmaster Drum Sander from Stockroom Supply. They’re a home grown Canadian family owned company that makes several of their own tools for woodworking.
It’s a bit of a different design from traditional drum sanders which use rollers to feed stock through the sander. Traditional drum sanders have the sanding drum on top and the stock passes underneath, pressed flat and moved forward by rubber rollers. While this automates the process, they can be notoriously hard to set up and adjust, as well as to change paper. Dust collection is also notoriously poor on some drum sanders.
The Flatmaster uses an anti-static roller with hook and loop backing. It’s powered by a 1/3 HP farm motor, which is also sold by Stockman, but any motor like this would work.
There are a couple of awesome adaptations that the Flatmaster takes advantage of. First, the hook and loop backing and open roller design make swapping paper very easy. Just roll on a new strip and away you go. It’s all done from the top and doesn’t require removing or opening anything on the machine. Also, with the 24” model, it’s easy to keep two different grits on the Flatmaster for quickly moving from one to another. 12” of the drum get 180g and the other 12” get 240g which allows quick moves between flattening and smoothing. Or, wrap one grit all the way across for panels. I tape down the edges with painters tape just for a little extra security.
Additionally, since the roller uses hook and loop, the paper is flung away from the roller as it spins creating a small air gap between the paper and the roller which keeps it cool. When set up properly, the drum is actually registered below the table and the paper ‘puffs up’ above the table level as it’s spinning which is where the cutting occurs. This means the drum isn’t forcing the paper into the wood, rather just dragging the paper across the wood and removing the stock. This, in practice, does a great job at prolonging the life of the paper. It’s also makes the depth of cut self-setting. Once the roller is properly setup, a more course grit actually cuts deeper (since it’s thicker) and finer grits cut more shallowly. This allows for rapid stock removal and fine (machine) finishing without any adjustment. I’ve yet to adjust mine again after initial set up, and I switch grits somewhat regularly.
You can vary the depth of cut slightly by adjusting how fast you feed the stock across the table. A slower feed rate will remove more stock and a faster rate cuts less. This becomes a practical way to manage stock removal for things like taking off saw marks, etc.
The anti-static roller means that sanding dust is kept very largely confined to the dust collection hopper under the Flatmaster. It just falls off the bottom of the roller without being flung off the roller above the table. There’s a dust port off the back that I run my DC to. During regular use, I find impressively little dust escaping.
The table itself is exceptionally flat (as you’d expect from the Flatmaster!). I mounted the machine on a rolling table with storage and took the time to jack each corner of the Flatmaster to level it up against an assembly table that I use for outfeed. This means I’ve got outfeed for the Flatmaster and use the Flatmaster as an extension for my assembly table. Kind of a cool two-fer!
One consideration with the Flatmaster is that, because it’s manually fed, it requires even feed pressure to assure a smooth surface. This isn’t terribly hard to do in practice, but I make it easier by clamping a piece of aluminum extrusion to the Flatmaster’s table as a fence. The fence allows you to push the stock up against it and provides some back pressure which helps maintain an even feed rate. For smaller pieces this isn’t necessary, but for panels or something large/long it makes a positive difference.
Overall, I rate the Flatmaster very highly. It allows for easy use, easy swap out of paper, creates a level surface and is very clean. It does require manual feeding of material which takes a little practice, but it’s a solid tool in my shop and gets used routinely. I dropped a star for the simple reason that there’s a learning curve and the tool does rely on you to manipulate the stock. The most consistent you are, the more consistent the outcome.