When considering which tools are a must-have to build good instruments, belt/disc and spindle sanders are a really nice addition to any shop. In this article, we’ll cover the best spindle sanders for guitar building based on our experience
But oscillating spindle sanders are the ones to look for if you plan on taking things more seriously. They offer unmatched abilities to shape guitar bodies, necks, and other curved parts while being flexible enough to do most of what the other types can do in relation to guitar building.
The fact that the spindle oscillates is also a plus. You’ll find yourself having to buy more sandpaper less frequently, which will save you time and money.
Regardless of which project you’re looking to complete, the right sanding machine will not only save you lots of manual work, but it’ll also offer better results… depending on your current skills.
Sanding machines can be used when working with guitar bodies, necks, saddles, and a few other parts as well.
You’ll often find combinations of belt/spindle or belt/disc sanders on the market. Let’s take a look at which ones are the best and why:
OSCILLATING SPINDLE/BELT SANDERS
Although other tools are essential to building string instruments, such as the bandsaw, the oscillating spindle sanders will easily become one of your favorites.
The reason for this is that they offer unmatched smoothing ability for curved materials, precisely due to their cylindrical shape, How many curved shapes can you notice on a regular guitar? Sure they can be smoothed out by hand, but when scaling things up this will certainly become time-consuming.
These machines allow for variety when working with different sizes of wood pieces because they can have a lot of different sizes.
For example, think about the curve you usually find on the base of the headstock of a Stratocaster, just after the neck. You can certainly picture that the drum diameter will have to be smaller than one you’d use to shape a Les paul’s body curves.
They’re called “oscillating” because the sandpaper will move vertically during operation, which makes for an even wearing down of the sandpaper. This adds the benefit to use all of it before having to replace it.
The height of the spindle is commonly around 4”, but the higher you can get, the taller the pieces you’ll be able to sand
WEN 6524 Oscillating Belt and Spindle Sander
The WEN 6524 oscillates (the drum goes up and down) up to 58 times per minute, and comes with a work table, four sanding drums, the belt attachment, six pieces of sandpaper, and five throat plates included in the package when you purchase it.
The machine weighs 27 pounds, and the measurements are 18.5 x 16.5 x 18 inches.
Other than making contours and curves easily, you can attach a dust collector to make your shop clean.
Specs – Spindle sanders for guitar building
Features 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch, 1-1/2 inch, and 2-inch sanding drum sizes and one 4 x 24-inch belt
Operates with belt speeds up to 1575 FPM and spindle speeds up to 2000 RPM
The 3.5-amp motor oscillates the belt and spindle 58 times per minute with a 5/8-inch stroke
Onboard storage maintains the organization of all accessories and sandpapers
Includes a beveling work table, five throat plates, four rubber sanding drums, one belt sanding attachment, and six pieces of 80-grit sandpaper (one for each size spindle/belt)
it’s really solid, and at this price, it’s also a no-brainer when deciding if you should buy only a spindle sander or a combo with a belt.
Converting from belt to spindle is definitely easy, and you’ll find that even after many uses they will keep on working as intended. The only caveat is that you cannot stop the oscillation in this machine, but it shouldn’t be a problem for most guitar projects.
If you’re keen on having a combo that comes with a disc sander, it’ll be of much use when shaping, getting rid of imperfections, and also giving the final touches before painting/sealing.
A belt/disc sander can be relatively cheap and easy to work with.
Grizzly Industrial H8192 – 1″ x 42″ Belt / 8″ Disc Combo Sander
This machine will be sitting pretty alongside the Grizzly Industrial G0555LX bandsaw.
It features a 1/3HP motor, which enables the 1″ x 42″ belt and 8″ disc to shape and smooth out any type of wood. These machines are known for being well built and offering perfect assembly from the moment you receive them. They weigh around 63lbs. and their dimensions are 14.8 x 21.25 x 13.3 inches
Specs – Spindle sanders for guitar building
- Motor: 1/3 HP, 110V, single-phase, 1725 RPM
- Tables tilt: Left 0°, Right 45°
- Belt sander table size: 6″ x 7″
- Disc sander table size: 4″ x 10″
- Platen size: 1″ x 4″
- Tracking adjustment
- Direct drive
- Two dust ports: 2″
- Takes standards 1″ x 42″ belts and 8″ PSA discs
Due to the cast iron frame, this machine won’t produce vibrations that can affect the end product.
Spindle Sanders for guitar building
If you’re just starting to build guitars, chances are that you don’t need an industrially sized belt sander to get things done.
Smaller belt sanders will work great on doing curves on bodies and necks (especially when fixed on a table), and other small applications, like sanding nuts for instance.
Belt sanders will give you extended accuracy to do contours, which results in the end product being closer to the molds’ dimensions.
If you are considering a handheld belt sander, a very common practice among woodworkers is to have it fixated on the top of a bench with the aid of clamps.
With this cheap yet effective option, you can practically convert your handheld belt sander into a bench sander. You can even clamp it upside down, depending on the need.
When it’s clamped down, if you have the option to open the front flap, it’ll be much easier to work on contours.
In certain situations, you can achieve results that are similar to what an oscillating spindle/drum sander would, which is rather interesting considering that they cost much less.
CRAFTSMAN Belt Sander, 3-Inch x 21-Inch (CMEW213)
This handheld belt sander will allow you to sand pieces in a multitude of ways. You’ll find that even when working longer it’ll not slow down or heat excessively, which makes it perfect for clamping down on a bench, especially with the option to open the flap for contours and curves.
- 7.0 amp 3in. X 21in. Belt sander with an angled belt Design to sand closer to adjoining surfaces
- Max 800 FPM For fast material removal
- Tool-free belt release for quick and easy belt changes
- High performance dust collection featuring onboard dust bag
- 3position over molded handle improves comfort during use
This is an efficient tool, but keep in mind that it’s not meant for industrial use. Taking into consideration the average work an aspiring luthier will do with it when learning, it’ll be more than enough. Though you must allow for some time in between uses, to avoid overheating and damage to internal components that other beefier machines wouldn’t have a problem with.
Its flexibility allows for a lot of options that the bigger ones offer. Which makes it ideal for starters and professionals alike.
But if you plan on scaling your production, it’s best to consider a more robust machine.
The right sander for the job
Have their best application when working on curves like pegheads, heels, and rims. In conjunction with belt sanders, they’re the best tools to shape guitar bodies. Spindle sanders are hard to beat when it comes to guitar building, although you can make it with other tools/manually.
These are intended for flat sanding more consistently. In guitar building, there aren’t many occasions where you’ll need this. But they can save you a lot of time and hassle, nonetheless.
Belt/disc sanders won’t be as efficient when you need to flatten guitar fingerboards, to give an example. Often the length of the neck will exceed the machine’s, which means it’s almost impossible to get it evenly across.
On smaller instruments such as the ukulele, this won’t be a problem.
Belt/disc sanders are also great power tools to shape the profiles on the back of the neck, and you’ll find them to be of great help working with frets and other smaller but crucial tasks.
In conclusion – Spindle sanders for guitar building
Choosing the right sander when starting can make a huge difference to your success as a guitar builder.
The right sander will give you the advantage of removing imperfections, shaping, and finishing instruments that will not only look stunning but will also be smooth to the touch and comfortable to play.
Many musicians consider sound to be the main factor when choosing an instrument, but comfort will be always a major player. If the guitar doesn’t fit the person’s body, has imperfections such as frets standing out from the neck, or uneven surfaces, it’ll certainly be perceived almost instantly as a lower-quality instrument.
We recommend that you start with an oscillating spindle sander if you can, but if it’s not a possibility due to budget or space restrictions, then the handheld belt sander is the way to go.
It’ll offer you the capabilities the big boys have at a fraction of the cost. Just remember that they won’t last as long, depending on the amount and frequency of use.
For each case, some maintenance will be required to extend the operability. Always keep an eye out for the instructions’ manual since they’ll offer you the right information about the right ways to preserve the equipment.
You’ll also need to buy supplies such as replacement belts, drums, and discs every once in a while due to natural wearing. They’ll have different sizes/grits for each of the steps in the process.