Monday, March 07, 2011

Doing the Right Thing!

I have to hand it to Grizzly tools, they did the right thing. Back in December, I ordered one of their 12" drum sanders, the very slick looking Polar Bear series sander.

Even though the tool's 12" capacity was fairly small, the price was right and I felt like it was worth the money, if the tool performed properly.

That's a big IF.

One thing I do when considering a tool purchase is thoroughly research the tool. So I read quite a few comments from people who had purchased this sander, like this woodworker's blog post, and knew going into it that it might have some issues. Still, it sounded like a good value, and since the tool was so small, it wasn't like I was going to use it all the time.


The tool was delivered very quickly, and I mounted it on a sturdy tool stand I had in the shop. The first thing I realized is that the handle that raises and lowers the conveyor table was very short, thus reducing your leverage. That made it very difficult to raise and lower the table smoothly.

Look how short this handle is!

OK, you get what you pay for, so I switched the handle out with another one I had in my shop, a few inches longer.
Problem solved.

My second issue was the Velcro that held on the sanding drum paper started de-laminating from the drum. The machine was only about two weeks old, so a call to Grizzly did the trick. I had a new Velcro drum cover in just a few days.
Later, I noticed that Grizzly recommends that after you install a new piece of hook and loop paper onto the drum, you tape the ends of the drum with 3/4" strapping tape.


If I did that, I would be reducing the size of the drum from an already small 12" to about 10.5". If that was the case, maybe they should advertise this as a 10.5" drum sander. Here is a picture of the ends wrapped with the tape.

Whatever. I didn't wrap the drum with tape on the ends.

Yup, you guessed it - it de-laminated again.
I broke down and taped the paper.

Then - one day, the sander started tripping the circuit breaker for the outlet into which it was plugged. By the time I finally got the sander to start without tripping the breaker, the conveyor wouldn't move.

This was starting to look like a nightmare purchase.

After experimenting with it a bit, I realized that if I manually moved the conveyor just a tiny bit, thus rotating the motor, it would start moving again. Perhaps there were some bad windings in the small drive motor?

I barely know what the hell that means, but the damn motor ran intermittently, and it was completely frustrating.

But - at least I could get the conveyor to work when I needed it to.

Finally - and this was the last straw - the small worm gear that controls raising and lowering the table just simply gave out. This, unfortunately, happened with a piece of wood in the sander. I can't begin to tell you what a PITA it was to dislodge the piece of wood, not to mention the fact that I had a board that was partially sanded - it was one thickness on one end, and a completely different thickness on the other end.

My solution? A kick-ass pair of vice grips allowed me to manually rotate the chain and gears that raise and lower the table. I finished sanding that board manually and threw up my hands - the last straw!

All of this occurred in about five weeks of owning the machine - with approximately 3 hours of usage. Maybe not even that much. Wow.

Of course, the tool had a 30-day money back guarantee. Only I had owned the tool for about 33 days. D'oh!

Luckily, I always save all of the boxes and packing that come with the various tools I buy. A call to Grizzly gave me the necessary return authorization number, and that baby was on it's way back to their factory pronto. It took five calls to their service department, and finally - today I received an answer - they refunded my complete purchase.
At least they did the right thing. Don't get me wrong - I am happy that they did that. Thrilled, in fact.

But wouldn't it have been easier to simply make a better tool? I am quite satisfied that Grizzly treated me fairly, and have nothing bad to say about them. This is truly a case of getting what you pay for.

So here is my new dilemma, - if anyone out there can recommend a small drum sander that is captive on both ends (no cantilevered ends for me, ever again!) - I'd appreciate the recommendation.

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