I know how much everyone loves hand sanding; but, if you want to reduce the tedious job of hand sanding consider a drum sander. You will be amazed at how fast a drum sander finishes the job and what a uniform finish you can get.
While the Jet and Supermax Sanders attach the paper by wrapping on a smooth drum and attaching the paper at the ends with a self adjusting spring loaded clip. The Grizzly and Shop Fox use Hook and Loop paper.
One of the beautiful advantages of the Jet Drum Sander is what they call SandSmart Technology. This feature actually senses load on the motor and when it goes beyond a certain point indicating a harder than normal section of wood or a knot, it automatically reduces the conveyor speed to allow the drum to have longer to sand the harder or denser wood. Once the amp load is reduced the conveyor automatically returns to the normal speed you have selected. Both Jet and Supermax offer an open ended sander that allows you to double the sanding width by flipping the piece end for end. A lot cheaper than buying the larger machine.
For production operations Supermax offers drum sanders that are supported on both ends and run two drums at the same time. Start with 100 grit on the front drum and 120 grit on the rear drum. The rear drum is height adjustable to offset for the change in height the front drum removes
Our tips for Drum Sanders
If you are sanding anything that you have pinned together make sure you do not sand through to the brads. Doing so will leave lines in your paper and will transfer to the next piece you sand, just like what happens when you hit a staple or brad with your joiner or planer.
A drum sander is not a planer, take your time for the best results. I prefer to set the conveyor feed rate at the fastest speed and take super light cuts. I find I complete the task faster this way
Use a dust collector. This is not a recommendation, it is a must. Skip this step and the inside of the drum will get loaded with dust and resins and cause a vibration and balance problem. In addition you will be sanding the dust and get less than beautiful results.