Fri 24 Sep, 2010
Tags: Review, SketchUp, Swan-neck, Tools, Trundle
Note: Chiefwoodworker Newsletter recipients received an early version of this review. Since then I have had a chance to do some real work with this machine and have added some new comments and adjusted old comments to reflect that experience. You may wish to reread it.
Some of you may recall I have a Grizzly 8” Jointer and wrote a not so glowing review of it on my website. My brother recently bought a Grizzly lathe and it is a honey. So, when I decided to purchase an edge sander I decided to give Grizzly another chance and purchased the model G0512. It arrived on September 8 and this is a chronicle of my experience.
Events did not start well. The unit was delivered by UPS. The driver parked at the bottom of my driveway and phoned to ask I come and receive the unit. This was not a surprise. Grizzly warns you during delivery scheduling (via phone) that the truck is a tractor/trailer and may not have a lift. Further, my driveway is very long with low power lines crossing it. What was a surprise was the condition of the box. There were two large holes clearly made by a fork lift. The UPS driver told me they existed when he picked the box up at the Grizzly facility. I believe him because the only fork lift he had was a manual one. To create these holes you would have had to use a powered fork lift (or intentionally rammed the box multiple times with the manual fork lift). I insisted he accompany me to my shop, help me unload the sander and open the box to inspect every piece for damage or scratches. After careful inspection there appeared to be no damage and I signed the delivery form.
In addition to the G0512 Edge Sander I ordered the companion base. The base turned out to be an adjustable base made by Shop Fox. Its minimum dimension in the short side is 18 ½”. The G0512 base is 15” wide in the minimum dimension leaving a 3 ½” gap. To fix this I contemplated cutting 3 ½” off the metal rails or putting a platform in the base and living with it. Cutting 3 1/2” off the rail was not an option because the gap between the feet was about 1 1/2”, making the feet still 2” too wide. I chose the platform option for now. You can see the gap in the picture above. I spaced it evenly on both sides of the base. In actual use I noticed that this “too wide” base cuts down on the toe clearance; it is possible to accidentally stub your toe if you are not careful.
The real problem with the Shop Fox base is that if you follow the directions for assembly the base does not work; you can’t rotate the swivel wheels. Using the bolts they specify prevents swivel. Worse, some of the assembly instructions were physically impossible to perform. But being a clever guy I came up with a method of assembly that worked. I suspect my method is what Shop Fox designers intended, but the instructions are grossly wrong.
At this point, I was getting frustrated and decided to make a thorough inspection of all remaining pieces before going any further. I noticed an additional assembly issue. The table is attached with a raising/lowering threaded lead screw, threaded hand wheel and three L-shaped brackets. The instructions showed a picture of three simple brackets, each a different size; large, medium and small. What I received where three brackets of two sizes, large and two small ones. The large one was not a simple bracket, it had a metal plate, two bolts and four Allen screws, though I have no idea what their function is. Obviously a change had been made to the design and that change had not been reflected in the documentation. Again, being a clever guy, I completed the assembly with no further problems.
Installing a sanding belt and adjusting tracking is simple and quick. The entire operation can be accomplished in less than three minutes without exaggeration. The tracking adjustment is sensitive but holds steady when achieved. The picture above right shows a close-up of the belt tensioning and tracking adjustment. The first thing to notice is how simple, yet solid, the design is. The long lever loads and unloads the tension of the belt. The middle knob adjusts tracking; you course adjust it first by hand spinning the belt and centering it on the drive wheel and then turn on power and carefully and gently fine adjust it. The knob on the right locks the tracking adjustment. Simple as that.
The motor is 1.5 HP and comes pre-wired for 220 VAC. The dive is direct to the pulley wheel. The graphite coated platen is 6-1/4" x 31-1/2" and exists only on one side of the belt. The table top however, is equally spaced on both sides. Without a platen on the back side a table on the back side seems pointless. I may take this into account when I redesign the table top and add some self-designed accessories on the back in place of the table.
I read numerous reviews prior to acquiring this unit. There were two consistent complaints. One was that the table came warped and was flimsy. The second was that the belt(s) that came with the unit was unusable because the splice joint is too thick. I found the table to be OK. Its surface has a noticeable, but very shallow bumpiness. It doesn’t seem to adversely affect the sander’s use. The table is made of 7/8 inch plywood finished with a thin Formica-like surface. I suspect the very thin Formica-lake material gives way to trapped glue unevenness and that is what gives the surface a somewhat bumpy look. I may build my own from 1” sheet Melamine and fit it with a metal guide to accept a sliding T-fence. Perhaps even a circle attachment. However, as the table comes it is workable.
The belt, on the other hand, is rather cheap and indeed does have the problem indicated in the reviews. Unfortunately I ordered four additional belts of various grits and they are the same. In actual use the seam is so poor it creates a high velocity (1800 fpm) speed bump, making it difficult to control the work piece and get a smooth finish. I found this constant fight to control the work piece tiring. In one Amazon.com review I read the belts were referred to as “a piece of crap”. I would have to agree; they are inexcusably poor. However, 80” belts are available from a number of reputable third parties. I highly recommend that if you buy this unit do not get additional belts from Grizzly.
My first project to make use of this machine is a Trundle Bed. To shape the template for swan neck I traced a full scale SketchUp drawing onto a 3/4” cherry board. I then rough cut the template on my band saw and finished it by hand shaping on the Grizzly Edge Sander. The high velocity seed bumps notwithstanding I was able to create a very useful cherry template. One last comment I should make; I found I used the small roller end of the sander most of the time and this end is furthest from the dust collection hence a lot of dust is left on the table uncollected. A repositionable dust collector, or perhaps an array of holes in the table with dust collection underneath, may make it into my new table design. Let’s wait and see.
The bottom line is that I think I will like this machine and the cost is hard to beat – approximately $850 including base. So Grizzly is back on my list of manufacturers I will look at. But given my mixed experience I have two words of caution – caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).