You know these products, so can you do a comparison between the SuperMax 25/50 cabinet sander and the Jet 22-44 Oscillating Drum Sander.
I am drawn to the jet due to the oscillating mechanism that gives a clean finish, rather than having to go back over with one of my RO's...at least to 100 Grit.
Perhaps there is some extra benefit for the SuperMax over the Jet that I have missed (Other than the extra 6"). Please elucidate if you can. They are close in price, and I'm likely to purchase one or the other by this summer.
I have never used the Jet product, but I believe I can indeed give you a comparison by way of a story.
When I started at Performax I had never used a drum sander, but desperately wanted one for my shop. I borrowed a SuperMax 37x2 that we got back from a show to play with - one of the perks of being the GM.
About the same time I enrolled in a cabinetmaking class at the local Technical College. The school had a massive TimeSaver wide-belt sander that had two oscillating heads.
I had a similar question as you - I wondered how much better the results would be on a $100,000+ oscillating wide-belt sander versus the $4,000 non-oscillating SuperMax drum sander. So I devised a plan to find out.
I needed to build a cabinet with drawers for the area under the extension of my table saw. I glued up some lengths of red oak to use for my drawer fronts, then planed them to just slightly more than finished thickness. I ran two of the four pieces through the SuperMax 37x2 using 100 grit on the front drum and 150 on the rear drum. I marked those pieces discretely so I could tell which they were.
I took all four pieces to school and ran the other two pieces through the TimeSaver, using 100 grit abrasive on the front head and 150 grit on the rear to match what I had used on the SuperMax.
The school had a ‘day’ cabinetry instructor and a ‘night’ cabinetry instructor. Although I was in the night class, the daytime instructor occasionally stuck around for a bit. Once I finished running the second set of glue-ups, I independently approached the instructors and asked each of them to tell me which pieces were done on which machine.
Both instructors had extensive cabinetmaking experience. The day instructor had owned his own shop. He examined them carefully, said he couldn’t really tell the difference, but guessed anyway. He guessed wrong.
The night instructor was employed for many years at Medallion cabinetry, working his way up to a job as final inspector. He correctly identified which was done on the SuperMax 37x2 and which was done on the TimeSaver.
I then hit them lightly with an RO sander - as you typically would - and again asked them to tell me which was which. Neither of them could tell any difference.Without reading too much into this simple test, they and I agreed that the following were valid conclusions:
1. Finish sanding with a random orbit sander was required regardless of which machine was used.
2. Either machine could accomplish the task just fine.
3. The results were so close as to be essentially identical in the opinion of trained cabinetmakers. Only the experience of years as a QC inspector enabled my night instructor to pick out which was sanded on which machine.
Based on those results, we never pursued the idea of making the SuperMax oscillate, as it seemed like an unnecessary complication with minimal benefit. KISS!
Of course, I suggest you try a piece of wood through the Jet sander yourself before you make your decision. Like I said, I’ve never used one...
Edit: I read this again and realized that my post might make it seem like there is NO value to having an oscillating function. That, of course, isn't true. What I forgot to mention is a biggie - Oscillation on a wide-belt sander was an accident, and is a necessary evil NOT a desired action!
I can almost hear you say...WHAT???!!!!
It is virtually impossible to keep those belts tracking without chewing up the edges and tearing up the belts. Since the engineers couldn't figure out a way to keep the belts tracking in one place, they came up with a system that had the belt intentionally wander back and forth on the platen. It would wander to one side - where it would activate an adjusting mechanism that caused it to wander slowly back toward the other side, where it would activate another adjusting mechanism that caused it to wander slowly back toward the first side, and so on. Think of this concept working in much the same way as you steer a car, i.e. never going in a 'perfectly' straight line, but actually making hundreds or thousands of tiny adjustments that result in the appearance and feel of moving in a straight line. It was an ingenious solution to the problem, and is still the way wide-belt sanders are designed today.
Rather than admit that there was ever a problem - which might have caused a raft of recalls or buy-backs on machines that didn't track and kept tearing up expensive belts - the 'fix' was marketed as a 'feature' which has never actually been proven to have much real value...except, as mentioned, to prevent the destruction of expensive sanding belts and corresponding damage to the workpiece. How's that for a twist?