BY JEFF THOMPSON April 1, 2021 Updated April 1, 2021
There are number of ways one can thickness stringing and bindings. I’ve used a couple methods myself like on a drum sander, but mine is in a shed out back behind my shop and the lights dim when I turn on the machine. Obviously it's time for a bigger, more powerful shop. I’ve also used the down and dirty way that Glen Huey showed me. You clamp a fence to the table of your Rigid oscillating sander and creep up on the thickness that way. Then one afternoon I was watching a Steve Latta video probably for the third time and noticed he said something about the Luthier’s Friend. So, I googled it and this is where it led me: http://www.luthiersfriend.
The Luthier’s Friend is the brain child of Ken Picou of Ken Picou Design. He is the inventor of the Robo Sander which is one of the core parts of the Luthier’s Friend. The Robo Sander is a rubber drum with various grits of sanding sleeves that can be installed on it. The drum is mounted on an arbor that chucks into your drill press. You might say “what’s new about that?” but the bottom of the arbor has a bearing on it that is the same size as the drum and that fits into a hole in the bottom of the base of the Luthier’s Friend. That is important because it helps to keep the drum parallel to the fence and square to the base and thereby keeps the banding flat.
In the photos you see at the back of the Friend, there’s a small adjustment knob that sits behind a little fence. On top of that fence is a knurled brass lock down nut. You must lock that nut down to secure the fence for the adjustment knob prior making ANY adjustments. There is a spring between the small fence and the larger fence near the sanding drum. There are two more knurled lock down nuts on top of this larger fence. The spring is around the axle of the adjustment knob and if you loosen the two nuts on the bigger fence a little bit, then turn the adjustment knob counterclockwise, the larger fence will advance toward the sanding drum enabling you to trim your banding or stringing to a lesser thickness. If you turn the adjustment knob clockwise, you increase the distance between the drum and the fence.
In my trial, I turned the micro adjustment knob by a quarter of a turn counter clockwise and took my banding down by 1/64” as measured with a dial caliper. You can turn the micro adjustment knob in the back to move less than 1/64”. If you’re trying to fill an excavation for stringing that measurement can be quite significant. You must remember to lock down the two knurled nuts on the big fence after making any adjustments but that comes quickly after you forget it a few times.
I should mention that it’s eco friendly too. I was so excited to hook it up and try it out that I did not take the time to bring the shop vac over to the unit. A shroud for the drum is included that has a two-inch dust port built into the body. There is always a lot of dust involved in this process, so you want to be sure to have a vacuum system available to do the dirty work and take any other precautions you deem appropriate for this type of work. If you are serious about your stringing and banding this helps you dial the thickness in accurately.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in the SAPFM Pins and Tails Magazine, Spring 2021