I think the most underappreciated machine is the Stroke Sander. Not a lot of people have used one so it's potential is unrecognized. The stroke sander has a long belt that is cool running and doesn't burn. The table is height adjustable,and it runs on train like wheels that ride on two rails, coasting in and out. The pressure is applied with either a graphite canvas covered hand block, or with a travelling platen that glides on ball bearings along a track.
In June 2009 I was lucky enough to score a Progress stroke sander at a school auction. It's in fantastic condition, I don't think it was hardly used, and I was estatic when I got it for my opening bid of $100.
Progress made an excellent machine, built with off-the-shelf parts that are readily available. Doucet bought the company in 2001, and continues production in Victoriaville, Quebec. My model is still being made.
The stroke sander takes up a lot of room, but it's versatility makes it worth it. I use mine to strip old finishes off tabletops, remove snipe and level large glueups, and finish sand both solids and plywoods. Small parts can be sanded as well, with the use of simple holding jigs consisting of shaped stops screwed to plywood.
There are only two rules for success when using a stroke sander; keep the platen moving and don't hang it more than halfway over the edge. The platen slides back and forth while the table coasts in and out, it's an easy motion to learn. The platen will round over the edge of the stock if it's allowed to, so it must be kept flat on the surface.
The sander at the shop is the same as mine, except it has an eight foot bed as opposed to my six. I've also seen a four foot, it's in use at Fury Guitar, a local manufacturer.
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