Hello HR, the way I do it is place the side (or whatever I'm sanding) between the drum and the table, crank the table up to where the side is slightly tight, then back it off a little, pull the side out and give and crank the table about a 1/4 turn, perfect for taking off a 32 or so... but for me it is just by feel and I take several passes and measure each time to get the thickness I want.. in this case as in the photos that is white oak and I want the sides just under 2mm, between 1.5 and is what I shoot for. So if you start out with sides about 4mm figure about 8 passes or so but it depends on the wood etc... you get a feel for it pretty fast. The table has a very slight angle. I push the wood through and it's a fairly gently process. I built this sander for about 150 dollars and it took 2 days because I was waiting for glue to dry. I based this on plans I found in a 1950's Popular Science magazine. I did a lot of research and like those plans best, and modified them somewhat. As to the drum, you don't need a lathe to turn the wood. After you get the shaft in place through the wood block you can mount it on your sander base and use a block of wood for the guide and turn it right there to the circumference you want. Add sand paper, done. The pillow bearings (bushings) and pulleys I bought on Amazon, the belt from Napa, the motor from a local guy who has a room full of motors he buys at auctions... the motor I got is new and paid 45 dollars for it... the wood from your favorite lumber yard... the 5/8 shaft from the hardware store. The cool thing about this design is you can make it any size you want, you make a three foot drum if you wanted one... and it wouldn't cost much more.
Here's a photo of the one I based mine on... there are many home made designs out there but I wanted simple and cheap... another advantage to this design is you can easily remove the drum assembly and use the table to mount a small drill press, scroll saw etc... Hope this helps!
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"Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart." Segovia