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Sanding: A New Era?

03 Jan

Sanding is such a pain. The dust, the amount of time, the different grits; the swirl marks, the inaccessible spaces, contoured surfaces, etc! I hate doing it – it seems to take forever, not to mention having to look for swirl marks, watching out you don’t create a divot by sanding in one spot too long, or having to change paper every 3.2 seconds.

The thing is, it’s so critical to have a smooth, scratch-free surface for your finish. You can have a great project – wonderful design, tight joints, beautiful wood, and so on, but if you don’t prep that wood correctly, you’re finish will just make it look awful. I think for a lot of woodworkers, finishing – and that includes sanding – is the weaker part of our skill set.

Complicating things, how far do you sand to? I’ve heard guys say that just using a card (or cabinet) scraper is enough, or that 180 is fine, while some take it up to 400 – or beyond. Then you have the issue of some woods taking stain worse than others – blotching cherry comes to mind; and don’t forget end grain staining darker than surface grain!

I’m starting to make a few bucks at woodworking, after putting in my due, and of course, time is money. Sanding just takes way too long. A necessary evil? A cost of doing business?

Maybe not anymore.

No, i’m not talking about getting one of those multi-thousand dollar drum sanding machines – though they are kinda nice, if you have the room, thousands of dollars, a 220V outlet, and a industrial dust extraction system. And don’t forget, you have to change the belt grits manually. Ugh.

Hopefully, I’m about to change all that. I need to. Not only would I benefit from this new way of sanding, but you would too. 

I’m developing a system to cut down the amount of sanding time – by about 75% – and improve the results to boot. Not only brainstorming, but I’ve actually tested this system. This system is hand sanding – old school – and not some new expensive machine; don’t cringe. I was able to gauge how much faster my system is by taking a piece of lumber and after planing and thickness planing it, scribbling over it with a pencil (as you would before thickness planning it to see if you flattened it correctly), and then seeing how long it would take to “erase” those marks. In my estimation, this is a great way to gauge if you’ve sanded enough, and if you’ve sanded the board (pretty much) completely. I used the random-orbit sander as you should, flat to the surface, and not just one edge. I then used my hand sanding system with the same grit – 80, and it was amazingly faster. Not only that, but since I went with the grain in my hand sanding method, there was no swirl marks.

Other benefits of my system, in addition to the amazing speed, simplicity, and superior results, is that the sandpaper lasts substantially longer than the random-orbit sanding disks you bought at Home Depot. No noise, no expensive tool to buy; just quick sanding with great results. What’s not to love?

I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in BlogNotes

 

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