This is 7 tips on how to make a great sanding block. A sanding block is one of the most basic tools in all of woodworking. Thankfully, its easy to make. Plus, if you incorporate a few of these tips into your build, it will look even better.
Why You Need a Sanding Block
Most beginners do not sand correctly, and it makes the job harder than it should be. There are a lot of great Tips on Sanding Wood that you can read, but one of the biggest is to use a sanding block.
A sanding block helps you sand better by spreading out the force of the sandpaper, and helping you create a flat surface. Since the sanding block is flat on the face, the resulting surface you sand will also be flat.
In the beginning, lots of people will sand with their hand holding he paper. While this has it’s purpose, in general sanding with a block is easier, and with better results. If you don’t have a sanding block, you can follow my Heirloom Sanding Block Tutorial and make your own.
Here are seven great tips that you can use to make the ultimate sanding block.
Make the Face Dead Flat
A sanding block works by targeting the high spots on your piece. The reason it can do this is because the faces are very flat. If the face of the block were curved or lumpy, it would not work in the same way.
Making the sanding block faces flat is very easy. The first thing you can do is simply select a piece of wood for your block that already has nice flat faces. This makes your block a little boring, but if you don’t have a lot of tools you have to do with boring for a while.
MDF or Melamine faced particle board will have very flat faces. Cut a piece of wood for your block from one of these materials, and you will be nearly dead flat from the start. The next option gives you more flexibility, and you can still have a nice flat face.
First, find a surface that is really flat. Then, find a piece of glass laid down, or a granite plate if you have one. Next, lay a piece of rough sandpaper down with the grit facing up. Slowly rub your sanding block face against the grit. Keep going until you have sanding scratches all over the face, which means you have touched the entire surface.
At this point, you have a very flat face on your sanding block. This face is the one that is covered with cork, but this is how you start out really flat. It’s worth the time, and your sanding block will work better too.
Use an Exotic Hardwood
It’s interesting, but higher end tools almost beg you to use them. They may not even work much better than middle range tools, but there is just something nice about using a really well made tool.
The same goes for your sanding block. If you use a nice exotic wood species for your block, you will love your block even more. Even though you will use this sanding block a lot in your shop, making it look great is still a fun part of the process.
Select a really nice exotic hardwood. Even if he wood is expensive, you only need a small piece, so it will not be very much. Maybe even get enough for a couple blocks, so you can make one for a friend.
Some great choices are figured Walnut, Briar, Cocobolo, and East Indian Rosewood. Also, you can use Bocote, Bubinga, or Wenge. Any of these will make an excellent looking sanding block, and something you will be proud to show off.
See Also: 7 Beautiful Types of Wood for Ring Making (They Work for Sanding Blocks Too)
Buy Cork on a Roll
There are a lot of options for cork on your sanding block. There are large tiles, rolls, and smaller pieces that you can buy. The particle size changes too, and there are big chunks as well as small granules.
The best cork to buy for your sanding blocks is thin, with a tiny particle size. The cork that you find in rolls for cork boards is what you need. Buy one roll of this stuff, and you can make sanding blocks for the rest of your life.
Look for a roll that is about 1/8 inch thick, and any width or length. Most rolls will be wide enough to re-skin cork boards. Pick up a roll, and you can even make some sanding blocks to sell if you want.
See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking
Use Weights to Hold the Cork Down
Cork is tough to clamp. Even though it is not a really heavy material, it’s the lightness and the flexibility that makes it hard. Instead of using clamps, use weights. After all, the light weight cork only needs so much pressure to stay in place.
Find a flat surface to use as one end of your weight clamp. On the surface place the cork, and then place the sanding block on top. When you add glue, this is how you need to place the sanding block so it can dry. Find some small heavy items like tiny gym weights or an electric drill to use as top weights.
Apply a thin layer of glue, add your cork, and place the block face down. Then, add on some weights until you see that the cork layer is totally flat. Once this happens, more weight will not help, so stop and wait for the glue to dry.
Sand the Block Like You Are Going to Sell It
A big mistake that beginners make with their homemade tools is that they only finish them to the point where they are able to be used. This makes the tools look shabby and poorly made. All it takes is a little more work, and your tools can look like you know what you are doing.
Sand the block like you plan on selling it, and you will love to keep it. Sand the surface using coarse paper to remove all the really deep scratches. Then, switch to finer grits, and keep working on the block.
Take the time at this stage to really make the block look good. Over time, there are going to be new scratches added, but that’s ok. For at least one day in the life of your sanding block, it should look flawless.
Apply an Oil Finish
Finishing your tools is easy, and the sanding block is no exception. One of the best finishes for wooden tools and tool handles is tru-oil. This is a polymerized linseed oil that is made for gun stocks, and works really well on anything.
You can follow my directions for Finishing Wood With Tru-Oil and be an expert at this finish in an afternoon. The product is inexpensive, and you can find it in a lot of places. After you layer on your finish, leave the block to cure before you use it.
There are other finishing options too, and if you have a favorite you can use it. I do recommend using some kind of an oil or a varnish, because of the look. These finishes will leave a close to the wood look that a nicely made hand tool shows off really well.
Buff the Finish (Alternative)
If you are fortunate enough to have a buffing setup like the Beall Buffing System, you can just buff the sanding block instead. The link shows how it works, as well as a video so you can actually see the transformation in progress.
The smoothness that you can create with a buffing system is unbelievable. The surface will be super smooth, and the sanding block will actually look like it has a finish on it. In reality, it’s just the look of the polish.
There are a couple buffing systems out there but the Beall system is one of the easiest to get up and going. If you have a small motor then buy that kit. If you have a lathe, there is also a kit that goes right into your headstock.
Your homework is to make a sanding block. If you do not have one, or you have one of those rubber blocks, there is something really pleasing about working with your own sanding block. It’s an easy project too.
Make the block from a really nice piece of wood. If you already have something cool in the shop then go for it. If you don’t then buy something nice. You can even use a piece of wood with a strong memory, like a piece from an old bench.
Make your block, and then use it. Once you have a nice sanding block on your bench, you will find reasons to use it all the time. Over time, it will become one of your most favorite tools and a personal treasure.
See Also: 15 Great Places to Get Woodworking Wood
How to Make a Great Sanding Block Wrap-Up
Making a sanding block is pretty straight forward. It’s a block of wood and some cork on the face. Even so, as easy as this is there are still a few ways to make it better. After all, why make a tool if you are not going to enjoy using it.
Select a nice looking piece of wood for your block. When you make your block so nice that you won’t want to use it, you are going in the right direction. This should be a really special looking tool, and something you enjoy showing off.
Once you have your block, use it. Leave it on the bench where you have easy access, and you will end up using it all the time. Over time, it will earn some battle marks and scars, and earn it’s place as a go-to tool in your shop.
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