This edition of the woodworking tip of the week is all about sanding. Let’s face it, most woodworkers do not like sanding. Even on the lathe, where the machine does most of the work, sanding is still a chore. However, if you make a few changes to the way you approach sanding, it can go a lot faster and the results can be much better.
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The number one thing I see when people are frustrated with sanding is that they are not using the right grit. When something comes off the belt sander, the scratches are deep. If you start with 220 at this point, it will take forever.
Look at the piece first, and make a decision on the severity of the scratches or tool marks. If there are deep scratches, or chisel marks, then start with a rougher grit. The extra sanding power will help grind through those rougher areas. It will take less time to get an even surface, and it will be far less frustrating.
When you transition to another grit, make sure the surface looks good. If you transition before all the rougher tool marks are removed, it’s too early. Get the surface to the point where the only scratches you can see are from the paper you are using, then switch.
Another mistake I often see, (and have done myself) is not paying attention to the grain. Sanding with the grain does not make less scratches. What it does it make them less visible. Scratches across the grain can be seen from space, but the same scratches going with the grain are nearly invisible.
At first sand in any direction needed to remove the marks. Then, finish up by sanding with the grain to eliminate cross grain marks. If you do this small extra step, the piece will look better. Sanding in circles or at a 45 degree angle to the grain removes material much faster. In a situation where lots of wood needs to be removed, sanding like this helps reduce the time commitment. Finish by sanding with the grain, and the end look will be the same.
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If you think about it, most people sand with a palm sander. Even if you move it with the grain, the pad is moving at hundreds or thousands of movements per second, and it’s going in every direction but straight. You can’t move it fast enough to overcome the random pattern it creates. If you sand by hand with the grain afterwards, the surface will look better, and you will remove any random swirl marks.
I’m about as cheap as they come when talking about conserving supplies, but change your sandpaper often. Once it loses the gritty feeling on the surface, it’s useless. Change it out, and the few seconds lost will be made up ten times by sanding with fresh paper.
I have fallen into this trap myself, and just kept going even though the sanding had lost the zip it had in the beginning. It only takes a few seconds to change the paper, and it’s worth it. If you buy your sandpaper the right way (which I explain here) you will save more than enough money to make up the difference.
End grain sanding can be especially time consuming. The real challenge with end grain is more mental than physical. Most times, people will give up on the end grain when it’s close enough to good for their taste. If they were to just keep going a little longer, the marks would eventually come out, and the piece would be perfect.
This woodworking tip of the week will save you time sanding. If it feels like you are sanding forever and getting nowhere, these tips can help.
This is probably my most common tip, and the focus of the woodworking tip of the week because sanding is a real chore sometimes. If you choose the right grit, work it in the right direction, and change your paper often, you will have great looking pieces in far less time.
The woodworking tip of the week comes out every Saturday, and in a previous edition I cover how to Make a Cork Faced Sanding Block. This will help as you try to craft smooth surfaces by hand.
Once you create a beautiful, smooth surface, you will need to finish it. My 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing explains how. This is for beginning wood finishers, is a free PDF document, and explains hand applied finishes. These products make an expert out of anyone, and are very easy to learn.
Do you have any woodworking tips to share? Let us know and we can all become better woodworkers. Happy building.
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