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  • 2 Ways to Instruct


    Tape FailIf you think about it, there are two basic methods of sharing "how-to" information with others. One is teaching from the front of the class, or the "I am an expert in this and will be sharing my expertise with you" method. The other is teaching from within the class, or "I have an idea, let's see how it works together" approach.

    Here in the blog, we have done both. For example, we certainly used the "teach from the front" method when discussing subjects such as sanding belt shelf life or why your choice of abrasive material matters. At other times we embarked on sanding projects not knowing if they would work at all, but inviting you to follow along as we tried it out as we have done with our flap sander and power profile sanding projects.


    Inside SandingBoth of these teaching styles are legitimate and have their place, but I have to admit to a personal preference for the less formal teaching from within method. I like sharing both the successes and occasional failures with the reader. I think it tends to spur more creative thinking within the audience, and it tends to encourage people to share their ideas and thoughts more as well.




    In UseAnd in some rare cases, the two methods of instruction actually emerge side by side. Our Sanding Storage Center series published a few years back began life as a study in how best to store sanding supplies when not in use, and evolved into a much larger project, that of building a downdraft sanding table with customized storage for belts, discs and sheets of sandpaper.

    At any rate, we fully intend to continue using both methods of teaching to bring you as much useful information on sanding and sanding supplies as we can, and we love to hear from you with any ideas or comments that our posts might inspire. You can comment here on this blog, on our Facebook Page or on Twitter.

  • Sanding on the Lathe

    Someone made a comment to me recently that inspired this post: He said that "A lathe is a rotary tool looking for an application". Now, we all know that it is highly useful for turning wood and other materials in the traditional sense, but his looking at it like a "moto-tool" rather than strictly as a tool for shaping wood was inspiring.

    2015-10-03 09.04.06I was talking with Mike Meredith of Doctor's Woodshop. He makes an excellent line of friction finishes specifically for the lathe. As part of his demonstration, he showed me a pretty slick sanding head he made for his lathe designed to sand rounded parts. It is a pretty simple turned disk with self adhesive hook material applied to the face. On this, he can apply a hook and loop sanding disc directly, or a sanding pad, or even a couple of sanding pads on top of which he then adds a hook and loop sanding disc.

    This allows him to create a powered sanding pad with exactly the amount of "give" that he wants for the sanding to be done, anything from a rigid sanding pad to a very soft one that will conform to even fairly tightly curved parts. Obviously, the sanding disc being used must be flexible enough to mold to the part along with the built up padding, and we discussed how Abranet sanding discs are ideal for this application.

    CircleNow regular readers of this blog will recall that we published a series on building a 10" disc sanding station for your lathe, but Mike's idea went in a different direction. and then I came across an article in the Feb 2014 issue of Woodworker's Journal Magazine featuring an master woodwind maker, Tim Cranmore. The one page article has a photo of Tim sanding a part on what is obviously a shop-built sanding drum powered by his lathe.

    WWJ Lathe SandingI am always struck by the creativity of trades people when they encounter a specific problem that needs a solution. Mike and Tim both pointed me in new ways of looking at the lathe as a power-head as much as a turning tool, reinforcing the "Sandpaper Mash Up" concept that has been discussed in this blog before. So I invite you to share your creative uses of "a rotary tool looking for an application" Share your by commenting here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter feed.

  • Cranial Download - Fabrication Details

    Mission Plans 9_0004These days, my shop consists of one person, me, and since I do all the design work as well, passing along details on construction and finish is not an issue. Not that this means I don't still screw things up, far from it, but thinking on this reminds me of my days working in shops as an employee.

    One of the real issues encountered all the time in just about every shop was getting ALL of the info needed for the job from those who created the idea, to those who ultimately had to build it (An old boss of mine referred to this as a "Cranial Download"). This is no easy task, and I think very few companies have found a great solution. Sure, prints and drawings can show dimensions, shapes, hole locations and such, but what about all the rest? There are a myriad of details that may have been thought of during the design and drafting that rarely make it out to the shop floor, and this is especially true of sanding and finishing details.

    In UseI have seen cut lists that reference edge banding; "EB 2s 1L" means that both short edges and one long edge of a part gets banded. But do you also pass along such info for sanding?  Or how you envisioned the sanding and surface prep being done?  Does your bench person know that the piece being made is supposed to be "rustic" and exactly what that means in your mind?

    Most companies do have standards for what grit to sand a part to for paint grade or staining, and that is helpful, but often for custom work, the shop floor needs more info. Did you envision edges being rounded by a belt sander to look more handmade? Will the part be "distressed" after finishing by block sanding at corners? If you do not pass that info along, there is no reason for the shop person not to use a router and bit.

    100_1726Passing details along with the job as it flows through your plant is a challenge. Share your solutions with us, we would love to hear the creative ways you have solved this issue. You can comment here on the blog, on our Facebook Page, or via Twitter

  • The Sanding Disc Shuffle

    Using 2It's not a new dance craze. The Sanding Disc Shuffle is the process of working through the grits with hook and loop discs. I typically start with 80 or 100 grit, then move on to 120 or 150, and if needed will work up to 220 or 320.

    Long time readers of this blog know that we are big on dust control, so properly aligning the holes in the sanding disc with the holes in your Random Orbit Sander does make a difference. But when sanding a large number of parts and swapping sanding discs as you work through the pile, this can eat up a lot of time. There is a pretty easy way to help automate this process.

    Marking It is nothing more complicated than a board with some strategically placed dowel pins. The pins hold the sanding discs in place but also function as guides for the sander, insuring hole alignment with every sanding disc change. Start by ripping a plywood scrap a bit wider than your sanding disc, in this case, 6 inches wide for 5 inch discs. Cross cut it to accommodate two or three sanding discs side by side with a bit of space between. This one is for two discs so it ended up 12 inches long, a three disc version should be around 18 inches.

    Drilling Lay the discs out and mark the center of two holes in each disc, then drill 3/8" holes in those locations for a short section of dowel. Glue dowel segments in place so that they protrude only about 1/4 inch above the board face.  Taper the top ends of the dowel pins to insure that the sanding discs and the sander can drop smoothly over them. And that is all there is to it.


    In use, a sanding disc of each grit being used is placed over the dowels with the hook and loop side up. When switching grits, one disc is peeled off the sander and placed in it's spot back on the board, then the Random Orbit Sander base is lowered onto the dowels holding the next grit in order. The dowel assure the holes in the sanding disc are perfectly aligned with those on the sander and you can get right back to work. On a big sanding job, you should find this trick saves a lot of time and improves your dust collection as well. And no more need to bend over retrieving sanding discs that get knocked to the floor!

    We hope you find this tip useful and encourage you to share with us your tips. You can contact us by commenting here on the blog, our Facebook Page, or via Twitter.


  • Are You Ready?

    In UseMany years ago I was the service writer for a small three bay gas station/service center, back in the days when you actually could get repairs rather than slurpees where you bought your gas. We had a local parts supplier who would visit once a week, to check our hardware bins and automatically refill any nuts or bolts we were getting low on.  One day, the (usually absentee)owners decided that this was costing too much, and that THEY would monitor the bins and order replacements as needed.

    Most of you have already figured out where this is headed. Within weeks, I had mechanics standing around waiting for an $0.08 nut to show up so they could finish a car. We were billing about $40/hour back then, and had plenty of work, so the hardware situation very quickly began costing a LOT more than the money we had previously had "tied up" in hardware inventory.

    Tape FailWhat does this have to do with sanding supplies? Well, that would depend on how well you have your inventory under control. Are you, as you read this, truly aware of what sanding disks you do or do not have on hand? Are you sure you have the right sizes and hole patterns for all your sanders? Do you know how old your stock of sanding belts are? They do have a shelf life, we discussed this in this blog back in April of 2012. The tape used to hold them together only lasts so long, and this includes wide sanding belts.

    Now, we are happy to point out that having an account at can help with this. It can track your order history and help remind you on items you order regularly, but the point of this blog is more about being prepared. If you had a big job come into your shop today, would your team be waiting around for some simple, inexpensive tool, hardware or sanding supplies, or do you have everything to hand? Answering this question is just another small step toward efficiency you can take at little cost in time or money. The rewards could far outweigh the investment.

    As ever, we want to hear from you! What small efficiencies do you employ in your space? Respond to the blog, on our Facebook Page, or via

  • Simple Steps


    In the last blog, I shared a simple tip that saves time and makes my shop safer. One thing I have noticed over the years is that small changes made regularly almost always  have greater impact than big, usually expensive and time consuming changes. and in that light, I share this next tip: Chalkboard paint. Yeah, I know, it's not about sanding disks or belts, but it is about helping you think efficiency.

    I referenced using chalkboard paint in my shop in a blog back in September 2014. I have since moved my shop, and one of the first things I did in the new space was added chalk boards. Some are painted door panels like before, some are simply plywood scraps painted and hung where convenient.

    2014-11-12 14.02.48


    I even painted a 4' by 8' section of the wall. I use this for my "cue cards" when shooting video. I can look past the camera and see the chalkboard without appearing to look away.

    At my age, my eyes are not what they used to be. Having chalkboards around lets me post cut lists I can read from across the room, or a place to doodle and work out designs.


    Ready to Decorate



    The chalkboard paint is available in a can for brushing on, and in spray cans for quick jobs. I have even sprayed it onto strips of painter's tape to make removable labels that can be written in chalk.

    None of this, of course, has much to do with our usual line of sanding supplies, but we figure that if we can help you pay attention to the small details that will save you time and money, you'll have more to spend when next you place a sandpaper order!


    We invite you to share your simple steps to more efficient work. You can comment here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter

  • A Plug for Efficiency

    DSC_6335I am always looking for more efficiency in my shop. There is a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it, so anything I can adjust to save even a few seconds at a time is worth looking at, even if they are not directly related to sanding supplies.



    On my table saw for example: It came with a 12 foot cord. When I moved into my current shop, I had the electrician provide me with a 20 foot "pigtail" for the plug so I can set my saw anywhere in the shop. This has worked out as intended, but I found myself bending over all the time to unplug the saw when I moved it or changed blades. I change blades quite often, so this started to become a sore spot as well as a safety issue. There is always the temptation to swap blades without bothering to unplug.

    DSC_6336The other day it occurred to me that the 12 foot cord on the saw was not really needed with the long pigtail. I shortened the cord so that the male plug end is right at the switch. This makes it VERY fast and easy to unplug the saw whenever I need to without turning and bending. I just hang the disconnected pigtail on top of the switch box so I can plug right back in once the blades are changed.

    DSC_6337This is a very easy fix to a fairly minor problem that not only makes my work more efficient, but also safer and more enjoyable. There are a million ways you can improve your work environment and flow to save time and hassle as well. For example, you can sign into your account at and let your previous order history help you track what sanding supplies you have ordered in the past and track when you may need to order again! Not running out of a critical grit or belt is always more efficient!

    Feel free to share your solutions to minor inconveniences around your shop. You can comment here on the blog, on our Facebook Page, or on Twitter

  • Sanding Belt Block Sander Part 2

    DSC_6208Ok, so I am still not sure exactly what to call this thing, but that won't stop us from completing the project. In the last blog we chose the sanding belt we wanted to use for our block sander, and created the basic block to fit within the sanding belt. Now we need to create a tensioning system to insure that the block stays tight and straight even when the sanding belts may be slightly different lengths and as they stretch.

    BB Sander PartsI made one of these blocks some years back using a pair of long screws to set the tension. It worked ok, but I had to adjust the screws for each sanding belt I used, and if the belt stretched, the screws had to be adjusted again. This time I wanted a self-tensioning system. So at the hardware store I bought a length of 3/8" aluminum rod and a pair of 1/2" by 2" springs. I carefully marked and drilled two 1/2" holes in both of the sanding block ends, about 1/2" deep. These pockets will hold the springs in place. I then drilled a 3/8" diameter hole 2" deep in the center of each of these pockets. The 3/8" aluminum rods align the block halves while the springs provide the tension. I scuff sanded one end of each section of rod and epoxied them into  one of the block halves. The other end remains free to slide in and out of the block to allow for different sanding belt sizes.

    BB Sander InstallOnce the epoxy is cured, the springs are placed over the rods, the two block halves slid together, then compressed, and the belt sander belt is placed over the block. When released, the springs will keep the block tight inside the sanding belt during use. I use sanding blocks like this for all sorts of basic sanding tasks around the shop, especially for flush sanding parts and easing edges. One of these blocks can be used with several different grits of sanding belts, but they are cheap and easy enough to make one for each grit you typically use.

    This is but one more way to get more from the sanding supplies you have around your shop. We would love to see your solutions to odd sanding issues that you have come up with in your work. Feel free to comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter.

  • Sanding Belt Block Sander?

    BB Sander FinishedSanding blocks come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. In past issues of this blog we have shown methods for making custom sanding blocks from auto body filler to packing foam to a deck of playing cards. One type I have seen in use in most every shop I have been in consists of a wood block inside a sanding belt.


    Typically, these are pretty crude, just one or two pieces of wood cut to fit inside the belt, and some sort of wedge pressed in to tighten the fit. I have made and used these myself, but they rarely worked as well as desired. Mostly the problem stems from maintaining a tight fit. Sanding belts are made from a loop of cloth backed sand paper joined to itself with special tape forming a belt. So even belts made together as one size vary slightly in actual inside measurement. Sanding belts also do stretch over time and with use which is why all belt sanders have spring-loaded tensioning devices.


    BB Sander Pieces

    Ideally, the block to fit inside a sanding belt should also have a tensioning system, and we will show you how to do this with inexpensive materials. Our "sanding belt block sander" starts with a piece of 3/4" plywood or MDF, ripped to the width of the belt and cross cut to be about 1/2" shorter than the inside of the belt. This block is then cut in half to accept the tensioning system.


    I have made these before with a couple of bolts between the sanding block halves to adjust the overall length, but while it was an improvement over wedges, it was less than optimal. This design will use 3/8" aluminum rods with springs to keep the sanding belt under tension. The rods keep the block halves aligned and the springs apply tension.


    BB Sander DrillStart by marking the block halves on the mating faces, and drill two shallow 1/2" holes in each face. This step is really the only one that requires any accuracy, you need to insure that the holes line up as precisely as possible. Once the 1/2" holes are drilled, a 3/8" bit is used to drill deeper holes centered on the 1/2" ones, giving you 3/8" holes with a 1/2" counter bore.


    In Part 2, we will assemble the sanding block and cover details of getting the fit right. As always, we are interested in your thoughts and opinions of the information we provide. You may comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter.

  • Abrasive Choices

    GritsWhile it might seem simple at first glance, choosing the proper sanding supplies for your application can actually be fairly complex. You need to decide the grits you will need, the backer that will perform best and even the type of abrasive used (usually a mineral) needs to be determined.

    In previous blog posts we have discussed grit standards used in classifying sanding supplies, the different types of backers available, and have posted several times on getting the best results with whatever sandpaper you are using. But a question came up recently about choosing the abrasive material in regard to the specific task at hand.


    uvs150615-001The issue was if the material being sanded should be a factor in the mineral used as the abrasive. For example, should a body shop finishing a car choose a different type of grit than a woodworker or someone restoring a fiberglass boat? And that discussion brought up the question of the finish desired. We know that wood being sanded in preparation for paint finishes with a different grit than wood to be stained. But should these choices of finish also help determine the mineral abrasive used as well?


    It turns out that the abrasive material that makes up your sandpaper can affect the sheen of finishes in wood and the surface of unfinished materials. For example, in our "Quality"  blog of August 2012, we explained how Garnet is relatively soft and is often favored by fine furniture makers. Aluminum Oxide is much harder. The particals tend to have very sharp edges, so they create well defined peaks and valleys in the scratch pattern. These sharp edges reflect light poorly making for a low sheen on the surface.

    80 Grit 150 Grit 220 Grit


















    Silicon Carbide, on the other hand, tends toward less angular particles so the peaks and valleys created are different, with sharp peaks and rounded valleys. This reflects more light, creating a finish with more gloss. Buffing compounds are often used as a final sanding finish reducing the sharpness of the peaks even more.

    Wet sanding is commonly used when working in metals, fiberglass, glass and plastics. It is less common in woodworking, but in any case, wet sanding requires using sanding sheets or sanding belts fabricated to stand up when wet. This will often limit your abrasive material choices. Garnet, for example, is virtually never available in a wet/dry sandpaper.

    We are really interested to hear your experiences and preferences when it comes to how you choose the sandpaper, sanding belts sanding disks or sanding rolls for the types of work you do. Feel free to share with us by commenting here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter.


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