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5″ Downdraft Table

While working on a cross for my church’s fall festival auction yesterday, I made another batch of crosspieces that connect the inner cross frame to the outer. I bandsawed these pieces to 3/8” x 3/8” x 1-1/2” long. The carbide-toothed blade on my bandsaw left them a little rough (I knew it would, so I cut them a little oversize) so I had to sand each one of the 20 or so piece smooth. Ugh.

Whenever I’m faced with a dull task like that, I try to find a way to speed it up with a power tool. (Actually, I try to solve every problem with a power tool if I can.) The pieces were too small to run the through the drum sander… hmmm…. Normally I would just adhere a little PSA (self-stick) sandpaper on the tablesaw or router tabletop, and rub the pieces on it, but all I had was 100 grit, and I needed to sand these pieces to 220.

ROS in vise1Then I thought I might try the old “clamp-a-portable-belt-sander-in-your vise” routine, but I figured that would hog away WAY to much material. But, maybe I could do it with my 5” random-orbit sander?

Nope. Too hard to control the little piece as it hits the spinning disc, even at slow speed.

Then it hit me to combine the PSA-on-tabletop method with the ROS method. I simply clamped the ROS in my vise upside down, unplugged it, loaded up some 120-grit paper, and started sanding. ROS sanding small piecesA few back-and-forth strokes was all I needed on each face of the small workpieces to smooth them. And, when I noticed the abrasive getting loaded with sanding dust, I realized I could just hook up the sander’s dust port to a shop vacuum and run the vacuum without running the sander.

Worked like a charm. The abrasives didn’t load up, and I had all of those tiny pieces sanded to 220 grit in about 10 minutes.

BTW, If you have one of those vises with the pivoting moveable jaw, you know it’s great for clamping workpieces in the center of the jaw’s width. But for odd shapes or off-center clamping, they don’t work as well. Here’s how I trick mine into clamping off-center: ROS in vise w DCI just put a scrapwood spacer in the jaws at the opposite end so that the vise “thinks” it’s holding a full-width piece.

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