Tips for your sanding success

Smooth finishes are the result of smooth surfaces. Try these tips to achieve both.

  • Organize your sanding discs

    Refer to the drawing at right to cut and drill the bases and cap pieces. To use this organizer, place the sanding discs over the dowels grit side down. Then press the sander onto the dowels. Whether your sander accepts 5-hole or 8-hole discs, three dowels hold each disc securely. A hardboard cap keeps the discs flat.
    —Tom Frazier, Des Moines, Iowa

  • Save old sanding belts to use on sleeveless drums

    The next time you tear or damage one of your sanding belts, don't toss it—recycle it. If the grit on the sanding belt still has some life left in it, cut the belt into pieces that fit onto your sanding drums. Cloth-backed belts hold up longer than the thinner sandpaper normally used on these drums. With the recycled belts, you'll spend more time sanding and less time changing torn sandpaper on the drum.
    —Brian Schaible, Loveland, Colo.

  • Build your own "cordless" detail sander

    For small or occasional tight-spot sanding chores, try building this hand-powered corner/detail sander. Cut the handle from a scrap piece of 34 " hardwood plywood to the shape shown. Make the grip end long enough to fit comfortably in your hand and round its edges. Now, make the triangular pad with 212 " sides, each cut at a 60° angle. Attach the pad where shown, apply a piece of self-adhesive sandpaper to the bottom of the pad, and sand away.
    —Rene Stebenne, Whitinsville, Mass.

  • Rug pads grip workpieces under sanders and routers

    For a low-cost no-slip mat to use under workpieces that you sand or rout, check in the rug section of your local discount store. The anti-slip pads that go under most throw rugs cost a fraction of what you'll pay for router pads. You can buy these in rolls large enough to cover a benchtop, and the open-mesh designs help prevent sawdust build-up on the surface.
    —Harry Baribault, Indialantic, Fla.

  • Flatten angled cuts with elbow grease and a sand

    Jointers and planers do a great job of flattening stock with faces in parallel planes. But it's a challenge to flatten or smooth a large face cut at an angle to the opposite face.

    First, coat the back sides of a sheet or two of sandpaper with spray adhesive and mount them on a flat piece of hardwood plywood. Then, clamp the sandpaper-coated plywood to your bench, place the wood to be flattened on the sandpaper, and work it back and forth in the direction of the grain. Use even pressure and take care not to rock the workpiece. With careful sanding, you can level the workpiece as flat as the surface of the plywood.
    —from the WOOD® magazine shop

  • Dowel-rod "key" pulls sandpaper tight on drums

    If you have trouble getting the sandpaper tight on your sleeveless sanding drums, try this trick. Find a dowel that matches the diameter of the hole that you tuck the sandpaper into. Cut this dowel 2" longer than the length of the drum, then cut a kerf down the middle with a bandsaw. Stop the cut 2" short of the dowel end.

    Now, trim and install the paper on the drum. Insert the dowel by sliding the kerf over the ends of the sandpaper and twist the top of the dowel to tighten the paper. Remove the dowel and insert the regular key.
    —Mike Patrick, Rose Hill, Kan.

  • Wrap a roll of sandpaper around your drums

    On a drill-press sanding drum, the sandpaper often wears smooth or glazes over quickly. And changing the paper on these drums eats up a lot of time.

    To increase your productivity when using this tool, try wrapping a long length of adhesive-backed sandpaper to the drum. Wind the sandpaper so the edge rotates away from the workpiece, not into it. Secure the sandpaper to the top and bottom of the drum with rubber bands. When the abrasive on the top layer wears out, simply slip off the rubber bands, cut off the worn section, put the rubber bands back on, and resume sanding.

    You can improve the convenience of this technique by stocking your drum with sandpaper from a roll. These 412 "-wide rolls are normally used for 14 -sheet finishing sanders, but they come in lengths of up to 25 yards.
    —Glen Love, Hayesville, N.C.

  • Sand tight spots with this sander extender

    When you come across a small spot that your 1/4-sheet finish sander can't reach, try this trick. Cut a piece of 14 " plywood into the shape of the base of your sander and include in this shape a short extension that will fit into the area you can't reach. Attach this auxiliary base to the pad on your palm sander with double-faced tape. Then, cut out a piece of adhesive-backed sandpaper in the shape of your auxiliary base and secure it to your modified sander. During use, apply light pressure to avoid dislodging the auxiliary base.
    —Karl Faust, Gilbertsville, Pa.

  • Make your lathe a low-cost disc sander

    If you need a sanding disc and table, but your budget or available workshop space won't allow another stationary-machine purchase, build one like this for your lathe. To make the disc, cut a 10"-diameter circle from a flat piece of 34 " hardwood plywood and mount it to the faceplate of your lathe. Cut a 10"-diameter piece of sandpaper and adhere it to the disc.

    Now, build a 14x14" table, as shown, also from 34 " hardwood plywood. Rout a 38 "-deep, 34 "-wide miter-gauge slot down the middle. Then, mount the table to the lathe using a pipe nipple and pipe flange. Choose a pipe nipple size that will fit snugly into your tool-rest clamp.
    —V.L. Burgess, Titusville, Fla.

  • Small-part sanding board keeps workpieces flat

    It's easy enough to hold or tape sandpaper to your bench to sand small parts. But any unevenness in your bench will translate later into inaccurate results on the sanded workpiece.

    If your woodworking requires accurate small-part sanding, build a fixture like the one shown at right. Cut a piece of melamine-coated particleboard 12" wide and 24" long. Attach four sheets of sandpaper to it (two on top and two on the bottom) with spray adhesive. Use four successively finer grits of abrasive. The melamine backs the sandpaper with a flat, hard surface, and having the four grits you need at hand helps you zip through the sanding in no time.
    —Alvin Rosenfeld, Middletown, Conn.

Read more about

Tip of the Day

“Feather bar” for working wide pieces

The slot-mounted featherboard that normally guides cuts on my tablesaw doesn’t work for cutting... read more