The sanding debate

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Mark Baker

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I was involved in a conversation the other day about the methodology we use when sanding. So you have by now deduced it was amongst a group of turners, as any other group of people are likely to talk about sport, holidays, family and other subjects. But when a group of turners get together, then it is a chance to pick each other’s brains as to how they do something or what methods they use.

Anyway, the conversation was about sanding, hand versus power, and everything related to it. It was acknowledged that hand sanding is necessary when trying to preserve crisp detail and refine surface finishes and so on, but when it came to power sanding it was an interesting exchange, Not everyone uses it and when one does the products used centre on a sanding arbor, which fits in a drill with some others using a wider array of products such as random orbital sanders and other things when necessary. It wasn’t broken down into professional versus amateur either, much of it came down to how much turning and what other work people are creating in their workshop during the year. Most people not only turn but also do work around the home, so this too played a part in what tools/items people had for that purpose, too.

The other aspect that was debated was speed of the work when sanding. This was where there was no over all consensus. Some say sand at high speeds others a ‘lowish’ speed. I straddle both camps: the coarser the grit I use the slower the speed. The first grade used is the one to remove any damage or surface deviation from the turning process. I use a slow speed at this stage so that the abrasives cut and not glide over the surface and generate unnecessary heat, which is bad for the abrasive and the work. As I move through the grits I gradually increase the speed so that I am ever refining the surface. Subsequent grits to the first one are only removing scratches. Depending on the material used I stop at an appropriate grit grade, but when I am above 400 grit then the lathe speed is quite high. I may or may not use a lubricant or oil, depending on what finish is going to be used later on.

We all agreed that it was interesting discussing such processes, we all accepted that there is more than one way to do things, but we also agreed that it was worthwhile revisiting what we do from time to time to make sure we are achieving the optimum results as the sanding process can make or break a project. It was funny that most, however, saw sanding as a necessary evil to achieve a given result rather than something that is enjoyable.

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