Around the Woods

Make a sanding pad and speed up the smoothing.

"A good finish starts with good sanding."

When I began to turn, I used sand paper in sheets held by hand to do all the sanding. This is still my preferred method for most spindles and I keep sandpaper from 80 to 2000 grit torn to sheets 4.5" x 5.5" ready to go. Incidentally, this is a quarter sheet of regular sandpaper. Folded three times it gives enough firmness to cut well and get into those oddball spindle grooves. wood turning sanding
Incidentally, this is a quarter sheet of regular sandpaper. Folded three times it gives enough firmness to cut well and get into those oddball spindle grooves. wood turning sanding
Maurice Gamblin introduced me to power sanding using a drill and velcro pads holding cloth backed paper, again from 80 to 2000 grit. The problem was, I like to turn a lot of small pieces from 3" to 6" diameter. The cloth was wearing to the point that it would no longer hold to the Velcro but the sanding grit was still good. I needed to have a disk for each grit. However, the disks would be expensive and would be a hastle to change. What I needed was a quick change system wherein I could change an affordable disk for each grit. I found a while back that for sanding advice, a good place to go is the auto body shop. Now before we go whole hog with this system, it may be that you want to try something a little less elaborate or just want a normal sanding pad. If so try here. wood turning sanding
wood turning sanding
It turned out that 3M company had developed such a system for the auto body industry. The Roll-Loc system included a small hoder with a 1/4" stem and various grits of sand paper and grinding pads that fit the holder. One quick quarter turn and the grit was on or off.

Unfortunately, the sanding pads are unsuitable for wood and the grits do not go high enough. The grinding pads are designed for metal work, not wood. Obviously I just had to adapt to the turning world.

The grinding pads are not designed for long term usage. Used on metal, they wear and are replaced. On the other hand, they are designed for high speed use on a die grinder for auto body work. I reasoned that a design calling for use at 20,000 rpm should be able to withstand for long periods the significantly lower speeds we use.

wood turning sanding
The Roll-Loc grinding pads are too hard for sanding wood and too thin. I am going to make a sandng pad for a 3" sanding disk. These disks have cloth backs that adhere to Velcro and need a flexible foam pad to back them so as to follow the contours of a rounded piece and still go over the voids and in-curves of a burled surface. wood turning sanding
In looking for a suitable and easily obtainable backing material I have tried various sources of foam rubber including mouse pads and the like. I have settled on the blue foam pads that campers use as portable ground pads. They are easily obtainable from sporting goods shops or variety stores that handle camping supplies. Be warned, if your wood turning club is making sanding disks, one pad goes a long way! wood turning sanding
Velcro is easy to get from the local fabric shop. I buy a 2" wide strip. Rumor has it that the stuff is available in 3" strips, but I have never seen it and I would feel foolish ordering 100 yards. It also comes with hook on one piece and loop on the other. All you need is the hook side. A yard will likely cost less than a dollar and make ten to twelve sanding pads depending upon how fussy you are in the cutting. I make them quick and dirty and do well to get ten. wood turning sanding
Heat up the glue gun. I have mine on a timer so I do not leave it on when I exit the shop. wood turning sanding
Cut that 3" disk from the pad. I just put a 3" sanding disk on the material and draw around it. wood turning sanding
Hot glue it to the grinding pad. There is a lot of controversy over the kind of glue to use. People use everything from epoxy to silicone. Hot glue works for me. Put a bead around the outside of the disk and then spiral it in the middle. Push it onto the foam and hold it for thirty seconds or so. If you generate enough heat to soften the hot glue while sanding, you will ruin the velcro and case harden the wood. wood turning sanding
Put the holder in the drill press. If you do not have a drill press use a hand drill or a Jacob's chuck in the lathe. wood turning sanding
Screw the pad into the holder. wood turning sanding
Take a piece of scrap wood about 10" long by 1" wide and glue or staple a strip of coarse sandpaper to it, 36 or 50 grit will do. I went a bit overboard here and turned a handle on a square of scrap, but it was just lying around so... wood turning sanding
Turn on the drill press and as the pad spins trim it to 2 3/4" diameter with the sanding board. A rasp will do but it will clog with the residue. Dust will fly! Eye and nose protection is upon your own head. wood turning sanding
Remove the pad from the holder and hot glue the Velcro to it. Hooks face outward! At first I used to use two strips carefully aligned to cover the whole pad, but I find a strip down the center works just fine and a lot less hassle. wood turning sanding
Trim the Velcro to the pad. wood turning sanding
Return pad to holder and trim and bevel the edge with the sanding board while the drill press runs. I find the bevelled edge and a pad diameter slightly less than the 3" sanding disks I use gives a nicer finish with less swirls. wood turning sanding
Done. Now try it out and if you like it make one for every grit you use. The drawer here fits into the top of my grinder stand. When it is time to sand I just bring out the shole drawer. Each grit has its own compartment with disk ready to go. wood turning sanding


If you are considering using one of those passive or unpowered sanders, drill a 9/64" hole in the end of a piece of wood for a handle and put the stem of the holder in it for a try. It may smoke and burn because of friction at high speeds,(mine does not) but you get the idea. If you like it, get a bearing with a 1/2" or 3/4" outer diameter and a 1/4" inner and drill a hole in the handle for the bearing. The holder fits in it and away you go.
wood turning sanding

Have fun and let me know how it works out.

To see the sander at work go to bowl sanding.

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