Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Sanding



There is nothing wrong with sandpaper. It is a cutting tool and used with skill can be effective. There are also times where difficult grain, raised fibers, or wood under compression (such as the inside of a steam bent curve) may need some sanding to achieve the desired surface. With that said, I try to eliminate sanding as much as possible.

To me, sanding is a slow and dusty way to arrive at a surfaces that have a "sameness" that I don't find appealling. Nothing can match the surface left by a razor sharp tool used in the correct manner. I like to think of the tools that I use and the process as being clearly represented on the surface of the piece. Every time that I reach for the sandpaper (and at times I must), I feel like I am mumbling to cover something up. But I try not to avoid sanding on some "purist" level, just to recognize that it generally points to areas in my process or ability that need deeper exploration. I simply find the challenge more fun and the end results more interesting.

I don't use sandpaper to create shapes, I use it to correct surface issues. At this point, my sanding is generally limited to areas where I have used a scraper. After scraping (a sharp scraper is vital), I wet the area and let it dry thoroughly. Then a light cutting with 220 grit knocks off the raised fibers. Learning to do without sandpaper has often slowed my works down substantially, but I have made it up many times over in the speed that I now work and the crisp surface that I can achieve.

Sanding is often necessary and sometimes very good, but I think that it should be employed sparingly and always questioned as an opportunity for better work and understanding.

4 comments:

Caleb James said...

I appreciate your thoughts on the use of sandpaper. I struggle every time I pick it up, wishing I knew how to achieve the finish I want without it. I never considered it a cutting tool but I guess you are right. I don't think I will feel so bad when I have to reach for it next time.

Peter Galbert said...

Caleb,
yep, it has it's place and uses, no shame there!

Mark Barabas said...

Hi Peter, I would like to understand why a planed surface needs no sanding, but a scraped one does. Thanks....Mark

petergalbert said...

Mark,
scraping, which breaks the shavings immediately and at a high angle causes compression of the surface fibers, this results in grain raising later. Planing or any sharp blade that approaches at the lower angles cleanly shears the fibers without compression, therefore, there is nothing to raise. I hope this makes sense.