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.


Unknown 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...

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