Turning Archive 2006

A sanding technique

David Breth
>Several months ago, I asked for help in a post about sanding tearout areas on bowls. Most responses suggested using a substance on the tear out areas that would help make the fibers stand up, but I think it was Mike in Thunder Bay who offered a response that really got me thinking - he said basically, "hey, put water, milk, honey, thinner, oil, whatever on it to help the fibers stand up". I took his message to heart, and started a method that I like a lot.

When I finish with the tools, I take a bar of paraffin wax, and coat the area to be sanded. Some of this is done with the lathe spinning, some while it is stopped. The idea is to fill in all those nasty areas, and while I'm at it, I coat the entire area to be sanded, just to make sure imperfections are coated as well. Then I begin sanding with the lathe at low speed (my lowest speed is 600 rpm), usually with 100 grit to start. I go through several pieces of sandpaper, because all you pick up to start with is a bunch of wax. I stick with 100 until "all" the wax is gone, and I've got a smooth, soft surface of wood before continuing to subsequent grits (which you should do anyway). I then run the table on grits up to 600. (Because of the relatively high rpm I'm dealing with for sanding, I've developed a pretty quick wrist action to prevent scoring lines from the sandpaper.) By the time I'm done, the bowl is baby-butt smooth.

As I've gotten better, there are fewer and fewer defects on my end product, and the most recent bowl I can't keep my hands off because it is so blasted smooth. Patience with the 100 is a virtue to get all that end grain nice and purty.

Positives about the paraffin wax:
1) It keeps the wood "cool" during the most aggressive sanding phase.
2) The results have been very good
3) Paraffin wax is cheaper than say, sanding sealer, and is available at supermarkets.
4) It does not color the wood
5) It keeps the dust down during the most aggressive phase of sanding.
6) I would rather not use sanding sealer or any chemical substance that will go airborne.

1) You go through a lot of 100 grit.

At first, I used leftover minwax tung oil, but found that the oil was penetrating better in some areas than others, so sometimes I got more sandpaper aggression on one spot than another. Also, I sometimes ended up with dark spots where the oil penetrated quite deep. The wax fills gaps rather than absorbing into the wood, and therefore doesn't seem to encourage greater material removal in one area of the bowl than others.

I'm interested in your comments. I know this is not a new topic, and I'm sure I'm not breaking any new ground here, but I don't think I've seen anyone mention using wax in this way, and I've found it to be a very nice solution.

David B.

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