Hand Tools

Re: The role of sand paper in hand tool work

Jack Dover

I am building a bed which has few parts, they are all rectangular prisms, and hence easily planed. By the time I got to the finishing step most parts had scuffs and dings that would only grow in number upon assembly.

A literal answer is simple: don't ding or scuff your piece. But I guess your real question is "how dinging my pieces could possibly be avoided?". I, for one, machine my pieces to size + 1/32", then join, then finish plane. Once becoming mindful about dings you'll easily prevent them most of the time, save a few accidents. I'd argue that anything deeper than 1/32" on almost finished piece is equally painful to remove, be it planing or sanding.

180 grit sand paper restores the surfaces to uniformity, easily.

It seems you're conflating two things here. If you meant dings that could be taken off with 180 - clearly a plane will do it, faster and better. If you're talking about the quality of the finished surface — even, uniform, defect free surface — yeah, this is not that easy. Dealing with uncooperative grain requires way more skill with a plane than with sandpaper. However, a skill can be acquired, really a matter of a desire, also a fun and rewarding process.

Why avoid using it?

Everyone might have different reasons. From the result perspective I don't like that sandpaper takes crispness out of my edges and arrises, esp. where I designed them to be crisp. Also, even 1200 grit produce a diffuse light dispersion, on some woods it really makes me want to adjust white balance. Process wise dust, noise and vibration is a real problem in a small confined space that is my workshop. I might've worked through it if somebody would show me a correct sanding protocol so that it doesn't round things over, even a slightest.

Or maybe I could put it like this: imagine a whole assembled piece having a shiny and reflective surface like on David's test pieces. Many people would think "why would anyone might want to sand this??"

Then there is the issue of staining. I do not think it is possible to pigment stain hand tooled surfaces.

So you mean that pores must be filled, and one has to sand the filler off? Yes, I agree, this is a valid point. Oil and wax are awesome on well planed surfaces, but open pored woods look... weird. I tried many different workarounds: brushing a heavy coat of shellac and wiping it off, using a water based filler and burnishing it - while they work and produce acceptable results, often a better quality is wanted. Got to admit it: in such cases, esp. on large flat panels with stains and heavy finish, sanding will produce a better result, so I do sand. But if I can avoid it - it's avoided. Would happily listen to anyone who would explain how to deal with this using hand planes and other tools.

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