I want to document this here in my blog for my students.
The Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls (aka Synthetic Steel Wool, aka Scotch Brite Pads) that I use are:
Carl Ford Course is
www.McMaster.com #4659A16 – Nylon Mesh Cushioned Sanding Roll for Aluminum, Soft Metal & Nonmetal, 15 Feet x 2″, Blending
Carl Ford Medium is
www.McMaster.com #4659A17 – Nylon Mesh Cushioned Sanding Roll for Aluminum, Soft Metal & Nonmetal, 15 Feet x 2″, All Purpose
Carl Ford Fine is
www.McMaster.com #4659A18 – Nylon Mesh Cushioned Sanding Roll for Aluminum, Soft Metal & Nonmetal, 15 Feet x 2″, Clean / Finish
All of the above are “Silicon Carbide” material. Catalog says they are for metal. I use them on wood.
They are all GRAY in color. To tell them apart, I do the following. I cut off a piece from roll. If fine then do nothing. If medium then clip 1/2″ off of ONE corner at 45 degrees. If course then clip 1/2″ off of TWO corners at 45 degrees.
Note: McMaster-Carr (www.McMaster.com) is an old school company. When you order something the order goes directly to the warehouse. They fill the order. Then the order goes to the office where they add the tax and ACTUAL shipping cost. Thus you DO NOT see the shipping cost until AFTER they ship something. You have to trust them to ship it to you at a reasonable cost, the old school way. I have always found their shipping cost to be reasonable. On 9/2019 it is roughly $10 for anything that fits in a 6″ x 12″ x 18″ box. In my experience, the weight has very little effect on the shipping cost. I live roughly 130 miles from their warehouse in Robbinsville NJ. You can find their closest warehouse at www.McMaster.com/returns.
Green and Maroon Stuff
I no longer use the green and maroon stuff that people may have seen me use in the past. They were “Aluminum Oxide” material (rather than “Silicon Carbide”). I gave up on these because they melt to easy. Hold them up to a piece running fast on the lathe, hit the corner or a sharp edge and they melt. It turns green! Ugg!!! No way to get rid of green.
If you want the old green it was www.McMaster.com #4659A13. I don’t known what the Maroon stuff was. I purchased it a very long time ago.
I Purchase from McMaster-Carr (www.McMaster.com)
Long ago, I gave up on the junk (oh, I mean stuff) from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. The quality varies to much by manufacturer. They are always changing their source. Some times it is good. Often it is junk. McMaster forces it’s suppliers to meet their quality specs or get lost.
I have found that the 2″ wide rolls from www.mcmaster.com are a lot better than the 6″ x 9″ pads from big box stores, etc. I don’t have to spend a lot time cutting the 6×9 pads up into small pieces to avoid wasting a lot of the pad. The stuff is already 2″ wide. Just cut off a 2″ or 3″ long piece and you are ready to go. When it is worn out or dirty you just discard a small piece. In the long run the rolls save money.
Real Steel Wool Sucks
I don’t use real steel wool. It gets caught in wood fiber to easy. Rusts, cuts your fingers off, etc.
Beware: I got a big box of blue towels long ago from my father. He got them at an auction. The Amazon ones appear to be the same thing. But, I have never purchased the Amazon ones.
Carl Ford’s Sanding and Buffing in a Nutshell
I ONLY sand to 220 grit. Sand 80, 120, 180, 220 grit. Then I use Carl Ford “Medium” nylon mesh pad. Followed by Carl Ford “Fine” nylon mesh pad. Followed by buffing with “Blue Huck” towel.
Note: I have eliminated 150 grit sandpaper from my world. I use to sand 80, 120, 150, 180, 220 grit. Then, I decided that 150 grit was a waste of time. To close to 120 and/or 180. I no longer use 150 grit sandpaper. I now sand 80, 120, 180, 220 grit.
I use nylon mesh pads and buffing to replace sanding beyond 220 grit. If you catch the end of a nylon mesh pad, nothing happens! It DOES NOT scratch the work like the edge of 400 grit sandpaper will.
I may hold the nylon mesh pad up to the work while the lathe is running.
Often I cut a 2″ by 2″ square chunk of the nylon mesh pad and use it like a sanding disk with the lathe running. The nylon mesh just sticks to the hook part of any Velcro sanding mandrel you mount in a drill or any interface pad. I like to use a soft interface pad (1/4″ or 3/8″ thick foam pad).
After nylon mesh pads, I buff with a blue huck towel. I hold the towel up to rotating work on the lathe. AFTER I have folded up the towel into a square with no corners sticking out that can get caught by the lathe. Yea, its not completely safe. But, not all that dangerous.
Or I use an 8″ buffing wheel. The soft cotton “wax” wheel in the Beall Buffing System. Or 2 of www.McMaster.com #4820A12. I DO NOT use any wax on the wheel for any reason!
My blue towel replaces the old fashion trick of buffing with a handful of wood shavings. In the modern world we sand to much (to far). Buffing with wood shavings is often coarser than a 220 grit sanded surface and thus scratches the surface rather buffing it. My blue towel does not scratch the surface.
For more info see my “Great Polyurethane Finishes” blog entry.