Category Archives: Finshes

Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls (aka Synthetic Steel Wool)

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 #4659A16 – Nylon Mesh Cushioned Sanding Roll for Aluminum, Soft Metal & Nonmetal, 15 Feet x 2″, Blending

Carl Ford Medium is #4659A17 – Nylon Mesh Cushioned Sanding Roll for Aluminum, Soft Metal & Nonmetal, 15 Feet x 2″, All Purpose

Carl Ford Fine is #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 ( 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

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 #4659A13. I don’t known what the Maroon stuff was. I purchased it a very long time ago.

I Purchase from McMaster-Carr (

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 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.

Blue Towel

My “Blue Towel” that I use for buffing is a “Surgical Cotton Huck Towel”. You can get them on Amazon.

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 #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.

Blue Flex Sanding Disks

Updated: 9/30/2019. Change bars in Blue on left. 

Recently someone asked me for advice on sanding disks. That is easy!

I like the “Blue Flex” sanding disk sold by Vince’s Wooden Wonders.

I have been using these for the last 4-5 years and I am very happy.

Note: Recently Craft Supplies USA started selling some “Deerfos” blue sanding disks. I don’t think they are the same. They are made by a different manufacturer. I found something I like and it’s not broke, thus, I am sticking with Vince.

• Blue Flex Disks

I use 2-3/8” disks and 3-3/8” disks Blue Flex Disks.  80, 120, 180, and 220 grits. Around $8 for 50 disks on 11/18/2014.

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.

The velcro on Blue Flex disks is glued onto a very tough sandpaper. They work wet or dry.

Heat will build up and soften the glue if you sand aggressively with these disks. When you try to remove the disk the velcro will get screwed up. To avoid this problem you need Innerface Pads!

• Innerface Pads

vince_innerface_padsI use 2-3/8” & 3-3/8” to Innerface Pads that match disks.

I use 1/4” thick “Firm Yellow Tapered Innerface Pads” for 80, 120, and 150 grits.

I use 3/8” thick “Soft Blue Innerface Pads” for 150, 180 and 220 grits.

1 interface pad for each grit works best! Allows quick and easy grit change without screwing up the velcro.

I also really like the 2″ & 3″ “Intermittent Velcro Pad” from “WoodTurners Wonders”

• Low Profile Back Up Pads (aka Thin Back Up Pads)

Vince changed the name from “Low Profile Back Up Pad” to “Ultra Thin Back Up Pad”.

vince_thin_backup_padI use 2” & 3” Ulta Thin Back Up Pads. The thing that you chuck up in the drill. 2” pad goes with 2-3/8” disks and interface pads. 3” goes with 3-3/8”

I like the “Ultra Thin Back Up Pads” (only sold by Vince?) better than the thicker pads. They are better are getting into the tight space between headstock and bowl.

If you are using interface pads to adjust softness of pad then you don’t need and really don’t want a thick back up pad with lots of flex.

• Angle Drill

I like to use a low profile angle drill for my sanding on the lathe. I have 2 of them.  One for 2″ disks and one for 3″ disks.

One of the $40 ones available from Amazon, Harbor Freight, etc.

I no longer recommend the angle drills from Amazon, Harbor Freight, etc because they have a bad reputation for plastic gears that melt and quickly fail.

I now recommend the angle drills from “WoodTurners Wonders” that have metal gears.

• More Info

For more info see my “Great Polyurethane Finishes” handout at

Great Polyurethane Finishes Demo

I presented a new “Great Polyurethane Finishes” Demo for Nutmeg Woodturners Club in Brookfield CT on 1/14/2012.

The demo was very well received.   People understood that I was presenting food for thought. Before giving the demo I was afraid the subject would be boring or provoke a religious debate.

I created a new handout for the demo.  It is on my web site here:

Please contact me if you would like me to present demo for your club or symposium.