Category Archives: Sanding

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

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.

Green and Maroon Stuff

I no longer use the green and maroon stuff that people may have seen me use int he 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 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 there source. Some times it is good. Often it is junk. McMaster forces it’s suppliers to meet there 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.

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.

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 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.

Note: I have eliminated 150 sandpaper from my world. I use sand 80, 120, 150, 180, 220 grit. I decided that 150 was a waste of time. To close to 120 and/or 180. I no longer use 150 grit sandpaper. I sand 80, 120, 180, 220 grit.

For more info see my “Great Polyurethane Finishes” blog entry.

Hang Up your Power Sanding Drills


Photo: Hang Up Your Power Sanders

I like to keep my Power Sanding Drills handy by hanging them on the front of my lathe.

My friends and students have copied this idea.  Thus it must be a good one?


Photo: Hang Up Your Power Sanders

Here is how I do it.  I turn a simple knob out of scrap wood and mount it on the front of my lathe.  I drill and tap a hole for a 1/4″ bolt. See photo.

It looks like I goofed. Both sanders in the photo appear to have a 2" mandrel on them. Normally I keep a 2" mandrel on one of them and a 3" mandrel on the other.


Photo: Hang Up Your Power Sanders

Then I carefully drill a hole in the case of my drill and run a piece of flexible electrical wire thru the hole. I drill the hole in a corner where they is really nothing inside of the case.  In the photo you can see some scrap number 18 gray wire with a green stripe.  One half of a chuck of brown lamp cord (zip cord) would work just as good.  Stranded wire is more flexible than solid wire.



Note: I like to use a 55 Degree Close Quarters Drill for power sanding. I get my drills from the Sanding Glove (www.thesandingglove.com) because they test their drills before selling them and they have metal gears. All of the ones on Amazon, etc get lousy reviews due to plastic gears or bearings that don’t last long!

Handy Sandpaper

I like to keep my sandpaper handy and organized. Here is how I do it.

Photo: Handy Sandpaper Handy Sandpaper

Here is how I keep my sandpaper handy. I attach it to 1/8" plywood boards and hang it up.

When I am ready to use the sandpaper I take the board over to the lathe and set it on the "ways" of the lathe.

Then all the grits are handy for quick changes.

I have one board for 2" disks and another board for 3" disks. I recently added a third board for chunks of my Stikit sandpaper.

Photo: Sanding Board Sanding Board

I use one board for each size disk.

This board is for 3" disks. The grits are marked in the center. The disks on the left are on SOFT foam interface pads. The disks on the right are on HARD interface pads. See next photo for a better view of interface pads.

I like the blue sanding disks and foam pads from Vince's Wooden Wonders. For more into see my "Greate Polyurethane Finishes" handout at http://www.carlford.info/pages/demos_classes/great_poly_fi nish/Great_Poly_Finish.pdf

Photo: Velcro on Sanding Boards Velcro on Sanding Boards

I only use hook and loop (aka Velcro) disks. I attached them to boards via velcro. The blue arrow in photo points to velcro.

I purchase a roll of sticky backed velcro at local big box store. I attach the hook side to the boards in two long strips. The glue on velcro is wimpy. Thus, I use 1/2" long tacking staples to make it permanent. The silver bars you see in photo on black velcro are the staples. The staples are way to long, because I use 1/8" plywood. I just let the staples go thru and then bend them over on the back.

Note: I only use the hook and loop side of velcro I purchase. I discard the fuzzy side.

I like the 1/8" birch plywood because it looks nice and light weight. Any old plywood will do. The thinner the better.

Disks and interface pads are from Vince's Wooden Wonders. I like the disks that are with "white" rather than "black" on the bottom because I can write the grit on them. Otherwise, I have to write the grit on the side.

Photo: Bent Over Staples Bent Over Staples

The blue arrow in photo points to the staples I just bend over on the back.

Note: I use to have just one board. With velcro on both sides. 2" disks on the front and 3" disks on the back. This DID NOT work well. The disks on the bottom side always came off and got lost when I set the board down on the "ways" of the lathe or workbench.

Photo: Spindle Turning Sandpaper Spindle Turning Sandpaper

When I hand sand or just hold a piece of sandpaper up to something spinning on the lathe I like to use Stikit sandpaper. See http://carlford.i nfo/blog/2014/11/stikit-sandpaper

I like to cut up the Stikit sandpaper into small sheets in advance (more on this latter) and store it in "Large Binder Clips" (aka large paper clips). I get the clips at local office supply store.

I use to hang the clips up individually. But, then they would float around on my work bench while using them and drive me crazy.

Recently, I got smart and attached them to chunk of 1/4" plywood. Now I can hang up them all at once and place them on the "ways" of the lathe while using them.

Note: 1/8" thick plywood is to flimsy. It flexes to much when you try to open the clips. Don't ask me how I know!

Photo: Attach Clips to Plywood Attach Clips to Plywood

I attached the large binder clips to 1/4" plywood using short 10-24 pan head machine screws (aka bolts).

The blue arrow in photo points to the holes I drilled thru clips. First, I drilled a hole big enough for shaft of machine screw all the way thru and then enlarged it on JUST the front side to be big enough for head of machine screw. Tip: Snap the clips over a chuck of 1/2" scrap plywood before trying to the drill holes.

I added the 120, 80, etc grit labels using my "Brother P-touch" label maker.

Photo: Nuts and Lock Washers Nuts and Lock Washers

On the front side I put a nut between clip and plywood to space the clip off the plywood a little.

Next to the plywood on front and back I put a multi tooth lock washer and then a nut on the back. Grind the bolts off flat. No flat washers. The lock washers dig into the plywood and keep the clips from spinning around.

Note: The space between clip and plywood is shown latter in "Store in Binder Clips Photo".

Photo: Husky Tool Cabinet Husky Tool Cabinet

I store all of my new sanding disks in a tool cabinet next to my lathe. When I am standing at my VB36 lathe this cabinet is directly behind me. I put my turning tools down on top of this cabinet when I am adjusting the tool rest, etc. I open the top draw to get out a new sanding disk when I need one.

I just got this cabinet. I usually build my own cabinets out of used low filing cabinets and plywood. But, when I recently went to Home Depot to look for some nice 7 or 11 layer yellow pine plywood, I could not find any and this cabinet was on sale for $280? Good steel case filing cabinets are $100 used and they only have 2 or 3 draws. 2 of them would be $200 plus casters, etc. So, I went for it.

The cabinet is a Husky "46 in. 9-Drawer Mobile Workbench with Solid Wood Top". The 18" top it comes with it is nice, but to narrow for what I had in mind. I replaced it with my own 24" wide top. The draws are not as heavy duty as filing cabinets, but they are ok and the draw sizes and heights are good.

The 4" high drawers take my tote boxes, chucks, and face plates. The 2" high draws are good for turning tools.

Photo: Tote Boxes from Mcmaster Tote Boxes from Mcmaster

I use "Create-Your-Own Compartmented Plastic Tote Boxes" from Mcmaster-Carr all over my shop. The size of shelves, cabinets, etc in my shop are designed to use these boxes.

The box in the photo is 16-1/2" long, 10-7/8" wide, by 3-1/2" tall.www.mcmaster.com item # 40355T55, $8 on 12/30/14. Dividers are 40355T83 $2 and 40355T52 $1. Lid is 40355T96, $10.

I like these boxes because they are rugged, the divider slots are deep and frequent, and the price is right. The price for the boxes and dividers is good. But, the price for the lids at $10 is a bit steep.

I like the lids (not shown in photos). But, I don't use them that often because I keep them in drawers or on shelfs where the shelf above the box is close enough to prevent dust or chips from getting in. I only use the lids for transport to demos, classes, etc. In photo you can see there iis lip all the way around the top of these boxes that allows them to be stacked. You can also use the lip to make your own lids out of 1/4" plywood.

I have a big stack of dividers that I don't use. I bought way to many when I purchased the boxes. You can make your own dividers out of 1/8" plywood and they often better for long uninterrupted spans. Because, the plastic dividers need to be intersected. Otherwise they are to flexable.

The boxes come in 3 sizes and lots of heights. I like the 16-1/2 x 10-7/8 boxes. The smaller 10-13/16 x 8-5/16 boxes are ok, but tend to be to small. I only use these to fill up a shelf. The large 22-3/8 x 17-3/8 boxes are way to large. If you fill up one of these you are gonig to need a crane to lift it.

The boxes come in 2-1/2, 3-1/2, 5, 6, and 8" heights. The 2-1/2" high boxes are to low for most things. I have and like the other heights.

Note: For smaller, light weight things like scraps of sand paper, etc. I use "Sterilite 16068024 Storage Tray" from Amazon. Roughly 9" x 6" x 2". Not shown in photos.

Photo: Efficient Use of Stikit Sandpaper Efficient Use of Stikit Sandpaper

I have found that the best way to make efficient use of my Stikit sandpaper is to fold it over and cut it up in advance. Here is how I do it.

I start with a roll of sandpaper that is sticky on the back and a old pair of scissors that I only use for sandpaper.

Note: The pink velcro in photo that keeps the roll closed and thus clean until needed.

Photo: Tear Off a Chunk Tear Off a Chunk

Tear off a chunk about a foot long. Longer chucks waste less paper.

Photo: Fold Over Fold Over

Fold the sandpaper over on itself. This creates a chuck of sandpaper that rough on both sides. Thus it will not easily slip out of your hands when you hold it up to the lathe.

Photo: Cut Into Small Chunks Cut Into Small Chunks

Cut up the paper into small random width chunks. Anywhere from 1/2" to 1-1/2" wide.

I like small chunks of sandpaper. Because, I am often trying to sand up close to some detail that I can't get close to with my sanding disks. You need lots of edges to get up close to details. A big chunk of sandpaper has to much middle that can not be efficiently used.

I also like small chunks because I like to use up every inch of the paper before throwing it away. I can use up all of a small chunk in one shot and then just throw it away! Thus, I don't have to deal with storing lots of bigger partiually used chunks.

Photo: Grit on Both Sides Grit on Both Sides

I like my chunks of sandpaper to have grit on both sides so they don't slip out of my hands when I hold them up to work spinning on the lathe.

Tip: If you want to have good looking hands for photos then don't dye things purple, red, blue,etc and then wash your hands in lacqure thinner before taking the photos. 🙂

Photo: Store in Large Binder Clips Store in Large Binder Clips

I like to store the sandpaper in large binder clips (aka paper clips) after cutting it up.

Note: The space between binder clip and plywood in photo. The space makes the binder clip easier to use. It is created by a nut between the binder clip and plywood. Multi tooth lock washers on either side of the nut to keep the binder clip from spinning.

Photo: Grit Trick Grit Trick

I learned this trick from one of my Wednesday night friends.

After you fold over the sandpaper on itself, you normally can not see the grit that is now inside. But, you can see it if you hold the sandpaper up to a light!

Photo: Efficient use of Sheet Sandpaper Efficient use of Sheet Sandpaper

I learned this method from Buster Shaw.

It makes efficient use of standard 9" x 11" sandpaper sheets. I like it, because the method creates the grit on both sides that I like.

In the photos I am using a sheet of 600 grit Carborundum sandpaper that I had laying around. This paper is ok, but I like the Norton 3X sandpaper use d by Buster, better.

Start by dividing the 9 x 11 sheet into 4 equal parts. See black lines in photo.

Note: I personally never sand raw wood beyond 220 grit. If, I was using 600 grit sandpaper it would be to sand a poly finish between coats. I would use a 6" 500 grit red Abralon disk, rather than sandpaper. See http://carlford.info/blog/2013/01/great-polyurethane-finishes-demo/

Photo: 4 Equal Parts 4 Equal Parts

The 4 equal parts after cutting up the sandpaper.

9 x 11 divided by 4. Equals 4 of 4.5 x 5.5

Photo: Fold in Three Fold in Three

Fold the 4.5 x 5.5 sheet into 3 equal parts along the 5.5" dimension.

Photo: 3 Equal Parts 3 Equal Parts

You now have grit on the inside and outside. The way I like it. When you hold this sandpaper up to something spinning on the lathe it will not easily slip out of your hand.

Open up the sandpaper, to expose the 3rd side after using up the 2 outside parts.

Photo: Grit Inside and Out Grit Inside and Out

Ready to use with grit inside and out.

Or you can make more efficient use of the sandpaper by cutting it up into smaller 1/2" to 1-1/2" wide chucks like I with my Stikit sandpaper. See previous photos.