Less Sandpaper, More Edge Tools!

Sandpaper is an amazing and versatile tool. With sandpaper  I can round edges, sculpt smooth, curved surfaces and fix the occaisional “oops” left behind by an edge tool.

Sandpaper also is great when prepping for finishing. It has set the modern standard of what people expect a surface to look like, for better or for worse.

There is  another aspect of sandpaper that I am not as happy about, to put it mildly. This is best illustrated by the photo below:

sandstorm - the result of too much sanding?

Sandpaper is a dust-producing monster! It blows plumes of fine dust from it’s nostrils that end up in mine. I covers me with a patina of grit and makes the room look like an impressionistic painting as dust covers my goggles. It requires the sound of a vacuum and a dust collector that drowns out the birds singing outside and the radio I usually have on in the shop.

And the dust always seems to get on to a piece of wood that looks clean but then leaves a scratch in the sole of a plane or dulls a chisel.

I am increasingly finding ways to avoid using sandpaper, partly through trial and error, partly through improving my skills with edged tools, partly by wanting to avoid sanding till I get to the finishing stage of a project.

I have recently tried my hand at truing fingerboards without using sandpaper. I used a high angle plane and a scraper. It worked very well! The plane does most of the work and any necessary touch-up  was accomplished with the scraper.

scraper and high angle plane

I used to follow this step wth a massive, straight sanding block to assure the fingerboard was true. I am happy that I have been able to get the surface the way I want it to be without sanding.

Shavings not dust! Shavings not dust!

2 thoughts on “Less Sandpaper, More Edge Tools!

  1. I too think that nothing leaves a surface as nice as a handplane. I am tempted to try my hand at making a few “sandpaper-free” instruments. It would be interesting to see how they would look if I stuck to using planes, scrapers and files. It would certainly help me hone (no pun intended) my skills!

  2. I couldn’t agree more! My goal is always to avoid using sandpaper if possible. Sawdust is nasty stuff. Plus (imo) the surface made by a handplane is smoother than that made by sandpaper. But that’s a whole other debate!

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