Hard lessons #5: Step Away From the Random Orbital Sander!

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Blog entry by mhawkins2 posted 10-16-2008 04:41 AM 1263 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: In Search of the Perfect Miter Part 5 of Hard lessons series Part 6: OOHHHHH! That's why people use drill presses. »

After edge profiling a 5’ piece of Jatoba and very very carefully cutting a miter frame for 10” x 10” panel, I was rather pleased with myself. It was by no means the perfect miter, but it certainly will not haunt my dreams the way some of my past ones have. I I did my dry fit and then a little victory dance. After the victory dance I thought,”I should lightly sand the frame before glue up because it will be harder later and I might slip and go across the face grain of the panel when it is in one piece.

So to “lightly sand” the four pieces I reached for the random orbital sander with some 220 grit paper. This was my first time working with Jatoba. It is very dense but as it turns out it sands really really easily.

So I took my orbital sander in hand and cleaned up the large faces including the profiled face. I then did a second dry fit (I’m obsessive that way). Then I kicked myself which hard as I am not a flexible as I once was.

All four pieces were no longer the same thickness even though the came from the same board. And with the exception of one joint; the mating edges were cut from the same couple of inches in the same board. I had not sanded evenly. And the sander had lingered more on some spots of some boards than others. To make the situation worse the edge profile made my stupidity really obvious.

So in conclusion: Friends don’t let friends use a power sander for the finish sanding!

Thanks for reading.


-- mhawkins2 - why does my wife keep parking her car in my shop :)?

3 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4376 days

#1 posted 10-16-2008 06:58 AM

Mike – just my two cents, but try sanding to almost finished grit prior to cutting out your pieces. Then do a very light sanding after your final cutting/shaping. Then after assembly you can do one final pass through with a 320 or higher grit.

As an aside – I hate the orbital sanders. They are OK for large stuff to get a start, but there’s nothing that beats a good hand sanding job.

I learned to hand sand by the “fly the plane” method. Land on one end and take off on the other. Hard to explain – but easy to do. Works pretty well also.

Just my two cents – spend it wisely! :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4419 days

#2 posted 10-16-2008 11:50 AM

Mike, I’ve done that too many times. These days I do final sanding by hand. My fingers cramp and my shoulder hurts a bit, but I do a lot less damage.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4192 days

#3 posted 10-20-2008 04:58 AM

Thank you for this post, you may have saved me from making the exact same error. I will step away from the ROS when doing final finisihing.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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