Sanding blocks

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Project by Woodbutchery posted 03-01-2014 11:08 PM 3660 views 20 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I recently posted in a blog, I’ve been getting stuff done. Today it was some sanding blocks.

So. Up to now, like many, I used the typical sanding block you get from <pick> – a block of rubber, rounded on the top, with slots cut on either end to hold the paper and a set of nails WAAYYYY up in there to keep the paper from pulling out. It’s hard to load, it bends, you never get the proper tension on the paper, and so it tears pretty easily, requiring a reload of sandpaper long before you should have to.

If you’ve never had this problem with the above-described sanding block, I’m glad for you, and will plead ignernse.

Earlier this week I needed to do some sanding but didn’t want to go to the trouble of reloading the rubber block of doom, so I used double-sided tape to hold a piece of sandpaper onto a wood block. Not only was I able to get it to hold tightly to the block, I was amazed at how much more … fun it was to do the sanding by hand vs. my orbital sander. I remembered having seen a set of sanding blocks shown in a project earlier last month that used two pieces of wood for the block – one acting as a clamp to hold the sandpaper to the block. I had some walnut and red oak lying about, and off we go!

It was a pretty easy project, all things considered. I glued up a 4’ piece of 1×4 red oak to a 1/2” x 4 piece of walnut, a pass through the joiner to get a nice flat surface ( and that didn’t work, and I need to spend more time with my jointer so I get the result I’m looking for ), then a couple of times through the planer to get it to a 1 1/4” thickness. I cut to a 4” length and then set up the router table with a 1/8” round-over bit and ran the blocks through for the top and sides of the block ( not the bottom ).

After that was done I used all the blades in my dado stack to cut the wide dado on the top ( offset the pieces over the stack, run through, turn 180 degrees, run through again, wash, rinse, repeat, then bring the fence in to get anything in the middle that might have been missed ).

Now that I had the block in it’s final shape, I set up a 3/8” straight bit on the router to route a channel through to the middle of the block using a couple of passes, then a T-channel bit to get the T in the T-channel.

Now for the clamps. I ripped a second 1/2” thick piece of walnut down to right at 1 6/8” wide to make the clamp, and then cut the clamps to the same 4” length and ran the pieces through a 3/8” round-over bit on the router table to make it comfortable to hold.

I found that my measurements were a little off on the T-channel, it didn’t come quite to center. Oh well, notes for next time I decide to do this. After adjusting, I set up the fence on my drill press and a 3/8” bit, and drilled the holes for the T bolt to go through. Once I got one to a functional status, I loaded it with 320 grit paper and sanded the other blocks as well as the clamping pieces, then took the loaded block apart, transferred the paper to one of the blocks that had already been sanded, and sanded the last one.

A simple application of 50/50 tung oil / mineral spirits (wipe on, wipe off, let dry a few minutes) just so it looks purdy, and then loaded the 5/16” x 1” T bolts and I used the brass machined-screw insert from Rockler because I liked the look of the brass fixture vs. the nickle-plated fixture better.

I purposefully didn’t round over the bottom to make sure I had a good solid corner, but I knocked off the hard edge with a couple of swipes from the 320 grit, and it was done.

I have way more than I’ll need at any given time, but I know some people that would consider these great birthday/Christmas/day-with-a-Y-in-it gifts, so yay for excess wood.

This is SO much nicer than the rubber sanding block, easier to load, more pleasing to the eye, fits my hand, and, in general, just works better. While I don’t ever see myself getting to galoot status (all hand tolls, all the time), I think I will be using these blocks a lot more than I will my orbital sander (it will have it’s place, I’m STILL lazy ). I plan to have three loaded all the time, one with 50/60 grit, one with 120 grit, and one with 320 grit. That usually suffices for most of the work that I do.

Well, thanks for having got this far through the process. It was a two-day process (glue-up one day, the rest of the work the next), and while it’s a simple project, it felt good getting it done.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

9 comments so far

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425 posts in 4192 days

#1 posted 03-01-2014 11:10 PM

One last thing – The block is thick enough that it’s easy to put a piece of masking tape over the end to note what grit you have on the block. One of the detail pictures shows this in action (as it were).

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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60 posts in 2166 days

#2 posted 03-02-2014 02:36 AM

favorited this to remind myself to make some later. thanks for sharing

-- Instagram : StayReadyGearUSA

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425 posts in 4192 days

#3 posted 03-02-2014 03:55 AM

You’re welcome, Joseph.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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18784 posts in 4282 days

#4 posted 03-02-2014 04:41 AM

Looks great from here. I may try this one too ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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425 posts in 4192 days

#5 posted 03-02-2014 02:16 PM

Wow! I made daily top 3!

I don’t know how long that’s been going on, but it was sure a nice start to the day.

One final note, and then I’m done (he said with a knowing grin); I really like the clamping action from the top piece. I think I can safely say that, until these, I’ve never really had a good sanding surface that didn’t feel like it was going to slide off, didn’t slip around, or generally seemed on the edge of a chaotic moment. Makes a nice change, it do.

Anyway, thanks!

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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548 posts in 2675 days

#6 posted 03-02-2014 03:28 PM

Seems like a lot of work for some sanding blocks.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

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904 posts in 4377 days

#7 posted 03-02-2014 04:16 PM

I have read and re read this..?
how do these hold together? do you use the brass machine inserts to tighten them down?
aren’t these hard on the hand when you sand?
Other than that they seem nice.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

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425 posts in 4192 days

#8 posted 03-02-2014 07:08 PM

Bogey … maybe. The top piece helps to tighten up the sandpaper to the block, which gives it a real solid feel. You can possibly get by with taping a strip of sandpaper to a block of wood and get similar results – I don’t know, and don’t have to try, now ;-). Other than that, it looks nice and functions well, and worked for me as a good use of a Saturday and some scrap wood.

Able – There’s a T-bolt that fits into the slot at the end, a hole drilled into the clamping piece, the t-bolt goes through the hole, and the brass fitting screws to the t-bolt and holds the clamping piece down. I’ve seen a design for a flatter wood screw top, but the brass doesn’t get in the way when I’m holding the block, and it fits my chunky hands fine, though I have yet to use it for hours of sanding, yet, so I will have to report down the road, but initial usage was a lot easier on my hands than anything else I’ve worked with for hand-sanding.

Thanks for the comments.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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1437 posts in 2642 days

#9 posted 03-02-2014 10:00 PM

Nice project, and congrats on the top 3. It looks like a handy thing to have. Gotta look up those plans I saw.

I have the same junky jointer. Good luck getting it tuned. I spent a few $$$ to have the fence trued up (almost), and have yet to put it back together.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

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