My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #652: The Sands of Time

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 03-26-2012 09:55 AM 1767 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 651: Attitude is Everything Part 652 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 653: Cutting Time »

Most woodworkers that I talk to don’t like sanding. Of the many steps in the process of doing a woodworking project, I think I am pretty safe in saying that it is the least liked part. In fact, I am amazed at the number of people who spend hours on a project that simply skip over the sanding step completely. I don’t always understand why they would do that. While it may not be the most pleasant part of making a project, it is among the most important in most things that we create.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of my day sanding. After bringing the 324 ten inch square pieces of 1/8” birch plywood into the house that I was going to use for cutting my kits, I decided that I needed to give them a quick finish sanding before I cut out the pieces. The plywood that I had obtained was a high grade and very smooth, and could have probably been left ‘as is’, but I felt that since it was going to be used for decorative painting it would be better if I sanded it even smoother. You could still feel the grain with your nail and I know that if I were painting it, I would want to have it a bit smoother before I began.

I realized that this would take a bit of time, as sanding 648 of anything would be time consuming (both sides would be done), but that is just the way I am and if I am going to do a job, I want to do it to the best of my ability. So sand I did.

As I stated in yesterdays’ post – attitude is everything. While sanding isn’t particularly favorite part of the process, I do find it necessary sometimes and the difference it makes in the finished item can be very profound. Like planing, it removes the outer layer of the wood and reveals the true beauty. Now this is only birch, mind you – which has little color and grain pattern – but there is still the silky smoothness of the freshly sanded wood that is very appealing. And exposing this inner beauty certainly made the pieces look much nicer.

In thinking about the process, part of what makes sanding so distasteful to many is the mess it creates. The dust is messy and unpleasant and cleaning up after sanding is a chore in itself. Fortunately, Keith and I have set up a system that works very well with our sander and eliminates virtually all the dust during this process.

The sander we have is a Makita 1/3 sheet finishing sander.

It is a great little sander and is light enough for me to handle, yet sturdy enough where you don’t need to apply much pressure to achieve good results. This is important when doing stuff 648 times. We simply removed the little dust collecting bag and hooked it up to our Rigid 6.0 14 hp shop vac (aka – “The Monster”):

We find that using this combination works incredibly well at controlling the dust, and even after sanding 648 sheets of plywood, there was very little debris. It’s a great little set up.

I suppose that if you still wanted something to be unhappy about, there is the noise factor. Anyone who has used a shop vac of this size knows that they aren’t the quietest pieces of equipment in the shop. But I suppose you have to take the bad with the good. I did, however, get around the noise factor by wearing my cordless headphones and was able to listen to some good music while I was sanding, which made the task seem so much more pleasant.

Overall it was not an unpleasant experience. Even though it took a couple of hours to do, I feel much better that I am starting on a clean slate as far as the wood is concerned and I know that when I am done cutting these pieces, they will be smooth and ready to paint. Even Pancakes is getting used to the noise and no longer hides when “The Monster” comes out.

All the while I was sanding, I was also continuing to print out the patterns. I finished the first set of 100 yesterday and I figure that it will take a few more days to complete the rest. So far the printer has worked flawlessly and I can’t be happier with it.

Working at this relaxed pace is really the way to go. I have until the middle of May until these kits are due in the warehouse, so taking my time and doing things right is really pressure free and makes the entire job a pleasure. In the mean time, I am also going to be working on the new project for the magazine so I plan to mix things up a bit, which also helps. That way when I am tired of doing one thing, I can just switch to doing another. That will keep my production level high.

I plan to continue along at this pace for a while and see how I do. I do want to get some drawing done today and while I didn’t wind up spending any time doing that yesterday, it’s OK.

For once, time is on my side.

Have a wonderful Monday!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

4 comments so far

View HamS's profile


1837 posts in 2897 days

#1 posted 03-26-2012 10:52 AM

Good Morning,

I have a vacume powered sander that came with the Kirby. It is great for small tasks like yours would be. Julie won’t let me take it to the shop, cause it will get nasty. I understand the pace and switching fromproject to project. I just wish I did not have so many choices right now.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3428 days

#2 posted 03-26-2012 10:57 AM

Hi, Ham:
We have had the vac over a year now and it really is in good shape. We clean it out regularly and I actually vacuum the outside of it occasionally and it stays really clean. It does a fantastic job – especially in conjunction with the little sander. It really helps to have such a good set up.

I get overwhelmed from time to time with lots of choices. I still need to find time to designs new things that are ‘living in my head.’ If I think about it too much, my anxiety level seems to rise. I try to look at one day at a time and get done what I can. Everything will come in time.

Have a great day. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3545 days

#3 posted 03-26-2012 02:53 PM

Sheila, since building my drum sander, sanding no longer presents any problem. I can sand down to 240 grit on it and the light hand sanding needed to take projects down to 400 or 600 grit are no longer a chore. Whilst I appreciate this may not be of use to you, yourself (given your workspace), I mention it so that other readers might consider it as a way of lightening the load. I still use music though, much like yourself, to take the noise and tedium out.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3428 days

#4 posted 03-26-2012 03:19 PM

Yes, the space is an issue sometimes. I have a Sand Flea Drum Sander

It is stored at my friend Bernie’s. There really isn’t enough space for it here unfortunately. I may wind up getting it from him and maybe we would be able to put it in Keith’s parent’s basement, which is only about a ten minute ride from us and could be useful for those times when we have lots of sanding like this. Tell you the truth – I completely forgot I had it until I read your post! It may prove to be something I could use if more of these are ordered.

Yes, the music is as essential as the sandpaper, I say. My journey back into the 80’s yesterday really helped make the job go quickly. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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