Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sanding Block Pro Tip

A while back, I showed a way to remove self-adhesive sandpaper from an aluminum sanding block, like the Great Planes Easy-Touch Hand Sander*, seen above.

Self-adhesive sandpaper, such as the stuff I buy from Klingspoor, has such a powerful adhesive on it that you can't simply peel it back off the aluminum.

My solution was to hold the sander under a stream of warm water and slowly but firmly peel the sandpaper off.

Any remaining adhesive is cleaned off with a cotton swab and an adhesive solvent such as lighter fluid.

While this certainly works, someone suggested to me a much easier, faster way, and it doesn't require running water.

All you need is cheap masking tape.

The Great Planes hand sander is just a hair over 2 inches wide. I got the cheapest masking tape I could find over 2 inches - a 3-inch wide roll for about $5. (That's a Boston hardware store price. In most parts of the U.S. you should be able to find it cheaper.)

Just adhere a strip of the tape directly to your sanding block.

Trim the tape down to the edges of the sander.

Now you can attach the self-adhesive sandpaper as you would normally, and trim that down as well.

Despite being a lot less sticky than the sandpaper itself, the masking tape will hold up to pretty heavy use. Once you're ready to change paper, you can just peel it off the sanding block with a fingernail.

Now you can quickly and cleanly change paper without any running water, and with no need to use a solvent to clean up any remaining adhesive residue.

You should use one piece of tape wide enough to cover the whole sander. If you try to put two narrower pieces side by side, the ridge will show through on the sandpaper side, and your sanding surface won't be perfectly flat.

Even if you don't own a Great Planes Hand Sander, the masking tape method should work with even a simple wood block sander. Whereas the sandpaper's adhesive would take the surface off a wood block, cheap masking tape should peel off easily. Having the sandpaper adhered flatly against the sanding surface is much better and flatter than simply wrapping a piece of sandpaper around a wooden block, as it gives you more control.

*As of this writing, it's difficult to find a Great Planes hand sander. Great Planes was owned by Hobbico, and as a result, was part of the whole Hobbico bankruptcy. We in model rocketry got really lucky that Estes was purchased by Estes Industries, LLC, run by people who actually really care about the hobby itself. Hobbico's other holdings have apparently been purchased by Hobbico rival Horizon, and so far, the future of all its holdings is uncertain. The Easy Touch Hand Sander has been on backorder for some time. I hope it returns to market some time soon. It's such a simple, elegant tool - my favorite in the tool box. I own three! I'll try to keep track of when the Great Planes sanders come back and post about it here. I recommend you get one. They're inexpensive and a great little tool.

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  1. If anyone is interested in the Great Planes sander, it comes in at least three lengths... 22", 11" and 5.5" Now, an enterprising reader may get the idea that you could buy a 22" plane and with some very careful measuring and very careful, steady band saw or hack saw work, wind up with three 7.5" planes... for three different grade grit sander... or, buy an 11" plane, and chose to offset the cut to produce, say... a 4" and 7" plane if you think those dimensions will fit your hands and purposes. Me? I've got an 11" and two 5.5" with differing grits on them.

  2. Just spotted two 5.5" planes for sale on ebay with free shipping for a $9.99 buy-it-now order. Somebody better snap them up!

  3. Hi Daniel,
    Great idea with the masking tape release! This is certainly easier than the running water idea. With your permission, I'd like to copy and post a picture or two and post a link on my blog. You would get full recognition for the idea. Let me know! oddlrockets@bellsouth .net

  4. Simple and effective. Great tip.