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Lathe Talk #41: High-Tech Hearing Protection and Wet Sanding with Abralon Abrasives.
October 03, 2010
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Learn about various products you can use for hearing protection in a woodturner's studio, including passive and active noise protection devices. To view the full article, click the link below.
Note: This is the first in a series of articles written by Lathe Talk subscribers. If you have a technique, story, or protocol you would like to share with the more than 10,000 readers of Lathe Talk, email Steve Russell.
By: R.O. (Dick) Sanford
MIRKA Abralon pads can be a wonderful addition to your sanding tool arsenal. I prefer a 6” disc with a fabric face and foam backing. The abrasive particles are silicon carbide and appear to be very uniform in size. The fabric backing allows the pads to be used for either wet or dry sanding and the pads are easily rejuvenated by washing them in soapy water, rinsing clean and then blowing out any residual debris. They have a sanding life many times that of traditional sheet abrasive papers.
Dick Sanford’s Abralon Sanding Protocol
Although they can be used dry, I have developed a protocol to quickly wet-sand my smaller turnings that uses the 6" pads and results in a flawless finish. After dry sanding a piece through 400-grit, I place an 18" x 18" square or 6” x 18” rectangle of ½” plywood on top of my lathe’s ways, under my work piece. I prefer the larger square, but if my tailstock is being used the narrow strip will still protect my lathe from the overspray.
Using a clean set of pads, I work through my grits quickly and efficiently. Dipping a pad into the water, squeeze out any excess. This allows me to get just the right amount of water into the pad to cut the wood quickly, but not spraying everywhere. Although a 180-grit disc is available, my preference is to use 360, 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000-grit discs.
Depending on the wood, the work piece and the degree of care taken in the final cut; work is dry sanded to remove any torn grain or tool marks and achieve that perfect desired form. Generally, I do a close inspection of the work piece after dry sanding to 150-grit. Using an idea from Andi Wolfe, my sandpaper is stacked in an ascending pack of grits. The sandpaper is held in order in one hand, rotating through the grits quickly.
This is especially useful if you identify a problem area of your work piece that must be brought up to an acceptable level, and then blended into the surrounding areas. Using sequential grits, gradually enlarging your sanding area with finer grits will bring the work piece to a uniform smoothness. Using fresh quarter-sheet pieces of sandpaper, pre-folded into thirds, helps to make sanding a quick, organized step of woodturning.
After the piece is dry-sanded to 400-grit, a visual inspection is done to make sure no crisply cut details were removed. If sanding did obliterate these details, they can be re-cut with a honed tool, finely sharpened and polished. This will restore sharp edges and valleys with no need for sanding. Care must be taken in this cut so the wood is not burnished by riding the bevel too hard. If burnishing (a bruising of the wood cells from pressure applied by the trailing edge of the tool) does occur then a consistent, flowing cut will not look as good.
Applying the sequential grits to the wood with damp Abralon pads at about 1500 rpm will remove previous sanding marks from coarser grits and also raise the grain, cutting it off, and create a fine slurry of wood particulates. The trick is to keep the pad moving, both on the wood and around the surface of the pad itself, to continually expose fresh abrasive. Wipe off excess water before moving to the next grit. After sanding through to 1000-grit, I will use the 2000 and 4000-grits just barely damp. This will remove excess water from the rougher grits and will allow the surface to dry more quickly.
Too much water will both create a mess and soak deeper into the wood, particularly endgrain. If you are in a rush to finish a piece there are methods to accelerate the removal of excess water, i.e. leave the lathe turning, or applying a surfactant such as lacquer thinner, white gas (naphtha), acetone, or alcohol, which quickly evaporates with no or little residue; this will allow the removal of any slurry remnants, if desired.
The slurry will have the characteristic of filler, if a smooth glaze-like finish is desired. Removing the slurry will result in a less muddy finish, one that makes the grain pop out. Particularly if the wood has curl or other chatoyance, a clean finish is best. One that opens the wood cells, so the eye can see the beauty of the wood grain. If an oil finish is to be used, then that oil or a mineral oil can also be used to prep the wood; but I find that a solvent works better to remove these remnants.
The Abralon pads work well on contoured surfaces, molding to curves as you sand. The foam center of the Abralon pad helps to achieve an even pressure, eliminating uneven sanding patterns that can occur with sandpaper. If a wax finish is desired (I prefer Renaissance wax), then the sanding of a piece to 4000-grit and a tripoli buff (white diamond is used on light colored wood) will allow a beautiful sheen to be accomplished. I generally avoid a hard surface finish like lacquer. Although these pieces can have a high gloss and it can be accomplished in small shops with a rattle can, it also seems to me that these shiny wood turnings are smooth glossy pieces of wood-like plastic, rather than a finely finished piece of wood.
Note: MIRKA Abralon pads can be purchased on-line in a number of different packages. If you have any questions about Dick’s Abralon Finishing protocol, please email Steve Russell.
Article printed with permission from the author, Dick Sanford, Hula me La’au (Dances with Woods). Dick got started in woodworking early, at the age of 12, when his father sent him to a cupped 2x12x12 with a sharp jack plane and told him to smooth it. His father told him of a high school training project (circa 1931) where he had flattened cedar for a chest that his uncle ended up buying.
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