How Sandpaper Is Made


We visit a manufacturing facility to get the nitty-gritty on making abrasives.
By Christopher Schwarz
Pages: 63-65

From the October 2009 issue #178
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In all likelihood sandpaper isn’t made the way you probably think it’s made.

In fact, what is most unusual about sandpaper manufacturing is how similar it is to publishing a magazine. Like publishing, making sandpaper begins with picking the right thickness of paper. There’s ink (the words on the back of your sandpaper). And then there’s the grit and the glue, which to me is similar to the stories we print in the magazine.

If the sandpaper manufacturer uses the right grit and the right glue, then the sandpaper will last a long time, it will cut quickly and it won’t clog. Use the wrong paper, grit or glue and the sandpaper will quickly end up in the trash.

Here at the magazine if we pick the right stories, then the readers keep the magazine for years, and refer to it to build furniture and buy tools. If we choose the wrong stories, the magazine ends up on the floor of a birdcage or around a dead fish.

This spring we took a tour of Ali Industries Inc., a sandpaper manufacturer in Fairborn, Ohio (gatorfinishing.com). Founded in 1961, Ali Industries makes the Gator-brand sandpaper for home centers and hardware stores.

A tour of the Ali plant brought a lot of surprises. I’ve been on dozens of plant tours to see how everything from nail guns to miter saws to universal motors are made. But this is the only tour where the plant seemed a combination of magic tricks and a candy factory.

Online Extra

* To watch a video on how sandpaper is made, click here.


From the October 2009 issue #178
Buy this issue now