Tool Test: Sand Finish with a Zip


A couple weeks back we were up to our armpits in finishing work. Two projects were in the finishing area awaiting completion for photo shoots this past Wednesday. (I’m happy to report that both projects made the deadline and everything went as planned.)

It just so happened that I had a couple Zip sanding products, a Zip Sander and a Zip Sponge Holder, in need of testing. These two products are part of the Gator Finishing Products brand from Ali Industries in nearby Dayton, Ohio. Both of these products are designed to lessen the stress on your arm, wrist and hand while sanding.

The Zip Sander makes sense. Using your fingers as a backer to sandpaper, unless you sand perpendicular to your finger length, results in small troughs in your finish. So a backer made of high-density foam eliminates the potential for troughs and reduces friction buildup from your hand on the sandpaper. If you reduce friction, you lessen the potential to clog the paper and you extend its usefulness. Also, the hook-and-loop design makes the change between grits easy and efficient. Sander kits (which include a sander and six pieces of sandpaper in various grits) are available for around $7 each; replacement sanding sheets are available for around $5 for a package of six.

The Sponge Holder (available with three sanding sponges and the holder for $9.99) had me puzzled. Holding a sponge while sanding isn’t that much of an issue. I like to use sponges while sanding between coats of finish. My issue with the holder, however, it that its hard plastic surface might nick or ding a surface if I’m less than careful. A regular sanding sponge isn’t prone to leave nick or dings.

Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick and I used the Zip products while sanding the two projects. Megan commented that the grip felt a bit high and somewhat off balance in her hand as she sanded, but she noticed there was little, if any, fatigue in her hand or wrist after excessive sanding on a rather large project. I found the sander to be very comfortable and useful. (Maybe my larger hand size fit the sanders better?) The design of the sander , it has pointed ends , allows you to get tight into the corners with ease. I’ll use the Zip Sander while sanding the finish on future projects.

The Sponge Holder is fine on large panels. I watched closely as the edge of the tool-held sponge came into contact with the inside edges of the doorframe. The surface on the inner edge of the rails and stiles was below the reaches of the hard plastic of the holder, so sanding went well. However, I think I’ll relegate the Sponge Holder for wide-open flat surfaces only.

While I like these products for finishing work, the grits included are, for the most part, for everyday sanding. Additional purchases will get you a #400-grit product for sanding finish. And if sanding to #400 grit is not a smooth enough surface, you’ll want to look into Ali Industries automotive sanding products , AutoZip , under the Finish 1st name. Sanding grit for automotive products, currently available at Pep Boys stores, are up to #2,000 grit.

- Glen D. Huey

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