The most beneficial discoveries come when you least expect them. Last week as I wrapped up finish on the desk for the November issue and from our upcoming book “Furniture in the Southern Style”, I was about to sand my first couple coats of shellac. I dug through my sandpaper drawer and soon found out that I was out of #400-grit and #320-grit sandpaper, which I use when knocking down shellac or sealer.
There is a hardware store right across the road from my shop, but I was not looking to waste any time running over for sandpaper. On the shelf behind my bench, I have boxes of Mirka abranet – If you’ve read these blogs for any length of time, you know that Popular Woodworking Magazine is a huge fan of abranet. We have sung its praises since we first had the product dropped in our shop.
In my arsenal of abranet, I have a box of #400-grit discs. Why not give it a try.
It took about an entire two minutes before I slapped my forehead in a Homer Simpson manner and utter the words, “D’oh!” I sanded the shellac and, of course, the disc loaded fully. With regular sandpaper, that would be the end unless I grabbed my air hose and blew the crap out of the things to unclog the paper. With the abranet, I simply rapped the disc on my hand and it was almost totally clean.
Later, as I blocked the piece to get a level surface, the differences between abranet and paper became more obvious. The additional heat build-up when sanding with a block tends to clog paper quickly. With abranet, because it does not have a solid backing, the heat build-up is not as severe, so discs don’t clog they load.
Take a look at the opening photo. In it you see a quickie experiment I ran to make a comparison of sandpaper versus abranet. I sanded finish with each of the products for a dozen strokes. You can see that the paper is loaded and the abranet does have a substantial amount of shellac dust.
The photo to the right shows the results after the two are cleaned by simply smacking them against my hand. It’s pretty clear as to which product is going to last longer and provide a better sanded surface. The same results show up when sanding with a foam-core block, so on my next project I’ll grab a pad protector, attach a disc and get busy.
What’s even better is how the abranet compares to sandpaper if you get on the finish before it’s fully dry – you know that I did and I’ll bet you too have gummed up paper attempting to level your finish early. If you do get going a bit early while using abranet, you can clear the gummed mess off by blowing air through the backside of the disc. Sandpaper goes to the trash.
Unless you change block locations frequently, there is some wasted real estate when block sanding with a disc. I guess on my next abranet order, I’ll add a couple boxes of sheets to the list.
Looking for additional information on sanding and prepping surfaces for finish? Here’s a couple down loadable $2 articles that could answer many of your questions: